Emma graduated from 8th grade this evening.
Many schools no longer mark this milestone. An 8th grade diploma used to be significant; it used to be the end game for a lot of students.
Now it's just one more stop on the educational road.
When Emma was 6 or 7 years old, we were out walking one evening after dinner. I was there to help with a new baby in the house, and we were ready to stretch our legs.
We walked across the road, choosing a paved trail that led us past a lagoon where trees hung over the trail on one side and into the lagoon on the other. Before we got to the lagoon, though, we could see something seemed amiss: the trees appeared to be hung with something white, as though older kids had tee-peed them.
As we got closer we realized the something white was white cranes, perched on every limb and branch they could find. There was a hush over the lagoon; only our footsteps sounded in the early evening air.
Suddenly the cranes – all of them – took flight. They lifted into the air like a cloud, momentarily blocking out the sky. The trees turned green again, and the cranes were gone.
Emma and I looked at one another, speechless for a moment. Then she said, “Grandma, I won't ever forget this.”
It would have been easy to chalk up the cranes as one more learning experience, to launch into a lecture about their feeding habits or instruct Emma in the fine art of careful observation. I didn't have the heart for it, though.
Moments like that, moments of wonder and beauty - well, they are what they are. Whether it's a graduation or a wealth of cranes, all you can do is hold your breath at the wonder of it.