The guest speaker I heard last night was young, just about eighteen. He was tall and thin and dressed all in black -- black dress shirt, black dress pants, red and black tie -- with a headful of shaggy dark hair. He was introduced as a musician, a snowboarder, and a scholarship student who planned to study math and science. For a kid his age, he seemed amazing self-assured as he got up to the podium, tossing his hair so that we could see his eyes.
The event was an awards ceremony for eighth graders, and this young man talked to them directly, giving them some insight as to what they could expect from the high school he was graduating from. He joked about the way junior high teachers warn about those strict high school teachers, and he said: "Don’t believe it. The teachers here will support you and help you out, just like they always have." He told them they would have more freedom to choose their courses, a more flexible schedule. "In fact, you can have lunch three time a day if you’re clever."
The audience laughed at his jokes, and the eighth graders seemed to be listening intently. He spoke sincerely, talking about the need for balance in life, and he argued that sleep deprivation is not such a bad thing. He talked about the times he has stayed up all night to play music or play cards with his brothers.
The guest speaker was, of course, my own Boy in Black. It is a tradition that the valedictorian at our high school is the guest speaker at the junior high awards ceremony. The idea is that giving a speech in front of hundreds of people in May is good preparation for giving a speech in front of thousands of people in June. It’s supposed to be an honor, although Boy in Black did not see it that way: "So it’s like punishment for doing well in school? Now I gotta write a speech?"
I’d known how I would feel when I saw him up there at the podium; my daughter gave a speech at the same event two years ago. And yet still, I was not prepared. Could this articulate self-possessed young man (looking soooo different in dress clothes) be the shy little boy who would never let go of my hand, the toddler I carried on my hip, the chubby baby who nursed constantly?
Another child all grown up.