Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Magna Cum Laude

The kid graduates with great praise!
by Charlie Leck [30 May 2007]

I’ve just finished a long drive from Syracuse to Chicago. It gave me plenty of time for reflection. Though such a drive gets hairy occasionally, it is a great opportunity to gather one’s thoughts and work through some things. I used the time behind the wheel for just that.

My head was still ringing with the extraordinary praise lavished upon our youngest daughter by one of her professors at Colgate University. It’s the kind of reminiscence in which parents revel.

“She’s one of the best students I’ve ever taught,” he said. “She’s right there with the very best!”

Naturally, I puffed up and out a bit. I think I also stuttered and stammered some.

“I told her, and I was very sincere about it, that I think she would make a good academic – that she should get a PhD and teach in this field. She’d make a wonderful teacher at this level.”

I looked at my daughter as the professor spoke. Her glance was riveted to her feet. My wife was gleaming with pride. I tried to figure out what to say. I sputtered out the usual words of appreciation. The professor looked at me skeptically.

“I really mean it,” he said. “It is unusual to find a student who grasps this subject as she has. She would do well in graduate school.”

Was he thinking I was an impediment to such a goal? There would be no road block from me. This is the third of our children who I think should have gone on to get a PhD. It’s a daunting goal, however, and it is easy to recoil from the obvious amount of difficult work involved. This daughter has decided to commit two years of her life to Teach for America. Do you know about TFA? I didn’t until our daughter announced she was a candidate for the program. When I learned more and found out how few applicants are accepted, I became plenty proud and boasted to everyone I knew. If you don’t know about Teach for America and the fantastic accomplishments of this program, go to its web site and begin to inform yourself.

When this delightful kid was awarded her degree “with great praise” on commencement day, I was awfully proud. “Magna cum laude and with honors in liberal arts!” I guess it wouldn’t have mattered if she had been introduced without those words; yet, they made me feel awfully proud and terribly happy for her.

She’s truly grown up now. This child, who we’ve treated as our baby for all her life because she is our youngest, is now all grown up and striding out into life on her own.

Great going kiddo! You deserve all the wonderful and rich praise. We’re very proud of you. So are your brothers and sisters.

Momma and I looked at each other! There was a huge question in her eyes. What now? Are we truly, irrevocably empty-nesters? We’ve raised our kids – and there you are! What you see is what you get! They are each so beautiful in his or her own way – each so wonderful and so capable of making special contributions to this needy world in which we live. (Four out of six are raving liberals – and that ain’t bad! How about that Jon? Doug? Rick? ) Each of them – all six – is so beautiful and so extraordinarily special. Now there are grandkids who will grow and grow and we shall watch them with great happiness as we get older and older. It is so odd, isn’t it?

On Memorial Day Weekend, we went to visit Grandpa Wakefield’s grave site and then to another cemetery to find Great Grandfather Wakefield and Aunts Dorothy and Genevive. Mother started musing about where she wanted to be buried and wondered if grandkids would come and stand near her as we stood near her father and grandfather this day. It is clear that we have crossed over. I’m peaceful about it and prepared. And, I’m very, very proud. I want to brag about all our kids, but I won’t bore you with that.

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