Today, Bertney attended her graduation at one of the largest institutions in the country. Today, she participated as a member of the largest graduating class of that institution.
Ohio State does ritual well, and after 376 of them, they should have commencement down pat. The pomp and circumstance gave me shivers, the alma mater brought tears to my eyes, the shouts of proud onlookers made my heart overflow. Bertney wasn’t going to attend – “after all,” she reasoned, “I know I’m going to get two more degrees so this one’s not a big deal.”
“Ah,” I couldn’t help replying, “you should totally do it. You should give your family and your friends a chance to be proud of you. You only get a finite amount of these Big Moments in your life. Savor them. Enjoy them. You’ll be sorry if you don’t.”
I don’t know what made her decide to do it, but she did.
I’m glad she did. I didn’t know just how proud I was of her until I saw her look back over her shoulder, and I saw how young she is, and how old she is, all at the same time. I imagined my husband someday sitting there, looking back over his shoulder, trying to spot someone in the crowd. I remembered sitting there myself, the hot sun pounding down, sweat slithering down the back of my good dress, feeling like the moment I’d waited so long for was a piece of chocolate that I should taste before it melted away. I tried to think far enough out, to when my own daughter may sit in a stadium somewhere, experiencing the passage that we call commencement.
There was one glaring discrepancy, and thankfully it was just a blip (although one that made me pull my little notebook from my purse and scribble away). The commencement speaker was a political figure who forgot why he was there and who couldn’t help reminding me that Ohio’s a swing state, and then hubby leaned over and reminded me that he’s running for President. He used the crowd of 35,000 as a platform, instead of using it as an opportunity (bet he’d tell you he did use it as an opportunity, but he turned me off big time).
Over 7000 graduates, and all these thoughts of the people who make graduation possible had me in quite a state of needing some tissues when WHAM! I was brought back to here-and-now by five paragraphs too much about…the war in Iraq. *groan* *puke* This is not to say that it’s not important; this is to say that this is not the place! I don’t care if you are going to run for President of the United States. I don’t care if you think it’s the most important thing to talk about. This is a graduation, where we all think the most important thing is the graduates!
Why is it that the ceremony is so important? For one thing, it is a recognized passage, a ritual that we all appreciate, and one that marks the time for us. It gives family and friends that excuse they may need to hug, to tear up, to take an embarrassing number of pictures. It gives the recipient a chance to be proud of themselves, to savor the accomplishment.
I remember walking in the end of the Shoe eight years ago, decked in black and full of possibility, and hearing the band and the cheers, for me. I remember being one of 5000 and one of 5000. I remember a feeling of spinning and turning topsy-turvy and of wishing the day would last longer. Today, as I watched the festivities and seethed at the political tripe coming over the loudspeakers, I couldn’t help but scour my memory for the details of my commencement address. Hmm. It’s not there. I can’t even remember who it was. So that must not be the important part of things, and someone should have told the Senator that before he spent all that time on his speech.
What brings tears to my eyes now is the tradition I’m now a part of, the comfort of seeing it continued, and to think that those who are close to me can share it intimately through their own participation.