Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Behold! The class of '08!

Graduations, like weddings and baby showers, come in clusters. Some years are dry, other years involve a dozen kids who you know or have known for ages. This year we have 8 invitations on our calendar between old babysitters, children of friends and baseball players from Mr. D's team.

As a general rule, I despise graduation ceremonies. They're long, boring, and filled with too much hot air from self-important braggarts. I HATE the preschool, kindergarten, 5th grade, 6th grade and 8th grade graduation because those seem more a foregone conclusion than reason to celebrate. (The "drop out rate" for those grades in our district is 0% so I see absolutely no cause for celebration here--even though the Happyland PTA wants to invite parents to the 5th grade graduation. I shared my feelings at our last meeting and the reaction was mixed.) High school graduations are particularly torturous because of the boundless cliches and the inflated emotions.

Disclaimer: I bagged out of all of my graduations. I went waterskiing the day of my high school graduation (it was 85 degrees and gorgeous out--who would want to spend that kind of day in a gymnasium with 2,000 of their most distant acquaintances?) I was interviewing for gainful employment half a state away the day of my college graduation. When I got my graduate degree, it seemed mean to ask Mr. D to sit in a crowd of a hundred thousand people and hope to glimpse me in the throng of Badger Red robes in Madison, so I shunned that event as well.

I endured graduation ceremonies as a high school teacher and senior class advisor and for some people this was the Biggest Day of Their Life until maybe their wedding day. For others, the event was No Big Deal. I felt bad taking up space on those occasions because I'd rather see more excited people filling the bleachers instead of "Pomp and Circumstance" weary folks like myself. But every year kids would walk across that stage and I'd genuinely cheer for them, pleased either by their accomplishment or that they were free to pursue other things in life now that the obligation of public education had wrapped up.

What follows the graduation, however, is an even more loathsome tradition: the graduation party, AKA "Fund My Kid's College Education." In Wisconsin this means sweeping out the garage, setting up the folding chairs and card tables, dusting off the relatives you see only on holidays, and sprinkling some confetti on the table tops. Double batches of potato salad, three-bean salad and baked beans are prepared as side dishes to the requisite Hot Meat on a Bun (ham, turkey, pork). Throw in some chips, dessert bars, taco dip and a cooler of soda and beer and can you say par-tay? People, this is a cook out. The graduate is even bored to tears sitting around in their garage noshing on ham sandwiches and looking at photo albums with Grandma Tillie. They're watching the clock so they can ditch this scene at the earliest opportunity and head out to meet their friends.

The expectation at the "Fund My Kid's College Education" Party is threefold: guests bring cards with checks, graduates receive checks gratefully, and parents score points for "entertaining and celebrating." But a check for $30 in a $2.49 Hallmark card deserves something more than a ham sandwich and a can of Sprite while perched on the edge of a folding chair against somebody's lawnmower. And really? This is the party your graduate wanted? This is lame, people! LAME!

When Team Testosterone graduates there will be no such pretense. They can have the party they want, inviting only their friends to do something fun. I foresee a crowd of their friends tearing through the Back 40 playing paint ball or a pool party with a bonfire in the fire pit. We'll serve pizza or burgers on the grill and no one will have to bring a card with a check. In my mind, a graduation party is supposed to be a celebration for the graduate, not a pitch for hand-outs from dottering old aunts and uncles and former teachers and co-workers from your dad's office.

But until then, if you need me any weekend this June you'll find me perched on a folding chair in one of a series of garages talking to Grandma Tillie and drinking Jolly Good Soda out of a can while balancing a paper plate filled with potato salad and hot ham on a bun. I'll make the most of every opportunity, going into my future bravely and confidently, knowing that everything leading up to these moments has prepared me for a future brighter than the biggest stars--and I thank my friends, family, and teachers who have supported me and helped me realize my dreams and dream big so I can achieve blah blah blah blah blah blah.


  1. Best thing about my graduation party was getting drunk with my dad.


  2. i skipped my college graduation too. drove my mom crazy, but it was the last place i wanted to be.

    although i'm not one to turn down potato salad, the rest of the party is not for me. sorry Grandma tillie.

  3. My sisters and I did not have parties because my father believed we SHOULD graduate from high school. It was expected.
    My biggest pet peeve, as being a HS teacher, is getting all sorts of graduation invitations that the seniors just hand out to the teachers at school. At least, put my name on the invitation! Yesterday, I even recieved an invitation for a party address to Mrs. O.. I think I have a first name . BUGS ME

  4. People in the Midwest take graduation parties to a new height. I have never been anywhere that was so obsessed with graduation parties. Out west it was not the same big deal. Out East not such a big deal. Down south, not such a big deal...the Midwest takes it VERY seriously. Maybe you should consider moving!

  5. I cannot stand graduation ceremonies. So, by homeschooling, I am managing to duck 6 of them. I'll show up for the college ones if they are in a pretty place.

  6. The Midwest does love its ham buns and folding chairs. I'm with you on the blah blah blah of the graduation ceremony and "parties," but I do love me some homemade potato salad.

    And, I must admit I'm just now appreciating what a huge accomplishment it is for some kids to graduate from high school. They are the ones who don't usually have a party, and the ones who deserve it the most.

  7. Wow, it's like you read my mind.

    I have to say that I'm starting to feel the same way about weddings too, which is really sad. Then again, I wanted to elope and had to be talked into having a "proper" ceremony by Pete.

  8. Those parties sound dreadful. I'm all for your idea. If there must be a party, it should be fun for the graduate.

    Now I feel like making potato salad.

  9. I've never been to a graduation party before (other than one held by one of my professors for my graduate class). I guess I shouldn't look forward to the day when then begin!

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  11. Hilarious and dead on target. Signed, One Grinchy Aunt.

  12. Oh, your comments were right on target..I have tears in my eyes from laughing. I had to sit on those folding chairs when the new 5,000 sq. ft. house was too nice for a special graduation party!

  13. You're making me a little nervous about my son's upcoming high school graduation party. But . . . Nana & Papa are driving all the way from Minnesota.

    My food will be awesome though 'cause that's just the way I roll. And we'll play great music. Is it sounding any better?

  14. I thought the distant memories of a numb butt on folding chairs were just that..but nooo you had to remind me. ;p


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