For those who liked Dad’s letter to me the day I was born, here’s another. This is the letter he wrote to me upon my graduation from college. Dad called me “Doop” or “Dooper” and we had a game that when he touched the tip of my nose it made the noise “Doop.” For a few years it was just dad and me as my sister lived with our mother and dad had yet to meet Sheila. This milestone was his victory as much as my own. He sets a high parenting bar here.
To: G. Kentibus Bourgeault
RE: A Twenty Two Year High
I reeled out of the faculty lounge after the phone call. I couldn’t tell from the tone of her voice whether mama was pleased or dismayed. I stumbled down the hall and intercepted Jean Morton and Jim Wood at the top of the back stairs. “Cindy’s Pregnant!”
That’s the first of thousands of images that struggle to be cited in this contemplation of yet another rite of passage. Each memory triggers a dozen more rich in wonder and joy. From your first pout when you were seconds old to our long chat on the phone a few days ago. Can that happy, competent and caring young woman be the same tiny baby whose midnight earaches succumbed to hot washcloths wrapped in plastic and towels and the little lullaby I made up just for her?
Where is the terrible two whose tantrums terrorized trembling travelers? Does she remember the remedies?…Either stop to look at a cow or get this damn’ airplane moving. After which dad sat motionless across the ocean for fear of waking her up__
When did you hug your last Parisian bridge railing? When did your nose stop going “DOOP?” (or didn’t it?) I suppose you’d have to be crocked nowadays to wallow fully clothed in Margaret Lathrop Law’s birdbath or stand on your head in Bob Johnson’s mud puddle.
You ran in joyous circles when we brought Lucy home and your face was suffused with awe when we first put her in your lap. We all dealt with “sisters!” and territorial squabbles – and more serious stuff until you wrote a letter that was the beginning of peace between you.
Do you remember the pink jumpsuit? — The Austrian dirndl? Hurrying home to watch Heidi? — and Luv Boat? The Media local? The Chevy? Gymnastics camp? Your relationship with Betty Tayes? – Yvette? Getting to know Sheila? The special award Maria Witt created just for you? Do you remember winning blue ribbons at First State? Getting involved with kids at First Day School? Holly Girls? All the energy and devotion you put into cheerleading? – And the dignity with which you dealt with that freaky coach? And what a triumph on graduation night as they announced the awards!
You turned disappointment into exhileration as you made Randoph-Macon yours — “I can’t imagine going anywhere else.” — but then knowing when it had done all it could for you — having the maturity to think it through, work it out and the courage to move on to Bucknell — and with style! Earning your trip to Paris as your final R/M term!
Do you have any idea of parents’ feelings to be taken to lunch at the State Department — by our daughter? — or to watch that daughter operate in a completely new environment two weeks after major surgery —??
Well, now you’re on the verge of cashing in your big A+ and all the other grades you put together and getting a Bucknell diploma. Your final transcript will probably be something reasonably awesome. I should be proud of you for all that — and of course I am.
But I’m not surprised —
You’ve been Summa Cum Laude to me for twenty two years —
I love you, Dooper,