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The Summer After Graduation Was Not How I Thought It Would Be

Our son’s high school graduation ceremony was one for the memory books. After a week of outdoor graduation activities in sweltering, humid heat, the weather gods did us a solid. We watched his class, a sea of blue and white in their graduation finest, assemble on the athletic field as a gentle cool breeze ushered in a gorgeous, picture-perfect sunset. It was easy to pick our son out of the crowd. He was doing his funny dance moves to the pulsating music while we waited for the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” to begin.

As I listened to the speeches and the accolades bestowed upon the class that had made it to this milestone despite the challenges of a global pandemic, my throat choked with emotion. When our son, resplendent in the soft summer sunlight, swaggered onto the stage oozing the kind of confidence that only comes before the reality check of the real-world sets in, the tears I’d been holding back spilled down my cheeks.

“I’ll remember this moment forever,” I whispered to my husband.

After the ceremony, we were caught up in the business of capturing those last few graduation memories. We took pictures with our beaming graduate and his friends and we hugged the dear friends who had been by our sides since those first anguished kindergarten years. We cried happy tears because this night wasn’t an ending. We had a big summer of memory making ahead of us. 

When we arrived home, I sat on our softly lit patio in the quiet of the cool summer evening.

Gone was the chaos of a stadium full of excited graduates and their families.

Our house no longer pulsed with the sounds of an exasperated mother and an annoyed teen debating graduation attire and the possibility of a haircut prior to wearing a mortarboard.

As I sipped a glass of wine in the still of the purple sky above me, my phone buzzed with a call from my son.

“Don’t wait up, Mah! I’m headed to my girlfriend’s house and then we are going out for ice cream with the gang,” he said, exuberantly. 

As I listened to his excited voice, it hit me. Memories will indeed be made this summer after graduation. But the memories will be his, not mine.

I realized his summer would be spent attending graduation parties and taking impromptu trips to the beach. 

He won’t wear enough sunscreen and he’ll sleep far too late after nights spent making life plans around fire pits with his friends.

He’ll feel the heady rush that comes from driving his car with the windows down, blaring his favorite tunes as he anticipates an evening with the girl who stole his heart. 

He’ll cram work shifts into his days while juggling his desire to see where the winding country roads near our home take him on a hot summer day.

His summer will be camping trips with his Boy Scout buddies and Netflix shows binge watched into the wee hours of the morning.

He will apologize for missing family dinner, yet again, in favor of an evening spent with friends at an amusement park.

As I hung up the call with my son on the night of his graduation, I realized he had so many summer memories to make, all unfolding right before his eyes.

Gone are the days of catching him in his bedroom, burning the midnight oil before an AP exam or a calculus test he’s worried he can’t pass.

His bedroom door stands ajar, witness to the chaos that comes from a summer well-spent. There are no more arguments about cleaning his room because, when he’s home, I’m just grateful to have him to myself for a few precious hours.

Family movie nights centered around 80s pop culture and popcorn with too much butter are fleeting now, at best.

And on the nights when my husband and I are cozy, watching HGTV on our couch, the image of our son in his prom tux, beaming next to his best girl in front of the fireplace tugs at my heart.

He’s off making the memories that we all have from the summer after graduation. The one where we tried to capture lightning in a bottle and hang on to the fleeting moments of high school. Everything is as it should be, yes.

I thought we’d have more time to make last minute memories the summer after senior year

It turns out, though, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing for the last 18 years. 

Christine Burke

Christine Burke started the popular parenting blog, Keeper of The Fruit Loops six years ago on a whim. Since then, her work has been featured on the Today Show, Scary Mommy, Grown and Flown and other parenting websites. In her spare time, she runs marathons, collects thrift shop finds and eats ice cream like it’s her job.

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