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Here's a big salute and a few tears for 'little boys' who are graduating
By Joni Hirsch Blackman | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 5/24/2008 12:12 AM

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In 1989, a strange thing happened.

I was pregnant (OK, that's not so strange, I already had a 3-year-old), but so was nearly everyone I knew. Well, not the men -- that would be strange -- but their wives, and the vast majority of women I knew from high school, college and the two neighborhoods we'd lived in as adults.

Even since, it seems, a majority of people I've met have a child born in that year. That's been a big story lately, as the media finally realized how many kids were born in 1989 and college admissions offices were flooded with applications last fall.

Back in 1989, college wasn't even a thought. Yet the far, far-off day I never dreamed would get here so fast -- indeed, through days we wished would slow down -- is here.

Tomorrow my little boy graduates from high school. But, as I watch him, I'll be thinking as well of the many, many, many 1989-1990 babies we've known along the way. I want to wholeheartedly congratulate them all.

There's the first friend, the car nut who talked so much but didn't walk while his best pal walked early, but rarely talked. The one who was so hard to leave behind in Denver. Happy graduation to everyone who was someone's first "best friend."

There was the boy we met on our first Naperville street just a couple of doors down. The boy who eased the transition to a new hometown, who was fun to play with and who graduated from North earlier this week. Congratulations to everyone who has welcomed a "new kid" to town.

For our first few years, there was another boy we'd known in Denver who had moved here a couple of years before us. The white-blond boy who made every park district class, not to mention every Thursday play-date, lots more fun. A tip of the mortarboard to recurring friends.

I'll be thinking, of course, of the cul-de-sac kids. Who moves onto a cul-de-sac with four other boys the same age as your kid? We did. Though they have different interests now, they all enjoyed Popsicles, Roller Blades, soccer and night games way back when. Warm smiles to all the kids who made friends in their 'hood.

The baseball buddies, companions at DuPage River Park for daily practices and those crazy, chilly, exciting weeknight games. Home run cheers to all those graduating who love hot dogs after the game.

The football guys from NFL Flag to NYFL to Gregory to Neuqua. High fives to all the football players graduating this week.

Later, but not least, are the club volleyball boys. The first group of completely new friends who grew into an important part of our lives. They're graduating from Waubonsie, St. Francis, Naperville North, Hinsdale Central, Glenbard East.

A volleyball "hey!" to everyone who has welcomed new teammates with generosity and support.

Then there are the Benet grads: The friend found in the snow, one early day walking near the new house -- the swim team buddy who was a constant companion through preschool and kindergarten roundup, not to mention countless sleepovers, bike rides, baseball games and bacon.

The other connected in third grade over recess and basketball. Always basketball. Best graduation wishes to good friends who moved on to other schools.

We can't forget the rest of the basketball bunch, many who continued playing in a big way and, most importantly, one we will always miss. Our most caring thoughts are reserved for those of you, this graduation, who have lost a child.

One can't discuss teenage boys without at least mentioning teenage girls. The girls who were there when girls entered the picture -- the backyard girl, the couple of cul-de-sacs over girls. Through high school, the fashion show and video project gal-pal.

More recently, "the girls" -- from Caribou to movies to prom. Big hugs and kisses to all of the graduating girls.

Lastly, and not in the least bit least, the boys. The Boys. The boys who have been there for so many years, who I will miss nearly as much as mine. The boys who, together so much and for so long, I can't think of scattered throughout various parts of the country without a few tears.

The boys who defy any one description because they were the campout in the backyard boys, the Y basketball league boys, the let's-make-a-movie, Milk Challenge boys. The some-football, some-baseball, some-basketball and, eventually, mostly volleyball boys.

The ski trips boys. The Risk and Mario Kart boys. The can't-be-graduating already boys.

The facial-hair/way taller than me/went to prom together and are pretty-much-grown young men who I will always see in my mind's eye as the little boys with bowl-cut hair running up and down the basketball court at the tiny Wheatland School or Indian Plains gyms boys.

The boys who will too soon be in Michigan, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Indiana and Illinois -- but in my mind, always together. Warmest wishes to all those graduates whose elementary school friends were too good to replace.

A word about the moms. For the past 15 years, I've been lucky enough to have many of the same moms hanging around the various schools with me -- volunteering as room moms, as field-trip moms, as anything-you-need moms, as class treat and Senior Spectacular volunteers.

But a bunch of them will be watching their youngest child graduate tomorrow and I won't see them at games and at meetings and around the same old Neuqua Valley concession stands and Wildcat Wear tables. I'm not too far behind you.

But next fall when my youngest child starts her next-to-last year at Neuqua, I will look around, think of you all, miss your kids and you.

In the meantime, though, I will see you. Tomorrow at the College of DuPage when our kids, sigh, graduate from high school.