Strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” can be heard rising from high school, college and university gyms, athletic fields, auditoriums and churches. Last-minute papers and payments are sent in and processed as parents and students prepare to complete their obligations and end a course of study. The sighs of relief emitted as these financial and academic responsibilities are met could equal a mild windstorm.Hotels are full around campuses as family and friends arrive to honor the graduates and celebrate. Many households are dusting off patio furniture, loading the fridge and freezer with goodies, and mentally checking off tasks as they prepare for guests on the big day. Similar preparations take place for first Communions and confirmations. Both require special clothes although confirmation takes a bit more shopping, if I remember correctly --- a mad dash, in fact, to obtain the right color tie, the right shoes or whatever item of clothing that will allow them to feel they fit in with their peers and yet be appropriate to the occasion. It certainly requires a prayer for patience and a sense of humor!These are wonderful occasions marking commitments of faith and academic accomplishments that stay with a person throughout their life --- more, one would hope, than the stress that often accompanies the preparation. There was the time the garbage disposal broke the night before the event; the quick run to the emergency room for stitches when someone fell down; the tie mysteriously disappearing; and the outfit burned with an iron that was too hot and in the hands of someone too young to use it. Somehow, even these moments result in fond and precious memories.In the end, though, it is not about the clothes or the parties. It is about the child beginning to understand what it means to accept Jesus into his or her life, the teenager saying, “Yes, I want to be part of this faith community,” and the smiling graduate recognizing that the delayed plans, the endless tests and papers and the other sacrifices deemed necessary to obtain the next level of education have been worth it. These are also touchstone moments to return to in prayer when the joy and celebrations have been tucked away as memories. Recalling a child, sibling, spouse or other loved one on their special day, and how family members shifted schedules to make it a priority to gather in celebration, is a reason for gratitude. Photos and Facebook help us share the joy, but the private moments of thankfulness are the most meaningful.My oldest grandson and I shared a special day this year: his first Communion and my graduation after a course of study in theology. While there was no question that the first Communion was the priority, in the end we were able to share the day. It was a wonderful reminder that, in any celebration, the presence of loved ones is the greatest gift. Congratulations to all families celebrating milestones!Anne Hansen is a member of the Camarillo Catholic community. Her e-mail address is [email protected].{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0520/familytime/{/gallery}