Like many other local parents, I spent last weekend reflecting on the swift passage of time as my daughter graduated from Toledo High School and we closed one chapter of our lives.

Eighteen blessed years.

I remember returning home from a trip to Bellingham and stopping by Safeway for a pregnancy test. After struggling for years with infertility before the birth of my son, I figured premature menopause rather than pregnancy was the most likely explanation for my body’s physical changes.

My heart soared after the strip changed color on the test. I told my husband, who was 15 years older than me and preparing to retire from full-time work at The Chronicle.

“I’m still quitting at the end of the year.”

How romantic!

Publisher Denny Waller told the people gathered for Larry’s retirement party: “He won’t be bored; he’ll be changing diapers.”

Our lives have never been the same since bringing that precious little girl home from the hospital.

When my eldest nephew graduated from high school two decades ago, I pulled together photos from his first 18 years and laminated them into a string. Later I created photo books for each niece and nephew for graduation.

With my daughter, I begged for her help sorting through nearly 10,000 photos of her from infancy through high school graduation.

At her party Sunday, a slide show of those photos flashed across the television screen. Tow-headed toddler years with no bangs because she cut her hair whenever she glommed onto scissors. The first day of school when my mother and I watched her board the school bus with my son. Field trips to the Chehalis-Centralia Steam Train and the Oregon Zoo and OMSI. Birthday parties and spring break visits to Bullwinkle’s Family Fun Center in Wilsonville. Climbing hills and paddling boats at church camp in summers.

I watched her grow in those photos, along with the precious friends she treasured as a child.

At graduation, Nora walked beside her friend Morgan Leback, a talented artist and equestrian who is headed to Centralia College in the fall. Nora will be leaving for Washington State University in two months.

As I sat beside my husband in the bleachers, surrounded by family and friends, I thought how different this day might have been after our traumatic trip to Finland last summer when my husband collapsed with a heart blockage. I thanked God for the blessings of us both being there to shepherd our precious child out of the nest and into the college dorm.

On Friday evening, Larry’s grandson Bryce Graham graduated from Woodland High School. The only blight on the event was Principal John Shoup’s refusal to allow him and nine others entering the military to wear the stoles bestowed on them representing their branch of service. He told Bryce, who leaves July 16 for the Navy, “anyone can join the military.”

But not everyone is willing to dedicate years in service to their nation. Not everyone is willing to put their lives on the line for their country. Not everyone will go when called.

But Bryce will.

As he told, he wants to train as an aviation electrician in the Navy in part because he comes from a long line of military veterans — my husband among them.

“I’m serving to better myself and give back for what this country has given me: freedom and liberty.”

Is it too difficult to let him and others wear stoles honoring their selected branches of service at graduation? Shoup and a couple of other principals at schools in California seem to think so.

I disagree.



Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at

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