In the last year, I have had 3 children and 2 of their spouses graduate from college. On Sunday past (June 2), my sixth child graduated from high school. Today, my youngest finished middle school and will be entering high school. I am immensely proud of them all. I am excited for all the adventure that lies before them. My son moved on to graduate school in North Carolina. One daughter and her husband are moving forward with their acting careers (currently in Colorado working for The Creed Repertory Theater). Another daughter married and is looking for work while her new husband finishes school. My high school daughter is preparing to leave home in August to start her college career, and the baby of the family is entering the last four years of life at home. (There are two other children who have established their homes and families and are grappling with everyday life...an adventure all its own.)
Today, as I left the middle school for the last time, I found myself in tears. When I said farewell to the band director who taught six of my seven children how to play an instrument, I was overcome with emotion. That surprised me almost as much as it surprised my daughter, and the rest of my children when they read this blog. Mrs. Ciulla was an occasional topic at the dinner table. She had some quirks (as we all do) that the kids sometimes found amusing, other times frustrating. But as I watched my last daughter get excited over the mellophone she will play in the high school marching band, and when I thought about all the time my kids spent practicing (which wasn't as much as I had wished) and all the time I spent at band concerts, I realized how much this woman influenced my children musically. And I was grateful for her efforts.
I still am a bit weepy as I watch another era of my children's lives come to an end. It is the first time for me that I do not have another child coming up through the ranks to enter middle school. It is the first time I will have only one child in the public school system since my first child started kindergarten twenty-five years ago. I am sad for the memories I have lost. As we sat in the recognition ceremony this morning, my husband and I couldn't recollect the other 8th grade recognition ceremonies that we attended. I know they were held...I know we were there. But with seven children, one ceremony often blends into another. I wish now, that I could freeze the moments - remember exactly what each of my children looked like, right down to what clothes they wore, how they behaved , who their friends were, what their hopes and fears were at that exact moment. Will I remember all those from today when in four years Grace is graduating from high school and Doug and I are becoming empty-nesters?
I recently read a blog post written to parents of young children. The author expounded on the guilt inducing phrase, "appreciate this now, because they grow so fast." Yes, it is true, they do grow fast. And I continue to realize how fast it really is. I know four years of high school really flies by. And perhaps the emotion I am struggling with now is the idea that maybe I didn't appreciate the younger years enough. Or...perhaps I did. Perhaps my tears are because of the memories I still hold dear - all the Christmas mornings, all the times I watched their father teach them to ride a bike...and then drive a car, (Oh! joy! We still have that one to go through again!) Summers we spent at the pool, nights and nights of endless homework, family vacations, band concerts, choir concerts, school plays, family fun nights, and lots and lots of laughter. That is what I will miss the most when my house is empty. I will miss the laughter, whether it is the belly laugh of an infant, or the high-pitched squeal of a school age child, or the amused laugh of a high school kid who is learning the subtlety of sarcasm and whit. Laughter has been one of the greatest blessings of having a household full of children.
So as I start this new stage,(just one child at home) and get ready for the next stage when there will be none...maybe I will pay extra special attention so that four years from now when I cry at her graduation - and I will cry - it will be because I have had 34 wonderful, tiring, exasperating, fun, lively years raising children and I will appreciate all those years. But then again, maybe the tears will be from sheer exhaustion and relief that I made it through.
I do know, the adage is true, they do grow fast....but I also know they do come back and when they do, they call this place home. And for that I am very grateful!!