OT: Throwback Thursday – Pomp and Circumstance

It’s June in Wisconsin.  The trees are green (finally)  and the mailbox is full of graduation announcements.

This time of year in the US – this week especially in my environs – marks an important rite of passage toward adulthood…graduation from high school.  Every June, thousands of 12th graders don the cap and gown and march (in alphabetical order) across a stage to receive their high school diplomas.

Showbiz was at the graduation ceremony for his school last night…as he was getting ready,  hubs gives me a panicked look and says, “Is he graduating tonight?!?”  No dear, that’s next year – honestly!  Although not a graduate, he was attending since part of the dog and pony show ceremony included performances by the Concert Choir, featuring the graduating senior members (I had an earful of how he had been stripped of his solo in The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond in favor of a less qualified senior.  False modesty is not a problem for Showbiz.)  When I dropped him off at call time, the parking lot was already jam packed and he later reported that the ceremony was 2.5 hours long…I cannot wait until next year! *shudder*

Commencement isn’t exactly a rare occurrence for me – my university celebrates one each and every May…I didn’t go this year but I heard it was one for the annals – held in a giant tent on the lawn with snow flurries outside and 90 minutes behind schedule inside.  Sounds like my kind of event.  Not.  Frankly, usually I don’t pay much attention to high school graduation, but this year is a bit different since I just received the invitation for my high school reunion in the mail.  It’s sort of a big one – Madonna’s Live to Tell was the number 1 song in the US the year I graduated.

grad pic

Then I found this:  there I am…honor cords, roses, newly short hair and a cast on my right hand from breaking two fingers playing softball for my school a few weeks before (but I made the all conference team U-RA-RA! *ahem*)…at the end of the “Ver’s”.  I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the tall blond kid behind me.  I know the big guy behind him went on to play in the NFL and I can see the flaxen hair of one of my besties back in the “W’s”

Honestly, I don’t remember much about the ceremony.  I remember there were two valedictorians – both 4.0 students when 4.0 was something remarkable.  I remember being frosty because my class rank was two places below that of a friend because I took Calculus, Chemistry and Physics senior year while she took Band, Choir and Orchestra.  I don’t remember the speeches, I don’t remember the songs, but I do remember being of two minds:  Excited for the future, but already nostalgic for what I was leaving behind.  I think the pomp and circumstance of commencement is designed to elicit exactly those feelings.  And then it is gone.  What seemed so important then is mere trivia now.  Can you believe that not once in the succeeding decades has a single person asked me what my class rank was?!  The nerve of every single body!  😀

I look back on those days now definitely older, and hopefully wiser.  I probably won’t go to my class reunion.  I’ve been to a couple over the years, and I find them less than entertaining.  I returned to live in the town where I grew up, but I’m not that girl anymore.  Yet, when I’m around the assembled gaggle of my high school classmates, the decades seem to fall away and old hierarchies and insecurities return. I didn’t hate high school, but I don’t want to go back either, and that seems to be the general intention of the reunions I’ve attended.  It’s a kind of strange dynamic to be in a group of people who seem to have peaked at 17 and are anxious to regain some of that past glory every 10 years over a chicken dinner.  I think I’ll pass.

One of the things I’ve tried to impress upon my kids as they struggle through school age trials is that this time is only a bump on a road.  That girl who teased MiniMe relentlessly in 5th grade or the teacher who was the bane of Showbiz’ 11th grade existence won’t be nearly so important as they experience more and more of the world.  I think it is great to look back, but I definitely encourage them to go forward.

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26 comments on “OT: Throwback Thursday – Pomp and Circumstance

  1. Servetus says:

    I was happy to be done with school at the time and nothing’s happened to changed my feelings in the interval, and 90% of my schoolmates still live right around here, so if I want to see anyone … I too am amused at how important that stuff seemed at the time and only a few months later no one cared.

    Next year Showbiz can sing his guts out at graduation 🙂

  2. Great post! High school reunions were a mixed bag for me, too–mostly to do with the venues chosen. But I ultimately enjoyed seeing folks whom I’ve known for many years–some since grade school. And we even did a small group picture of our grade school group at our 30th reunion. And I had chaired the reunion planning committee for our 20th–so no getting out of going to that one. Ha!

    • obscura says:

      I suppose in larger part, it depends on the basic group dynamics.

      Personally, I’ve found that people have generally changed very little since HS (which boggles me since I’ve changed a lot) . I’m inclined to be an observer at events like this, and what I see is that the event begins with a kind of “it’s great to see you” mixed group and the quickly devolves back into the same old cliques. I saw the photo evidence if this on the reunion FB page yesterday…all the pictures posted were of the same group of people. I doubt they even realize that they do it, but if their intended goal was inclusion, they are failing epically in achieving it.

  3. Guylty says:

    I had pretty much the same experience as you – peeved at some of the grades I received (in comparison to my classmates), excited about the future, yet also scared and therefore almost-reluctant to leave behind what had just become so good. I hung on to the memories for a long time, attending the annual reunion. But even 10 years after, I missed the big reunion due to my college exams and a couple of years ago even ignored the big 25 year reunion. Cos yeah, you kind of slip into the same old hierarchies. Plus, the whole “my wife, my children, my car” conversation bores me to death. – Loved my Irish college graduation, though – especially because I got to wear the gown and mortarboard (something we don’t have in Germany) and shake the college president’s hand. Bonus: graduation speech was held by Seamus Heaney, with whom I had a lovely chat at a photo-op and who sat right in front of me in our class photo.
    I’m sure I’ll be appropriately sentimental next year when Guitar-God-in-Waiting graduates.
    As a professor – are you expected to attend your students’ graduations? Jeez – that’s a load of time you won’t get back…

    • linnetmoss says:

      Guylty, you got to meet Seamus Heaney! OMG!

