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Milestones and Millstones

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My tongue is sticky and tired from licking graduation announcement envelopes. I should use a dauber, but I relish the idea of leaving my DNA on paper traveling the globe. Why the announcements, you say? My Number One and Only Son will be graduating from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in less than three short weeks.

There was some waffling on whether or not to go through the expense and the motion of a public display. After all, the kid is an adult (finally!) passing a milestone, and I’m a parent losing a millstone. These last 22 years haven’t been cheap. As much as I think it would be nifty to make it about me, it’s not. If he wants to throw his own parade, he should do it.


My interest is far from helicopter parent or stage mom, but you might get a different take from him. I should smile benignly and quietly in the back of the concert hall and let him receive his diploma like a man. The last thing I should be is embarrassing. Let’s not forget to dry up those waterworks before entering the building.

But I can’t.

Last night, we were treated to the Beethoven Piano Concerto (No. 3) played by the enormously talented Jonathan Biss. At 28, he’s not much older than my son and is similarly built – tall, thin, approaches the instrument with a gangly enthusiasm. While Biss’ concertizing is buttery and smooth and my son’s is more raucous, both play with a similar passion.

The performance brought tears to my eyes, the emotion much the same as when my son graduated from kindergarten and then from high school. Then there was the milestone of his final performance during his senior recital, this one a perfect cap to hundreds of recitals that came before. This was followed by a move across the country and a separation that was harder on the parents both financially and emotionally than it was on him.

I wondered what Jonathan Biss’ mother was doing at the very moment I was listening to her son play.

Rites of passage like kindergarten graduations and scoring a driver’s license pale in comparison to other life changes. In my son's future there will no doubt be a job (a good one, I hope), marriage, and children. Maybe he’ll be able to afford to move out of the roommate’s place someday and start his own household. A college graduation is just another step in the journey of life.

The gravy train stops May 22, and that’s not to say the ride hasn’t been bittersweet. As parents you want to give your children wings without making it seem like you’re pushing them out of the door. Once they learn to fly, there’s a part of you that wishes you could pull them back. It does no one any good to tamp down progress. The best children are the self-sufficient ones.

However, I’m still the mom. My son is the first of my father’s grandchildren to earn his college degree and that alone is cause for celebration. My side of the family is a-twitter. My husband and I are breathing a sigh of relief. We no longer are compelled to release thousands of dollars of tuition and room and board money. Things could be worse. My son is completing his education in the nick of time, before his parents run out of dough in this battered economy.

So I guess I’ll continue to lick the envelopes to let the world know of another milestone.

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About Joanne Huspek

I write. I read. I garden. I cook. I eat. And I love to talk about all of the above.
  • Joanne,

    Mazel tov!

    You put your boy through school, and now you get to see him toss the mortarboard in the air! More to the point, he has acquired a demonstrated skill that can make him money. You should be proud of yourself!

    I cannot believe that nobody has commented on this excellent article – even to say “I know what it is like”.

    I guess that is what friends are for.

    We’re going through separation pangs with our youngest now. The army takes him in November, but as if that ain’t bad enough, he’s got a girlfriend who get enough of him – and he can’t get enough of her. So every minute he can spare, he runs off to her house in a neighboring village, or she comes here for Sabbath.

    But when she’s here, she monopolizes him, barely letting us see him.

    We do not have the “issue” or the obligation to pay for our younger son’s university education (he is university material). He’ll get out of the army (G-d willing) and he will be an adult, responsible for his own education. Rich folks around here do pay for their kids university tuition, but frankly, I think the kid should have that responsibility himself. Actually, now that I think about it, only the secular Jews think about paying for the baby in college. The more religious of us think about them making families (as in grandchildren) – and try to buy them a home instead.

    In any event, the separation has started already. When our little baby leaves for the IDF, the “millstone” will be gone – the worrying will take its place.