My graduation ceremony was last month. Although initially I’d been eager to walk across a stage in cap and gown one final time, the closer the date drew, the less excitement I felt.
It would be the fourth such ceremony of my way-too-many years as a student. But it would be the first where my mum would not be in the audience. Looking at the ticket that I knew would go unused, I started to question the point of sitting in that hot auditorium, listening to the congratulatory speeches of strangers; the words of celebration I truly wanted to hear exist only in memory.
I went ahead and picked up my apparel and certificates anyway, anxious at least to have the degree document in my possession at long last. I placed it next to my newly-bound thesis which I’d dedicated to my mum’s memory since it was she who gave me the impetus to embark on the project nearly a decade ago.
As these things so often do, the question of should I or shouldn’t I go eventually resolved itself: one of my boys came down with a bug overnight and needed to stay home. As I refilled his pedialyte later that morning, it occurred to me that a degree punctuated several times by leaves of absence for my mum’s palliative care, and later for the arrival of my children is most appropriated celebrated not by formal conventions, but by Prosecco in pajamas after a day of watching Minions.
For many, 2016 has been a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” year in the descriptors of Judith Viorst’s much-afflicted Alexander. On a global scale, there has much to mourn: so much suffering and so many lives cut short. I count my family lucky to have passed through the last twelve months with rather more joy than sorrow, and more good memories to recall than painful ones. As we all enter a new year, I know many will be out celebrating the promise of better things to come. Of course, we parents know that the real celebration is a chance not to stay out until midnight, but to go to bed early, sleep through the fireworks, and awaken at some post-dawn hour the following morning.