Kathleen Delaney with BooksKathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today with a few timely thoughts on what graduations are really all about.

Murder by Syllabub, fifth in the Ellen McKenzie series, is available in bookstores now.

One of my grandsons graduated from 5th grade last week. It turned out to be quite an event. There were five fifth grade classes and several awards were handed out to each class. Then the special awards for all of the children with high academic achievements and those who got straight A’s, etc. They didn’t wear caps and gowns, but they were asked to dress nicely. For the girls that meant pretty dresses and no stiletto heels, for the boys slacks and a tie, no soccer clothes or jeans. I thought that might be a deal killer for Ronaldo, but will wonders never cease. He loved his khaki dress pants, his blue dress shirt and multi-colored tie and asked if he could have a blazer. Since it’s a long time until his next graduation and I’m sure it would never leave the closet until then, I demurred. But he looked handsome, he got four awards, and will start middle-school on a strong footing, even if without a blazer.

When I was in school-lo those many years ago-we graduated twice. Once from high-school and once from college. No. I graduated from the eighth grade. I had my first shoes that weren’t flats and almost killed myself walking across the stage. I’m not sure when a graduation ceremony from grade school started, or from pre-school or… At first, I thought all these were cute but totally unnecessary.

I’ve changed my mind.

It occurred to me we spend much of our lives passing from one stage to another, “graduating” if you will. We don’t mark all of them with public ceremonies, but none the less, we take note of them. Religious ceremonies “graduate” us from one state in life to another. Baptism comes to mind, so does Bar Mitzvah. Girls used to have a “come out’ ceremony. I think in some cultures they still do. The dances, the parties, the functions they attend signify they have left childhood behind and are now eligible young women, ready to assume their roles as wives and mothers. Sobering thought. Parenthood throws you into a completely new life, so does marriage. We usually dress up for the marriage ceremony and throw a big party. We celebrate the birth of a child with no sleep and hoping we can catch a shower before the next feeding. We “graduate” upward in our chosen careers, or we hope we do, and we throw a party to mark our passing into official old age or when we have reached fifty years of marriage. To congratulate ourselves we’ve still alive or still married? Maybe. What we don’t usually celebrate is getting through the hard parts, the divorces, the lost promotion or even worse, the job, the child who is sick or who can’t function in school, the trauma of being robbed, or abused. We may not celebrate them, but they are important parts of our lives and when we conquer one tragic episode, in a way, we’ve “graduated”. We’re in a different place.

Give First Place to Murder 2Therein lies a story. Lots of stories. This is what we write about, the good events and the bad, and, partly, it’s why we read. To peek into other people’s lives, to see what happens to them and how they change, to watch them “graduate” from one stage in their lives to another, and to see how they do it. I’ve tried to show how Ellen McKenzie handles the hurdles I’ve given her to overcome and how its changed her.. In Dying for a Change we meet Ellen, recently divorced, coming back to her home town to start a new life. She does that, all right, partly by discovering a body in the closet of the first house she tries to show in her new real estate career. Give First Place to Murder, And Murder for Dessert, Murder Half-Baked and Murder by Syllabub all throw challenges at her not always connected with the murder she needs to solve, and it’s been fascinating to watch her overcome them and grow as a person. She’s done a fine job of “graduating.”

Congratulations to the Class of 2014, no matter what your age or school. You’ve made another big step in your journey, and I know you’re ready to go on to face the next challenge. But first, enjoy your party, have another piece of cake. You deserve it.