    • obscura says:

      Oh Lord yes…the mundanity of 90% of the conversations. Can’t we just put that on the nametag and move along to talk about something interesting? There are a lot of very accomplished people in my class, but strangely, conversation is always Just. So. Boring.

      I am sure I will be a complete mess if I manage to get Showbiz into a cap and gown…worse if he sings some appropriately tear jerking solo…eek.

      Faculty aren’t required to attend, but strong encouraged. I currently don’t have robes (ridiculously expensive) and unless there is a big change, I don’t plan to get them.

      I guess I’m a bit of a non conformist when it comes to overblown ceremonies. I went to my college graduation…it was huge, undergrads didnt even walk, but stood up by academic school and had mass degree conferral…about as personal as the post office!

      • Guylty says:

        I guess, reunions do not happen often enough for people to remember the key benchmark facts… Hence you have to go over the same boring stuff every effing time.
        I used to think ceremonies were antiquated and unnecessary. When I graduated in Germany, there was literally ZILCH. The certificate came in the post and was a cheap computer print out. Nothing to hang up on the wall. No gowns, no mortarboards, no speeches, no receptions. It had all been done away with in the student revolutions of the 1960s. And thus no acknowledgement of the end of a long and decisive phase in our lives. I am a fan of ceremonies now – they mark the end of an era, and that is important.

        • obscura says:

          True enough…Probably my issue lies in that because of its oh so regular repetition, what should be ceremony has become mundane to me 🎓

          • Guylty says:

            From the perspective of a professor that certainly rings true. For the student, of course, it is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime occasion. Having missed out on ceremony certainly influenced my decision to go back to college for a second degree, as stupid as it may sound…

          • obscura says:

            I don’t think it stupid…ceremonial markers are clearly important to the human psyche…why else would there be so many of them? (And existing in some form in every culture)

          • Guylty says:

            True. I suppose, if there are too many of them, they become inflationary and lose meaning.

      • Servetus says:

        This somehow ended in my spam. I just wanted to interject that “attending commencement” is one of the banes of faculty existence. i could tell you stories. I went to a lot of them in Texas, where you wear a big wool robe and hood outside when it’s 98F …

  4. Esther says:

    Yeah, I’m with ya on reunions…

  5. katie70 says:

    In the almost 30 years since my high school graduation we have never a reunion and that is ok by me. I am with you on the hard classes vs. the easy classes. Son2 will have a lower rank because he has taken the AP classes the school has, not that he has done bad but there is always the student who takes the easy classes and gets a better GPA.

  6. Hariclea says:

    I somehow think those ceremonies are nicer watched as proud parents of kids than for oneself 🙂
    We don’t have them back home either as such, or not this version. We do have a last day of school which i have never through about since but now as i do has brought back the exact same feelings of the day 🙂 So, we all dress up in white blouses and dark skirts or trousers and grab guitars or whatever portable instruments we plan and visit all classes, both in the smaller building for 1-4 grade and the bigger for 5-12 (both old historical ones with warn stone steps :-)) And the graduates sing Gaudeamus igitur in all classrooms and in the courtyard and receive flowers from the other students. Oh and besides Guadeamus there is a selection of modern songs, i certainly remember we had some Beatles in there 🙂 I distinctively remember crying rivers all day long and coming home loaded with flowers and ribbons with signatures and little poems on them. But it was a hell of a last month as we spent hours rehearsing the songs and do the similar thing- visiting the vast majority of our teachers at their respective homes singing for them and being treated to home baked goodies loads of food and alcohol and conversations into the night face to face and not teacher in front of classroom. People were under no obligation to receive us but most enjoyed doing it, with some we went out in town instead.

    But i know, even more in hindsight than i knew then, that i and all my classmates were incredibly lucky in our school experience. I’ve had amazing teachers, the likes i’ve never encountered since then and no studies after came even close to school. It was more information but none of it was either education or formation. At least i had 12 amazing years of school and learning and fun though to this day i wonder how my parents coped with no being able to understand a word i studied or even to check if i ever did any work or so since they didn’t speak the language.
    It’s hit me hard in the face once i came to live in London that i would have never been able to have that education here because my parents would not have been able to afford it. And sadly that era is gone back home to, the vast majority of my teachers has passed away and the very few younger ones no longer live there. Funny i don’t remember much of marks and such and there were no rankings emphasized. Not that my parents didn’t do it, after all it was their only way of checking LOL but school didn’t. If only more schools could be run like that and more children could enjoy school years like that… Always makes me sad to think how much kids miss out on because it’s about money 😦

  7. jholland says:

    “Is he graduating tonight?!?!” ROFL! Men! I never gave a flip about the graduation ceremonies- high school, college or vet school. And the only reunion I’d ever be interested in attending would be a vet school reunion. THAT would be fun because essentially we all do have something in common, and sure to be highly irreverent. LOL.

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