As I stood there, and watched him walk those last steps of high school, time just froze and our journey together flashed in front of my eyes. It was a bittersweet moment as he proudly walked up to receive his high school diploma. He was a little less than three, full of curiosity and a twinkle in his eye when I landed on the shores of America 15 years ago, expecting nothing, but hoping for everything.

He was my partner as we discovered this land together. We started our journey with inhibitions but with hope in our hearts. He must have missed the attention and love he got from those that surrounded him when he had been in India. I, on the other hand, missed the chance to have any kind of adult social contact. Absolutely lonely, with no work visa, I had suddenly transformed from a busy working woman in India to being a full-time mother in America deprived of all adult interaction till my husband returned home at the end of each work day.

From discovering how a dishwasher was operated to the marvel of tasting sweet yogurt, he was my confidant and partner. We squatted on the kitchen floor to create figurines made of play dough and we squealed in delight as we created buildings with all kinds of blocks. His passion for cars came alive in that 2-bedroom small apartment, which overlooked green well-kept gardens, with not a soul as far as our eyes could go. We walked to the balcony each morning, clapping whenever we saw someone walk by. We created daily routines around one another, since we had no friends or family for company. We started to unravel the mysteries of America slowly through the lens of a mother and son.

As I struggled with the idea of leaving my social structure behind, with my family and home of several years thousands of miles away, he was my hope and my distraction from always wondering about whether things would work out for us in this country. His unbridled sense of curiosity and his ability to start conversations with complete strangers got me acquainted, over time, with many new people. We started to make friends soon, outside our circle of two. He would strike up conversations with people at Walmart and I would soon make new friends. We were good together. Very soon for his first birthday in America, we found ourselves celebrating with several other families. His first mommy and me classes taught me about the value of building communities and taught him his first lessons in sharing, making friends and learning consequences for ill actions. I don’t know when “good job” and “high five” became part of my lingo.

They say that parents teach their children language, life skills, and social norms helping them grow and learn new things, but a lot of that is actually a two-way street. As I look back, he made it so much easier for me to assimilate into this new life. I can’t even imagine how lonely I would have been had it not been for the company of my first born when I first came to this country. We shared not just happy moments but also anger, frustrations and growing pains.

He led the path for us as he took his first journey in his new elementary school. I held his hand as he walked to his first classroom, without mommy. He turned around and I remember his first look of disappointment as he saw me leave him. Those small droplets of tears in his eyes pleaded with me. The teacher’s assurances that he would be okay seemed dishonest. After being with him and only him for many months, this seemed like the hardest thing to do. He had become the friend that I liked sharing big and small things with.

Years later, today as he stands tall with his friends, in a cap and gown, talking with confidence and assurance, he is looking ahead. His journey has just begun and there is a lot to discover, and look forward to. Memories of us starting out together in America will always hold me close to my first born. While those wondrous days will never come back, I hope that I continue to be a small part of the big world he is going to create for himself. They call out his name and he starts to walk up those steps and suddenly, just like that, he turns around, looks at me and smiles. In that small moment I cherish the friend that I discovered years ago. With pride, nostalgia and tears in my eyes, my truest blessings involuntarily go his way, as they invite the Westview High graduating class of 2018.

Veenu Puri Vermani – An Analytics professional, a freelance writer and a full-time mother who lives in San Diego California with her two sons and her husband.