Congratulations, what's next?
A few weeks ago, we were returning from a trip to central Illinois after attending a family gathering to honor the high school graduation of my grand-nephew. The trip offered us a chance to celebrate the graduation of a fine young lad plus have a mini reunion.
Hometown visits are usually limited to a few family gatherings and holiday celebrations which are planned throughout the year. The visits are too short and always busy. On this particular trip I had the opportunity to drive through my old neighborhood and visit some childhood haunts.
We lived less than a block away from my elementary school. Every day at noon I ran home to find Mom in the kitchen and my lunch waiting on the kitchen table. I visited the school yard where my pals and I played baseball during our summer vacations. I drove to our favorite sledding hill where on cold winter afternoons we raced to the bottom on wooden sleds with shiny steel runners. I cruised down the steep, paved alley where we test-drove our soapbox derby cars at death defying speeds, hoping that the brakes would work when we reached the finish line.
Much was the same but much had changed. I wanted to see the little neighborhood store where my buddies and I bought popsicles for a dime, consumed them in the shade of a big maple tree and plotted our next summer adventure.
I was disappointed to find a grass-covered vacant lot where the little building once stood.
I parked for a few minutes in front of our old family home. Throughout my childhood it was painted white, now it was brown. The elm tree which Dad and I planted sixty years ago, stood tall and proud, its trunk now three-feet in diameter.
While driving past the high school, I came to the realization that it was 50 years ago that I marched down the aisle to receive my diploma, just like my grand-nephew. It seemed just like yesterday that I wore the bright blue cap and robe.
Graduation is both a celebration of a great accomplishment and the beginning of a new chapter in the life of the student. It marks the end of childhood play and endless summer fun. It symbolizes the beginning of adulthood which can be frightening at times.
There are many paths the new grad may follow. Some will head off to college, leaving home for the first time. Others may choose to join the military and serve their country with pride. Many jump into the job market hoping to find employment.
The new graduate is like a young robin, perched on the edge of the nest. It has a full set of feathers and its wings flap just like its parents, but can it fly? The nest is perched on a branch high in the tree and it's a long way to the ground.
Frightening as it may be, instinct tells the fledgling that it can fly. Miraculously, it jumps from the safety of the nest and indeed it does fly!
Best wishes to all of our area graduates. Have confidence in yourselves, your country and your future. Many opportunities await those that seek them.
Ed Hungness and his wife became full-time residents of Fife Lake in 2005 after Ed's retirement. He can be reached at email@example.com or by mail at P.O. Box 57, Fife Lake, MI 49633.