Tuesday, May 26, 2015


This weekend I attended a few graduation parties in my hometown.  One of them was for the youngest boy in the family I used to babysit for as a teenager and college student.  He was barely out of diapers when I started watching him which means it was many years ago and really has made me ponder the passage of time! 
High school graduation day at home, and in many small towns, is a festive day.  The ceremony is always on Sunday afternoon, and everyone usually has their graduation parties after on the same day.  Every year it is the same.  As the students line up outside the school to be congratulated, moms and helpful aunts and friends take off as fast as they can to beat their guests home and set out the food and drinks.  Everyone else mingles around for about twenty minutes in order to give those moms time to get their parties ready and plans out their party visiting strategy since everyone usually has multiple places to visit and they often fan out in all directions from town.  You want to make sure to be efficient by making a route and you want get to a house where you might want to hang out with the family for awhile last! 
I remember my graduation day with vivid details which came back to me this weekend.  I think it was because the day was warm and summery and quite similar to the day I graduated. 
Mostly I had a huge grin on my face the whole time.  I was nostalgic because that is my nature but I was also very excited about college and moving on.  Our graduation was late in the afternoon because a classmate's father was the superintendent of a school in another town who had graduation the same afternoon as we did.  As a result, parties were still happening late into the evening.  At around 9 p.m. the people who wanted to finish their night at our house were happily settled into chairs on the lawn and the screen porch with their beverages of choice and the school principal, who was friends with my parents, was wiped out after an exhausting day of making the graduation party rounds (my class had 28 kids so he probably visited at least 20 houses that afternoon) and decided to kick back in the living room in my dad's recliner.  I'll never forget coming downstairs from changing into my "party clothes" (which for the outdoor party I was heading to was jeans and a sweatshirt) and going to say goodbye to my cousins and finding him there and joking around for a few minutes. 
Yes, I had 28 people in my class which is shockingly small to some but was actually a very large class for my school.  I thought of my class this spring after reading the following article in Agweek, the agriculture publication produced by the Fargo and Grand Forks newspapers.  I used to read through it when I lived at home and my parents still had the newspaper delivered with our mail every day.  I would pretty much read anything that was in front of me on the table and Agweek often was.  There were lifestyle columns in addition to the technical farming stuff and they were usually very relatable like this one. 
This article, called "A Special Circle", says just what I want to say regarding the majority of my school years beginning in second grade.  I am not saying that I long for high school days or that I shed many tears when I left high school because I didn't.  But the connection between my circle of 28 will always exist as it does between many other small circles of all ages that exist out there in America. 
I graduated 5th or 6th (I honestly don't remember which!) out of my class, which earned me a spot speaking at our honors night the week before graduation.  I had a quick speech referencing the song "Forever Young" which my mom also referenced in her Valedictorian speech back in 1975.  I was inspired by it after seeing it used in a commercial with baby animals branching out from their mommy animals and I don't even think I have a copy of it!  I think I would have found it while cleaning my old room but I haven't yet.  It referenced having courage ("be courageous, and be brave, and in your heart you will always stay...forever yoooooung"...)  The courage spoke of that day couldn't even scratch the surface of the courage required to live an adult life.  Here we are, 14 years after that honors night, and long past the stage in life where we thought that the major hurdle in life to overcome was going to college and ending up with a job at the end of it.  Who could have imagined the adult things we would face as the years passed.  No one thought, back in 2001, that in 2014 one who sat there in our circle would have a baby with a congenital birth defect who would die at two months old and the rest of us would be struggling over the words to write to her in a sympathy card along with a donation to the Ronald McDonald House.  But who knows.  If she had a class of 400 instead of 28 maybe she wouldn't have received any cards from those old classmates.  Or maybe she would receive the same amount, just a tiny percentage of the people who walked the school halls with her. 
Occasionally when I was younger my dad would come inside in the middle of the day and change into church clothes and when asked what he was doing, the answer usually was that he was going to a funeral of someone because their son or daughter was in his class.  Those years will come for us as will the unthinkable years when we lose classmates and it's been 30 or 35 or more years and as we reunite to tell the same silly stories and call each other dumb old nicknames there will be people missing and we will be planting trees or something in memory of them.  And then 40 or 50 years will have passed and the class will consist of a small group of 68 year old grandparents riding on a float in the 4th of July parade, reminiscing about our juvenile teenage antics back in the 90s and 2000s.  I hope I can be there for that!



No comments: