family · Paynes

A Letter to My Baby Sister Upon Her Graduation

Dear Audrey,

Tonight you sat in that stadium made of cold, gray granite under the harshness of flourescent lights that have shone down on six graduations before yours. Those are the same lights and these are the same stands and other than not being able to decide which shade of blue is the true school color, not much has changed since I walked that line sixteen years ago.

And yet, everything has changed.

You’ll learn that about post-high school in a small town life. Nothing changes. But somehow, nothing is ever the same.

Do you remember the class of 1998 graduation? As a family, it was our first go around with this event and we tried to make it special. You wore that blue gingham sundress with the collar that looked like a watermelon and you were a fidgety, feisty two year old who had no idea that I was about to leave for good. Truthfully, to this day, I don’t think you can remember when I lived at home. You were six when I got married, eight when I made you an aunt, and now you’re eighteen and we’re a generation apart. You wore a cap and gown tonight and sat with classmates whose parents were classmates of mine.

It’s that crazy full-circle of life that always comes back around.

I’m proud to be your big sister, you know. We don’t agree and I think you should find a more modest bikini to wear in front of my girls and you think I’m ridiculous old-fashioned, but I think you’re far too beautiful for your own good and you should be cherished by someone who truly gets how incredibly funny and smart and kind you are.

You have a plan and just enough stubbornness to get you through another round of anatomy. When you graduated tonight you officially finished with more high school and college credits than I had, and you probably aren’t going to be calling mama and daddy in the near future to tell them that you think you’d like to major in interdisciplinary studies just so you can take all the classes you like and avoid math. That’s what I did. Then I endured four years of the “but what are you going to do” question. When your focus is Ultrasound Technician no one ever asks that.

Tonight you walked that damp field over the same blades of grass that have grown there for all twenty-eight years one of us has been a part of this school system. As different as the seven of us are, we all have this in common. Our diplomas are stamped ECCHS and on Friday nights when the lights are shining strong and the jerseys are blue and silver, we all remember what it was like to be a part of that high school family.

If we know anything sharing the same DNA, it’s that family takes the good with the bad and no matter how far you may run, there’s always a place that calls you home. You’re part of the Class of 2014 family now. You’re part of a shared experience that’s bigger than the rumors and the breakups and the games that have defined high school. You’re one of the elite who made it out, who plans to take that diploma and go, but when you’re the last of seven, you also already know–

There’s no place like home.

Much love to you my baby sister. I am elated to say we all made it through, but I am more delighted to see the young woman I know you will become.

All my love,


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