A Right Of Passage

Sitting in a gymnasium with a lot of other proud parents, spouses, and friends, I had time to think about what graduation means. It was plain to see how invested these people were as soon as the graduates made their entrance.

I was impressed with the ceremony. Faculty, staff, and others were present. The president made her remarks. First, she acknowledged what was uppermost in many of our minds. Many of the students were first time graduates – by that I mean that this was their first graduation ceremony. They were the class most affected by COVID-19. COVID 19 took away their high school graduations. COVID also was part of their freshman experience at college. They were not allowed to eat in the cafeteria. They picked up meals and took them back to their rooms. Many of them were living in dorm rooms on their own. What a way to begin your college experience!

I do want to acknowledge a particular part of the graduation that was very moving. Three young men and one woman took their oath to become U S. Army members. They received a standing ovation from the audience.

As always, when I begin an article about graduation, there are many memories. My grandson was not the only one affected. His sister was scheduled to graduate from college that same year. Her degree was mailed to her without a ceremony. At least she experienced a high school graduation. The only thing that marred hers was an exuberant little man who escaped captivity and wandered right up front during her salutatorian speech. She did not miss a beat. She interjected a fact about the episode and kept right on going.

I recall many graduations. My children and I all had three of them.

My first graduation was memorable. I was not sad. I was not leaving home to attend college. I was going to be a commuter to our local college. I could hardly wait for summer to be over so I could begin my college experience.

As a commuter some things were hard. We were not really members of the college community. We went home every evening. I did my best to be involved. I even stayed in the dorm with friends occasionally. I attended as many events as I was able to. I often went to the library to study. It was easier than trying to study at home. My family just did not understand how much time I needed to put into my studies.

By the time it was time to graduate I had a steady boyfriend. He was unable to attend my graduation because of a commitment to Uncle Sam. He was at summer camp for the National Guard. It was so hot that day that I shrunk my linen suit that I wore underneath my cap and gown. I literally peeled it off and was never able to wear it again.

By the time my two children graduated from Eisenhower High School, they had attended many graduations as members of the band. Graduation was held inside the gym. For a few years it was held outside, but inclement weather was a factor. One year I wore my winter coat because it was so windy and cold and this was June!

When I earned my Master’s, my husband insisted that I go through the ceremony. He wanted to see me graduate and he wanted our children to attend. That year I got a stole for my graduate degree.

Finally, it was time for our son to graduate from the School of Veterinary Medicine at The Ohio State University. The day before graduation they had an Oath and Hooding ceremony. The boys did not take their caps and gowns out so they were very wrinkled. One of the other mother’s and I ironed all of them so they looked presentable.

Our daughter first graduated from PSU Behrend. That day we met the family of her boyfriend for the first time. Next it was on to Drake University to study law. Soon it was time for her to graduate. My son traveled with us to her graduation. By that time, she was married. We all stayed at her house. I was happy to make the acquaintance of the professor that she worked on a book with.

My graduation experiences just keep increasing. I opted not to attend my granddaughter’s graduation from Veterinary School. Her parents went. I had been there last year for her “White Coat” ceremony and thoroughly enjoyed that.

My congratulations to all graduates – high school and college. I know you have worked hard to achieve that. Now, it is on to making a living! You have to pay those debts someway.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell. Contact her at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.


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