May 31, 2008

Graduation Daze

Left: St. Francis de Sales seniors lining up outside Gesu Church

We had the good fortune to have two high school graduations to attend this year for our youngest children. Unfortunately, both events were held on the same day, and we spent most of ten hours shuttling between two graduation ceremonies and a graduation baccalaureate Mass, hence the wordplay in the post's title.

Being somewhat experienced as parents, we knew that the key to a successful ceremony is the strategic deployment of personnel to the various sites at least an hour before the festivities, and the rather fierce competition for limited seating at the Seagate Center, the Peristyle Theater, and Gesu Church was interesting to observe. I used the technique of placing jackets, programs, cell phones, and keys to "mark" the seats I was saving, but desperate people still tried to talk their way into the delineated spaces:

"Are these seats taken?"

Then there is the unique genre of the valedictory and salutatory speeches, each of which contained the idealistic sentiments of young people not yet beaten down by the harsh realities of a hypercapitalist world, and chock full of the sorts of tired clichés that would drive me crazy in a composition paper ("the first day of the rest of our lives" or "the best years of our lives").

Yet in a speech by a nervous high school senior, such rhetoric is forgiven, although I started to reach my limit after two valedictorians, four salutatorians, and a class president spouted off much of the same well-worn turns of phrase. Of course, this day is not about me, so it was just as well that I stifled my inner grammarian and played my proper role as a clapping audience member. Heck, if the world revolved around me, I wouldn't have even attended the ceremonies, and instead stayed home and debated the type of imported glass sink that would best highlight the terracotta tile in my commode.

Or something like that.

High school graduations always bring out the most diverse group of people imaginable, and I find myself fascinated with the different ways in which folks celebrate their senior's moment in the spotlights. There is the demure, polite-clapping crowd, who look down their noses at the people who excitedly shout "That's my boy!" or "Whoo-Hoo!" or "Nat-a-LEEEEE!!!" I'm in the middle of the two camps, and I am not above hollering my kid's name at diploma time.

And then there are the buffoons who bring air horns into a closed building - not cool, dudes.

So to the various Classes of 2008: study hard, enjoy your college years (in a legal and responsible fashion, mind you), and call your parents once in a while. If you do these things, I guarantee you will be a success later in life. This is coming from someone whose early college years (1982-85) did not closely mirror the above advice, so I know from whence I pontificate.

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