I can hear the happy shrieks of children in my neighborhood.
They frolic under the sporadic showers of Tropical Storm Andrea’s tail-end, running after each other, diving with a loud splash into a pool.
School’s out. Officially, the calendar won’t say so until the summer solstice arrives June 21, but summer has begun. No matter the restless rustling of the landscape or the rain, it’s time to cut loose and celebrate.
In my world, the last of my three daughters has earned her bachelor’s degree, no small feat.
Like me and her sisters before and after her, she married in the middle of college, and the balancing act of the rest of her life began with the birth of her son.
Her accomplishment all the sweeter now, the road to this point was full of lessons for me, as it was with all my other daughters — as it will be from this point forward for all the parents marking with a mix of joy and anxiety the end of an era today.
Trust me: Everything’s going to turn out better than okay.
I’ve ushered into the world now a journalist-turned-English-literature-teacher at an inner city school; a special-education specialist who couldn’t settle on a major until she found her life’s calling while working with cerebral palsy students — and now, a public safety management graduate who caught quite a handful of bad guys during her internship in a U.S. courthouse.
Am I free now?
Can you hear me laughing?
Not in this economy, I know. But the children’s joy outside is contagious, and as I look back, I remember the vulnerable moments and realize it was part of my own education.
From that Harvard sweatshirt I bought my first-born on a trip to Boston to my one and only steadfast life rule — graduating from college is mandatory — I set out with lots of plans and pride to raise independent-thinking women.
And that’s what they became, charting their own roadmap and setting their own timetable, to my chagrin.
I wanted them to go away to school, like me.
They would not.
In the unforgettable words of my youngest daughter as she stood in the middle of the lawn at my alma mater, telling me to withdraw her before she even finished orientation: “This was your dream, not mine.”
I wanted them to wait on marriage until after college, knowing how difficult it is to juggle responsibilities.
They would not.
Good for them — and for me. I cannot imagine the last four years without the joy of having these little creatures, a grandson and granddaughter I adore.
They too will inherit my only cardinal rule, my gospel of getting an education no matter what. It isn’t just a wish in a vacuum, but an expectation reinforced by a lifestyle that begins with a home full of books and joyful reading from the time they’re babies.
As for my daughters, they’ve all left my zip code to thrive as graduates, wives and mothers.
Just as I dreamed for them, they’re expanding their worlds, discovering new geographies and meeting new people — because that’s what education gives you, wings to fly and reasons to laugh in the rain.