Commencement Collapse

Along with hundreds of parents in Westfield, my sons just graduated from high school (congratulations all!). It’s a funny thing being on the inside, being one of the moms who’s actually got kids in the flowy gowns. It’s a completely different vantage point than the one I’m used to; on many graduations past, I’ve felt deep joy while driving on Grove and seeing the seniors walk toward Kehler Field draped in blue and white. They owned the streets with their accomplishments, their promise, and their myriad transformations from kid who drove everyone crazy to adult who drives everywhere. When I watched those little robed mobs make their way toward the field, I felt very far away, as though my own children and I would never experience it first-hand. Then, I woke up one cloudy day this June, and we did. 

I’ve read many parental accounts of the mixed emotions brought on by high school graduation. Sadness. Excitement. Endings. Beginnings. Don’t go. Don’t let the door kick you. What I didn’t expect during the season of this culminating event was the irresistible temptation to sleep. Often. Which inspired me to research the various reasons that people abandon consciousness to see where graduation might fall on the list.

-All work and no play definitely make me a tired girl. Between winding down a school year of my own and making sure we ordered food for our family graduation party (it came down to the wire), I haven’t taken too many casual evening strolls.

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-Shunning the sun. Yes, but not on purpose. There’s nothing like 50 degree days through mid June to sap my interest in being awake.

-Barely breathing, a close relative of “all work and no play.” To-do post-its yellowing every flat surface around my house combined with sudden crying spurts in the car meant not so much quiet time inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Speaking of crying, the weirdest tunes have broken me. Remember the theme to Hill Street Blues, a show that stopped airing a decade before our graduates were born? I came across it on iTunes and it somehow came to epitomize all my nostalgia.  

-Mild dehydration/Too much alcohol. These are listed separately, but don’t they go hand in hand? G and I turned to each other on many a June night amidst the looming possibility of graduation day rain and the rampant calculation of the minimum final exam scores needed to get Bs for the year, and agreed that it looked like the wrong week to stop sniffing glue. 

Bright lights at night. Not a factor, but a trip to Norway sounds great right about now. 

Vitamin plus coffee for breakfast. Should step it up on the former, don’t partake in the latter.

Overdoing exercise. If only. Along with the dearth of late day strolls has been a total lack of physical exertion. My neglected muscles have no memory. 

Slouching. I can improve my posture, but this one’s kind of a reach.

Too much noise. Maybe our graduate with a gift for emanating noise is responsible for my shut-eye. His gift shines when he - and this is not an exhaustive list - talks, walks, climbs stairs, opens pretzels, talks on the phone, and blows his nose. 

Interestingly, children reaching a milestone causing them to leave home so that your relationship irrevocably changes is not considered a cause of narcolepsy. When I’m not drifting off, I’m feeling walloped by love, apprehension, and guilt. Guilt because I take responsibility for allowing time to evaporate the way it did. If I had just held on tighter, been more awake, maybe this August we’d be buying new afternoon binders instead of comforters, sheets, and towels. 

Liz Kingsley lives in Westfield with her girlfriend and their five children. During the day, she teaches Special Education and Basic Skills at a local elementary school, writes poetry and columns about her family, and directs The Writers Studio. At night, she collapses from exhaustion.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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