Congratulations – Son’s Graduation from Macalester College

Four years ago, I said goodbye to my son and started a blog. While that young man graduates with honors from Macalester in St. Paul, Minnesota, I am still here in Geneva, Switzerland telling stories. Though I won’t be present for the ceremony, words keep me connected.

Decades ago, the happiest and scariest moment of my life was when a doctor announced, “Congratulations it’s a boy!”  From Nic’s treacherous toddlerhood, to his turbulent teens, my life has been filled with honor and anxiety ever since, so proud to have bore a son, so petrified something would harm him.

Nic was more boy than we bargained for. Stitched up twice by the age of two, he bounced off walls of our tiny Parisian flat. Age four, he head butted his aunt and broke her nose one Christmas Eve with an over exuberant hug. In boyhood, he endured a pine cone in the eye, dislocated ribs, and a shattered ankle, results of a rough and tumble life.

As a three-year-old, when Nic’s teacher punished him for being afraid in her unruly class, we removed him from school for a semester. He has complained about school ever since, yet excels in class. Though he writes so well that his college history dissertation on the Dakotas and Native Americans merited publication in historical journals, he still emailed papers to me at 1 am to tweak. Even after his patience has been tested working with underprivileged students as a part of Athletes for Education program, he still wants to enter the teaching profession.

As a boy he gave me homemade gifts – an ornament, a wall hanging, a framed photo –then took them back when he got mad – but no matter what, at night he would curl up in my lap to read stories and talk about our day.

“I don’t want to get braces, allergies, or glasses,” he stated as a six-year-old. When I explained you don’t have any choice in the matter, he reasoned, “Okay, I wouldn’t mind braces. It’s like wearing a necklace in your mouth.”

Ever so perceptive, a few years later, he announced, “We are growing up too fast, in five years Nathalie won’t live here anymore.”

With a wonderful sense of humor, Nic entertained us with his famous one-liners with his perfect sense of timing. As a kid, pointing to his plate, wrinkling his nose, he’d ask, “What’s that?”

“Fish,” I’d say.

“Oh no, not junk food for dinner again.”

Grateful for glimpses into his boyhood, I became better at understanding male competition, saving face, and how to coach guys. During rides to practice, shooting sessions and late night talks, our time together gave me invaluable insight into helping my students.

Like most 21st century kids, weaned on electronics if there was a button, he’d push it; if there was gadget, he’d bust it – accidentally.

While “helping” tidy up, he broke my reclining chair and the remote control.

“Send him to my house to help clean,” my sister insisted, “I need a new vacuum cleaner.”

As a mom I would do anything to shield him from pain, to protect that little boy in my memory. Silly me. Today he is a tall, strong, intelligent, man; I am not sure he ever needed my protection. Yet, his dad’s and my love is there always in a whisper, an invisible force of strength every step of his way.

As he enters the future, we remain behind marveling at how that kid, who now towers above us, grew up so fast when we weren’t looking. In a blink, he is gone from our day-to-day lives, but never far from our hearts where he remains cherished at every stage.

In keeping with French tradition, he bears his grandfathers’ names; I see a blend of his American, French, and Norwegian ancestry. He shows the pride of Grand Papie Elie who led the troops down the Champs Elysées at the end of WWII, the courage of Great Grandpa Olson who sailed from Norway to a new life in America and the strong character of Great Grandpa Mac, who coached college football in his nineties.

As Nic grew, he adopted the qualities of the men in his life. The industriousness of Papie Guy, the kindheartedness of Grandpa Jim, the perceptiveness of Uncle Doug, the playfulness of Uncle Dick, the handiness of Uncle Cliff, and the integrity of his father.

Nearly a quarter of century ago, I carried my 3-week-old baby on the Metro to the Embassy in Paris to attain his American passport. The civil servant read his birth certificate aloud,

“Nicolas James-Ralph Guy Lechault – such a big name for such a little lad.”

