I recently attended a high school graduation and what an entertaining evening. REALLY. I’m not kidding. Okay so here’s what happened. G & I arrived about 10 minutes early to packed stands. We took the first two openings we saw, row 2 on the 30 yard line farthest from the stage. (There were also chairs set up on the field for people with tickets). Soon “Never-met-a-stranger-G” was entertaining our section of the bleachers. A family with 4 of the most well behaved children I have ever seen were right in front of us and the kids immediately started interacting. What happened next was entirely G’s fault as he encouraged the kids per usual.
Kid 1; “Hey Mister, Where did you get that hat?” G-“Mexico”. Kid 2 ( adorable girl 5 years old) “You mean real Mexico?”
Kid 3; (Middle girl trying to get in on older brother and younger sister’s action) “Mister, Why are your boots so pointy?” *All 4 kids, their parents, and an old man left of G look down at his feet* G-“That’s so I can kill the bugs in corners.” Now, I could see the emotions pass over their face, ‘should I laugh or am I going to get in trouble if I laugh?’ He smiles, they laugh. Old man next to G: “What did he say?” His wife: “He kills bugs. BUGS”. Old man looks back down at G’s boots visibly irritated.
At this point I have to interject that the procession of 367 seniors had begun through a gauntlet of parents on the field (you know, the ones with tickets). They lined up in 2 lines for the grads to pass through all the while taking pictures. At times, in their zeal, they completely blocked the progress. Three songs played…then started over again. Therefore our banter wasn’t making us miss any action on the field. Plus we were on the second row and a gaggle of people with balloons & signs were still streaming in trying to find seats blocking any idea of a view. Okay. Back to the conversation;
Kid 1: “Mister, (pause…looks up while he is thinking ) You’re reeeallly old”. Kid 3 (Middle Girl not to be outdone) “You’re older than my grandpa!” To which G replies-“I AM OLDER THAN YOUR GRANDPA.” *Parents nervously laughing*
Mom of the inquisitive kids: “How old are you?” G answers-“73” ALL FOUR KIDS EXCLAIM “WOW!”. (Kid 2-, the adorable 5 year old covers her eyes).
Old man to the left of G (not their grandpa): “What did he say?” His Wife shouts: “He’s seventy-three” (people behind him laugh and nod at G)
Mom of 4 inquisitive kids: “I thought you were in your fifties! You look young”. Old man (who I think is not yet even close to 73 but looks older than G) shakes his head, GETS UP, MOTIONS TO HIS WIFE & THEY LEAVE!
Preteen Girl on my right who has been listening: “Are you in love with him?” (which I think is kind of a weird out of the blue question but hey, we ARE the entertainment during this turtle walk the grads are doing so I answer) “Well yes, we have been together 25 years” Teenage girl: “Woah. That’s quite an accomplishment!” to which the surrounding couples above her chuckle too. We are all sitting in the bleachers to celebrate accomplishments so I roll with it. The mood around us remains festive, total strangers striking up oddly personal conversations all thanks to my G.
For the rest of the night our section enjoyed the celebration together. We all shared a belly laugh when unbeknownst to the owner of a huge bundle of balloons, a wind had blown the balloons to engulf a man walking past in the opposite direction. The poor man was trapped in a sea of blue, gold and black. The trapped man panicked, struggled, batted and swam his way out of the mess. What WE saw were balloons, elbows, balloons, knees, man twisting around, more balloons. What we HEARD was Squeaky squeaky squeak “Sorry dude” just as the balloons finally set the captive free. They just kept going walking away in opposite directions like it never happened.
We all listened to the same speeches together and a collective wave rippled through the bleachers from over 30 year old onlookers as we questioned why so many speeches by the top graduates referenced TV Shows as inspirational. One recounted episodes and praised the accomplishments of a fictional character as if she was presenting that character an award. The only other quote was taken from Cardi B. Not one literary quote in ANY of the speeches. None. No standards like Walt Whitman, or Mark Twain. Perhaps my time as a lover of books is old fashioned now. I’m the old woman in the stands thinking “kids these days…do they know how fascinating it is that Harper Lee is still relevant?” Perhaps the student speech givers knew that their peers understood why the quote from Cardi B was special, and why Kim Possible or Ron Stoppable is inspirational even if I wasn’t in on it.
Every speech from the hall of fame inductees to teachers to students had some reference to the support received from the community. Whether it was from fellow students, family, teachers, or the community itself, all of them called out each other for kindness and support they received. I found that so comforting and somewhat unique in the political rhetoric speeches have become today’s norm. Perhaps that is the epicenter of this school’s success. A community celebrating each other’s accomplishments.
This diverse school had nearly 5 million dollars worth of scholarships, so many awards to the senior class including awards in academic decathlons, a 92% rate of continuing education from this class alone, national awards in things like ROTC, and even in Fashion. These were opportunities we didn’t even have “in my day”. It came as a surprise to me that the biggest cheer of the night was for the principal like he was some kind of rock star. What a great time to be a graduate. Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the school is exactly that, making us all wish we were one of them.
Two and a half hours later many families had already duck-walked in front of us out of the stands as soon as their grad received a diploma. I KNEW their student had received a diploma because 3 foot pictures of their grad were produced, screams, horns & booming confetti cannons shot over us all as the names were announced. The confetti cannons were such a hit with our new friends that, for a while at least, the children were occupied with collecting. “I get red, you get blue…” Those of us in our little section stayed to the end. Together. We helped each other gather belongings, amble out of the bleachers and bid goodbye like we were long lost friends. Kids gave hugs to G, hands were shaken, good luck offered.
We looked for my nephew who we were there to celebrate and met the family off to the side of the common area, out near the vending machines. He was number three Senior in his class and remained humble and grateful for the support from his parents, brother, aunts, uncles and cousin who were present and gathered in a circle around him taking pictures in terrible lighting. Oh and score! We got out of our parking space onto the street like the parking gods were watching. Yep we REALLY had a blast at this graduation.
Lorelei: (aka kid 2 -five year old adorable girl ): “Hey Mister, are you gonna come to my graduation?” G- “Yes I am so you better work very hard.” Lorelei: “Okay I will.” and runs to her dad.
See you in 2031 Lorelei.