Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - April 1, 2004

Countdown to commencement

I spent part of Spring Break going through about 18 photo albums. I was selecting pictures of Mariya by herself and with family and friends for the video that will be produced for this year's Riley County High School senior class.

Senior! Holy cow! How can she be a senior already and where did the past 17 and a half years go?

It was a daunting task to choose fewer than a dozen photos to capture the personality of my oldest daughter. Art jokes that I never let a week go by - and in many cases, less than a day - before I get out the camera to snap a picture of one of the girls doing something.

I found myself lingering over each page as the memories tugged at me. Mariya's baby and toddler pictures alone numbered among the hundreds. Many of them were firsts - her first day of life, her first bath, her first meal in a high chair, her first tooth, her first steps away from me.

Then she began doing things on her own - like making mud pies, riding her trike, drawing characters from "The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and catching chicken pox.

Once she reached school age, I had to document her riding the bus for the first time, being a "Bear Hug Student" for a day, taking a "surprise box" to school with clues to have her classmates guess what was inside and reading her first book. Little sister Katie joined the family when Mariya was in first grade so I have zillions of photos of the two sisters together through the years..

As the years zipped by, Mariya tried new things - softball, volleyball, basketball, playing the trumpet, learning Spanish, taking a woods class, learning new art techniques and performing in plays. Her fourth-grade part in "The Granny Awards" sparked her interest in drama, which she has been involved in throughout high school.

As I went from album to album, I discovered patterns among the milestones. Interwoven with all the school activities were annual reunions and holidays with family and friends.

Halloween always had pumpkins and costumes. Thanksgiving was at our house with a huge turkey and extended family. Christmas brought room-filling Christmas trees which Art put the lights on and the girls and I decorated. Valentine's Day meant home-made cards and heart-shaped cakes. When spring arrived, there were Easter baskets hidden around the house by the Easter Bunny and hard-boiled eggs to dye. The end of the school year meant the girls' Bolivian cousins would soon be arriving. And once they returned home, we began our annual adventure at our cottage in Wisconsin's North Woods.

Day after day, month after month, year after year, the cycle was the same, broken by the deaths of loved ones or by illness, but forged together again with love and tradition.

If I think the last 17 years flew by, the next few weeks will literally be gone in a wink. Our seniors have major school projects to complete plus spring music, drama, sports, speech, agriculture and art activities to fit into their schedules. And this Saturday there's the junior-senior prom - "A Night in Paris."

This May will be different for us. When Mariya and many of her friends leave school this year, it will be for the last time. If her classmates are anything like mine were, many will promise to keep in touch, but only a few actually will. It's an ending.

But the graduation ceremony is called commencement because this ending is also a beginning. As the years have passed, our children have become more and more self-reliant. Commencement is one more milestone they will pass on the road to all that life has to offer.

Mariya as a baby, left, and as Santa, right, during her kindergarten year.

2004 Index