For most, summer marks the beginning of the wedding season. This is the time to double check calendars for the number of weddings to attend, and thus budget wisely to ensure these costly affairs doesn’t leave you broke by the end of summer. Not for me. Instead, summer marks a different season- the graduation season. For the last few years I have had quite a few to attend- whether it is elementary school, high school or university. Much like weddings, graduation often causes you to reminisce. Or is it the opposite? Graduation ceremonies often causes you to reflect on your lives while weddings allow you to dream about the future.
Ceremonies I suppose do that. They are mystical. In terms of the robes that are worn at a graduation, the procession of the graduates as well as those other dignitaries, the orderliness from beginning to end, the prayers given up to God and sometimes Anthems are sung. It’s a special place- a place of worship even if it’s not held at a church. The most interesting thing about the graduates is that, although they know this is a special day, they rarely notice the significance of the “service” much less feel the presence of the divine. In fact many of us in the ‘pews’ never do. Those guests observing the ceremony see themselves as just that, observers. They never take part but they are attuned to everything that is happening. They will sit for hours anticipating what is yet to come- excited to see their special graduate walk along the aisles to take their seats upfront. They are willing to stay and listen to every speech no matter how useless it might be. At graduation ceremonies, everything has meaning.
In the last two days I had a chance to sit through two very special graduation ceremonies. Both different, both beautiful, and both mystical in their own special way. They were also both Christian- what seem rare in this day and age. The first was held in a baptist church, a very large and beautiful building I might add. We, the guests of one special girl took our seats in the left corner, third row on the benches by the stairs, chosen by the youngest sisters of the graduate. When the ceremony started, we watched the procession move from the entrance of the church and upon the pulpit to take their seats. What I generally notice at any graduation, is orderliness. Everything has its place and time. At the beginning, we stand up for prayer. Then we take our seats to watch the events and stand again to watch the graduates leave.
Yesterday, the other graduation took a slightly different sequence with 200 graduates marching to their seats in the middle of the gym. This is a large catholic school with many brilliant students as is observed when you hear their names called and the distinctions behind their names added. This ceremony took over three hours to complete, with two salutatorians’ speech to start and one valedictorian speech to end. Oh it was a long night! As the principal alluded at the end of the speech, we were troopers. Even when the ceremony ended, we stuck around to take photos with our graduate, we allowed her to take photos of her friends, we stopped to have refreshments neatly laid out in the cafeteria on tables, and then we allowed the graduate to talk more and take even more photos with her friends. By the time we left it was already past 10 pm, over four hours later. That did not prevent us from having dinner at our favorite family restaurant. It was probably well past 1 am when all the excitement died and we were leaving to go home, but it was well worth it.
Four years ago, I was with this same graduate leaving the only school she had ever known; to take that large step to high school. Now it’s different. She is an adult, and this time she is off to University. I can recall those years of my life like it was yesterday. I remember graduating from the very same gym, taking pictures in the very same hall and having refreshments in the very same cafeteria, 13 years ago. I used to walk along those same halls, sometimes run because I could never get to where I was going soon enough. I had goals on top of goals to achieve, and I just needed to get going. It’s too bad we often rush these years when truly they are, should be, the best. For me, I couldn’t wait to grow up and get out, for my own reasons of course. But don’t we all have our own?
Now, as I venture in the principal’s office, for the first time since I left, I get the feeling that not much has changed. For the most part, I could recall my days walking in the same office though of course it was never for anything bad, may I say. I feel a sense of pride because this school taught me, grew me up and sent me off proudly, in the same way it had done today for my own cousin. I’m speaking with the principal, who used to be my vice principal, with excitement in my voice. I am happy about what I had done with my life and I’m happy that it all started right at this very place I stood, 13 years ago.
They say thirteen is an unlucky number, but today I’m viewing it differently. It’s a beautiful number, the number for return and reminiscing. I’m pleased and totally in awe. Yes, graduation on a whole is certainly a mystical experience and I’m leaving this time even prouder now than the day I left- 13 years ago.