• Rite of Passage


Graduation on college campuses here in Olympia was only a few short weeks ago at The Evergreen State College and

St. Martin's College.  Graduation is in the hearts and minds of so many of us this month.   As graduates look forward to the future, parents and friends are reflecting on the past.
Short Stay Lodgings hosted a number of graduating families and it was a true celebration based on the cleaning we had to do when all went home. 

I would like to share an amazing revelation about my neice and our my relationship during the year of her graduation in 1995.

My niece, who at the time was a mere 24 years old (same age as my son is today)was the first person I witnessed from birth through the first beginnings of adulthood.  In my mind,, she was still a young girl, and it took just a simple and elegant dress to open up my eyes and witness the woman who emerged before my very eyes.  Although she lived and still lives in California and is now a Lawyer and a Judge, I still feel I got to watch her as she changed in real time.

In 1995,  I was still purchasing fun graduation and birthday gifts which included youthful dresses in bright colors along with hand painted t-shirts I had made for her and one very fine black dress I found in a boutique in downtown Olympia. It took the flowering of an amazing child to infuse me with a deeper understanding of the relationship of culture to clothing in our society.  The changing of our clothing, the places we choose to live, the hotels or Vacation Rentals we pick and how we wear it all is part of the "Rites of Passage"!

I had walked down to the boardwalk at the corner of Fourth and Columbia that evening long ago and past the statue of the lovers, cruising the night scene at about 11PM where a parade of  prom goers and grads were enjoying the night air as well.   Even then, they seemed quite young to me, and it seemed as though they were dressed in Mommies' dresses with bare shoulders or cut out low back gowns and yet still not quite adept at walking in Stilletto's!  I assumed this parade of our beautiful youth was a dress rehearsal for thier future womanhood.  This is why seeing my neice dressed in a black evening gown was such a shock.  That was no longer a dress rehearsal.  She was not playing dressing up but had graduated into a whole new class.  The dress was merely the finishing touch to her poise, beauty, and womanhood.

If ever someone invented a phrase for a particular person, "Born to Shop" was invented for my neice.  Maybe that's why she why she now uses her skills to shop for all the right stuff.  I remember when she was three years old and was first aware of choosing a wardrobe.  I had been airbrush painting children's clothing for Olympia Farmer's Market all afternoon when she came boldly into my art studio demanding to see what I was designing for her.  Being the generous Auntie I've always been, I invited her to pick out the dress she liked best.  She picked out the one she liked best and then proceeded to pick out five or six more.   One for a birthday party, one for a walk in downtown, and one for a tea party with her dollies and so forth, and finally she picked out some outfits for her babies and her friend's babies.  This may seem silly but she was a thinker and a planner even then.  She was a canidate for college right from the beginning.


She obviously understood the importance of making good choices and dressing for the occassion right from the start.  Erin took "Best Dressed" in a statewide debate competition in Northern California along with other honors.  As a matter of fact, this young woman was preparing for a great future and already placing in the top ten in the Ceta National Debate Tournament in Tennessee.

I believe her level of confidence was directly related to her ability to make good decisions about what to wear and when to wear it and it trickled down to so many parts of a life full of big decision making.  It took many years of shopping, playing dress up, and practice in front of a mirror and in front of friends to understand the multifunctional use of clothing in our culture.   It is jsut another tool in our toolbox of expressions.  I hope today's grads understand that "the right picture can be worth a thousand words"!  Your personal presentation can say a great deal about who you are and what you are pursuing in life.

Congrats Graduates and remember every decision you make from kindergarten at Polk Street Elementary School to graduation at The Evergreen State College right here in Olympia Washington or even at The Supreme Court was informed and incubated in all the decisions you once made and is certainly what you will build our future on tommorrow!