Reflections of Yesteryear
Yesterday was the graduation of our granddaughter’s 8th grade class. The ceremony was attended by close to a thousand spectators who came to see their child, sibling, grandchild, or friend receive the diploma that acknowledges completion of middle school. As I looked across the sea of faces popping from the red graduation gowns, I thought that these 8th graders looked more grown up than I remembered my own children looking at that age. Certainly the young ladies seemed much more grown up than what I remember being at that age. When I returned home I looked at my own 8th grade graduation photos. I was surprised to see that, in fact, I was looking quite “grown up” in my own right. My hair had been styled. I was wearing a fancy dress. My shoes had a small heel and I had on just a touch of makeup – something I am sure my parents did not typically allow for me at 14. I then began comparing our granddaughter’s experience to my own. The commencement ceremonies were quite different. Growing up, I attended a very small school. Our class was less than 100 students. Hers was closer to 500. Our school had no band, no orchestra. Last night’s ceremony featured the school band playing the Battle Hymn of the Republic and a very moving rendition of “For Good” by the school orchestra. Last night’s audience included family and friends, some donning graduation party accessories – oversized 2015 glasses, red streaks in the hair to show school spirit. Attire ranged from dressy to casual with some dressed in shorts and tee shirts. Back when I graduated, oh so many long years ago, family members put on their Sunday best. That I know for sure. Afterwards the children were talking about getting together at a friend’s homes for sleepovers or sitting around a bonfire. The “formal” graduation parties are scheduled from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. Back in the late 1960’s we returned home with family members for cake and ice cream. No matter how graduation celebrated, how the program is orchestrated, when the graduation party is held, or how the children or their admirers are attired, the ceremony is for a group of children to march through another stepping stone in life’s journey. They gather one last time with the classmates who sat side by side with them for their years of middle school. As a collective they are given an ovation that acknowledges their completion of 8th grade and a diploma that says they are prepared for high school. And whether the commencement was 20 years ago, 40 years ago or yesterday, it is an occasion that gives parents pause to reflect upon how quickly their child has grown and to ponder how soon this child will be off to college. Parents’ smiles bear the hint of fear of the unknown for what lies ahead for their little one. Their hearts beat a little faster as they silently whisper wishes of success and easy times in their child’s future. Graduation is the exclamation point of completion of a program. For 8th grade graduates, it is one of those moments when parents and grandparents reflect and begin to internalize how quickly this child will become an independent adult. Congratulations to all graduates and especially to our lovely granddaughter.