That little guy has grown into his name. Hats off to Nic. Bravo!Nic's gradImage 1

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  1. Beautiful. Sniff, sniff. So beautiful. Congratulation! What a wonderful achievement. I am so happy for you! P.S. Can you teach me how to do a slideshow. It was marvelous! xo

  2. What a wonderful tribute. As I am about to go walk in the commencement procession here at UWSP, I am tearing up. Congratulations to Nic and to his parents.

    • Thanks, Nancy. Gerald and I watched it live on the Macalester link and of course it reminded me of Nathalie’s graduations, which I also missed. But Nic had his grandparents, sister, nieces, aunts and brother in law there cheering, so that helped (me, at least) With UWSP graduation over does this mean you can go into vacation mode? Bring on summer!

  3. Oh Pat, what a beautiful tribute to your son, Nic on this momentous milestone. As usual, I feel like I’ve met Nic in person and ,as usual, I am touched to tears by your words which resonate in my mother’s heart. The slide show is fabulous! Congratulations to Nic and to the long line of family who have nurtured and guided him to this point. xoxo

  4. Congratulations to Nic and his adoring parents! What a wonderful piece of writing; what a wonderful young man!

  5. Congratulations to Nic and Pat and Gerald. What a great tribute. He is a wonderful boy who will continue to live the legacy. Time sure flies. I remember him toddling about at Jim and Lenore’s…Lots of pride in your heart, Pat with both kids. Love you! p.s. Our son is graduating high school in a few weeks headed to Chapel Hill. Where did time go?

  6. Congratulations to All! What a great tribute to both son & family. I know auntie Sue is so proud to attend his graduation this weekend. You have much to be proud of! Don’t know if I should mention it or not, but I will be at your beautiful Summit Lake a week from now. I remind myself of what a special place t is to so many people.

    • Thanks, Dave. I credit you with showing him the ropes when he shadowed you in your history lesson…yes, he will soon be entering the ranks. Be sure to kiss the lake for me. I can’t wait to escape to Wisconsin and still have 6 weeks left of school.

  7. What a wonderful history of Nic’s life. I’m sniffing too. My son just graduated from college too, so the memories flood over us. Where did the time go? As always, thanks for sharing and I love your stories!

  8. Ever-wonderful stories Pat xx lovely to have known Nic as that rough and tumble teen and now see him so tall, strong and well qualified!! Congrats to Nic, you and Gerald xxx all those stories you gave him filled his head with dreams and words that took him to an imagined place and gave him the courage to carve a real place in this world of ours… Miss you, love Rach xx

  9. What a well-written summary of the life of a wonderful boy. You done good, mom. Also love the photos how nice to see him (and you) through the years. Thank you for sharing!

  10. So glad we could be there to celebrate Nic’s accomplishments. We are so proud of him….especially for being the really good man that he his. You and Gerald have done an awesome job!

  11. Pat, even though I never met Nic, your words paint a wonderful picture of the boy and the man he became. Congratulations to Nic on his graduation and to you and Gerald for raising such a fine young man.

    • Thanks Deb. Even though I couldn’t be at graduation, it sure has been nice having him home for a few days before he heads back to the Twin Cities to complete his teaching degree and work on a masters at Hamline. Hope to see you and Tom this summer!

      • Hi Pat! It’s always nice when they came home, isn’t it? Our son will be home from Austin, TX for a few days at the end of June. Our daughter is in Bloomington, so she is home fairly frequently, which is nice! We look forward to seeing you this summer! Are you having a book signing?

          • Do you have a date when you’ll be signing books? just want to get it on my calendar so I can see you!

          • Oh you are so sweet, Deb. I will be speaking and signing at the library on Monday July 1st at 6:30, at the Kewanee July 2 in the morning and at Rotary at noon. I think I might also be doing a signing at the mall, so I will let you know when the time/date is confirmed. See you soon!

  12. What a lovely tribute to a great looking young man. I understand all that you expressed and you said it so beautifully. Keep telling stories. I’m sure you make him proud too.

  13. Well, Pat, you’ve gone and made me tear up all over again remembering my own son’s graduation!! Congratulations to you and Nic for his accomplishment, and Best Wishes for a splendid and happy future! Loved the photo slideshow, too — makes him more real.

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