Graduations Cause for Optimism
This weekend kicks off high school graduation season for our household. It starts with several members of our church plus a great-granddaughter. After a Memorial Day family cookout, we will be looking forward to a great-niece’s June graduation on Long Island.
Actually, we’ve already attended a graduation reception for the daughter of a good friend and were invited to three others outside the immediate family.
Such celebrations are the kind of things that put me in a good mood. Not only for the chance to celebrate these young adults’ achievements, but for the family reunions these occasions represent.
When we head to New York, we will be sharing an Airbnb cottage with my brother and sister-in-law, located in the same town where our youngest nephew lives.
Whether we gather at the cottage or our nephew’s house the night before graduation, a good time will be had by all.
Lacking Graduation Appreciation
It took me years to appreciate graduations. I wasn’t too excited about my own exit from high school. Our ceremony didn’t take place until the second week of June, just in time for the summer humidity to settle in. I waited impatiently for the principal to reach the “Ws” in my sizable class.
Fortunately, in college they didn’t read off all the names, just mailed our diplomas later. Anxious to get it over with and being a typical jaded college graduate, I wore cut-offs under my gown. I had not one whit of understanding about what a special day it was.
One memory sticks out from those years: the “old fogeys” who seemed to be angry at anyone in their teens or early 20s. We weren’t like the Greatest Generation. In their eyes, we were lazy, spoiled and sure to ruin things once we took over.
I considered such criticism unjust and unfair, just like I do similar gripes aired at today’s young folks.
A friend who has since passed into eternity grumbled on the last visit we made to his home about how spoiled the teenagers in his town were.
“Well,” I thought. “If that’s the case, don’t blame the kids. They didn’t do it to themselves.”
I am especially looking forward to our great-niece’s graduation. We missed her older brother’s ceremony in 2020; Covid problems postponed it three times. Ditto for the family party planned for the day after.
Finally, with things so uncertain and quarantines a possibility, we called our great-nephew to express our regrets, but we just weren’t going to make it.
In his case, we wound up being able to unexpectedly watch the graduation online. To accommodate the students’ parents—the only people allowed in to the stadium—his school divided the class of 350 into six ceremonies.
It was a bit of a surreal occasion, over in just 30 minutes. The only reason we recognized our great-nephew is we could see his flaming red hair from the back as he lined up for his diploma.
Another thing stuck out from that evening: one of the two short talks given by graduates. As the young man ticked off things he hoped to accomplish, I thought, “This guy has a good head on his shoulders.”
So it is with the sizable group of family and friends’ children who will be receiving their diplomas. They are bright, capable, admirable young people who I believe will step into the future with eagerness, vision and the technical skills we old folks lack. Let’s send them off with a cheer.
Among other things, I belong to a fife-and-drum group. One of us is a special-ed teacher, who asked us several years ago if we would perform for the graduation at his school. We did so, and that event has become one of the highlights of our year. The program these students are in organizes internships during the school year and over the summer so that when they graduate, they have job experience, resumes, and professional connections. The ceremony itself is joyous – the kids are full of themselves, for this is their day, and they’ve worked hard at this achievement. Their cheers for their fellow graduates are deafening, and the teachers and staff join in loudly. It’s an event not to be missed!