Looking back and forward

  • Written by Dubois
  • Published in Commentary

By Christine Dubois

I scanned the floor of Carver Gym below me. Row after row of black caps and gowns. There’s a blue collar. No, the hair’s too long. How about that one? Around me, parents called their students’ names. The graduates smiled and cheered and — on the biggest day of their lives — scanned the crowd for their parents.

Lucas looked up and spotted us on the balcony behind the basketball hoop. I waved. “There he is!”

Bruce Shepard, president of Western Washington University, thanked the parents, grandparents, extended families and teachers who had supported these graduates. Now they would be going out to make the world a better place. It’s the Western way, he said: “Active minds changing lives.”

Speakers gave advice, top scholars received their awards, performing arts majors performed. At last Lucas walked across the stage and accepted his degree.

I cried. And I wasn’t the only one.

I thought of all the years of schooling that led up to this moment. Singing “Wheels on the Bus” at co-op preschool. Teaching third-graders their times tables. Chaperoning on field trips to the zoo. Drilling endless spelling lists. Editing high school papers. Cheering him on at track meets and the school play.

We had all worked so hard for this day — it was hard to believe it was finally here. The boy who had always loved numbers stepped down from the stage with a B.S. in math and a B.A. in economics.

If only my father, a professor of business statistics and economics, had been alive to see it. But I knew he was looking down from heaven with a big smile.

Back at the house Lucas shared with some friends, we barbecued and celebrated with the other families. None of us parents had walked in our own graduation ceremonies. Now we wondered why we didn’t. At the time, it seemed silly and old fashioned. Now I know how important it is to mark major transitions with shared ritual.

That’s why I wanted to add my voice in this major transition for The Progress. I’ve written for The Progress since before Lucas was born. Many of you have followed our parenting adventures through my family life column.

I was a young writer, just a few years out of college with a degree in journalism, when I handed editor Kay Lagreid my first Progress article. She started to read it, then looked up and said, “This is good.”

“Thanks,” I said, “but you’ve only read the first paragraph.”

“I don’t have to read any more,” she said.

It was a welcome vote of confidence.

A good editor is a writer’s best friend — someone who trusts your voice and keeps you from making stupid mistakes. She was the best editor I ever had.

Kay gave me regular freelance assignments — often calling on Thursday with a story due on Monday — and welcomed my ideas. I wrote stories of the parishes and people who make up the Catholic Church in Western Washington, interviewing authors, activists, parish volunteers, school teachers and a host of other amazing folks. When my boys came along, naturally, I started writing about them, too.

I’m old enough to prefer newsprint on my hands to pixels on my screen, but the world moves on and all we can do is try to adapt. The Progress is just one of many papers forced to change format.

With any luck, it will still be a place to share stories, build community, and celebrate God’s work in our lives. Media changes, but as long as there are human beings, there will be storytelling and prayer and parents moved to tears by the amazing people their children have become.

So to all of you who have shared in my family’s life by taking the time to read my stories and share your own, thank you. Thank you for being part of the company of saints and angels that surrounds us and cheers us on.

Christine Dubois wrote hundreds of articles for The Catholic Northwest Progress and was a family columnist from 1999-2007. Contact her at www.christinedubois.com.

Posted July 13, 2013