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.