When you have eight kids, you go through a lot of graduations, from pre-k to college and with each one comes emotion, trying to recognize and come to grips with an ending and knotting the emotional ties of that end, to the joy of a new beginning.
Sometimes your offspring graduate with a great group of kids that somehow you bonded with over the years, and sometimes you could give two @#$%S about who went where after the commencement ceremony.
One of the best things about Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Park Ridge is they offer a pre-k through eighth program, so as my first three have already done, they start building their nest early, make lifelong friends, and graduation is like a retirement ceremony for a worker has given half their life to a company. Valentina’s graduating class of 2017, holds a special place in my heart. It’s not that Devin and Brynn’s class didn’t, but I was pregnant with Valentina with a few other moms who had sibs in Devin and Brynn’s class, so it wasn’t just pre k that bonded us, but the prenatal and sibling combination.
Her class started out teeny-weeney. There were about 20 kids in the class until they entered fifth grade, and they all loved each other. Of course, here and there we must pepper life with female trials, tribulations, tears, heels and gossip, but for the most part, those who started pre-k three together clasped hands in September of 2004 never seemed to let go. Mid way through their grammar school career, a few area schools closed, and OLMA made out, bringing in students from across the border in New York, injecting Vale’s small class with new faces, towns and personalities. It was with this sudden growth I witnessed the integrity and openness of a beautiful group of children who, although had a tight bond, were warm and welcoming to a new horde of strangers from a new land.
The expansion of the OLMA class of 2017 brought with it challenges as middle schoolers became teens, but I saw growth and maturity from this group that I had not seen prior. Devin and Brynn’s graduating classes had pretty much cemented themselves from pre-k forward, and the transition was minimal. It was with Vale’s class I witness the most transition of personality and bodies, and with each step, they managed to wriggle themselves into position, still holding hands with their core, but opening themselves to new friendships and bonds.
Last night, as I tried to superimpose those little pre-schoolers who were traipsing after their older siblings on the graduates who now wore short dresses, suits, and the symbolic cap and gown on that imposing altar, I was proud, and welling up with pride not just for my daughter, but for the group of non-blood related siblings she has had for more than half her life. I have had the privilege of watching you grow, watching you create, watching you become what you might be as an adult. Some of you are great artists, scholars, actors, writers, mathematicians, scientists, cooks, entrepreneurs … the world has yet to even pry open your oyster. Yet, after you took your final walk down the OLMA church aisle as a class, you cried, hugged, never for a moment truly grasping that this was it … no school on Monday, no classes together. This was it. The end of your academic career at Our Lady of Mercy Academy. Your paths will lead you far away from the building that was your second home for your elementary life, yet, you knew the bond created was hard to sever.
So, to the amazing, talented, warm and loving OLMA class of 2017, from a mom who has watched you grow, create, fall down, get up, get dressed, cry, sing, dance, draw and love …. I am proud that Valentina was a part of your life, and you, a part of hers, no matter when you met, when you joined our community at OLMA, or in what capacity you bonded. You are a very, very different, extraordinary graduating genus, and I wish you the love you have returned and the integrity to take your heart and talents wherever you wish.
God bless all you do…. conquer it all because you can.