I have wrestled for several weeks over what to write in this space this particular week. I knew the topic would be easy enough to define, but the subject is so dramatically complex that I’ve been perplexed.
On Friday, my youngest daughter, Pitt, crossed the stage at the Raleigh Convention Center and collected her high school diploma. Earlier this school year, we got an email about deadlines for purchasing a “Senior Ad” in the yearbook.
We knew it was coming and we knew we would purchase one. What we would say in that ad was the challenging thing, so we decided not to say much of anything and we got other people to say it for us.
We asked our family members to provide us with song lyrics that were befitting of Pitt. Given Pitt’s love for music of all stripes, that seemed like the best way to remember her high school journey. The lyrics rolled in from grandfathers and sisters, from cousins and from aunts and uncles.
There were lyrics from traditional hymns and country music songs to lyrics from Broadway musicals and ’70s rock and roll.
I spent a lot of time trying to settle on the perfect set of lyrics to convey my message to Pitt and I finally settled on words from the James Taylor classic “You Can Close Your Eyes.” In the opening lines, the speaker promises to be there to support the listener no matter what the circumstances.
Those lyrics, I suppose, are a bit of a mea culpa for me. I’ve raised two children now. And though they love each other to death, they are as different as night and day. The oldest one is my mirror image. Pitt and I are, well, opposites. In so many ways.
That’s caused us to have our share of clashes, especially as she has gotten older.
I also know – and I think she does too – that as tired as she has grown with the drumbeat of school and the high expectations, she will ultimately look back upon these developmental years and realize that she was forming a foundation that would support her for the rest of her life.
The truth is, I know how hard my daughter has worked to accomplish all that she has. I know about the late nights spent doing homework. I know about the lost opportunities to spend time with friends because of other obligations. I’ve shared in her pain when things didn’t go her way.
I’ve been on those long walks at night, where she outlines her plans for me, point by point, in great detail. You could just sense her excitement as she anticipated what the future could bring.
Now that high school is in the past, I know the promise of the future is limitless for a smart girl who has the temerity to repeat her question in public to a state House representative when he doesn’t answer her question the first time, and the courage to go to breakfast with the school board chairman to lobby for new band uniforms.
It is that kind of intensity that endears her to me. And it is that part of her personality that we share (along with a certain degree of impatience.)
The words and the lyrics in the yearbook ad will be soon forgotten, the book will be put away on a bookshelf to gather dust and be pulled out at exactly the most embarassing moment at some point in the future.
But the sentiment I expressed in that senior ad won’t go anywhere. They will be as constant as the sun sinking down and the moon slowly rising.