Crying My Way Through Graduation

Negotiating the bittersweet experience of watching our babies graduate high school.


It’s only two days till my daughter Lissie’s high school graduation from Clarkstown North on Friday. I’ve been crying off and on for the entire month of June. Any little thing will set me off—the sight of a little girl in the supermarket who looks just like Lissie did at that age, watching Lissie laugh with her friends at graduation parties and comprehending that they’re each going their separate ways soon, seeing all of the gorgeous seniors dressed for their prom, even shopping in the grocery store and realizing soon I won’t need to buy her favorite foods.

And then there were the June Balloons, a fabulous fundraiser/tradition where people buy balloons for a graduate of Clarkstown North, Clarkstown South or Nyack High School. Bouquets of balloons then dance on the mailboxes, fence posts and ceramic planters of homes across town congratulating the graduate who lives there. Yesterday, after all of the balloons were distributed, I found myself taking the long way home so I could see as many of the students as possible being celebrated. I gave each one a cheer as I passed (thankfully, my kids were not in the car to be embarrassed by this!).

I’m so proud of these kids. I’ve known many of them since kindergarten and I’ve watched them transition from picking the grass at kindergarten t-ball games to hitting home runs in Zukor Park to deciding they actually didn’t want to play baseball in high school. I was a Girl Scout leader with Linda Brinkman and Cookie Erardy for five years at Little Tor and I’m thrilled to see the girls who did food drives, entertained senior citizens and went on hikes now leading similar activities of their own.

My husband and I have danced with them at their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and Sweet 16s and cried with them through family losses.  We’ve watched them dance the Nutcracker, celebrated their ski race wins and consoled them when they didn’t make the team or get the part in the school play. On Friday, we’ll watch them don their graduation robes and officially become high school graduates. I’ve viewed from a distance as other classes have marked this milestone, but now that I’m seeing it from so close, it’s taken on a whole new, deeper meaning.

The past 13 years are a blur. Wasn’t it yesterday they were parading onto the Little Tor stage for their Fifth Grade Moving Up ceremony and we were walking them around Felix Festa on a hot August afternoon so they wouldn’t be worried about finding their new middle school classes? Didn’t we just put Lissie on the bus for that first time in kindergarten, her favorite doll tucked secretly into her backpack? I keep thinking about the lyrics to Joni Mitchell’s song, “The Circle Game,” as I want to “drag my feet to slow the circle down.”

Today I booked our flights to Wisconsin to take Lissie to school in August. After reserving the round-trip tickets for Mat and me, it hit me—Lissie only needed a one-way ticket. Yes, the tears started flowing again.

I am bringing a giant box of Kleenex to the graduation ceremony on Friday.

Congratulations to the Class of 2012!

Sabina DeGaetano June 20, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Shari...as I was reading this wonderful article and typing you this comment, the tears are flowing down my face as well that I can't see what I'm typing! I know on Friday we will all have to bring a box tissues. Congrats to our senior class of 2012.
Suzanne Fleming June 21, 2012 at 07:41 AM
I smiled, laughed and cried while reading your article. I, too, have been crying on and off since Jimmy turned 18 in March. When Elizabeth told me in February that her 5th grade class was singing "You Raise Me Up" at her Moving Up ceremony, I started sobbing in IHOP. I sniffled through the Hallmark aisles buying Jimmy his 18th birthday card. I have a talent for being able to cry lately at the drop of a hat. We will all survive...and so will our kids. But, even knowing that, my heart still aches.


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