It's happening again: Graduation season is upon us. For some of us with younger kids (or grandkids), the tiny cap and gown of a preschool graduation is sweet and brings smiles. But when those little ones get bigger, start shaving and can eat their weight in hot dogs, those mom smiles at graduation can be laced with a tear (or two).
I almost don't recognize him as he walks down the hallway from his bedroom.
Long black gown adorned with honor cords; black cap and tassel in his man-sized hands.
He's ready to go.
His graduation is the end-result of spelling tests and learning cursive; of sitting criss-cross-applesauce on the rug and using his listening ears.
Of years of group projects, PowerPoint presentations, and cramming for finals; of early-morning alarm clocks and the pounds of heavy books he carried on his back.
And while somewhere deep inside me I can feel the tears, as he stands before me now I just feel pride.
The tears can wait for now.
Truth be told, there were tears earlier in the day. Pre-emptive tears, shed while dusting the family pictures and feeling mournful of the little boy smiling back at me from the frames.
I offer him a ride to the school, so we won't have too many cars there when the ceremony is over.
Always logical, this mom.
The first time I left him in this parking lot, I watched him walk in with his backpack loaded and new shoes, ready to take whatever high school was ready to throw his way.
I can't help but watch him as he walks in for the last time.
Walking tall and proud, in his gown.
Now he's ready to go.
An hour later I sit in the football stadium, the dull roar of family and friends surrounding me. People have made banners and signs; hold bouquets of flowers and balloons for their graduates.
I hold nothing but my breath.
The band cues up the traditional Pomp and Circumstance song and far across the field I see the line of graduates begin filing in.
Gold gown, then black; girl, then boy.
Over five hundred of them, but there's only one I'm looking for in the crowd.
At least one hundred students march towards their seats until I see him enter the stadium.
I bite my lip to catch myself from crying as I stare at this young man who used to hold my hand to cross the street; who wore footie jammies and loved mac and cheese.
Confident and proud, he carries himself around the corner and down the row to his seat.
The obligatory speeches follow, a medley of songs sung, the national anthem applauded.
And then, the names.
Over five hundred names. Air horns blow, cowbells clang, family and friends scream.
His row stands and begins their walk towards the podium.
More cheers, more cowbell.
And finally, they call it.
The name I wrote on that card in the hospital 17 years ago.
There he is, my baby boy.
And he's ready to go now.