DYSON COLUMN: Grad celebrates special moments with food | Columns

When my oldest grandson, Tyler, was asked to share his favorite memories of lacrosse, as part of the recent Senior Night festivities at Liberty High School in Bealeton, he answered: “Eating before the game with the team.”

Most of the other seniors said the same.

When his family gathered at the school for a ceremonial “signing,” noting his plans to attend Randolph–Macon College, where he’ll also play lacrosse, his mother fretted she hadn’t brought balloons in the appropriate school colors the way moms of two girl lacrosse players had done.

Tyler didn’t care about inflated celebrations. His first question after walking out of the school was, “Where are we going to eat?” Never mind it was only 3:30 in the afternoon.

And, when his mother, sister and I sat down to plan his graduation party, which will happen next weekend, he grunted or shrugged his shoulders in response to most questions about photo displays, party favors and decorations.

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But when the discussion turned to the menu—and more specifically desserts—he fired off his requests with the same velocity we’ve seen him whale the ball into the ridiculously tiny net on the LAX field. He wanted banana pudding from his mother, mini cheesecakes from me and lemon meringue pie from my mother.

Certainly you’ve sensed the trend. Tyler has a healthy appetite, but at 6 foot, 3 inches tall, he’s got a lot of room to fill. A few years ago, we had dinner at my mom’s, and everything she’d made had been eaten. When Tyler was still hungry, she handed him a loaf of bread and butter—and said later that she worried he was going to eat the legs off the table.

But Tyler’s stature isn’t limited to his height. If this grandma can say so herself, he’s grown into a handsome and talented young man, well-grounded in athletics, academics and his single-minded pursuit of a lacrosse-related scholarship to pay for college. He got a dean’s award based on grades and another allotment for lacrosse, and he and his family are extremely grateful.

As Tyler has enjoyed some of his senior-year events, there’s been lots of joy as well as a measure of sadness. His maternal grandfather died from COVID-19 last fall and his maternal grandmother later entered a memory-care facility. Not having them be part of these milestones is gut-wrenchingly painful for his family.

On graduation night, his mother’s Facebook post was filled with pictures of him, posed with each group of relatives. There was also one of Tyler holding a photo of his Pop and MawMaw, who were there in spirit. I get teary-eyed every time I see it.

As we were planning his party, his mother texted the other day to say he wanted to add a few items to the menu. (Always with the food.) We’re having barbecue and some of the fixings that traditionally are served, but others that aren’t.

That’s because Tyler wants his favorites: His mother’s broccoli casserole. His grandmother’s corn pudding. His great-grandmother’s potato salad. His aunt’s mac and cheese. His uncle’s baked beans. His step-grandmother’s pasta salad.

Almost everything on the table will have special meaning to the graduate, and that’s the best menu a party could offer as far as I’m concerned. Tyler’s made it clear during other special moments of his senior year, that food figures mightily into his celebrations, and it’s great that this one will be paired with some of his family favorites.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425



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