graduationThe big boy graduates on Monday, and his instructions are clear:

“You will not cry.”

“Of course I’ll cry!” I tell him. “As your mother, it’s my prerogative.”

He’s a little disgusted at the thought of this pending maternal emotion. And frankly, I’m at a loss to explain these complicated tears.

I’m thrilled for his graduation. I’m proud of his accomplishments and the man he is becoming. I can’t wait to see the experiences and growth that college holds for him.

Yet in my mind, this hulking man-boy was just born. His cuts and scrapes — both physical and emotional — remain fresh in my mind. The memory of his first days of preschool, of kindergarten, of high school is so tangible I can almost touch it.

So I’m crying with happiness and pride … but also sadness. Because even though we celebrate his graduation, we’re mourning the loss of our little boy.

I dwelt on that duality of emotion last night. The soon-to-be-grad was out driving (this was a banner week: a driver’s license and an upcoming high school diploma!); the husband was ensconced in a work call; the little one was shut away with his video games. I was in the kitchen making dinner.

I pulled some rhubarb slices from a pickling solution I’d made and gave them a quick taste. I’d envisioned tossing them in a green salad, but the things were tear-inducingly tart and just … well … sad.

rhubarb ingredientsThey needed a dose of sweet to offset all that tartness. So I sliced a few more stalks, combined them with some sugar, cherries and cloves and boiled them into soft submission.

They emerged with a beguiling complexity: Tart — yet tamed. Sweet — but with an edge. Perfect to spoon over yogurt or ice cream; to stir into oatmeal; to swirl over toast.

I may serve them graduation morning.

They’ll fit my mood.

rhubarb compote

Mixed Emotion Rhubarb Compote

I made this accidental dish with the few remaining rhubarb stalks I had. Feel free to double it.

  • 2 rhubarb stalks, cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 whole cloves
  • Generous 1/2 cup sweet cherries, halved and pitted

rhubarb ingredientsPlace the rhubarb, sugar, orange juice and cloves in a small, heavy-bottomed sauce pan.

Place the pan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the rhubarb is falling-apart soft.

rhubarb cookingAdd the cherries, recover the pot and cook for an additional 10 minutes. You want the cherries to soften but still retain their shape.

Cool the compote, then place it in the fridge to set up. Serve with sweets or savories, or eat it by itself with a spoon.

rhubarb compote