My daughter, Francesca, is graduating from college, and I spent the last hour trying to figure out her school's incredibly complicated commencement schedule. According to the Web site, there are three separate commencement exercises, and the main one will be attended by "approximately 32,000 people." The gates open at 6:45 a.m., and not everyone will get a seat, so the Web site advises me to get there in advance.

Ya think?

And how exactly do you play musical chairs with a small city?

And how early should I get there? 2007?

Nor does the Web site advise how to wake up my 83-year-old mother at that hour, much less provide her with the requisite coffee and apple fritter from Dunkin' Donuts. Our fancy hotel doesn't serve breakfast until 6 a.m. and it offers items like steel-cut oatmeal imported from Ireland and omelets with organic eggs. The Web site doesn't seem to understand that if you try to sell my mother a $30 breakfast, she will throw it at you.

The Web site also states that the commencement exercises will be held outside, but neither does it state how to get my mother to walk on grass, which she regards as exercise and, therefore, against her religion. Nor can the Web site conceive of how slowly the aforementioned mother walks. The hotel is only three blocks away, but she will have to leave two days prior to make it by dawn.

The solution would be for her to skip the first graduation ceremony and attend only the second ceremony, which will be smaller, attended by only 10,000 people. But the Web site gives no clue as to how to find her in a crowd that size, as she is only 4 feet, 11 inches tall and the oldest member of the Lollipop Guild.

She'd stand out if she wore her lab coat, but then she could end up at the medical school graduation.

In theory, beloved brother Frank could escort her to the second ceremony, but that would require him to find me in a warren of colonial brick dorms, all of which look alike and are badly signed, the better to keep out the unwashed. Like the Scottolines, until the kid got in.

The other possibility is that my mother goes to the third graduation ceremony, to which alumni and bigwigs are invited because that's where the celebrity intellectual is speaking. The only problem is, the third ceremony has nothing to do with my daughter, and she's the celebrity intellectual to us.

The fourth option is that my mother stay in the hotel and watch all three ceremonies on the local cable TV, but for that she could have stayed in Miami and not missed her personal marathon of

Law & Order


So I'm confused. I need an advanced degree to figure out how to deal with college graduation. Or maybe a chart with color-coded highlighting or a map with flag pins. But maybe all this confusion is good, because it distracts me from the larger topic - that my daughter is graduating from college.

Of course it's an enormously happy occasion, and it goes without saying that I'm proud of her. It doesn't go without saying to her. I tell her how proud I am at least three times a day, and I think every kid needs to hear it, even big girls in caps and gowns. But what I mean is that while I'm so happy with the fact that she's graduating, we haven't had a chance yet to talk about where she's going to live until she finds a job. You know my answer:


Or better yet, in a convent.

Now that college is over, it seems only right that she should move home and get back into her diapers.

I mean, that was the deal, right?

I let my kid go to college, now she should come home. It's only fair, even though I have enjoyed being an empty-nester, and it seems like only yesterday I wrote a column about missing her. Well, I do, and now I want her back. When I told this to a friend of mine, she told me a joke:

What's the difference between an Italian mother and a Rottweiler?

The Rottweiler eventually lets go.

So college graduation is good news and bad news. The good news is that my kid is healthy, happy and now, well-educated. And the bad news is that her life is beginning, without me in earnest, so that boo-hoo-my-kid-is-going-to-college was only a step in the separation that began when they cut the cord.

That was my first mistake. I should have stopped them, right there. In my view, it was medical malpractice.

And after the initial snip, the separation proceeded incrementally to first step, then first date, first car, and first degree. She's beginning her life as an adult, on her own.

I guess they call it commencement for a reason.

And so we will attend, our raggedy and irregular little family, there to bear witness at this awesome event. I can picture it now. The golden girl we all raised, in cap and billowing gown. We will bring roses too cumbersome to hold. We will shift on hard wooden chairs. My mother won't be able to hear or see anything, yet she will weep, still. We all will. It will be an estrogen fest. Thank God my brother is gay, so he can join in.

And back at the hotel, Ruby the Corgi will be ordering the imported oatmeal.

Nothing but the best, on this very, very special day.

Congratulations, Francesca.

We're proud of you.