Read profiles of some of Northeast Georgia's top graduates in today's print-only special section, A Turn of the Tassel. The Times is available at retail outlets and news racks throughout Northeast Georgia. Subscribe online to have The Times delivered to your home, or call 770-532-2222.
Finally, the moment has come when years of science fairs and spelling bees, stinking gym bags and forgotten permission slips will be left behind.
The mountain of laundry will become just be a pile, the grocery bill will shrink and the house won’t get cluttered quite as quickly.
As their babies throw graduation caps into the air, many local moms this Mother’s Day find themselves wondering about their own future — a future without children sleeping under their roof.
In the days leading up to her youngest daughter’s graduation from Gainesville High School, Lora Cooley said she’s experienced a range of emotions.
“Some days, some hours I’m really, really happy. But some days, some hours, I’m so sad because things are changing,” Cooley said.
Ann Nixon said she too is feeling the sting of a final graduation.
“Right now, I see it as the end for a lot of things,” she said. “I’m trying to seek the new beginnings. It’s very sad, but it’s sad in a good way.”
Dieu Thi Hoang, whose fifth child is graduating from Gainesville High School, said she feels relief.
Hoang moved to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1994 to ensure her children would be able to advance in life.
She said that being in a foreign country with five children was difficult and at times she felt helpless.
“Though I’m sad to think about my husband and I being by ourselves in a house that used to house seven, I am relieved to know that the last of our kids is completing the first chapter of her life and onto the next,” Hoang said in an email translated by her daughter.
The sudden quiet of a house that was once so full can be a shock to many parents. And getting those families back together can sometimes be difficult.
Nixon’s youngest daughter will be graduating from Lakeview Academy and is going to college at Auburn University. She said since her two older daughters graduated it’s rare for them all to be under the same roof.
“But that’s the way it’s supposed to be,” Nixon said. “They are supposed to grab the fantastic opportunities that come their way and run with them.”
And for some moms, it’s a time for them to grab their own opportunities.
“There’s all kinds of things to do; I just have to start doing them,” Nixon said.
She plans to start by building more houses with Habitat for Humanity, which she has been volunteering with for years.
Cooley said she’ll focus on learning Spanish and taking an art class.
Though there will be tears as this chapter of their lives and their children’s lives ends, they admit they’re a little excited about the future.
Lisa Casey Bryson said she’ll miss her son after he graduates from West Hall High School, but she’s ready to spend some quality time with her husband of four years, Homer Bryson.
For most of her son’s life, it has just been the two of them; Bryson said she anticipates an adjustment period. While she’s both sad and excited, she said there is another emotion that consumes her.
“I think the pride just kind of overwhelms everything else,” she said of her son. “Seeing him and all his accomplishments makes up for all the sad.
Cooley said that as a teacher, she knows how difficult it can be for students to get through school. She said there are more social and academic pressures on teens today than in the past.
“If they walk across the stage and receive a diploma, then they’ve most definitely earned it and that’s a celebration,” Cooley said.
Graduation isn’t just a celebration of the students, but also of the parents who made it all possible.
Nixon, a stay-at-home mom, knows the pride and sadness that come from a job well done.
“If you’ve done your job well, then you’re going to launch your children off into the world. And then that puts you out of a job,” she said. “But they can stand on their own two feet.”