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Moment or Memento

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Once I dropped one of my husband's grandmother's dishes. He scooped up the pieces, placed them safely in a Ziploc bag and set the bag in the box where the rest of the plates and cups resided. I felt awful, but understood that what he respectfully held in his hands at that very minute was still very precious no matter the form.

It suggests that there can be two valid and fundamental differences when it comes to recalling precious memories: a focus on mementos or a focus on living in the moment.

This theory was further examined before mid-year graduation exercises for my son this past December.

While pasting blank Scantron paper (those test forms with the answer bubbles) all over the top of his mortarboard and writing his line, "Leave no stray marks" on the cap, we started reminiscing about graduations past. Although he usually likes events and experiences over "getting stuff" (spoken like a true Millennial), graduations are not something my son can personally arrange or plan. As a result, he admitted to having limited interest, seeing this event as a night for parents, family and friends. He believed the best single moment to come was when his diploma would arrive in the mail.

Of course, when you complete all the requirements for a college degree you can acknowledge the milestone without attending the graduation celebration, but for me this is sacrilege. I love graduations and defend them because they are some of the purest times to celebrate a singular achievement.

"Hold this moment in your hands," I often say, as if it too, were as tangible as all the papers and books and tests that came before.

The night came with photos, cheers, handshakes and speeches. As I hugged the graduate, he surprised me. He said there was a time within the evening when he unexpectedly felt "it"— the outcome of all that hard work. The accomplishment — so real, so meaningful. So his own.

Late that evening, I played my favorite game with my husband, the man who was carefully storing away the cap, gown, program booklet and ticket stub.

"What was your favorite part of our son's graduation?" I asked.

"His smile," he said. Sure, it was captured in tons of pictures but seeing it live in the moment was pretty amazing too.

A contributing writer to the Herald since 2012, Lauren Lev is an East Meadow resident and a direct marketing/advertising executive who teaches advertising and marketing communications courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology/SUNY, LIU Post and SUNY Old Westbury.