Rob did not want to make a big deal out of high school graduation: light on the pomp, minimally-required circumstance. He didn’t participate in many of the optional fun senior things. And he’s going on to college, so he didn’t have that “done with school” feeling. So this is a report of that kind of graduation.
The week before high school graduation, there was an assortment of activities: final exams, several rehearsals for graduation, handing out yearbooks, picking up caps/gowns, a senior trip, a slideshow, a scholarship ceremony, an awards ceremony, a picnic.
I found I kept sort of forgetting about graduation, and then remembering it with a startled feeling. It sometimes felt like a big deal and sometimes didn’t.
There was also the odd overlay of remembering my own high school graduation, which doesn’t feel as long ago as it was. On the other hand, it’s long enough ago that I thought I remembered the song we were all playing then, and I was TOTALLY WRONG: the song I was thinking about came out after I graduated. So. I mean, I’d played it for Rob with tears welling in my eyes, full of fake memories of that song playing on the radio as we got ready for graduation, and now I feel a little sheepish. I had a whole mental montage, and it’s a lie.
As with college tours, high school graduation gave me the “Look how OLD we all are” feeling. Who is that plump middle-aged woman standing next to Rob in his graduation gown in that photo? OH IT IS I. You know how older people often say they don’t feel as old as they look? THAT TIME HAS COME TO COLLECT ME INTO ITS SAGGING ARMS.
You already know I cry easily, but I cry PARTICULARLY easily at anything ceremonial/symbolic: national songs, parades, dress uniforms, ritual costumes, ritual music, ritual rituals, synchronized salutes, official declarations, everyone standing for the bride. The graduation processional was a weepy moment. The formal declaration of graduation, read by the superintendent of schools, was another such moment. Look at us doing our formal human things!
The speeches by the class president and the class valedictorian were mercifully short: I will listen without external eye-rolling to teenagers talk about following their dreams and changing the world, but it’s easier on my eye-strings if they can keep it brief.
Our high school has a principal who is much better than average at speeches: he’s warm, friendly, personal, funny. He managed the In Memoriam section without choking up, but with a couple of pauses that made me choke up to think of him trying to keep from choking up.
I had expected to be weepy during the diplomas, but I was not. I had expected to be bored, but I was not: I had forgotten that they read people’s FULL NAMES during graduation! I was extremely interested to hear everyone’s middle name, and sat riveted throughout. Rob has four names, two of them difficult to pronounce (one of them my maiden name), and the reader got them all right; Rob said the reader was at the graduation rehearsals, getting pronunciations from everyone and then double-checking them. (I remember that from my own high school graduation.) I was very pleased to hear my maiden name read aloud in connection with my child, and very pleased to hear it pronounced correctly.
Afterward, they said “CONGRATULATIONS CLASS OF 2017!,” and all the parents stood up, and the graduates flung their caps into the air, and so there was another little dab at the eyes.
Then we found Rob in the crowd. I wanted pictures of him with some of his friends, and that wasn’t something he would have asked me to do but he was willing for me to do it, and then as it turned out he got into it once we started. Also, after feeling shy the first couple of times I had to ask a kid if I could take their picture with Rob, I felt much more comfortable: everyone was so chill about being asked, and so willing to pose, and I got a ton of cute pictures that Rob may appreciate later, but I wanted the photos for myself even if he doesn’t ever care about them.
Let’s see, now let’s talk about worries and how they turned out.
I was in general worried because it was a new thing and I didn’t know how it would go. But I was less worried than usual, because I’d been through high school graduation myself and knew the gist: I only needed to add the parental-role upgrade.
I was worried about Rob not participating in most of the senior fun stuff. I worried he’d regret it later. I worried that maybe I should have forced him. I worried it meant he was a weirdo. I expect to resolve these worries in one direction or another by the time he is my age.
We were all worried about the weather: if it had to be held indoors because of rain, then each graduate could only bring five guests; if it could be outdoors, there were no guest-number restrictions. (It did not rain.) I was also worried it would be very hot outside. (It was not.)
I was worried about what to wear, especially since there was the possibility of needing to climb bleachers. I didn’t need to worry, though: people wore everything from shorts/t-shirts to Easter church outfits.
I was worried about parking and seating, but that went fine. Graduates had to be there an hour before the ceremony, so we just stayed after dropping off Rob; there were still plenty of parking spaces and almost a full choice of seats. (I wouldn’t have wanted to come much later, though; people arrived in a constant stream, and I don’t know where everyone found parking.)
I was worried that it would be awkward to ask people to pose with Rob for pictures, but EVERYBODY was asking EVERYBODY to pose for pictures.
I was worried that I would cry an embarrassing amount, and that all the Sentimental Ritual Stuff would make me cry even more than I felt like crying—but I did not, and they did not. I’d say I cried significantly less than expected. I teared up a few times and that was it, and all around me other parents were doing the same. It’s much worse when I cry at band concerts, where NO ONE else is crying and I am doing a steady leak. The children are so earnest about their instrument-playing! and isn’t it wonderful that adults put in so much time and effort to teach children to make music! and look how much they improve each year! and look at how sweetly the older kids are helping the younger kids! And also there’s the inexplicably touching moment when the conductor does that signal that makes everyone put their instruments at the ready.