Summertime. Well, not officially for a few weeks, but close enough.
I’ve been awakened in recent days by the sound of morning doves outside my window. It’s a welcome relief after 40 days and 40 nights of heavy, steady rain pounding against the side of the ark.
But before we can pack up the old Rambler and head to the lake, we have the usual commencement exercises to commence with. From kindergarten graduations — OK, they’re kind of cute — to university exercises, and all points in between.
A couple of years ago I received an invitation to the graduation of a friend’s son — from the sixth grade! Now I have to go out and buy a gift or put money in a card for a milestone that should not be regarded with such high esteem. The sixth grade! Perhaps a fundraiser of sorts would be in order for the boy if he didn’t graduate from the sixth grade.
Compare that to a friend of mine. I used to call her my friend’s daughter but she has since “graduated” to being my friend. Cassie was home-schooled and moved through the ranks unceremoniously. At 13, she was taking courses at Middlesex Community College in Lowell, where she spent three semesters. After that, she spent three years at the Northeast School of Theology and Missions in Dracut. Then it was off to Rivier College in Nashua, and an associate’s of science degree in nursing.
Now, if anyone deserves a huge graduation fete, it’s Cassie, who will turn 21 in July.
Along with graduations come the standing headlines of student bodies protesting the commencement speaker. This year is was Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who spoke at the Boston College Commencement and was given an honorary degree. A handful of students — a handful — stood and turned their backs on her as she spoke. We’re not talking about Scott Peterson here; we’re talking about the U.S. secretary of state. Chill out, kids.
But I guess it’s what college graduations are all about.
High-school graduations, especially at public schools, have been circling the bowl in recent years. I remember reporting on one graduation that quickly turned into something resembling a Pearl Jam concert almost moments after the superintendent’s opening remarks.
Most of the boys wore cutoffs and no shirts under their gowns, giving the impression that was all they were wearing. The boys, and some girls, brought with them an arsenal of high-powered water guns and proceeded to shoot fellow students as they went up on the dais to receive their diplomas.
Inflatable toys of all kinds, including the kind that are only found in adult book stores, came flying out of the sky and an impromptu game of beach ball took place as the valedictorian spoke. In the rush to retrieve an errant toy, one boy came very close to knocking over a girl who was waiting in line to receive her diploma. The girl had cerebral palsy and wasn’t too steady on her feet to begin with.
Ironically, this group’s senior trip just days before was to New York where they took in a Yankees-Red Sox game. Seems like they brought back a little of the Bronx Zoo with them.
In the weeks leading up to graduation, there are the stories of the mock disasters on school grounds, designed to scare the teens into acting responsibly on prom night. I’ve been to a number of these events and nowhere was there a more poignant message than at Dracut High School, where the Grim Reaper went through the classrooms and randomly chose students who would be “dead.” No guts. No gore. But nonetheless, powerful.
And then, before the prom, we are treated to the annual story of the boy who will not be allowed to wear a gown to the prom. Hey idiot, when you get out into the real world, you won’t be allowed to wear a gown to the office either. You won’t even be allowed to wear a gown if you work in the check-out line at the local supermarket. What’s wrong with you? Didn’t I meet you at your sixth-grade graduation?
Dennis Shaughnessey’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.