My first was Margarita Aguilar, whose whole family had come to live with mine (all nine of us in 2,300 square feet and not enough beds). It was she and brother and parents; and me and my wife and two daughters and son. I sent Margarita to Sage in 2000, the year it opened. It had only two classes: 100 freshmen and 32 sophomores. Margarita was a sophomore. Each year afterward, the school added another lower class until it was full. Margarita’s class was the first to graduate and because her last name began with an “A”, Margarita Keila Aguilar was our very first graduate.
I use the word “our” because I am one of the founders of Sage Hill. After Margarita graduated, she was followed by my oldest daughter Elizabeth, now 24; then Gabrielle, now 20; then Harrison, now 18; and now it is over. It is over.
I would use the word grieve except that is not what I really feel. I really feel that the world flows over, under and around you and unless you look up—and watch, I mean watch—you will miss it stone cold. I watched. At least I hope I did.
I watched my kids and I watched Sage Hill. On graduation day, I got there early and walked around and saw the preparations, which weren’t much. Sage does not go in for huge displays, but the ceremony was in the enchanting inner quad. In the next hour, it became so full of glowing youthful potential I could burst.
Afterwards, I waited and watched the crowd mill. I know many of Harrison’s friends. They hang at my house in Laguna. Seeing them in full graduation regalia was strangely disconcerting. They were trying on new personas. They were in transcending acts.
I asked several how they felt. They said “strange.” I then usually replied, “You know, after this day, you will be part of this campus only as a graduate, not as a part of its functioning being.” Those were not my exact words, but that was my exact meaning. Harrison’s friends did not want to hear that. They did not want it stated.
And they looked embarrassed. They usually were so cool. You could never get in, but right then they were naked.
The campus has aged nicely. The architecture, which I originally thought boring, has softened and popped with the maturing of the plants and trees. More wings and buildings have been built and more will be, but not much more. It can get only so large.
In the late 1990s, I was in a living room when there were only eight of us and the school was an idea. Since then, I’ve hung in for the whole ride. It has not always been pleasant. I remember getting founding Chair Jamie Caillouette’s phone call at 3:30 a.m., then my local time on a business trip to Japan, about a financing crises involving the original construction. I was the founding treasurer.
Margarita today is married to a wonderful Moroccan man with big ambitions and she is trying to get into law school. My oldest daughter Elizabeth graduates from a university in London this summer. What she will do next is anyone’s guess. She wants to stay in that part of the world but the unemployment there is horrible. Daughter Number Two, Gabby, will be a junior at Lewis & Clarke next fall. This summer she is interning with my real estate company and I really hope she likes it.
Harrison, Sage Class of 2013, seems to ride above it all, like on a crest of a wave. He is enigmatic–both coiled and laid-back–and always one emotion distant. Next year he goes to UC Santa Cruz.
One sidebar comment: Margarita, Liz and Gab realize Harrison plays it for all its worth and punish him accordingly, as only older sisters can.
I drift along beside them. Mostly I watch. My only wish is to see more. Much more. And to be in the thick of it.
Michael Ray grew up in Corona del Mar and now lives in Laguna Beach. He makes a living as a real estate entrepreneur and is involved in many non-profits.