IMG_7296 2We are in the heart of graduation season in this house, with little Gabrielle set to attend her senior prom this Saturday. It’s a heady time, one filled with such a complicated mix of sadness and excitement, moods seem tied to a yoyo string.

For example, on Friday night, I was caught bawling over my dinner plate. During the course of the evening, Gabrielle’s mom Lisa had sent me snaps of the senior pictures Gabrielle was having taken at an apple orchard in Nancy. I rejoiced in all of the beautiful shots, some in her prom dress, some in her favorite jeans and sweater, some featuring a pair of “old man” pants from Goodwill, a grey sweater and fedora.

I had enjoyed receiving the photos all evening, until she sent a pic of Gabrielle sitting cross-legged on the ground wearing a Case Western Reserve sweatshirt and a pair of jeans. She wasn’t looking at Lisa, but at the photographer, and Lisa had snapped the photo from the side, making it appear like Gabrielle was looking directly into the eyes of her future.

I hadn’t expected her to be wearing that sweatshirt — I’d bought it for her while we were in Cleveland for an over-night at the college — and it immediately hit me like a ton of bricks that an important part of this child-rearing stuff is over, over, over.

I put down my fork and dabbed my eyes with my napkin as William continuing supping. He smiled indulgently.

“Doing OK?” he asked.

“No. This is not OK,” I said.

He smiled again and took another bite of his dinner.

“It’s just senior pictures. She’s not going anywhere yet.”

“I just didn’t know she was going to be wearing that sweatshirt.”

“I know,” he said.

I kept crying until finally I couldn’t anymore. But by that time, William had picked up his phone and was looking online for a sweatshirt that said Case Western Reserve Dad. His eyes looked decidedly misty.

This coming Saturday, Gabrielle has asked William and I to host a pre-prom breakfast for her and her friends. If all goes as planned, there will be nine happy girls sitting around the dining room table, dining on waffles with caramel sauce, to-order eggs, raspberry ricotta scones, bacon and William’s famous hash browns.

We were thrilled when Gabrielle asked us to do this, as the rest of prom prep will be handily turned over to Lisa, who is a master at hair and makeup.

Gabrielle is excited, and as she sits with her friends around our table, talking about the night to come, I know there will be moments that it will occur to me that our carefree days, with her naturally and perpetually at the table, are numbered. In fact, I’m trying to have conversations with myself this week in preparation of this fact.

Of course, graduation day itself will be when they take out the big guns. In a way, I pray that the valedictorian is funny and light-hearted or at least talks a lot about paths, because that will make it easier to keep it together. But if there are some good quotes? Or a direct address to the parents? Or if William is tearing up? Well, I’ll be done for.

I won’t think about that part yet though and I especially, especially won’t think about her leaving for college because, my god, that’s just seems like torturing yourself on purpose.

Instead, I’ll just look at all of the happy pictures Lisa graciously sent me and about how Gabrielle will never forget how much fun it was to be the star of a photoshoot in an apple orchard. And step by step, minute by minute, we’ll get through this beautiful transition time and be launched into the next big phase.

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