Friday, June 17, 2016

{Cherish the Ordinary}

The birds chirped outside his window this morning, the chickadee starting off the day with his merry, chicka-dee-dee-dee! My son, of course, was asleep. He'd been out late, celebrating with friends. For last night was graduation night.

I'm sure he wasn't thinking about chickadees at the time (his obsession as a 7-year-old seems to have waned a tad), but he just might have been thinking about penguins. The Clark College Penguins, that is.

He and his closest friends lined up side by side in their caps, gowns, and honor cords, preparing to receive both their high school diplomas and their AA degrees, this first collegiate journey further deepening their bonds as they proudly realized the completion of hours spent studying, comparing art projects, rating professors, looking for the bouncy ball, congregating in the student center, and conquering finals.

It's been much more than a two -- or even a 12 -- year journey. Really it began 18 years ago. I remember the delight of coming home from Drew's baby shower, arms laden with beautiful gifts. Our church family had blessed us with dozens of darling outfits, and I couldn't wait to show Jamie the little overalls, the miniature baseball cap, the snuggly blankets, the cozy sleepers.

With pride, joy, and anticipation over the baby to come, I removed the clothing tags, sorted a load of laundry (in which everything was small and soft -- no adult clothing allowed in this load!), and pulled out the pink box filled with brand new, baby scented Dreft detergent.

That load of laundry was a joy to fold. The tiny shirts, the handsome little jeans, the wee socks that would probably never really stay on his feet, the receiving blankets that were oh-so-ready to receive.

This baby -- now a man -- does his own laundry these days, but last night was a flurry of activity as he looked at the care instructions on his graduation gown. "Um, Mom? Could you iron this for me? And maybe my shirt, too?" That long gown hung in my bedroom doorway, that handsome man-shirt, so much bigger than the little suit he wore once upon a time . . . and I said yes. I joyfully said, yes.

I glided that iron with mingled joy, awe, and something nameless that ached deep down, over the folds of that royal blue gown. Every pleat, every tuck. The steam rose and hissed, the heavy metal plate pressing and perfecting. It was such an ordinary task . . . but the significance of it caused me to linger and give myself fully to the work.

For 18 years I've completed similar ordinary tasks. Each day building one upon the other. Washing a load, folding a load, ironing for this occasion or that. The washing machine runs and swirls, the dryer turns and tumbles, and the days slip by, one by one. All ordinary in their own way, yet here they were, stacked up to this moment, preparing me -- preparing us -- to delight in both the ordinary and the extraordinary.

Last night the Clark commencement speaker, former POW Jessica Lynch, said something that made me grab my pencil and notebook: "Cherish what you are given." Even when that which you've been given is unexpected, not of your choosing, not the ideal, cherish it. Cherish the days of ordinary laundry when the socks don't pair up and the jeans reveal growing holes in the boyish knees and you end up wearing a dirty shirt after all.

Cherish the days of the extraordinary, when the laundry responsibilities are indicative of change and growth and a future that gleams hopeful and bright. When it's time to iron the shirt for the dance, the slacks for the recital, the gown for the graduation. Cherish what you are given.

Among the thousands, there were at least 50 of us clumped together in that stadium last night, cheering for "our row" of kids. We created a streaming din of celebration for the eight graduates who were our very own. The names were called, we craned our necks, and we really couldn't believe it. . . . David . . . Kendall . . . Drew . . . Jon . . . Cori . . . Aly . . . Alyssa . . . Averie. Our kids. The kids for whom we've washed and ironed, wept and cheered.

And we cherished what we'd been given.

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