So it goes. The wheel turns, generation after generation,
around and around. We ride for a little while, get off and
somebody else gets on. Over and over, again and again.
(excerpt from “Seventy-Two is Not Thirty Five,” by David Budbill)
My friend and I are at the University of Washington for the undergraduate graduation celebration at the Foster School of Business. Students file in donning caps and gowns, filling twenty-one straight rows of chairs. The graduates look loose and excited, cheering each other on. We spot my friend’s son at last. He is tall, good looking, and beaming. Much as I remember him at his Indiana Jones birthday party when he turned five years old, just yesterday. It’s been quite a ride. Anyway, the important thing is that he looks as extraordinarily happy today as on that day when he was dressed in little khakis shorts and shirt, fedora, and boots.
Here he is in the auditorium hooting and calling much like he did on that day leading the charge at the piñata. It’s easy to see that he’s on good terms with everyone around him now, just as he was then. Back when we knew all our children’s friends. His mother, my friend, had decorated the yard with Tiki torches, dried palm fronds, and painted masks posted on the fence and gate. Today his black gown drapes, and as he adjusts his cap I remember the fedora flying off his head as he swung his way through on a jungle-gym-turned-obstacle-course. That hat, purchased one day at Disneyland, was what started the whole “Indiana Jones” themed birthday party. Children in costume become their part, and on that day he was indeed a miniaturized Harrison Ford. Today he’s “The Graduate.”
The student speaker catches my attention with the delightful line from the poet, Mary Oliver, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” For his fifth birthday party his mom had made a Volcano cake with dark chocolate “lava” embedded with rock candy and gummy worms, sprinkled with cocoa, and adorned with plastic flies. This week he turns twenty-two with a double-major in Entrepreneurship and Marketing and his tastes are Epicurean.
Guests at his birthday party dug for buried treasure, arrowheads and glittery “gems.” The Foster School of Business grads intend to find success. The student speaker suggests that “when we do the things we love, we do them well.” They are the strategic thinkers. All I can do is hope. Everyone assembled here believes in bright futures. “Optimism in the face of adversity” is the theme of the keynote address. “At some point pessimism about the future becomes self-fulfilling,” he warns. Don’t be afraid to fail.
As little Indiana Jones he practiced cracking his make-shift bullwhip on the patio floor, again and again. Today he is flicking his tassel. The graduates throw their hats in the air and it is over. Or just begun. Just like that.