As parents, we know there are moments, markers, that measure how the years are passing (whizzing past, actually). First day of school. First stitches. First lost tooth. They're still cute and little then. And it's individual. Personal. Mostly just you and your kid.
Then, the steps get bigger. Driver's License. High school graduation. These are rites of passage you knew were coming. My sons' elementary school actually sent each kindergartner home on the first day of school with a t-shirt that read "KHS class of 20--". But at the time, that year seemed so far away. Almost like a sci-fi movie. You know, where you think, gee, wonder if by then they'll have invented self-laundering clothes? Or some sort of portable music thingie way littler and pricier than a walkman. I'm sure when I was in kindergarten (LBJ was president then, folks!) my parents never imagined a day when disco music or betamax tape players would exist. And even as the steps add up, as you check off one more item in your parenting handbook (Am I the only one who didn't get one with ALL the instructions or pages? Like what to do when your son gets his heart broken? Or how to get kids to rinse their dishes on a regular basis? Or that reminder to bring extra batteries for the camera to your son's graduation?), you successfully push away the day when they'll really move on, when you will sit in a stadium with about 35,000 people who are all friends and family of one of the graduates and watch your son march in wearing a black cap and gown with his fellow 7,864 graduates, all about to pick up a shiny college diploma with that name you so carefully parsed out 22 years earlier ("good God, no, we can't have that for a middle name. How will it sound when he graduates?" Because, of course, the only time middle names matter is at commencement ceremonies or if they ever turn into serial killers or assassinate someone famous.)
But that's what I did this past Sunday afternoon. I sat in "The Shoe" at The Ohio State University and, with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, watched my son walk in (he was somewhat easier to spot because the landscape architect classmate in line behind him had attached a large square of sod to the top of his cap!) and take his seat. And even though the day was hot (92 degrees), the crowd was well-behaved. We were basking in pride because we were all there because someone we loved was achieving a dream. Achieving a hard-earned piece of paper that had come with sweat and tears and sleepless nights and doubts; that had cost money and faith and hopes.
And when I watched him walk up to the table to pick it up, he turned and jumped up and waved at us (because through the miracle of cell phones he knew where we were sitting. He was also still right in front of sodhead boy. And, he was 16th from the end of his line. No, they did not say all 7,864 names. It just felt like they had). And I knew it had been an honor to be his mom for all these years. And to know that I'd raised him to be such a good man.
And then, as if he knew I needed it, he jogged over to the endzone and laid down and made a little snow angel (sans snow of course), and I laughed through my tears because the little dimple-faced boy who'd been my first teacher in Mom 101 was still alive and well and kicking. He might be hidden in a person a half-foot taller than me, and when we hug he practically rests his chin on my head, but if I look really hard, I can still see glimmers of the little boy he used to be and when that happens the years fade away and it doesn't seem that long ago.