May 23, 2008

I can't help it if I get distracted.

I suppose I should be ashamed of myself, but as I sat there yesterday, I had an unexpected reaction to the surroundings. Oh, I had the normal set of bittersweet thoughts you have at graduations, but as I sat there on those hard aluminum bleachers my mind wandered a bit.

I’m not sure how to explain it. Scrunched in too-tightly together with a few thousand other sweaty parents and grandparents and siblings and friends in the old football stadium. The whiff of outdoor-grade perfume mixed in with the occasional taint of a beer sloshed down and a smoke burnt to the filter in the car on the way over. The dimming light of a May afternoon that made the surrounding trees and low hills seem close and dense, and softened the clash of the red gowns on the green field. The sound of the speakers echoing through the neighborhood. Maybe it was the combination of all of that, but after we watched them all come in, and after we’d said the Pledge, and all sat back down, and I sat there listening to the valedictory, I was overcome by a peculiar sense of how uniquely American it all seemed.

I probably should have been at least as moved by the more personal aspect of watching my daughter receive her diploma, but at that particular moment, all I could think of was how the same ceremonies were being played out at similar venues in other small towns across the United States. And it made me so very proud to be part of that type of place.

No, we still don’t quite have down the proper way to wear a mortarboard (hint—pinned vertically to the back of your big hair-do isn’t it), but we still figure it’s important to have one. History, and all.

No, even though we make the announcement to hold applause so everyone can be recognized and one kid doesn’t get the silent treatment while another gets whoops and cheers, that lasts only about twenty people in, and then there’s that first guy, the one who had hurried down the Miller Lite and the Camel on the way over, who has to unsteadily give a big Rebel yell when his niece’s name gets read. And so, from then on out, the chorus of hollers and screeching ululations starts in earnest. (Well, except for those left-out kids with shy relatives or no friends, who wish at least one of their kin would lighten up for once in their lives and give him a little yell.) (And no, I’m not speaking personally, since my mother-in-law gave a long loud whistle worthy of a hog farmer at slop time when Oldest’s name was called.) Why? Because Americans love to cheer, even if under certain circumstances it might veer toward the uncouth.

No, there might not be anyone in the class who grows up to be President, but unlike some places in this world, you can’t say for sure someone won’t.

We’ve got a good thing here. Might not quite be doing everything exactly right, or in the exact right way, but I doubt you’ll find anyone working harder at—well, I don’t know—working hard at doing something. I don’t know, maybe it’s like that everywhere else in the world kids are graduating from high school. But I don’t think so.

Anyway, Oldest did graduate, and will be going off to Montgomery in the fall, and maybe that bit of distance and responsibility will make thoughts in the future lean more to the sweet side of the bittersweet equation. Or not. Hard to tell about such things.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at May 23, 2008 11:38 AM

Congratulations to you and Miss Reba.

Posted by: steevil (Dr Weevil's bro Steve) at May 23, 2008 11:58 AM

Thank you, sir.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at May 23, 2008 12:22 PM

Y'all have done 99.9999% of the job, conga-rats :) I guess we'll see what she does with the oyster she's been given. So with one down & three left to go were are y'all going?

Posted by: Chef Tony at May 23, 2008 03:55 PM

Well, not Disneyland, that's for sure.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at May 23, 2008 04:03 PM

I've read where people are appalled that friends and family are cheering children who graduate.

Why should they expect another response when they site the ceremonies in football and (in Jason's case, he graduated from LSU with Shaquille O'Neal) basketball stadia?

Or maybe that's the institutional response to something that was going on before.

Posted by: Janis Gore at May 23, 2008 09:04 PM

I hate to say it, but I guess I'm one of those who'd prefer a little more decorum. I don't like absolute silence, either, but I say if you're going to make noise, either applaud politely for everyone, or come up with something more clever to say than screeching "WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOEEEEEEEEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIOOOOOOOO--YOU SO HOT, GIRL!" in a high-pitched, banshee-like scream into my right ear.

Color me pedantic that way.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at May 23, 2008 09:47 PM

Jason took seven years to graduate.

I have to say that I screamed "Yessssss."

Posted by: Janis Gore at May 23, 2008 11:31 PM

I didn't go to mine.

I considered them something like menses.

Posted by: Janis Gore at May 23, 2008 11:39 PM

Congratulations to all.

Posted by: kitchen hand at May 26, 2008 04:05 AM

Miss Janis, I shall never look at graduation ceremonies in the same way ever again.

And thanks, Kitchen Hand. And since we have you checking in from the international scene, what are high school graduation ceremonies like down in your part of the world? I get the feeling Australia is probably a whole lot more like America in this regard than stuffy Olde Sodde.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at May 26, 2008 08:55 AM

Congrats on getting through your first of hopefully three more HS graduation days. I'd say the requirement for no cheering during the graduation ceremony is kinda silly, but that's a debate for another day. Enjoy basking in the glow of having another graduate in the house, who will hopefully not be too financially demanding on her parents for the next four years or so (as if they had the extra $$$ to throw her way).

Speaking of financial demands, is the cost of commuting having you look at options, i.e. driving a motorcycle to work? ;)

Posted by: Marc V at May 26, 2008 10:56 PM

I'm thinking of living at the office.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at May 27, 2008 07:39 AM

You'd certainly save a mortgage payment or two. Or you could leave everyone else back in the house and you could watch TV or use the internet without interruption.

Posted by: skinnydan at May 27, 2008 08:21 AM

Really, about the only problem I foresee is trying to take a bath in the sink with hot water from the coffee pot. I suppose I'll manage.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at May 27, 2008 09:17 AM

Congratulations to you on surviving these past several years and not winding up in jail for having strangled anyone.

I think there is something wonderful and very American about high school graduations. Of course, at mine we got a lecture from a black man who had attended Brown and Harvard about how oppressed he and all his people were. Really stirring stuff, I tell you.

Posted by: Jordana at May 28, 2008 04:33 PM

Say--he didn't, by chance, hang out with Michelle Obama, did he?

And thanks--not being incarcerated is a good thing.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at May 28, 2008 04:50 PM

The universities here are largely steeped in the style of the British universities. They cleave to all the most important traditions such as extremely long speeches about nothing in particular.

This is tempered with a popular culture influenced by America and you have the phenomenon of the old boys starched up to the nines and clapping politely before falling asleep again while the younger graduates congratulate themselves in somewhat heartier manner.

Personally, I enjoy both influences in general life. There is just one thing that annoys the hell out of me and that is when people approach my children and ask them to 'Gimme five!' while holding up their right hand and waving it around like a demented traffic policeman.

Posted by: kitchen hand at May 31, 2008 11:00 PM

I'm sort of the opposite--I insist that little kids who slap my hand when I hold it out to be shaken stop and give me a proper handshake. They seem quite baffled.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at June 2, 2008 08:04 AM

Congrats on the new graduate. (And, sorry it's taken me this long to stop by and check in. Your hap-hazard blogging has resulted in me finding other ways to while away my time!)

Posted by: BillWms01 at June 8, 2008 09:52 AM

Blogging? ME!? NEVER!! I gave that up a long time ago.

But I'm glad you did stop by anyway, Bill, and thanks for the kind words.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at June 8, 2008 09:52 PM