Not so awful after all
I saw my nephew graduate last week. It was the first graduation ceremony/party I'd attended since my brother's high school commencement in 1992. Before that, I attended the 1986 college graduation of my sister. I still remember sitting in Row 63-ZZ of the arena, squinting to see Bertha amid all the ant-sized graduates scurrying below. The ceremony was half over before my Mom and I realized we'd spent the last hour snapping pictures of a girl who wasn't Bertha.
To this day, one of Mom's photo albums contains photos of some unidentified NDSU graduate marching around the Bison Sports Arena.
Call it "Pomp and Happenstance."
My own graduation was a fairly low-key affair. Thoroughly sick of school after the grueling five-year plan, I skipped my college ceremony. My high school commencement was a little more eventful - but not much. Just like all the girls in our class, I pinned my cap on the back of my head so as not to squash my carefully curled mullet.
During the ceremony, the senior girls sang. Afterward, some of them sniped that the singers in the front row drowned out everyone else. (Quite possible, as I was in the front row.)
My graduation party consisted of a Bundt cake and a couple of relatives. I had my photo taken with my mother in front of the living room curtains. Later in the evening, I would attend the school-sponsored graduation party. I distinctly recall wearing a black Member's Only knock-off (I think it was called a Melvin's Only). Later, I would win a "Men at Work" record, which I still own. It was just one of the door prizes given out that night in hopes of saving kids from what I used to call "keggers and preggers."
In those days, the only thing that got your parents excited was when you didn't graduate. Most moms and dads assumed you would, and so they didn't make a big deal out of it when you did. But just as yesterday's prom - with its crepe paper rainbows and Gunne Sak dresses - doesn't compare with today's Hiltonesque extravaganzas, neither does old-school graduation compare with today's events.
My nephew's graduation was quite fancy. There was a Power Point presentation that showed each graduate's baby picture, family photo and senior portrait.
There were four speeches, a couple of songs and a tearful presentation of roses to parents. His party afterward was much larger and more elaborate than mine, although not nearly as extravagant as some of his peers' bashes. Some parents go all out. They rent tents. They hire DJs and bands. They orchestrate video presentations that put the Oscar movie montages to shame.
They invite everyone from the child's third-grade dance instructor to the mailman's uncle's stepson.
I must admit I'm a little envious. It makes me want to lean back in my rocking chair and take out my dentures and crow: "Those durned whippersnappers! After my graduation, my pa made me butcher a hawg all by mah-self!"
But then I think about what school is like today. Most high school students are required to take at least three maths and a foreign language. Kids' lives are a lot more complicated.
College entry requirements are much more stringent. And after you've graduated from college and accumulated $25,000 in debt, there's still no guarantee you'll get a good job.
So it all puts it in perspective.
Maybe a Bundt cake wasn't so bad.
Tammy Swift writes a weekly column for The Forum. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org