Michelle Martin

Moving on

Sunday, June 12, 2016

I always tear up when I hear “Pomp and Circumstance.” The melody is indelibly linked with graduations. I can’t remember the last time I went to a graduation where it wasn’t played, or ever hearing it outside of a graduation context.

It’s stately rhythm, seemingly designed to help the graduated make their entrance at dignified pace, is almost as emotional as Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, signifying the end of a phase of a life and, in most cases, the dispersal of a community of scholars to new and different pursuits.

Then there’s kindergarten graduation.

Yes, I still tear up, because those kids were babies five minutes ago and now look at them, dressed up and doing their best not to drag their partners up to the stage.

There are no gowns for kindergartners at Teresa’s school, but there are blue felt mortarboards. The event is officially billed as a “promotion ceremony,” but they play “Pomp and Circumstance,” hand out rolled-up diplomas and everyone, even the principal, calls it “kindergarten graduation.”

Some members of the class will be leaving, as happens every year, but most of the faces in the first-grade classrooms come August will be familiar. Some of them will spend the next eight years together.

The thing is, I can say with confidence that those eight years will be over before we know it. To the kindergartners, eighth grade seems impossibly far away, somewhere off in a future where we commute by jet pack and have figured out what to do about climate change.

To their parents, especially those who don’t have any older kids, it’s only slightly more imaginable: a future in which their children read and write, are starting to do math their parents have to brush up on to help with homework and sometimes leave the house and return on their own.

I’m here to tell them that it’s not that far away. In the grand scheme of things, it’s tomorrow that they’ll wake up in the morning with a high school graduate sleeping down the hall, and then they’ll load up the car and drop them off … somewhere. The details — What will they want to do? Will they go to college or take another path? If they go to school, where? — are unpredictable. The passage of time isn’t.

Because we have a picture of Caroline wearing her kindergarten graduation cap, and we have a picture of her throwing her eighth-grade graduation cap in the air. This year, we will have pictures of her high school graduation. We have kindergarten and eighth-grade graduation pictures of Frank, and now we have kindergarten pictures of Teresa.

So congratulations to all of this year’s graduates, from kindergarten all the way through university, and remember how fast it has all gone.