Many parents of bright offspring will sit through one at some stage, moist of eye and empty of wallet. After three hours of applauding until our palms spasm we watch our beloved child-no-longer emerge from all the jovial pontificating to set off down the river of life in a leaky one-person kayak. As we are used to their presence on board our comfortable cabin cruiser where everyone has a personal life jacket, it is all rather unsettling.
My elder daughter justgraduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama on Friday 5th July 2019. She did so in style, with a First Class Honours Degree in Classical Singing.
This is not (or not wholly at any rate) a proud mother blogpost. It is also a reflection on history, and genetics, and those inescapable moments in life when both nothing and everything changes forever.
Evie in Major Tom’s War and many of the women in our family are strong, bright and irritatingly selfless, all too willing to give up our own ambition and identity for some greater good.
Both my grandmother’s and my mother’s futures were derailed by global conflict.
And before the twentieth century, the family tree is scattered with bored, clever women, who married because it was expected of them, and who read poetry, and wrote letters, and embroidered, and painted exquisite watercolours of flowers, all to fill the yawning hours.
If you have read Major Tom’s War then you will know that Evie longed to be a concert pianist but became instead a nurse, wife and mother.
Evie’s daughter Numpy, my mother, was all set to travel to France to study when Tom shook his head at the storm clouds of war and forbade it. She became a superb teacher, but it was not where her heart lay.
Most heart-rending of all, as a prize-winning boy treble, my late brother was offered the role of Amahl in the Christmas Opera Amahl and the Night Visitors by its composer Gian Carlo Menotti. My father, a fine musician himself, turned it down. He said my brother did not have the right temperament. Perhaps he did not, but he still had an exceptional voice. Through his doubtless-well-meaning action my father denied my brother the right to try. His life could have been so utterly different.
Even in my own past I am aware that some of the life choices I have made were shaped within choices made by others. Friday’s graduation therefore had hidden emotional depths for me, as I saw it as a moment celebrating complete freedom and infinite possibility.
It is of course quite possible, even probable, that my lovely daughter will choose not to become a professional musician for her entire career. What she does next is up to her.
Even if she decides to settle in Outer Mongolia to herd yaks, I am still elated that she has had the support and opportunity to study within the creative arts for her music degree. I am so grateful that she lives in a time of relative peace in a culture where women can be utterly independent in life.
Amid all the junketing and the tossing of mortar boards of the graduation we adults often feel just that little bit older as we watch our young ones bob off down the river. Oh, we know it must be so, but we still mourn the moment, even if only just a little, and quietly. The Penny Falls has just shoved us that little bit closer to its merciless edge.
The rest, however, is all pride, and joy, and laughter.