Spring is in the air. Lilacs and azaleas are in bloom. Lupine is blanketing the hillsides. Showy large-leaf rhododendrons are budding into trusses of red, pink and purple. Students are donning chambray shirts, khaki shorts, flip-flops, capris and flouncy dresses. High school seniors have wicked cases of senioritis, their minds on summer and beyond, eagerly awaiting the last day of school before graduation. I remember the feeling.
I'm suffering the effects of my own version of senioritis. This is the time of year when I hear and watch the students breeze past our home on foot, bikes, roller skates, cars, skateboards. I see photos of them on social media dressed to the nines on the way to prom with their sweethearts. I wait for the day, with both excitement and trepidation, when our street becomes choked with cars, and out of their doors step throngs of seniors who then stroll past with their families on their way to commencement at a nearby venue.
When I was pregnant with Calvin, Michael and I fully expected he would graduate from high school this year along with two of our friends' sons, the three of whom were due to be born within a week or so of each other. Alas, Calvin arrived six weeks early, and his brain malformation drastically changed his trajectory and our expectations of him and what parenthood might offer.
Some very dear West Coast friends have a son just three months older than Calvin. Recently, they sent us their boy's graduation announcement and his handsome senior photo. In a separate envelope, his mother included a thoughtful, handwritten letter. In it she wrote:
We love you guys and hope it is ok to share this moment with you via Luc's announcement. Our boys have circled the same number of suns but their journeys have been unfairly different. Even so, we celebrate Calvin too, and all he and you both have accomplished in the face of constant, deep and shifting challenges. He would not have come this far but for your loving strength. And all the beauty you have created in writing and photography and gardening and friendships and teaching and cooking while raising Calvin—well, Miss Rumphius would approve.
My eyes stung and watered, and I wondered who Miss Rumphius was; though her name sounded familiar, I couldn't place her. Nevertheless, it was one of the kindest most sensitive gestures we've gotten regarding Calvin, right up there with the handmade, hand-delivered birthday cards our friends' son, Felix—who was born when Calvin was meant to be born—has given Calvin every year without fail since Felix was old enough to write and draw.
The morning after we received the graduation announcement and letter—before Calvin gave me Covid—I ran a 5K out at Pennellville. Before the halfway mark, I came upon a beautiful swath of lupine sprinkled with buttercups growing thickly aside a drainage ditch. I paused my workout to photograph it. When I got home I showed Michael the photo, and he reminded me who Miss Rumphius was. In the children's book named for her, Miss Rumphius—who was inspired by the real-life "Lupine Lady," Hilda Hamlin—spread lupine seed along the Maine coast in an effort to make the world more beautiful.
Recounting my friend's kind sentiments, plus the serendipitous discovery of the lupine and her suggestion that I and my husband, despite the travails we've endured with Calvin—or perhaps because of them—have made the world more beautiful, deeply touched me. I realized that a high school diploma is but one accomplishment in a world full of challenge and opportunity. I realized that Calvin has endured more adversity in his eighteen years than perhaps most people will in a lifetime. I realized that I am immeasurably proud of him for the obstacles he has surmounted and for the person he is. Calvin is, with no doubt, the best person I know because of his purity, affection, unconditional love and acceptance of everyone, no matter who they are. Those accomplishments and qualities are things worth celebrating, and being reminded of them by a thoughtful letter from a dear friend does a lot to assuage my case of senioritis.
|Calvin's preschool graduation photo