Feast your ear tongues on these memory pops.

This past weekend marked the high school graduation of my cousin Carly. This, combined with my upcoming 15 year high school reunion, has put me into a nostalgic vortex of (possibly exaggerated) memories and general disbelief about the passage of time. I know it’s cliche, but Carly’s transition to college has further reinforced my denial of how quickly life seems to be moving.

First, you should know that  up until 12 hours ago, when I think/talk about Carly, these are the images that pop into my head…

Fall 1993 – Luckily her neck was strong enough to hold up that round noggin.
Sweetness and her dad (still with hair!)
2 years old. I think she has a total of four teeth at this point.

May 1997. This is the photo I think of most of when I hear her name.

Last night her high school soccer team won the super sectionals. For those of you unaware of high school sports tournament lingo, this means she and her teammates are headed to the state championship. Carly likes to mock my ignorance when it comes to sports. I like to mock her in general. However, after seeing her play last night I realized that up until that very point, I have allowed the images above to dominate my perception of who she is today. Perhaps this happens to everyone?  I don’t know. Is it impossible to allow kids to grow up? Am I just immature or unprepared for this reality? Regardless, I feel as if I haven’t taken her as seriously as I should. It’s embarrassing to say that out loud, but it’s true. Not that I don’t respect her, or that I am purposely condescending, but just that in my mind, it’s still 1997 and she she three years old. However, in reality, she has graduated from her obsession with the terrible movie that is the Pussycat Dolls to a four year class schedule matrix to ensure she fulfills all of her major, program and general ed requirements. Her soccer, school and social schedules are more complicated than Iran nuclear talks; her life is pretty much insane.

One page of an excel spreadsheet laying out the next four years.

And on top of that, teenager stuff aside (messy room, dirty clothes, rolled eyeballs, laziness at time – you know it, Car), the level of maturity she displays both on and off the field is remarkable. She is a natural leader who does not crave the spotlight -a unique combination of skills and attributes, no doubt.

Can you pinpoint the exact moment where you had a stroke of insight/realization? Just something as simple as Carly running full speed from the goal (with an injured hip) towards her teammates in celebration of their victory triggered the realization that she is an adult. I am not when this change happened and it terrifies me. You know what else is terrifying? My recording skills.

Strange that something so everyday (well, not every day since it’s State and all…) can elicit such a strong emotional response. I am sure she has come to terms with this transition as it has been a constant source of discussion for so long, but to me, it’s a shock. I will miss her so incredibly much and I didn’t even realize it until it slapped me across the face last night.

Just so you can miss her too, let’s take a trip down memory lane…

First time Mr. Swirley met Car and Kenz. They thought he was just OK. 2001

Mr. Swirley’s second Thanksgiving with the Ds. He was 100% committed to the family at this point. Thanksgiving 2002

2004 – Christmas in Branson. Christmas Country Jamboree here we come!

Living large in 2004 with Lee in the Show Me State.
Reaction to finally understanding the slogan on her apron – “It isn’t pretty being easy”  –  2005

Spending the day with the ladies in Madison – pretty wedding 2006. Mine, not hers. That would be weird.

Dancing with the groom – her moves already surpassed those of Mr. Swirley

Lovely ladies – 2006
Madison wedding family photo. Another stellar pose from the G.
DC all the way – 2007
Car, Flat Stan and their new BFF – DC 2007

Crashing a congressional office – DC 2007
Birthday celebration – Labor Day 2007
St. Patrick’s Day 2009 – Excellent photo all around.

Mr. Swirley and Carly have a death wish – May 2009 – Sears Tower. Yea, it’s the SEARS tower.

Tory’s birthday celebration and general mayhem – October 2009
Maternity panties. I am not going to id the owner, but her name might rhyme with Rory. May 2010

Meeting her hour old second cousin – August 2010.
Little does Ellis know the girl who is holding him is the same girl he can’t stop talking about a year later. November 2010

Brookfield Zoo with her beau – 2011
No caption necessary. November 2011
Fostering creativity and rashes. April 2012
Post- Ho-Ho’s application of sunscreen – 2012

Cold water friends – 2012

Graduation day 2012

See, now you will miss her too. Terribly so. I don’t have any siblings, but I imagine this mixture of humility, pride and loss is what many must feel when a sister or brother moves away. Oh, and worry. Lots of that too. If only she knew how to use a computer like the rest of her generation so we can keep in touch (COUGH COUGH) and I can live vicariously through her amazing 18 year-old life. So, Carly, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I am so immeasurably proud of you – we all are.

The G and Mrs. D react to the North Stars’ win – May 2012

Wise words? Bring it.