Thoughts on High School Graduation and Growing up so Dang Fast

It was the most beautiful weekend in Atlanta, as our family watched two of my sister’s babies graduate high school. WTF? I remember like yesterday standing in her door holding John Rex in my arms and blowing on his forehead, which he seemed to like. I would not try this now if I were you. He is 6’2″ and his shoulders are 3’2″…

Lovett headmaster's hall
Nephew John Rex added his name to the wall (and ceiling) of a hallway in the Lovett School headmaster's house, repository of all graduating seniors' signatures. Cool, huh? Photo by John Rex himself.

I recall just as clearly visiting my then-sweetheart in Charleston and celebrating the publication of my second book, Atlanta at Table, I got the message from my sister that baby Frances (Frances!) had been born that afternoon…

Frances graduates
My namesake accepts her diploma from Pace Academy, with highest honors thank you very much.

If you are wondering how siblings who aren’t twins can graduate in the same year, imagine how my sister felt. No I’m kidding, Frances skipped a grade because she takes after her aunt that way. Okay kidding again — but she really did skip a grade. And now they are off to college. The eldest Ruth is already off to college. Baby Isabel is still home, but in the blink of an eye, she will be gone too.

In the blink of an eye. Tears were blinking in a lot of eyes I notice, not least of all mine. I never used to cry; now I cry all the time. Not sob-cry but eyes-swelling-with-emotion-cry. I’m going to take that as a good thing. As one tear unlocks a thousand sorrows, so can it unlock a thousand joys. So often the two are woven together, the warp and the weft of the same fabric that is our lives.

My arm
You can't tell from looking at it but this is supposed to be a photo of John Rex accepting his diploma. Instead it is my arm and the torso of a friend and proud daddy sitting beside me. Attending a high school graduation can remind you that things don't always turn out like you'd planned.

How did they grow up so fast? What fine young people they are! What on earth awaits them? What wonders await them! And how about us — the moms, the dads, aunties and uncles — we can’t help but think about how we’ve measured up to our own expectations along the way. Our victories and losses,¬†achievements and failures, comebacks and setbacks. We shed tears for those too. So will our children continue to have joys and sorrows, much as we want to shield them, and there’s not a thing we can do about it but to shine a light for them that is our own example. It is never too late for that.

12 comments

  1. My dear Frances,

    My baby Serena graduates from Suffield Academy on Friday and I spent the weekend looking at baby albums and videos with tears of joy flowing.How quickly she graduated from ballet slippers to sky high platforms!!
    I wish her all the best for college and will cherish all her childhood memories.

    Viva x

  2. Such a great post, Frances! Shared it on my FB wall. You captured beautifully how these events gather up the whole complex reality of our family emotional systems. It’s a wonder these children have survived our ineptness and the vicissitudes of our lives – and that they have thrived! Of course the tears include those who have not survived or thrived. But the joy is real with all of that…

    Thought of you today as I’m in New York dodging the puddles in TriBeCa.

    Love and blessings,,,

  3. Really touching Frances. How the years flow – sometimes too fast. To hear “Amos” name and Trigg’s remarks sends me back, evaporating all those lost years. Just as this post snaps me back to present, it also asks where did those years go when lives once connected have such gaps that entire generations have sprung up through the cracks.

  4. Frances, when I dry my eyes I will re-read this post. Oh, who am I kidding? I am bawling and can’t see the dang screen. So beautiful, so tender, so true. xo

    1. Viva, Randall, Adele, Mimi – how beautifully you have all expressed — and strengthened — the love and sentiment that ties us all together and that “springs up through the cracks.” Thank you thank you.

  5. Sigh.. this time last year my Claire Bear graduated HS and today my James got his drivers license. It’s been a crazy year of adjustments, but not boring!! I don’t EVEN want to look at old videos or pictures!!!! I will collapse in a heap. Congrats to yours!

  6. Our son just graduated with a Masters of Science in Global Business Magna Cum Laude from NYU…and although this is his fifth degree, I still cried! And he is now 30. There were indeed lots of tears in the audience. I had forgotten how touching graduation ceremonies can be….for everyone.
    XX

  7. I love this quote, I will think of it over the next few days when we have some big milestones in our little family’s lives…

    “As one tear unlocks a thousand sorrows, so can it unlock a thousand joys. So often the two are woven together, the warp and the weft of the same fabric that is our lives.”

    I tear up all the time too, Frances – mostly with happiness, occasionally with sorrow. I agree there is a fine line between the two.

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