We fixed our eyes on the seemingly endless line of blue-gowned graduates marching into the field house, watching for our third and youngest grandchild about to graduate from high school. Finally we spotted her with long dark hair flowing around her beautiful face. Characteristically, she had her mortarboard with the gold tassel perched precariously on the back of her head. Jessica always marches to her own tune, even when “Pomp and Circumstances” is playing.
Ralph squeezed my hand and said, “She is so beautiful.” I didn’t argue and I’m certain my son sitting to my left was thinking the same, as was his wife Patti, Aunt Chris, and Jess’s collegiate brother, Daniel. Was it just two years ago we proudly watched him graduate with honors from this same school? Were he and the others as lost in their memories of Jessica?
The uncomfortable bleacher seats and the less than inspirational speech by the well-intentioned superintendant were somewhat compensated for by the nicely presented comments by the senior class officers. Then we watched the young people file across the stage to receive their diplomas, alphabetically, one by one. As I waited for Jessica and the other Ps—at least two-hundred fifty graduates preceded her—images passed before my eyes.
On long ago weekends, when the children had a sleepover with Grammy and Papa, Jessi would wake up early and peek in to see if we were awake. Then she jumped in bed and cuddled up next to me, warm and content. Now she loves her own bed and any opportunity to sleep well into the day.
I can see the sun bleached streaks in her thick hair as she built castles in the Florida sand. Winter turned her bobbed hair a warm brown, matching her dancing eyes. Now fashion dictates long darkened tresses and blue lenses that offer startling contrast with her smooth olive skin.
Triumph slowed on her face when she managed to climb up to the same high tree branch her brother occupied, just as it did when she showed us how she could ride a two-wheeler. Now she confidently slides into the driver’s seat and heads out on her own.
Jessica loved being barefoot; she discarded shoes the moment she entered the house and often when she went outdoors. Now we see her approach to receive her diploma wearing “killer” purple shoes with heels as thin and as long as new pencils.
The presenters continued through the alphabet until the last six graduates with names beginning with Z marched triumphantly from the stage, posed for their photos, and returned to their seats. The ceremony quickly concluded and we slowly descended from the bleachers, rubbing our tired backs. Now, to find Jessica among the throng and give her our congratulatory hugs. A sweet sadness swept over me. No more little ones to come running to their grandparents, but what pride we feel in the young adults they’ve become.