The columns and writings of
Peggy L. Elliott
 
"" Where the Memories Go

Recently I've been searching through my daughter's baby/toddler photographs to provide appropriate photos for use in several graduation-related events. In doing so, I have tried to be considerate, keeping in mind pictures I might find adorable, Katie would be mortified to see plastered on a wall at the graduation party or - worse yet - immortalized in her senior yearbook.

Still, I submitted the photos I'd chosen without her prior approval. She's just going to have to trust her mother's judgment on this, one of the final maternal decisions I am charged to make in her life. From now on, my parental duties will be relegated to the offering of advice, pleading requests ("If you get the chance, could you pick that pile of once clean clothes up off the floor - Please?") and to standing on the sidelines, rooting her on, her biggest fan.

For any parent who has accompanied a child through the life-altering affirmation known as "graduation," you are aware of the many rules we must abide in the planning and execution of this, one of the most important moments in your child's - and your - life. Much like preparing for a wedding - another life-wrenching ritual - there are parties to plan, announcements to be written and posted, gifts to catalogue and notes of gratitude to be penned.

However, unlike a wedding, the morning following the big event you will awaken and your newly-minted graduate will still be in his/her bedroom, door closed, the grinding bass line of "Boris the Sprinkler" knocking over the drinking glasses in the kitchen, while the graduate sleeps on, oblivious.

Had s/he been wed, the house would be silent now. The newly-legalized couple, out and about on their honeymoon, would be doing what newly-legalized couples always do - buying lots of ticky-tacky little souvenirs to bring home in an effort to convince us all they really, honestly did step outside their hotel. And here's the proof: The painted plastic, wobbling, crepe-paper-grass beskirted hoola dancer we brought back just for you!

Oh, joy.

Still, your life with the new graduate is on borrowed time, the days until the departure of the college bound are rushing at you and will too soon run you down. It is then the consequences of that June afternoon graduation ceremony are revealed - when the treasures installed in every nook-and-cranny of her bedroom disappear, swallowed up and choking the two-hundred pound suitcases and trunks she's been desperately filling, having waited until the day before departure to start packing for school.

And for me, I know from the moment of her departure, as improbable as it seems now, I will come to miss that jack-hammer delivery of "Boris the Sprinkler." Having hitched a ride with Katie to Madison, Boris will be blasting away, mingling amongst the other favorites of the other students now safely installed in their freshly painted, clean-sheeted, new home/far from home, dorm rooms.

In that moment of departure, the nature of each of our once-shared lives will be drastically and irretrievably altered. And these long-ago imprints of my daughter I search through today - driven not by emotion, but by necessity - will assume their place in the family history as the visual accounting of an important phase in our lifetime passing.

The giggling disbelief Katie's classmates may express upon viewing these photos I submitted for the yearbook and at the graduation party, will one day be echoed by her children - my grandchildren - as they gaze in amazement upon the incredulous proof their mother had once been a baby and a child, as were her children now.

The safe-keeping of these childhood revelations are forever in the parent's domain. After all, we, the parents, have been there all along. The stories we've chronicled - bringing our new baby home, noting the first steps, the first words uttered semi-lucidly, fighting to ease the wails of pain which accompanied the emergence of the first tooth, on and on they go - can only be properly related to our future generations through our own personal narrative.

Our collection of memories don't live on only in the trophies, school letters and academic awards bestowed upon our children. Nor can they all be found in the color snap shots taken in profusion then mounted in books and on cork-based bulletin boards.

Vital as they are, these carefully collected and stored boxes and albums which contain cherished moments of our sons' and daughters' childhood are but a tiny portion of all the memories we guard in our mental libraries.

Memories are living things. Nourished by the love and devotion we will always retain for our children, our memories are imbedded deep within the spirit of our soul where they await the moment they're called upon to once more bring those long ago days back to life, if only for a moment.

This is the twelfth year my daughter and her classmates have spent together, progressing from elementary school, through junior high, on into high school. Too often over these years, this family of students has been visited by tragedy; too often they've struggled to somehow make sense of the senseless.

With the passing of time, the experiences, both the good and the dreadful, have tread their footprints across the sands of all our lives. And, as is the nature of sand, these memories will shift, still there, but more faint, shuffled by the stirring forces of time.

These classmates are now busily preparing for their class finale. These are the students who had the desire and dedication to travel the long road to the finish. In spirit they are joined by their fellow classmates who were claimed by a higher power. Also in their thoughts are those fellow students who, for reasons known only to themselves, chose to take short-cuts, leaving school before graduation in an effort to jump-start their futures.

The Class of 2002 will come together as a high school class for the very last time. They will arrive at the ceremonies as children still, but with each name called, and as each student proudly strides across the stage to collect the hard-won diploma, they will leave the assembly as adults. All we, their parents, family and friends, have wished for them, the struggles weathered, pain and fear comforted, has come down to this moment of accomplishment and our hearts swell with love for them, our spirit soars with pride. They are nothing short of wonderful, each and every one.

And for you, Katrina Louise Makolondra, the light of my life, may all the roads down which you will charge in pursuit of your life's adventures, lead you to love, joy, challenge and always, please, back to my doorstep once in a while.

Congratulations to all of the Class of 2002. You've done your parents, schools and community proud. You will always be remembered. ------------------------

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© Peggy L. Elliott 2006