Next week, Nate graduates from the sixth grade, officially beginning his junior high career.
The last time I attended a graduation–aside from the preschool and kindergarten variety–he was two years old. We were at my sister’s commencement at Bates College in Maine, during every bit as rainy a May as this one has been. Unable to sit through the lengthy ceremony, Nate wandered the commons through most of it, drenching the cuffs of his khaki trousers as he slogged through the wet grass and soaking his diapered bottom whenever he lost his footing in a gopher hole or on a sprinkler head. He eventually found an abandoned grounds maintenance golf cart perfect for playing truck driver while I found a bench to wait him out. Eight months pregnant with Calvin at the time, it had seemed like a very long afternoon.
A very long afternoon that feels like yesterday. How does that happen? How has a decade passed? Surely I’m the same person I was that day, checking my watch, missing the ceremony. I have the same thoughts, same hopes, same plans. He’s the same little boy, with the same wide smile, the same twinkling eyes. The same ready laughter. But the rain coat I bought him that weekend? The yellow and navy one I rushed into L.L. Bean to buy on the drive in? It’s gone through two more of my boys, weathered a stint in storage, and now fits my nephew. (Quality stuff, L.L. Bean.) The Matchbox cars stashed into my purse in anticipation of a squirmy toddler on that chilly day? Long outgrown. They’re still under his bed though, filling a shoe box with a layer of dust on its lid.
He won’t let me give them away. Ditto for his favorite army men and best stuffed animals. But he wants a new look for his room, something grown-up, he says, something cool. (He’s just not sure what.) I picked up some paint samples and brought home some catalogues, but now he’s dragging his feet, his first and second grade soccer trophies still maintaining their prominent space on his dresser, his ragged Pokemon poster still tacked on his wall beside his Sports Illustrated soccer player profiles and WWII maps, despite his abandoning that particular obsession years ago.
I’d say he’s stuck between childhood and adolescence, but he’s not. He’s bridging both, and it’s beautiful. He won’t be able to do it for long, but then again, none of us can fill the same space for any length of time, can we? All we have–all we live for–is a little while…a little while that strings into a little while more, and then a little while more, until all those little moments stack up, front to back, and before you know it, before your boy is even grown, that first moment almost as a way of turning up again, face up in the deck.
And you find yourself spending a rainy day in May celebrating milestones while thinking, haven’t I been here before? With this same boy who is no longer the same boy? And you see how tall he’s grown, and how mature he acts (mostly) and how commanding his presence, and you can’t help but think: where will we be next?
Written for the Red Dress Club RemembeRED memoir prompt, ‘graduation’.