I am in Houston for the weekend, a place that was home for many years.
I'm back came for two big events: (1) my eldest niece is graduating tomorrow from the same all-girls Catholic high school that my 2 sisters and I attended and (2) my youngest Texas niece is graduating from 8th grade. Marvels, both of them. Kind, witty, smart, lovely, just plain good.
St. Agnes Academy has a tradition on the day before graduation of honoring seniors in a special ceremony called Madonna Day. The seniors wear their cap and gowns for the first time, carry roses onto the stage, and place them in vases at the foot of a statue of Mary that is 100+ years old. Awards are given, speeches are made, and lots of pictures are taken. After the event, families who have 2 or more generations of graduates come together for pictures that will appear at some point in the alumni magazine.
I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that this is the first time I've returned to my high school since I graduated. And I loved my high school. The Dominican sisters make wonderful educators. I loved being in an all-girls school. I had opportunities I would never have had in mixed-gender setting. So it perplexes me why it has taken me so long to go back.
I do remember vividly the thought that came to mind the minute I stepped out of the auditorium with my diploma in hand. Is this is? Four hard years, many many friendships, proms, musicals, exams, basketball and volleyball games, choir trips, and it's all over? The sentiment is not quite the same as Is this all there is? But it's related. Was I afraid all these years that the adage "You can't go home" was true? Afraid to be disappointed or terribly saddened?
Today, though, as I watched my beloved niece enter the familiar auditorium in the familiar white cap and gown and heard the senior class sing the familiar parting song, "We are St. Agnes seniors, preparing to depart..." I realized how very naive my reaction had been, and how much about me has changed and what is immutable.
I realize now that somehow, without any effort on our part, we remain linked to those places and people that have rested in our hearts, even if we have put great distances of time and geography between them and ourselves, even if we don't return to pictures, or reflect on memories, or dream of them.
And, today, I found that wonderfully reassuring.