I’m not so good with words.
I realize this as I sit here trying to write something inspiring in graduation cards. I have a nephew and three nieces finishing college back in the Midwest. Around the family, they are often referred to as The Quadruplets. Or, The Quads, as if a singing group.
The Quads are the offspring of my baby sister, who had her children in litters, rather than one at a time like most of us.
Like a puppy mill, my sister’s house. When The Quads were young, you should’ve seen the Sierra of shoes at the front door, and socks just everywhere.
Now they’re about to graduate college. I thought I’d send them each $100. Too generous? Too cheap? I don’t even know anymore. More and more, their Uncle Chris is just an old man with musty ideas. I haven’t bought an album in 20 years. I miss liner notes. I miss Paul Simon.
But a crisp $100 bill seems about right. A hundred seems memorable. A buck for each year of what I hope is a good, long life.
I’ll add a heartfelt note insisting they spend it on cold beer with friends they may never see again. Their lives will fill with obligation soon enough. Before they know it, they will be old people with musty ideas, stuffing graduation money into cards for far-off places.
To make sure they receive them, I’ll probably mail the cards to their mother, who is, of course, insane. You don’t raise, all told, six children and come out unscathed. She should be the main exhibit in the Motherhood Hall of Fame.
On the card, I’ll urge the graduates to enjoy their special time. As I said, I’m not much with words. Real wisdom eludes me. I mean, what do you tell people about to begin the rest of their lives?
So, I’ll just tell them to have a little fun, wish them well, urge them to Uber down the road less traveled.
I’ll give them a few tips I’ve picked up along the way. Like, when there’s dog hair in the coffee filter, it’s probably time to clean the house.
Learn to surf, I’ll tell them: Fight your fears; do the scary things that drag you underwater, then come up gasping for air and better than before.
Do them till you laugh.
In general, laughter can cure a lot of stuff. It’s better than booze or pills, and it won’t cost you your career or turn your smile black.
I’ll urge the four grads — Johnny, Christa, Melissa and KD — to never rent when they can buy, to never ride when they can walk. And to never, ever be anyone’s second choice.
On the job, don’t shun the struggle, I’ll say. The struggle is good. The saddest people in the world seem to have been born with everything. Embrace the struggle and all it brings. If you strike it big, please don’t become just another rich goober with a Tesla and a spray tan.
I’ll urge them to try to fill their lives with books, ideas, music, friends — a mix is usually good. But don’t live only in your heads. Run a 10K, work with your hands, rake the leaves on a rainy day.
And be sure to grow a little something — legal, illegal, I don’t care — just grow something good. God is in the details and every little living thing. In this blingy world, they might be surprised at the payoffs of the small, noble life.
“Kids?” you ask. Yeah, you can grow them too.
Results vary. Side effects are common. Kids come in many varieties: loud, pensive, robust, bony. In any case, they will be the neediest and most-ungrateful creatures you’ll ever find, which is the reason many people now swear by dogs.
But kids? If you have children, you’ll have everything. To see them grow, to flourish, to graduate college, is among the sweetest joys. The feeling you get from raising children is something money could never buy. Which is good, because you will no longer have any.
Yes, against the odds, I’d recommend having kids. Maybe not four at once, like their mother did, but a bunch. Children teach us humility, servitude and to give our lives to something greater than ourselves.
In return, they’ll occasionally curl up on the couch with you at night, then mention that you look really tired, and your neck is starting to look kind of saggy.
Still, have kids. Just don’t say you weren’t warned.