I have graduated from youth

Every business has its own version of retail’s Black Friday.
For us, it’s graduation weekend.
We hit the ground running Friday night with the Roscoe commencement exercises and don’t stop until sometime the following week when our biggest issue of the year makes its way to the press in Middletown.
We have hundreds of photographs to sift through, select, edit and caption; dozens of scribbles to decipher to pen the stories of the day and lengthy awards lists to compile.
I thought I was ready.
The camera batteries were charged, an extra notebook stowed in my bag.
My gas tank was half full, and the schedule had been double-checked.
Friday night, I made it to Roscoe early for those nervous “before” shots, and I sat through one of my favorite ceremonies.
The county’s smallest school offers a down-home touch to the standard service, the speeches pull at your heart, the kids lift you up.
The next morning, I hopped in the car ready for my second year covering Sullivan West’s commencement.
With Jonathan headed to work for the day, I packed Jillian in the backseat to switch her off to Oma for a trip to Chuck E. Cheese’s.
I slipped into a spot on the Lake Huntington field and wound my way through the crowd to find the soon-to-be graduates.
Waiting in the auditorium were 116 kids ready to face the world.
I started counting the familiar faces: 1, 2, 3 . . .
I stopped as the lump formed in my throat.
There were the kids whose papers I graded when I did my senior class community service in their elementary classroom.
There was the little girl who just wanted to follow her big sister’s friends around – including me – when we had better things to do.
There was the little boy who followed me off the bus each afternoon when I was a teenager, leading me on expeditions in the woods or adventures in the living room until his Mom got home from work.
Now this I wasn’t ready for.
If they’re getting older, what does that mean for me?
I’m not scared of wrinkles or nose hair, aching joints or making friends with my pharmacist.
But sleeping in the next room is a 2-year-old who is already scurrying as fast as her Mary Jane’d feet will carry her toward being a grown up.
So after all the Pomp and Circumstance, I walked out of the Sullivan West gymnasium with a heavy heart.
I was greeted by the younger brother of that boy I used to baby sit.
He’ll be a sophomore next year, he said, three more years until graduation.
“You can’t graduate anytime soon,” I told him. “Today your brother’s made me old, but you do that and I’ll be over the hill!”
He looked me over and laughed.
“Jeanne, you’re not really old!” he said, shaking his head.
I reached my arms out to wrap him in a hug.
“I knew I always liked you, kid!” I told him.
Three more years. Hmm.
I’m putting the Democrat on notice.
Better stock up on Metamucil and Depends. I don’t know if I can handle these jam-packed graduation weekends much longer.
In three years, I’ll be OLD!

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