Reaching for the Stars

What do we do when we celebrate? We eat, and eat, and eat some more! Our grandson’s graduation was no exception. We feasted on epicurean delicacies in gourmet restaurants for a three-day extravaganza with our graduate and other relatives. Isn’t it amazing how easy it is to put on a few pounds in just one long weekend?

On the big day, we spotted him, even from the back, with his red curly hair poking out from under his graduation cap. We were seated in bleacher-like seats high above the college graduates while our grandson, tall in his black cap and gown marched in procession with the other graduates to their seats. Tears came to my eyes--so proud that he completed his degree with a very tough major. The speaker was inspiring, advising graduates not only to think outside the box, but also to care about those less advantaged, and to give chances to those less fortunate. We know our college graduate is on this path, truly reaching for the stars.

After the college commencement came Taylor’s graduation from middle school. It was hard to believe how much he had accomplished at age fourteen—more proud tears. The front of the room filled with eighth graders in a parade of boys, some in athletic shirts and others twitching in rarely worn sportscoats. In posh new dresses, girls balanced carefully on high heels also rarely worn. Boys jostled each other, and girls whispered and smiled. Many speakers talked of celebrating success of the middle school experience, friendships, and scholarship. 

And then there was Taylor, sitting in the front of the eighth-grade crowd, the same boy I held stretching his arms, and gurgling in a baby blanket as I fed him his bottle. Before he could even sit up, his favorite pursuit was to sit in his infant seat with someone throwing a sponge ball to him. Move to this summer: Baseball is his passion along with soccer.

Academics, however, stays in total focus for Taylor. During the ceremony he received The Presidential Award for Academic Excellence for maintaining an A average for his middle school years and the distinction of being in the Junior National Honor Society at the same time.

More tears of pride, especially knowing that this grandson of mine only goes to school for two and one-half days per week beginning in November and ending in April because he is ski race training on a Colorado ski team. He is disciplined and efficient keeping up with his studies in the mornings while skiing in the afternoon. As I write this I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the success of this 14-year-old! How does he do it all? Taylor is truly reaching for the stars.

Addison, age eleven, was the shining example of accomplishment in her graduating class from elementary school. With the ribbon holding her Presidential Award for academic excellence around her neck, her curled hair fresh from the salon, a dress that I wanted in my size, and a big beautiful smile, she sang in the choir before taking her seat and listening to speakers. Not only is Addison a scholar, but also an accomplished and award-winning ballerina that you read about in my Blog titled “Dancing with the World.” Because of that New York competition she was invited to summer intensive training at one of the best ballet studios in the country. But, what totally blows my mind is that she goes to ballet school after two weeks of ski race training in Oregon where there is snow all summer. And if that isn’t enough, she will miss two days of school this coming winter to give her the chance to train for ski racing at the same time she is preparing for ballet competition. And she is MY granddaughter! How does she do it all? Addison is truly reaching for the stars.

During each graduation, speakers talked about the future of the graduates. They advised them to take a path to making the world a better place, to listen, to care for others, to be curious, and to build on their current learning. None of these suggestions were surprising, but for me what stood out was that all the graduates were told that no matter how hard the struggle ahead, or how deep any disappointment might be, or how chaotic the world might become, there are always people who care and love them and will help them to reach for the stars.

I compared these graduations to my own. I can remember only my friend Carol’s parents driving me to junior high graduation, my mother at home and sick with MS, and my father scoffing, “What a waste of time.” All I recall is the scratchy dress with puffy sleeves and a big bow in the back, a dress for a very little kid. The highlight of that day was that many of us had autograph books that we signed with silly sayings and rhymes. I still have that book and recall the pleasant memories. 

I graduated with honors from high school, but my parents again did not attend. My boyfriend, now husband, drove me to the event and to my delight gave me a rhinestone heart pendant that I still wear today, fifty-seven years later.  

By college graduation I was married and living the life of a wife and student. My mother did attend the commencement but of course, my father did not as he had always said, “It is not worth educating a girl, especially someone who is stupid and good for nothing.” 

My college career was a challenge scraping together enough money for tuition, room and board, and books. In addition to a full load of classes, I woke up at 3:00 AM to work in the dining hall to help make breakfast. Most summers after I turned sixteen, I held two jobs, making enough money to pay for school. My last semester as a junior, before I was married, I could not afford a meal ticket, so I relied on friends to bring food to me from the dining hall--against the rules. I ate lots of bread, fruit, and food that my friends stuffed into their pockets for me. 

I knew the way out of my violent, chaotic life at home was to get an education. I couldn’t reach for the stars already filled with opportunity like Taylor and Addison at their graduations with a crowd of parents, grandparents, and other relatives and friends cheering them on, but I had one person, a loving supportive husband who believed in me and always supported my reach for the stars.  

Linda Lundgren