In true Griswold fashion, the first leg of our road trip involved visiting family. My cousin had one daughter graduating from high school and another graduating college. Rather momentous.
Now these two girls have always had a more than special place in my heart. K. was probably the first baby I ever fell truly, madly, deeply in love with. I adored her. Is that redundant? No matter. It can't really be overstated.
A few years later, when my cousin had J., I learned a lesson most folks don't learn till they have their own second child. J. taught me how our hearts can grow. When my cousin asked me to serve as J.'s godmother I was flattered beyond words.
So this weekend my cousin had a party to celebrate her girls. K. graduated college with a teaching degree and J. graduated high school. As we arrived at the party, both girls were there to greet us with hugs. J. got to me first. I hugged her and said, "I'm so proud of you! Congratulations!"
She said something on the order of, "Yeah, thanks."
Then I got to K. I said the same thing to her. "I'm so proud of you! Congratulations!"
She said, "I know, isn't it sad?"
It seems like an odd answer, but I totally understood. I squeezed her a little tighter and said, "I know. It'll be ok, though, I promise."
But I lied a little bit.
Not a lot. Not a big lie. Not even a lie, really, I guess. Because things, of course, will indeed be ok.
But they will never again be college.
K. loved college. She found her peeps in college. She fit. It was good. And now it's over and you know what? That IS sad!
I remember my own college graduation. My parents had a little get together at the house afterwards and I remember watching people arrive and thinking, "Why are so many people coming to celebrate the end of my LIFE?"
(when I complain about my daughter and her drama, I never say she didn't get it honest)
And that was the difference between J.'s experience and K.'s. In semantic terms, J. had a commencement. Finishing high school (with high honors! go J.!) was just a stepping stone - an important step towards the next exciting chapter of her life. A beginning. She is excited about her future. (and K. is, no doubt, thinking right along with me, "well, what's not to be excited about? Her future is COLLEGE!!!) K. had more of of a graduation. An ending, leaving something behind - something beloved. Something she wasn't quite ready to say good-bye to. Where she's going next is a little more uncertain.
The post-collegiate world IS scary. And it ISN'T the same. But it can be pretty wonderful, too. Just a different kind of wonderful.