As my son graduates high school, a celebration of the past 18 years

confetti explosion

By Clint Martin


…hours ago, I watched my 18-year-old firstborn file down the aisle. Draped in a royal blue robe that swayed above his ankles and with a matching blue square of graduation cap nestled atop his combed nest of brown hair, my son moseyed along the lane between unfolded chairs and bleachers filled with family. He was in casual-step with the ceremony’s other robe-wearers, surrounded by classmates who also sported last names beginning with M, his blue mask covering his nose, mouth, chin.

As he stepped toward the stage, my eyes refused to leave him, even as I counted down his position to the two people seated next to me: Grandma and Papaw, who were watching the proceedings through an extended camera lens and a focused phone screen, excited fingers ready to snap, snap, snap. Three more, I counted down as my boy ho-hummed his way closer, closer, two more, now up on the stage. He’s next, and before I could finish a full breath, his full name rang from the arena’s PA system; then his image appeared on the large video screen above.

My son stepped across the stage, his blue eyes focused on the smiling woman handing him his diploma. He shook her hand. He made his way to the middle of the stage, hung a left, and descended the ramp propelling him down the runway into the center aisle. At ramp’s bottom, he paused briefly to bro-hug his school’s head principal. Then he sauntered down the aisle, back to his seat. When he reached his row, he was immediately embraced by the teacher assigned to the section’s first seat. The teacher, robed in black, was his mom. She smiled so wide my heart swelled and my eyes blurred. Our son leaned into her hug of love, but his arms stayed at his side. Then he sat back down in his seat, now a high school graduate.

…minutes ago I watched my 18-year-old firstborn stroll out of our house and into the afternoon heat, the black jacket of his tuxedo slung over his right shoulder. Departing to pick up his prom date, he was dappered-up in a freshly pressed white button-down shirt and black tuxedo pants. His paisleyed pale yellow vest and matching bowtie sang beautifully, but the piece de resistance was his kicks—the black, white, and yellow Air Jordan 1s my son spent an entire part-time paycheck on because they matched his tuxedo downright exquisitely. I watched him and his curve of brown hair follow the sidewalk instead of stomping across the grass because it was too early to mess up those Js. My son climbed into his gold minivan, got situated, and started the engine. With the loud croak of his Odyssey’s 200,000 mile engine following him, my son accelerated away from our house, toward a wonderful night.

…seconds ago—the calendar may say years, but surely the calendar has misspoken, certainly the ruler of time has only measured my son’s life in seconds, so…18 seconds ago I left my wife’s side and knelt next to the patiently waiting doctor. Giddy as a prancing puppy, I stared down a different sort of center aisle and counted and cheered and reminded my panting partner to breathe, breathe, breathe and not blinking, mostly not blinking because my god I can’t wait to see this kid.

Between her thighs a dark-haired and kinda slimy bud of a head appeared. My first glimpse compelled me to chant push, push, push, which she did, which made our budding boy swell, grow, and blossom right there before my two astonished eyes. I can still see that moment, I remember it like it happened 18 seconds ago. Not years. 18 seconds since I first saw the fantastic flower of my son’s face, since I saw a baby more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. A baby boy already making his way down the aisle. A little man already headed toward the door.

Clint Martin writes, edits, and teaches in Kentucky where he resides alongside his wife, two sons, a yellow dog, and a black cat. Besides putting words on the page, Clint enjoys Transcendental Meditation and identifying the birds in the backyard.

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