Ready or Not. Ready is Better.

I am preparing to celebrate my daughter’s graduation from high school tomorrow (read: I am a wreck).  Tensions are high.  Reflections are many.  Conversations are, well, just strange.  The destination is the tearful and sloppy “We’re proud of you … we love you … thank you” that we will experience tomorrow.  The journey is not as simple.

I was thinking this morning about how this graduation is a shared milestone; then, I realized that phrase is redundant.  All milestones are shared.  We have instinctively known and celebrated that fact since ancient times.  Rites of passage are for the individual.  Rites of passage are for the family.  Rites of passage are for the community.  With every major rite of passage, there are minor ones that are associated.  In this case, the graduate is entering a new phase of life; the parents are entering a new phase of life; the community is receiving its new members. It’s like tilling the soil between the dying of a crop and the next planting; and tilling is hard work.

One thing I have learned in my own experience is that if a rite of passage is not fully embraced and celebrated, if it is not done right, sputtering and stumbling follow.  The individual, the family and the community will embrace and celebrate the rite differently.  Somehow, I alternate between feeling prepared and feeling ambushed.  It isn’t like I didn’t know this was coming.  I am filled with the fear that I’m not doing this right. And there is the mother’s mantra.

As I type this post, Tracy Chapman sings in the background, “I’m ready. I’m ready/I’m ready to let the/ rivers wash over me.”  It’s from a playlist my daughter created.  Okay, then.  I’m ready too.  That doesn’t mean I can or will be “together” tomorrow (I am praying for at least a scintilla of dignity, however!).  It just means in the midst of our tears, there will be release and celebration. And indescribable joy.  It’s time to plant.  Or go with the flow.  Pick your analogy.  It’s time for all of us to move.  You too.

I can say I have done my best.  I can also say my best wasn’t very good all the time.  Where I have failed, she has shined.  Where I have failed, she will forgive.  Where I have failed, I have also loved.  Always.

Here is a poem I have written for my daughter, but it is for parents and the community, too. A little background is, perhaps, in order. When I was pregnant, I was diagnosed with lupus and put on bed rest for about 5 months.

For Carly
(by Suzanne Baldwin Leitner)

When I was pregnant
with you I lay down
on my back, stiff, still
until my chest turned
to a drawer,
a pine drawer with a patina
a deep drawer with worn
and rough places and knots.
I lay there for months
taking things out
of the drawer, moving
them around, trying
to remember what all
of it was. Your father wept.

Then you came.
Slowly, we started to put
things back into the drawer:
needles and thread, thimbles
and bed sheets, small spoons
for us both at first, the jewels
of two grandmothers, notes
pictures, colored pencils
music, laughter, fluttering
joy, singing, a dance.
You handed things to us
with your small hands
and didn’t seem to see
what we did with it all.

Now you are leaving.
For months you have been
unpacking the drawer –
a colorful scarf, some gems,
a warm sweater, a perfumed
lotion, smiles, a bouquet
of delphinium and freesia.
Come, my laughing beauty,
pluck away. You cannot
empty this drawer now.

3 thoughts on “Ready or Not. Ready is Better.

  1. Ann

    Oh, Suz, my heart is with you — what a beautiful and tender aching this time of life is…always moving on toward something new. Thanks for expressing the inexpressible.
    Love you dearly,


    Congratulations, a huge achievement, one so desired around the wolrd by the very many. Remember, we own ourselves, and the best we can do is offer good examples of what is meaningful, we do not own our children or are we responsible for them beyond their formative years. Well done!

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