Bearing Witness

                My oldest daughter graduated Summa Cum Laude from college last month.  It was a proud moment for me as a parent. These last four years have gone by faster than any of us could have imagined, and in that time she’s made some of the strongest friendship bonds I’ve ever seen. Seeing how these kids (they are still kids to me) are when they’re all together made me smile as much as seeing her get her diploma.

                Her freshman year got off to a rocky start.  She had a roommate she met over social media, and at first they seemed to really hit it off.  A few weeks into the start of that first semester, she’d texted us for advice on how to approach her roommate about a variety of things.  What we thought were “quirks” and growing pains of learning to share a small space with a relative stranger, was actually a very toxic living situation that proved to be untenable.

                One night near the end of September, our house phone rang at 2:45 am. 

                Whoever said that “when your phone rings in the middle of the night, it’s never good news” was probably a parent.

I’m sure they were definitely a parent.

                I was sitting in my living room in the small hours of the night, the phone pressed to my ear, listening to my first born cry. She was over 400 miles away and the only thing I could do was listen and try to talk to her. It was probably one of the most helpless moments I’ve ever felt as a parent, in my whole 18+ years of being a mom.  My empathy sounded hollow, my words felt useless as they tumbled from my mouth.  I struggled to keep my own tears from falling as I listened to her cry.  I tried to keep my tears from my voice as I said, “It’s going to be ok.  We will figure this out” over and over again. 

                I knew her friends were with her, a small group she’d met over freshman orientation.  But a part of me worried about that too—just how good were these friends that she’d just met?  Would they be there for her? In the ways she needed them to be on this awful night? I worried that something would distract them and they’d move on to something else…

                We made a tentative plan to talk to the RA and for her to call me later in the morning,  And then as we were saying our goodbyes, one of the girls with her took the phone and spoke to me.  “Don’t worry,” she’d said, “It’s all right, we’ve got her.”

                It was that moment and those words that have stayed with me. I remember thinking that that made it okay to hang up the phone and try to go back to sleep.   And it was then that I also knew how very special this group of friends was.

                There are six of them that have become close from those very first weeks, and remained so, as close as siblings. They’ve spent most of their waking and sleeping hours together; they’ve been roommates, taken road trips, gone on vacation together, and cooked Friendsgiving meals together every year.  They’ve taken turns caring for each other through mono, strep throat, colds, and Covid; through heartbreaks and deadlines and disappointments.  They’ve had their disagreements but have always found their way back to each other.

                Over graduation weekend, I was lucky to bear witness to one of life’s greatest gifts- this deep and true friendship that they’ve grown and shared since those first weeks together.

                They threw a party for all of us- the families and themselves.  They treated us to a massive buffet, they shared drinks with us… there may have been blue and red Jell-O shots.  I may or may not have done one. Or two. We, the families, hadn’t seen each other in a while, in some cases it had been years, partially due to Covid, partially due to conflicting schedules.  We have different jobs, different interests and hobbies, but what we have in common are these kids.  They brought us together and that’s more than enough commonality for us.

                At one point I saw those recent graduates look over at us parents all getting along, laughing and smiling, and they looked so pleased and proud of themselves.  I could almost hear them say, “Awww, look at them, so cute…”  There was a playlist going that appealed to several generations, there was a fun blue light and lots of balloons, and the moms (and a couple of the dads) danced with their graduates in their dining room with the table pushed up against the wall.

                And then those precious and amazing kids of ours hugged each other in a circle as Usher sang “Without You…”

“I can’t win, I can’t reign

I will never win this game without you

I am lost, I am vain

I will never be the same without you

Without you

I won’t run, I won’t fly

I will never make it by without you…”

                They held their plastic cups and each other, and they sang those words from their hearts to each other, relishing and loving their friendship and crying at the same time because they can’t imagine things being any other way than what they are right in this very moment.



                How can we not be together?

                Time can be such a paradox: the way that four years can seem like the way it’s always been and yet also passed entirely too quickly.

                In that moment I looked at the other moms and realized I was not the only one crying.  We knew we were all witnessing something beautiful.  It was rare and truly special-  a moment when the bonds of a friendship so strong are laid bare and are on full display for all of us to see.  It was made all the more precious by the inescapable fact that in a few short weeks they will not all be sharing the same kitchen, won’t be under the same roof.

                They will always be friends, they will always be close.  But it will never be again what it is right now.

                Maybe that’s why I felt so lucky to be there to witness that moment, that night. To laugh and cry and eat and drink and just be a part of that love and light with them.

                Thank you, 2022 graduates.  That was beautiful.

                It is beautiful.  The world needs this:  friendships where we love on each other every day, and look out for each other and talk to each other and truly listen.  The world needs friendships that help us to make each other stronger and better, to spread and live in this love and light. Sharing life with friendships like this makes everything beautiful, it makes everything worthwhile.

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