"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
To listen to these words in your little voice, in unison with your classmates hit me with a greater impact than the day I spoke those same words in the company of forty-five other people, when I became an American citizen.
To me, that point marked the first commencement of my life, and I looked ahead, determined to make my mark in my new homeland.
Amber Gabrielle, today you ran around, skipping in total jubilation with the knowledge that school was done after today. Your smile faded a bit when you ran into the little office and told me, yet again, "I'm done with school!"
I didn't mean to frighten you when I pulled you into my arms and kissed your little forehead, a feeble attempt at hiding the emotion brimming in my eyes.
"Aw, I love you too, Daddy."
I didn't realize I had said that to you, but I did. Of course, I did.
You looked at me with your little grin and asked me if it was time to go yet. Your graduation was set for six, and it was only one o'clock. You were so impatient throughout the afternoon until Mommy announced that we'd best get ready, and you flew up the steps to put on your dress and curl your hair.
All I wanted to do was jam the mechanisms of time, just to keep you little, for just a little longer.
Since I had no wrench big enough to throw into the cosmic works of time, I had no choice but to accept another milestone that takes you a few steps closer to the big girl you want to be, while pulling me away from the baby I still want you to be.
You sat with your little classmates, giggling, showing off your dress, and making comments on what everyone else was wearing. It dawned on me that you were blissfully unaware of the significance of your first graduation, the first, I hope, of many.
I was so glad to be part of your first commencement, perhaps something of no consequence to you whatsoever. But to see you in your pretty dress as you stood and shook hands with your teacher after taking your first diploma, gave me a sense of pride I've never felt before.
Where is that little baby girl with the light brown bangs over her eyes, and the lopsided grin? Who is this little lady reciting every word of the Pledge of Allegiance?
After hugging your teacher, you walked away, not once looking back, as though far more than ready to face the next challenge, to climb the next step, to put another landmark behind on your way to the person you will one day be. And God willing, Mommy and I will make that journey with you. We'll be with you and your big sissy, every step of the way.
Happy Graduation, babygirl, I love you. Your first commencement is no small thing to me, and I couldn't possibly describe how proud I was of reciting the Pledge with you.