You remember your baby, jumping from stone to stone, holding your hand while hopping up the walk, chubby toddler legs too short to take big steps. One day that baby could walk the whole way alone, usually in a zig-zag line but it got the job done. There were falls. Scrapes. Sometimes you were waved off. Sometimes you’d cry together.
Next thing you knew, your back garden was the go-to place for hide-and-seek with the motley cast of neighborhood kids. Sometimes as the sun went down, you’d find them all digging holes in your grass, “working on our survival skills,” they’d say. “We’re making a fire pit for cooking.”
You’ve built up a long list of activities in this yard. These patio stones have weathered many different events. Birthday parties. Red and blue popsicles. Camp-outs. Cloud-watching and stargazing. Along with the trees and flowers, a child grew up out here.
The day that child drove out of the driveway alone in the car, your heart skipped a beat. You sat on the patio for some fresh air. They must learn how to live, you told yourself. They need survival skills.
You’ve paved the way the best you could. Step by step, you’ve come to this moment. Graduation. You pull up the weeds to freshen the landscaping in preparation. Weren’t we just skipping down the walk? Everything went by so fast. Changes came overnight when you’d thought they’d never come.
All that hard work is behind you. At commencement, you watch the entire class– almost adults now – walk in a straight line up to the stage. They smile as they hear their names. They hold up their diplomas in victory. You get a little wave from the stage. You try to hide your tears.
Afterward, hands are shaken, hugs are given. Now it’s time for these kids to build their own lives. The walk won’t always be a straight line. No-one is impervious to every storm, but you’ve done your best to provide that sturdy base from which to bounce back. Continuous love and support is what makes one unbreakable.
Now is not the time to think of all that. You have a party to throw, a moment to celebrate, a graduate to honor. Today, friends and family who have helped you along in this adventure fill the patio. The younger cousins keep asking you when they can roast marshmallows in the (real) fire pit. You straighten up the buffet table. You refill a flower vase a toddler knocked over. You look over the yard and think at first you see a stranger, a captivating party crasher holding court in the pergola. Then you realize it’s your baby. The zig-zagging, jumping, digging, garden-trodding, clay mushing, beautiful child, is miraculously now a young adult. A little wave passes between you. And you try not to cry.