I have known you for so long, many of you since you were three or four years old. I held a few of you as infants.
In the early days, I washed your cuts and pushed you on the swings in the schoolyard. I dried your hands when you passed through the wash line before snack or lunch. And, because I had a teaching credential and I liked to hang out with you, I substituted for your teachers and let you get away with all sorts of things.
You sat on my lap during hay rides, and swam to me when you were learning, across the Pioneer Park pool or the swimming holes in the Yuba or Lake Wildwood. You had sleepovers at my house, and I comforted you when you were homesick and made you pancakes with bacon and eggs and orange juice in the mornings. I waited in parking lots for your parents to pick you up. I drove you home in the dark of night and pouring rain.
When you got a little older, I took you to down the hill to Super Splash Fun Land, or whatever it was called. I hated it there, actually, but I was still happy because of your smiles and laughs. We had birthday parties at pizza parlors. I sat through day long tournaments of basketball and baseball, and cheered so loudly for you that it embarrassed you.
You kept getting older and so did I. I watched you become artists and scholars, athletes and musicians. I watched your friendships break apart and come together. Soon you traveled to different states and countries, and some of you stayed there. As you grew, hugs turned to handshakes and nods. I understood.
Sometimes we had conflicts, and usually we resolved them. I watched as your girlfriends and boyfriends became lovers, and as your dreams morphed into plans. I witnessed you run marathons, and I listened to the music you recorded and posted on You Tube. I believed in you then, and I believe in you now.
Today you graduate from high school and are officially adults. It’s just one day, one official, easy-to-spot marker between past and future, between childhood and adulthood. We both know it’s only one pinpoint on the timeline of life. But it’s incredibly important, indelible.
You are bound for Oberlin and Dartmouth, for Chico and Davis and Santa Cruz, for apprenticeships and long stints of travel. Some of you will end up in my classroom at the local college. (And don’t try to tell me you have no stories to tell, nothing to write about.)
I celebrate your awakening to the political and smile when I see your bumper stickers on the cars you inherited from your grandparents. After tomorrow, when we see each other, we will act like it’s no big deal. But it will be, because we know each other so deeply. We won’t say anything about that, though.
I marvel at your confidence, your perspectives, your wisdom despite your youth. I am in love with your kind spirits. You inspire me.
No matter what, you will always remain my friends. I will always love you.
Happy graduation, class of 2016.