There is a photo album, hidden in the deep recesses of my spare bedroom.

It’s hidden, because it holds my senior pictures.

When I run across it, I laugh because I pretty much look ridiculous – a sentiment I’m sure we all share after several decades of maturity.

However, there is one picture in that album that is phenomenal – it’s one of my most prized possessions.

It’s a picture that I assume was taken by one of my aunts during my high school graduation. It’s simply labeled “Cheri listening to Melanie’s speech.”

In the photo, there’s my mother, sitting amongst a sea of other parents in the folding chair section that was designated only for them. She’s wearing a bright blue dress. Her hand is slightly touching her chin and there’s a faint, wistful smile on her face.

I remember when I stood before that gym of people to deliver the graduation address, I focused on her face.

I have no idea what I talked about, it was so long ago. Probably ideas about what our future was going to be like, the aspirations we had for our lives.

I do remember there was a segment of that speech that caught my breath and choked my throat as I tried to express gratitude for all my mother and the other parents had done in getting us to that point in our lives.

I held back tears as I glanced at that section of folding chairs where the parents sat – and saw my mother sitting there, smiling at me with quiet pride.

In small schools back then – and I suspect many still to this day – there was a portion of the commencement proceedings in which the graduates presented their parents with roses. That day was the case as well.

I remember staring at the blue dress in that ocean of teary mothers as I made my way through the folding chairs. I remember her tight hug and a soft whisper that said something about love.

Graduation is about the kids who are leaving high school and embarking on their journeys into the world. But let’s be honest . . . it’s also very much about the parents and guardians who reared those children, encouraged them to do their best and prayed for a successful outcome.

My mother gave birth to seven children and her intention was to sit on her designated folding chair year after year until they all left the nest. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be the case. She only sat in the folding chairs area twice before she transitioned on to the next phase of her spiritual life.

More graduations arrived in our family – but on those occasions, I sat in her folding chair. One by one, the younger ones made their way through the rows of chairs, roses in hand.

Each time, there were tears of sadness, love and frank relief that another one made it at least that far.

And I always wished it was my mother instead of me who was sitting in that chair, on that day. I wished she could have sat there, in her bright blue dress, celebrating milestones in her children’s lives.

But it was with pride that I was able to stand up from that folding chair because I had been given the opportunity to finish what she started. Sure, I might not have been very good at it – but those kids turned out pretty fantastic anyway.

Graduation season has been in full swing and it’s made me think about all those people sitting on the folding chairs, who produced wonderful kids and poured their souls into helping form the future.

Congratulations to all you parents and thank you for all your work in raising great kids. And thank you to my mom, who I will always remember sitting in that sea of people in her bright blue dress.

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