Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - December 18, 2015

"The days are long, but the years are short"

Saturday began with the alarm clock buzzing at 6 a.m. No sleeping in because it was a special day - daughter Katie was graduating from Kansas State University.

Husband Art and I showered, dressed and put gifts in the car trunk. Then he helped me with my gown and hood. As a faculty member, I would be able to present Katie with her diploma. I had done the same when daughter Mariya graduated from K-State seven years ago.

Then we headed to Mom's house. Katie arrived a few minutes later and Art drove us to Bramlage Coliseum. She went through one door to meet her fellow graduates, and I through a different one to join other faculty members.

Art rushed back to Mom's place to make final preparations for the party, including hanging a "congratulations" banner, cleaning the kitchen counters and putting a ham in the slow cooker. Then he grabbed the video camera and tripod before returning to Bramlage.

I sat and watched workers make last-minute adjustments to the sound system and the official photographers set up shop. Other professors arrived, some perfectly attired and others with hoods or caps askew.

When it was time to line up, I looked toward the back, hoping Katie was there someplace. "This is the moment," I thought, "Time for my little girl to graduate!"

A bagpiper made a single trip around the floor and then the organist began "Pomp and Circumstance." Katie told me later she asked her fellow music graduates if they remembered from their music history class who wrote the processional. She said they all laughed, and most remembered it was Edward Elgar.

One of Katie's music classmates led everyone in singing the National Anthem. Psychology Professor Don Saucier gave the commencement address.

Then the graduates stood up row by row. Before long, it was Katie's turn. As her row stood, I rose as well, making my way to meet her in the middle of the stage to present her diploma and give her a hug while holding back my tears.

The ceremony concluded with the singing of K-State's "Alma Mater."

Again, row by row, graduates marched up the steps to greet family members and friends.

I spotted brother Dave, sister-in-law Linda and their son Michael and his family in the sea of people. Mariya and her girlfriend Miriam were there, as were Katie's boyfriend Matt and his sister Caitlyn. Caitlyn took some photos for me. I didn't see niece Larisa and her boyfriend Keenan until we were in the car heading out of the parking lot.

Once at Mom's house, the French toast casserole, omelet muffins, roasted potatoes and sausage-egg-cheese crescent rolls Katie had prepared the night before were popped into the oven. Art made punch and glazed the ham while I set out vegetable and fruit platters and the deviled eggs and brownies Mariya and Miriam had brought.

Mom soon arrived from Meadowlark Hills where she is in rehab, recovering from a recent fall. Katie had left her cap and gown on so Grandma could see her in her graduation attire. I again donned my cap, gown and hood and the three of us posed for pictures.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur. Katie's grade school music teacher Carey Zeak and high school music teacher Janie Brokenicky and her little girl Ava came, as did David Littrell, K-State music professor and Gold Orchestra conductor. David shook his head and told Art that it seemed like just yesterday that he had been there for Katie's high school graduation. Hometown friend Tom Grimwood, wife Nedy and son Christopher made the 90-mile trek from Burns. Other friends also stopped by.

Then, as evening came on and Art and I headed home alone, I began to reflect. The day before, I had participated in a "walk-through" at the coliseum. Tom Roesler, the communications coordinator for the College of Arts and Sciences, and I spoke briefly and I mentioned how quickly the years go by. I encouraged him to enjoy his two young daughters while he can. He said someone had told him "the days are long, but the years are short."

We first heard it when we were hosting the garage sale we had just prior to moving into our current house. Our baby was 9 months old, and we were rookie parents ... We had one shopper who noticed our baby and commented how cute she was. We agreed and got into the usual banter about kids, both the good and the challenging. That's when she said the famous quote. It was like a lightbulb clicked on and we've thought about it ever since. We've only spent three years with kids, but we are already finding out how true that is. We've had some very LONG days (and nights) with our kiddos, but the years are flying by. I am 100 percent confident they will feel like the blink of the eye when, Lord willing, we're watching our girls cross the stage at commencement, just as you did on Saturday. Such a blessing!

New York Times best-selling author Gretchen Rubin was the source of that quote. She made a one-minute video called "The years are short."

She said, "Of everything I've ever written, I think this one line resonates most with people, and the one-minute video I did, in which I tell the little story about the day that this idea hit me with full force, is one of my favorite creations."

The days are long, but the years are short. How true it seemed Saturday night. The day had begun at 6 in the morning and the hubbub lasted into the evening, just as many others had over the years. But those 23 years since Katie was born ... well, they do indeed feel like just the blink of an eye.

Left: Matt, Katie, Art, Gloria, Mariya and Miriam after the ceremony; right: Katie with her grandma.

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