Kerry G. Hill
Thanks for planning to go to commencement. We know you're only doing it for us. Otherwise, after these past crazy weeks, you'd probably just sleep through it. I'll be the guy next to your mother, the one in the fetal position, bent into the shape of a square root sign.
A baby girl with a college diploma. Good God.
They say you watch your children grow up, but that's a lie. If you watched, it wouldn't go so fast. Instead, parents roll up their sleeves and never sit down.
All that time you were watching, though. How do I know? I didn't until you told me so. In so many words. Here's a little story about how that went.
You were 8 when we moved from our first house. Your bedroom window there overlooked the Yahara River and the traffic that zoomed across the Johnson/Gorham bridge at Tenney Park.
It must have been a sanctuary for you. A place to retreat and close the door while your hog-wild brothers climbed the bookshelves and ripped carpeting up by the handful.
One day after we moved to our current house, we were cruising past the old one. As it always happened and happens still, our heads turned toward our former house.
"What do you remember about that place?" I asked you.
"I remember looking out that window," you said. "I remember how the sun lit up the underside of the bridge at the end of the day. Like candles. How the cars traveled over the light. How the sun traveled up the river as the day ended and the night began."
That freaked me out. I was expecting you'd say something like, "I remember where the TV was."
You were just getting started.
You talked about how the mood of the light changed as the calendar did. We drove on and you spoke of the water and the birds and the people you observed out the window, and what those things did to affect your own mood.
As you talked I remembered catching you at that window, your little back to me, your hands on the windowsill. Watching. Soaking it up.
The only girl between two brothers. How'd that go? I think it helped you. They pulled you in two directions like a piece of taffy. You watched them, too, like a fox, those boisterous boys.
That sounds harmless enough, but it was hair-raising, too, wasn't it? On road trips when they streaked between the tables at Cracker Barrel like feral pigs? When you were old enough to be embarrassed by what they'd blurt out in front of your friends?
Your watchful eyes are one of the most beautiful things about you. Those eyes are partial gifts from your brothers.
I supposed you were watching all of us. No wallflowers in your home life, were there? Each one of us. Your exuberant mother. And me, who loves the sound of his own voice and prefers the company of 10 when three could do well enough.
Someone once said, "Maggie is the Marilyn Munster of the Moore family." While there's a piece of that that's true, Marilyn is too square. Your flair, your beauty and artfulness make you as much Marilyn Monroe as Marilyn Munster.
If I've watched anything as you've grown I've watched your beautiful hands. When you were very little they floated and flitted like two baby doves. At night they rested still like tiny snowballs near your face as you slept.
From around my finger your hands grew to grip the handlebars of a bike, the hand of a boyfriend, the neck of a guitar, the housing of a camera, the wheel of a car.
I hope you watch it all as it unfolds at the Kohl Center. Here are some things to watch for after that.
Stay in touch with your brothers. They're not your responsibility. They're your blood.
Broken hearts mend. Love is a landmine, but time really does heal all.
All clichés in life are true.
See those people at that table over there? Surrounded by close friends? With their faces buried in their phones? Please don't do that.
Respect all people but cut old people extra slack. As you get older you'll see age-ism is every bit as pervasive as any other ism. It just doesn't get the publicity.
Learn how to say "no." That takes practice. It's hard for a compassionate person like you.
Never stop making music.
In your career, never go more than a volley of three emails without calling or visiting with the person.
Stay watchful. It will inform your relationships, your work and your art.
The good thing about my advice is that this list is just the tip of the iceberg. We're so proud of you. We'll be in the stands next Saturday. With your adoring brothers. Watching those hands reach for a diploma.