The Last Graduation…
A child has several graduations in their lifetime. My brother and I had a few from elementary school to junior high school, to high school, to college. That made eight graduations that my mother had to attend. But then I had the precious grandchildren she always prayed for, and soon they started graduating. My mother was much older by then, so attending graduations of any kind was no picnic. At one of my daughter’s graduation ceremonies from junior high school she lamented, “How the hell more graduations do we have to go to?” I couldn’t argue with her because graduations, while full of pomp and circumstance, pride and accomplishment, success and new beginnings, are really not much fun. And my children had even more graduations than I did, because now they start with pre-K ceremonies, Kindergarten Stepping Up, then elementary, junior high, high school and college. (Not to mention the five hour dance rehearsals that we had to endure for several years).
But this past Sunday, on Mother’s Day, my baby girl graduated from college with honors and a Bachelor of Science Degree majoring in Clinical Laboratory Science. Four long years of studying weekdays and every weekend and attending summer school are now over. I can only imagine what my mother would have had to say about this ceremony, after she would have told my daughter how much she loved her and how proud she was of her. I could almost hear her complaining from Heaven. Let me describe this ceremony and maybe you will hear my mother too!
First of all, they make us arrive at 8 am for a ceremony that begins at 10 am, so the 3,000 graduates can be arranged in alphabetical order and begin marching out at 9:15 am. We took our seats on the “great lawn” and waited. The sun was not supposed to come out, but it did. The grass beneath our seats made my daughter and my brother’s allergies act up. The sun was getting uncomfortably warm and causing some of us to burn. My brother’s head soon looked like a ripe tomato from the neck up. And the ceremony hadn’t even started. I was getting very annoyed with the people in our row, who kept walking in and out of their seats and being very inconsiderate. My brother and I have my mother’s bad gene, so does my older daughter. I couldn’t help but think that if one of us said anything to these miserable people, the other two would join in and ruin my daughter’s graduation, as security would have had to haul us off the campus. We all tried to bite our tongues as we kept in mind that this was our “Last Graduation.” We had endured all the rest with some dignity and grace, and I couldn’t ruin the day my daughter worked so hard to get to.
My mother’s bad gene makes one very irritable over the slightest things, especially when the sun is beating down on your head. The band had A LOT of time to kill while we waited, so they played some random songs. I guess they couldn’t find anything more appropriate with all the millions of songs out there. So I think I am hearing things when they start playing “Anchors Away.” I am having a WTH (what the hell) moment! What’s the use of complaining I keep telling myself. Just be quiet and this will all be over at 12:30 pm. Finally, at 10 am, as promised, and after 45 minutes of the song, “Pomp and Circumstance,” while the graduates marched to their seats, the ceremony begins. Speeches start. And, a nice little surprise for me! My old Speech professor that I had almost 40 years ago, was making a speech! Professor Greg was the nicest professor I had had and, as much as I dreaded Speech when I found out I had to take it, he made it the most fun class of my college career. The speeches all ended about 11 am. The keynote speaker was the head coach of the basketball team. He talked more about himself than he did about the graduates. It was very disappointing. I guess they couldn’t get someone…anyone…more relevant. Not only did he talk about himself, he compared the graduation to being in the final four of a basketball playoffs. Ugh!
At 11 am they begin to call each and every graduate up to the stage for their “diplomas.” Every one of the three thousand names were called as they paraded rapidly across the stage. Actually, I was surprised and even thrilled at the fact that the ceremony was actually going to end when they promised. By 12 pm everyone was antsy and had had enough. We were sitting out there in the sun for 4 hours already. The graduates in an even worse situation because they had to wear their caps and gowns over their clothes. At 12:15 we decided to get out of the sun and go stand in the shade. People had been leaving, and graduates had been leaving, all while the ceremony was still in progress. The school had no control over the chaos. There were people everywhere. Each of the 3,000 graduates got five tickets for a potential of 15,000 guests. We tried to find a spot where we could tell our daughter to meet us. Eventually, by 12:30 she had found her way over to where we were standing.
Trying to get off campus in a crowd that size was nearly impossible. At one point we had reached an impasse and were engulfed in a crowd that wasn’t moving. We kept inching our way through every chance we got. Finally, there was a clearing ahead and we sprinted forward to an opening and we took it. Now we were headed towards the car which would take us home to the delicious tray of lasagna I had prepared the day before. There was no point making reservations to eat out. It was Mother’s Day and on top of that there were communions and graduations going on all over. I couldn’t be sure of the time we would be done. So I was smart. I decided we would eat at home this week and go out to celebrate next week. And, my husband picked up a Baskin Robbins ice cream cake for dessert!
The “Last Graduation!” I know my mom would have been happy to hear those words. I also know that she would not have sat still that day. She would have had plenty to say, and in her nice outdoor voice too. The only thing that would have saved her from being thrown out would have been her advanced age. My mother would have been 96 years old. And after she got done complaining about the graduation, she would have started in on my lasagna, which could never be as good or better than hers. And then she would have started in on the lousy ice cream cake that they don’t know how to make and we don’t know how to pick out. That’s what was missing Sunday…my mom. She may not have been there physically, but she was there in spirit…a very loud spirit.