Clippings: Graduation day arriving too soon

I’m 48 and I’m not quite ready to graduate from high school.
No, I’m not a perennial flunk-out artist, nor am I an old-timer seeking to complete an education suspended years ago.
Rather, I am a parent of a high school senior — the last in our household — scheduled to earn his diploma next spring. The stark reality of that momentous occasion just dawned on me this month, and I selfishly wish graduation day weren’t so imminent.
It didn’t hit me as hard when our daughter Diane graduated from Mount Abraham in 2009. I shed some tears of pride and was ready for her to go off to some exciting adventures, followed by bigger and better things. Meanwhile, I suspected that Mark — who still had two years of high school left — would keep us grounded and plugged into the familiar educational community with all its extracurricular trappings.
It seemed like only yesterday there were a series of scholastic “firsts” — their first days in kindergarten, first school plays, first school open houses, first awards ceremonies, first concerts. Then there was sixth-grade graduation, followed by the first days of middle school, first days of football and field hockey practices, first days of high school.
We’ve come to a point where I flip the pages of a 2010-2011 scholastic calendar with a sense of excitement, but also finality.
My wife, Dottie, our official family photographer, recently took Mark’s final “first day of school” photo in front of one of the flower gardens she meticulously tends. It was a family ritual dating back to the mid-1990s when they embarked on their first trips on the school bus. Mark no longer bears much resemblance to the anxious looking, backpack wearing little cherub who wasn’t quite sold on this whole “school” thing.
In a flash, it seemed, he was ditching the bus for his own used set of wheels to get him to high school. No more chauffeuring duties for parents, which has meant no more long waits in traffic for parents backed up on Airport Drive. Is it normal to be wistful about a traffic jam?
So, from a series of firsts, we are matriculating to a bunch of lasts. The last “first” day of school; the last homecoming events; the last school play; the last home football game; the last school lunch payment; the last parent-teacher discussions; the final lacrosse season; the last senior prom.
The final high school graduation day.
We told both of our young adults to relish their high school days, as they will be gone too soon. It is a lesson they have both taken pretty seriously, though the exuberance of youth has left them wanting to turn the page pretty quickly.
A little too quickly.
Seems hard to believe we’ll soon be driving up Stony Hill and glancing over our shoulders at a high school building in which we will no longer have a son or daughter — though there will be some nieces and nephews. But there will be fewer reasons to draw us onto the campus that has been such a focal point for us for almost 10 years. It’ll be a rite of passage for the entire family.
So I guess I’ll spend the next nine months trying to enjoy “our” last high school year to the fullest. And that’s easier for us parents to say — Mark has to do all the homework.
John Flowers is at [email protected].

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