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Fleeting Moments on Graduation Day

Eighteen years of life, thirteen years of schooling, and countless evenings of coaching, admonishing, encouraging, lecturing, applauding, tolerating, and loving all led up to a single day that required tremendous coordination and patience to align all the pieces just right for the series finale. Though today felt about three hundred hours long, its unique centerpiece will seem fleeting when viewed in retrospect years from now.

Today was my son’s high school Graduation Day.

Graduation Day, Class of 2013

Over 860 students were slated to pack into the Indiana Convention Center to stand tall for their accomplishments in front of their loved ones. A big-city graduation this size required a few hours’ worth of morning rehearsal in addition to the evening’s main event. At this same convention center I’ve attended one college graduation, the Super Bowl LXVI NFL Experience, three GenCons, two Star Wars Celebrations, and one International Festival. As you might imagine, this event rated a much higher priority to me, even though seniors in graduation gowns are a weird substitute for sci-fi cosplayers.

My wife and I encouraged him not to take the occasion for granted. A mind-boggling number of things can go wrong in a child’s life. If all the elements hadn’t lined up properly for all these students, the ceremonial space would’ve had a very different appearance. For too many kids — worldwide, nationwide, across town — graduation will never be a fleeting memory, only a fleeting fancy.

Indiana Convention Center, Exhibit Hall A and B

The proceedings themselves were shockingly short. They’ve had practice over the decades honing their large-scale bottle-episode parades into a tidy, efficient assembly-line model. Keep the lines tightly contracted, pronounce all names correctly while only leaving two seconds between each, and stop for absolutely nothing. Voila! For me, graduation was a numbing, three-hour ordeal in which 700+ teenagers listened to a series of inspirational speeches that boiled down to either, “We did an awesome thing!” or “Let’s go do awesome things!” then slowly took turns onstage. Here, the speeches were modest and the 800+ were whisked from stage left to stage right, all within seventy-five surprisingly organized minutes.

The largest drawback to the evening was the long distance between the stage and most of the audience. Poor lighting, poorer cameras, and a wish for souvenir photos now now now caused many proud parents to leave their dissatisfying seats behind and sneak closer to wherever they thought was convenient for their photographic needs, despite blocking the view of other parents sitting politely behind them and hoping to see their own kids. We’re fortunate enough to be early in the alphabet and therefore had already had our moment by the time the Wall of Phones had reached maximum density, by which time a fed-up administrator sicced a pair of IPD officers on them with light warnings and stern glances.

I was a little irritated at the time, but to their credit, I can’t fault their excitement level, their determination to capture and preserve this fleeting milestone. Judging by the number of empty seats I noticed in the back, and by the number of lamentable deadbeat-parent stories you can read in any given newspaper, apparently not all parents shared this level of enthusiasm for their kids’ accomplishments. For them, graduation was a fleeting thought quickly dispelled in favor of what mattered more to them.

backs of heads, Graduation Day, family photography

I’ll admit I misted up a little when the Class of 2013 was introduced and marched into the hall. Despite the lapses in planning, issues in scheduling, and fatigue in our bones that complicated most of the preceding hours, every little bit was worth it to see my son cross the finish line of this fleeting phase in his life before moving on to the next of many phases to come.

graduation

I’m a little disappointed the ceremony didn’t conclude with the entire class brandishing weapons at an evil mayor who’s just turned into a giant demon snake, but this’ll do fine.

[Special thanks to the WordPress.com Weekly Photo Challenge for partial narrative inspiration.]

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9 responses

  1. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting | anniesshowroom

  2. Pingback: Weekly photo challenge: Fleeting | studio Nem

  3. Congratulations to your son and you! BTW, it’s been a while, but what does the gold sash/tassel signify? (I still have my son’s gold robe from high school as well as from UCSD and added to it last year’s Ph.D.robes/sash. I’m a sentimental momma)
    PS I’ve been absent from posting for a while, kind of disgusted with the whole shilling of products and in some cases just downright asking for cash from some bloggers. Am I jealous? Maybe.

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    • The gold sash is for the Academic Honors Diploma, for which he was required to take a set of higher-level courses. I didn’t want to brag too much, but…yeah, I’m proud of him for that. The gold tassel (as opposed to standard color) had to do with another award, too.

      The product-shilling seems to be part and parcel of the blogging “game”, though I haven’t had any serious temptations on that front. I’ll admit I wondered at one point what good it might do to add a PayPal “Donate” button to my own site, except (a) I thought such things were against WordPress terms of service, and (b) it’s looked so tacky when I’ve seen other bloggers devoting entire multiple entries to “Won’t you please help?” and rattling the tip jar at us readers that I dropped the notion. (If I had a book put together that I could sell, that’d be very different, but at least then there’d be a quid-pro-quo exchange.)

      So yeah, for now I remain one of those steady few blogging for fun and/or art and/or attention. 😀

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      • Well you should be proud and that’s not bragging, that’s acknowledgement of hard work and a job well done! Your son earned those distinctions by choosing the right path to take in life (academic) as opposed to all the other stuff they’re peer tempted by. I am so proud of him and I don’t even know him, but there’s nothing more I admire and respect than education (and being a kind person of course) You put it so well, shaking the jar, I couldn’t have said it any better. I was thinking of adding a PayPal donate category to fund my next Chanel purchase. What do you think? (ha ha)

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        • Thanks very much for the kind words about my son. He actually hates when we celebrate his accomplishments, so this weekend has been a little uncomfortable for him. Too bad! We’ve been forcing the compliments on him anyway. Parents’ prerogative. 😀

          As for that Chanel tip jar…I think you’re gonna need a BIG PayPal button! Personally, I’d be happy just to earn enough to cover my weekly comics budget…

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