Graduation Day -- 06/16/00

Today my daughter graduated from high school.

I remember her graduation from Riverside Drive Nursery School in 1987. I joked at the time that so many parents were recording the ceremony with VHS camcorders that it looked like a presidential press conference. The graduating class sang some songs and then we went to the cafeteria for juice and cookies.

I remember her graduation from kindergarten at St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary School in 1988. The graduating class wore little construction paper mortar board hats they had made. They marched a long processional to the auditorium stage. The children sang songs; the principal made a speech; the students were called forward, one by one, to receive their diplomas; then they sang another song. Jennifer would be going on to attend Horace Mann Elementary School, our neighborhood public school. (The public schools in Binghamton did not yet have full day kindergarten back then. A few years later, however, Jennifer would return to the parochrial school system to attend St. Patrick's Middle School for grades five, six and seven.) Adam, her older brother, was home from college for the summer. Sean, her younger brother, just a toddler, was looking forward to entering Riverside Drive Nursery School in the fall. After the ceremony we all had juice and cookies.

I remember her junior high school graduation in 1996. She had only attended the second semester of eighth grade in this school. She had switched back to the public school system in Binghamton, NY for eighth grade because she had become very interested in running and Binghamton's West Junior High School had a full 8th grade cross country and track program. When our move to Rhode Island became definite and I accepted my employer's job offer, Sean and I moved here in October. We stayed with my mother-in-law while Sean started school and I started my new job and searched for a house. Nancy and Jennifer stayed behind in Binghamton so that Nancy could attempt to oversee the sale of our house and so Jennifer could finish the cross country season. Now she was graduating from junior high here in Rhode Island. Graduation was held in the school gymnasium. It was hot and crowded. I only took photographs, our old video camera was no longer functioning. Maybe my memory is faulty, but I'd swear that juice and cookies were served in the cafeteria afterwards, but I may be wrong. After the ceremony I took a picture of Jennifer holding her diploma and a sweetheart rose in front of the school. Nancy and I were astonished to think that our little girl was about to enter high school.

Now comes high school graduation.

There had been some weather concerns. The town has no indoor space large enough to hold everyone who would want to attend so in case of rain the ceremony would have to be held in the high school gymnasium and each graduate could only have two guests. Fortunately, although the morning was very damp and foggy, once the fog burned off we had a warm and sunny day. Graduation was held in the athletic fields behind the high school. Yes, I videotaped most of the proceedings. Only Nancy and I were able to attend. Sean had to work and Adam caught some bug that left him in New York with a sore throat and fever, seeking a doctor instead of an AmTrak train. No juice and cookies after the ceremony, but I picked up a pizza and some hot wings that Nancy and Jennifer and I had for our post-graduation dinner.

I remember other graduations.

I remember my own, of course, Kingston High School, 1961. I can recall so clearly the waves of nostalgia for my high school days that swept over me during my senior year. Nostalgia? How can you feel nostalgia for something you are still in the midst of? Yes... well, if that can be done, I was doing it. I was so aware that our high school years were coming to an end, that we would all be scattering in many directions and that our lives would never be the same. And I didn't have a clue as to just what kinds of upheaval we would experience in our lives, I simply knew that our sheltered high school existience was coming to an end. It seems as if it were just yesterday. No, that's not quite right. Not yesterday, but surely not thirty-nine years ago. How could so many years have passed since something I experienced? I was there, seeing, hearing, living it... and now it is history, so long ago.

I sort of remember my college graduation... that remark was a bit of a joke... the ceremony was held outdoors with the graduates seated under a huge canopy... and my brother managed to take a picture of me sleeping during the commencement speaker's address.

I remember when Nancy and I received our master's degrees (as I've related elsewhere on this site, we co-authored our master's thesis)... I had to persuade her to attend the ceremony. She said she didn't see the point but I said we had worked too hard for too long not to attend. We went by ourselves, no guests. (Jennifer was just one year old at the time.)

I remember Adam's high school graduation... 1986... my first born, my baby, graduating from high school. Graduation was held in the Broome County Veteran's Memorial Arena -- the same venue that hosts professional hockey and the circus, in other words, lots and lots of room. I didn't videotape it -- we didn't buy our camera until a few months later -- but I took many still pictures. One of the graduation seniors played his guitar and sang "American Pie" -- which apparently the seniors had selected as their class song -- in honor of students in the class of '86 who had died (primarily in car accidents) during their high school career. It was well done and touching. My mother came to the graduation, along with my brother and his wife.

It seems as if just a few weeks later but actually four years had gone by and we got to attend Adam's college graduation in 1990. (It feels very strange to realize your son has gone to his tenth high school reunion when it seems you had just finished arranging for grandparents to babysit him so that you could attend your own tenth reunion. Now he has his ten year college reunion this year.)

Nancy went on to earn another master's degree a few years ago. This one was in education; she graduated summa cum laude and was the speaker for the school of education at their graduation ceremony.

This is the season for graduations.

And there will be more ahead of me... Sean will graduate from high school in 2003... Jennifer will be starting college this fall and will graduate in 2004... Sean will probably be a member of the college graduating class of 2007. These dates sound like something out of science fiction.

Best wishes to all graduates!

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