Introduction by Melissa Amster
With my youngest about to graduate in less than a year (from Pre-K, but still...) and my oldest getting closer to his Bar Mitzvah (three years to go), I can relate to this post from our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, written in honor of "Chick Lit Soup for the Soul" month. I met her son, Wil, who is the main subject of today's post. He's a remarkable young man and is so funny and charismatic. I couldn't be happier for him (and Jen) with reaching this milestone.
Fair warning: Have some tissues handy...
The Best is Yet to Come
Rites of passage. We anxiously await their commencement, we meet the milestone with pomp and circumstance, and we look behind us as they roar past, wondering, “Where did the time go?” I’m not the first nor last person to have her first baby bird jump out of the high school graduation nest. I knew this day was coming for 18 precious years.
And I was hanging in there.
Until a few weeks before graduation when Wil paraded into the kitchen and asked, “What do you think?”
Standing before me was my son wearing his navy gown lined in orange around the zipper, his cap crookedly resting upon his head and his tassel swaying to and fro. I saw his life flash before my eyes. And because so much of my writing tells stories about my family, I feel like Wil’s journey in a way is yours as well.
“Mommy, how I yook?” Wil asked. Three years old, dressed as Buzz Lightyear for Halloween. With a year of speech therapy under his belt, any words from his lips were music to my ears. “To affinity and pee-yond!” was his candy haul battle cry.
“Mommy, is this cool (school) clothes?” The first day of kindergarten. His backpack gave him a run for his money to balance and navigate. A Blue’s Clues tee shirt and matching shorts gave him the confidence to go out and face the day. I on the other hand was in la-la land, convincing myself kindergarten was just preschool with homework accompanied by a bonus bus ride meaning my tears were minimal.
“Mommy! Did you know trees have leaves?” Wil cheered as we drove home from the eye doctor. Wearing his first pair of glasses, bifocals no less, this mother of the year thought he was being lazy when he colored outside the lines. Turned out he couldn’t see lines nor leaves on tress, obviously. Best mom ever.
“Mommy, this isn’t mine!” Wearing his little brother’s size 2T Baby Gap shirt, I have no idea how he even got it over that huge melon of his, let alone his arms through the sleeves. Bare midriffs are not a good look for him.
“They shrunk at the night time!” Wil was seven and woke to the harsh reality that his favorite Thomas the Train pajamas seemed to be a little smaller in the morning. How did that commercial go? “If they could just stay little ’til their Carter’s wear out.”
“I don’t think this looks like this.” Soccer. Shin guards and socks. Yeah, I had no idea how to work that combo.
“This doesn’t match?” Chilly air outside means wearing more layers in Indiana. October of his Freshman year of high school, Wil walked into the kitchen wearing a lime green V-neck sweater and navy track pants. Befuddled after I gave him “the look” and told him his top and bottoms were not even on the same playing field, he returned to his room and changed. He put a cordovan colored v-neck on instead hoping that was the winning combination with his athletic bottoms. Not so much.
“So, what do you think?” His high school Bowling Team uniform. He ironed it himself. Why is it his pleats crease better than mine? Why do I care? This means he should iron for the entire family from now on.
“Did you see me?” he asked Mike and me after scoring four strikes in row while competing in the Special Olympics State Bowling Championship games. He joined Special Olympics one year after leaving the school’s bowling team. Where high school sports were not a place of acceptance, patience, or tolerance for Wil, being brave in the attempt with others with special needs was bliss for him. He made friends. He did his best. He was accepted just the way he was. He won the silver medal at State his first year. His joy filled our hearts ten times over. I had never seen him so happy in his teen years as I did that day. That’s worth a Turkey any day.
This young man on the precipice of graduation stood before me. He wanted me to compliment him. Tell him how handsome he made the gown look. Tears welled as I embraced him. I wiped them away, saying, “You look amazing. Like you’re ready to start the rest of your life.”
School was never a place of comfort, friendship, success or ease for Wil. It was simply a means to a diploma so he could move on and move on out. His strength and courage will always astound me and put my whiny bad days about “First world problems” to shame. On his saddest and darkest of days living in an apraxic body that, at times, refuses to do what he wills it to, he remains the brightest star of all.
I stepped back drinking in the sight of my handsome young man on the verge of experiencing life after school. Wil took my hands into his and said, “Mom, don’t cry now. Save some for the ceremony, will you?”
You’ll be happy to know Wil made it across the stage in the weeks following the kitchen crying incident. I didn’t cry once at graduation. Not even the excusable “It’s just my allergies” tears fell. Instead, I cried seven times before we even arrived on campus for the ceremony.
Fly my little bird. May you see wonders, live life loud and proud, and know that no matter what happens, the best is yet to come.
Jen Tucker is the author of the funny and true stories, The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out and The Day I Lost My Shaker of Salt. In September 2012, she had her children's book, Little Pumpkin published as an e-book. She also blogs monthly for Survival for Blondes. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband, three kids and two dogs. You can find her at Twitter, Facebook, her blog and on her website. And in case you missed them. check out her previous Chick Lit Cheerleader posts here.