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Life’s a Beach by Shelley Murphy

By Shelley Murphy

Relax, the calendar is correct; it’s not yet time to deck the halls with boughs of holly, but it is time to celebrate spring’s seasonal tradition and adorn the graduates with caps and gowns.

Next month kicks off graduation season, first with nationwide collegiate ceremonies; then, after Memorial Day, high school graduations commence.

I’ve attended gobs of graduations and watched both my boys cross distinguished stages, don mortarboards, and turn colorful tassels.

And in two weeks, I’m proud to do it once again when my younger son receives his Juris Doctor degree.

I’m looking forward to the pageantry of pomp and circumstance, but am also not quite sure what to expect at his ceremony.

I know this commencement won’t be like my boys’ graduations from San Clemente High School.

I’m not arriving hours in advance to find parking; I’m not waiting in a long line for gates to open; and I’m not sprinting toward bleachers in search of shaded seating nearest the football field.

That said, I do hope it’ll be as memorable as watching triumphant seniors cheer, wave, and strut around the track sporting sunglasses and smiles.

I’m certain the ceremony won’t resemble my sons’ graduations from the same college.

On each occasion, we squished among thousands of people packed into the university’s basketball arena where I sat, listening to a roll call of names and anticipating my sons’ arrivals.

I finally saw my sons among the crowds as their names were called and ended up watching each receive his diploma on the giant Jumbotron suspended above center court.

My younger son’s three years of law school zoomed by faster than I could’ve anticipated.

His first fall semester, he attended class on campus, and then like so many others, the pandemic pressed pause on his plans. My son is one of the countless students caught in the COVID boomerang.

After spending 16 months attending classes remotely, my son moved home to finish his final year.

His return gave me a firsthand glimpse into law school and the brainy books brimming with mind-numbing and drawn-out verbosity.

As a 3L (I picked-up the lingo, too), my son satisfied most curriculum requirements, but still needed three course units. So, he rolled up his sleeves and signed up for a class requiring he analyze movies—important, lawyer-type movies.

Unlike the textbooks, this curriculum was right up my alley, and I often crashed his fun film class. I found justifiable cause (more lingo!) to spend afternoons with my son enjoying classics such as My Cousin Vinny. Alas, I’ll miss my law school days.

I’ll miss a lot when my son, once again, moves out of his childhood home.

I’ll miss sharing Wordle scores over morning coffee, seeing his car in the driveway as I turn onto our street, and playing spirited trivia games despite his winning every time.

My son’s move home for his last year of law school is one perk from the pandemic.

A sea change has swept our lives since he last resided at home as a high school student—we’ve both grown up.

Unlike his senior year, I haven’t spent our time together counting down all the “lasts” and pining for the past. Instead, I’ve focused on savoring and living in the moment.

This summer, after he’s moved, I won’t battle his bedroom door—opening and closing it, struggling against the heartbreaking void.

Instead, I’ll look inside and recall our idyllic afternoons spent crunching popcorn and watching movies—er, I mean, attending law school.

After graduation, my son travels hundreds of miles away to find his footing and navigate a new city, career, and circumstance.

I’m excited to watch my son step into his well-earned future.

This graduation season, I’m celebrating both a bittersweet ending and a joyous beginning.

In two weeks when my son graduates, I know what to expect: lumbering crowds, verbose speeches, and more than a few tears.

For more than 20 years, Shelley Murphy and her husband have lived in San Clemente, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.

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