A few thoughts that occurred to me on this, the day after my oldest niece graduated from high school:
You can take the adult out of his youth, but you can’t take the youth out of the adult. Case in point: My brother-in-law, who, on our drive up to Em’s graduation, annoyed his young daughters by playing the all-80s headbanging hair rockers’ channel on the satellite radio. Whenever they asked — nay, pleaded — with their dad to change the channel to something — nay, anything — much more contemporary, he’d switch back and forth between classic rock music channels. I should’ve complained right along with them, instead of biting my tongue for the sake of positive familiar discord. Or at least told him, “Hey, bro, care to show us how your musical tastes have evolved since your teens?”
One other thing about my brother-in-law: He dressed for the occasion in kahki shorts and casual (though button-up) shirt. Which, for better or worse, was how most of the rest of the audience at the ceremony dressed. A couple of guys dressed much, much worse then he did. No, not in a scraggly look, mind you, but in a way that suggested they were going to take the ATV out for a spin on the muddy back roads right after the ceremony. (Yeah, red state America for you. *eye roll*) At least the rest of my family knew it was a big occasion and dressed for it: I dressed in the way you’d see Male Mode Me dress at work (long sleeved shirt, tie, and slacks); my sisters and their daughters dressed nicely as well.
Which brings me to one of two noticeable differences between yesterday’s ceremony and your your average ceremony: The dignitaries on the dais were not sporting any dreary black graduation robes and mortar board hats. No, they weren’t wearing beat-up t-shirts, kahki shorts, or anything like that. But what they weren’t wearing were those hauntingly jet black graduation robes and mortar board hats you normally see graduation dignitaries wearing. That they were seen wearing formal suits and dresses could be considered a sign of their leadership style and/or a sign of changing times, in that they could be more approachable than school leaders of the past. And that could be a big deal to a school student.
Another difference: I mentioned in this post how, 30 years ago this month, my high school class had to proceed into our graduation ceremony in a slow, formal way (“left foot forward, feet together, right foot forward, feet together”) to the beat of “Pomp and Circumstance,” lest our principal force us to exit the gym and do it all over again in front of everyone. Just as no two people or schools are alike, no two graduation ceremonies are alike. And at Em’s graduation yesterday, they didn’t have to march the way I had to 30 years ago. Here’s how it went instead: They split the 80-student class in half. One half went through one door of the gymnasium, the other half through another door. And they all entered the gym and took their seats with a nice, casual gait. Again, another probable sign of changing times over the decades.
And yet another difference between Em’s graduation and my own graduation three decades ago: At my ceremony, the school district administrator read each graduate’s name when the time came for us to step towards the dais and receive our diplomas. But when you think of it, a school district administrator doesn’t really know every kid. Nope, they’re in some fancy corner office doing the school district administrating thing while the kids, teachers, faculty, etc. do the teaching and learning thing. Or to use a better analogy from the world of pop culture, the kids are Homer Simpson while the administrator is Charles Montgomery Burns (“Who is this Simpson fellow, Smithers?”). Em’s class, however, had someone much more closer to the class read off the names. Well, two people, actually, and not just any other people: It was the task of the class vice-president and treasurer to read off the names. And when you think of it, who better than someone who knows how to pronounce each full name of their fellow students to read off their names? Which definitely reduces, if not eliminates, the risk of a student getting their name misread or mispronounced during the ceremony. Which is what happened to me three decades ago.
However the ceremony goes (and for a class as big as Em’s, it went at a relatively good pace, finishing up after 70 minutes), there’s always the post-ceremony to-do of congratulatory remarks, hugs, photos, and perhaps a few tears. So it was with our family and Em post-ceremony, when we all had our picture taken with the happy graduate. I had mentioned in my last post about having some “me time” the afternoon of my graduation to think about how I had grown and all that I had gone through in my first 18 years. Posing with Em on Saturday, I began to think about how my niece had grown… and how far she had come from the infant I first held not quite two weeks after her birth. She went from coloring books with her uncle to watching “Hey, Arnold” on TV to playing kid-sized play golf in her backyard to playing the violin to working a couple of side jobs in school to… high school graduate. What’s next for Em, you’re wondering? Well, starting Monday, she’ll be working a waitress job at a swank restaurant owned by her father’s mother’s father (try saying that three times fast). She had worked a nursing home job a year ago but let her CNA certification expire last fall without renewal. I hope she’ll consider renewing it and perhaps go into some sort of higher education in the future. Whatever she hopes to do, she’ll go into it knowing our family is so very proud of her.
And in a case of the apple not falling too far from the tree: Em’s younger sister will enter high school next fall. And she had her own presence in Saturday’s graduation ceremony, playing percussion in the school band. I hope she’ll go far, too.