Janus is the Roman god of beginnings and transitions, depicted with one face looking into the past, and one into the future. (The month of January is named for him.) After many years of threatening us with it, Susie became a high school graduate Friday night. And I witnessed it firsthand!! Steph and I held the two “VIP tickets” that allowed us to sit on the football field (the “H.D. ‘Hank’ Smith, Jr. Sports Complex”) at Merritt Island High School. We waited through the interminable speeches, music, etc., for that one moment. Susie walked across the dais when they announced her full name, and when she got to the end of the stage, the principal turned her tassel from one side of her mortarboard to the other.
(This was different than when I graduated from Marietta High School in 1981. We all turned our tassels en masse at the end of the name-reading.)
The parents (not all, but enough to make an impression) did not set a very good example on the subject of respecting the turf or other students. The administrator took the microphone before the event began and asked people to refrain from cheering, blowing air horns, or causing general commotion that would slow down the diploma process or upstage the next student going up there. (Since Susie’s last name begins with an M, I was all for anything that would expedite the process. She was just about smack-dab in the middle of the alphabet, name-wise.) He kept stressing (as he did during the rehearsal, according to Susie) that this was a ceremony, not a celebration.
By the time the D names began appearing, there was plenty of cheering, confetti-throwing, and air horn-blowing. There was a guy in the stands (where the non-VIPs were) who was laying on the horn for such a long time that someone finally came and took it away from him.
Susie was both relieved and excited by the time the
celebration ceremony event was finished. Both Steph and I thought we would be in tears, but it dragged so long that strong emotion was replaced by a “Can we get on with this?” mentality. I am sure the students felt the same way.
Once the official event concluded, the westward sky lit up with fireworks, and over the loudspeaker came Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration,” which came out while I was in high school. (I’m sure the teachers and staff were silently wishing the song could have been Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More.”) Several times, the graduates heard that they are now “a [Merritt Island High School] Mustang for life!”
Susie is relieved that high school is now a thing of the past. She is making a (kind of) geographic change tomorrow, and an even bigger change in situation. My long safari ends in the morning, when Susie and I board Southwest Airlines Flight 132 for the non-stop trip to Columbus. I am returning to familiar surroundings. I’m returning to the bureaucracy (and shuddering at the idea of how much of a backlog will be there for me to tackle), and evenings at the bookstore.
Susie, on the other hand, is in unchartered water. She has applied for several jobs online this weekend, and hopefully the follow-up calls will be coming. (Tomorrow is a holiday, so I’m thinking she won’t be hearing anything until Tuesday at the earliest.) Other than babysitting and doing editorial and proofreading work for her mom, Susie has never entered the wonderful word of work. She’ll be living with me, so she won’t have to juggle the extra worries of paying for food and a place to live. And I am going to be generous, letting her stay with me as long as necessary.
Witnessing my daughter graduate from high school is what made the 3000-mile Greyhound journey from San Francisco to Titusville worth every sleepless moment, frustration, and discomfort worth it. Susie’s school experience has been a rocky one. She’s run the gamut from home-schooling, Catholic education, skipping a grade, excellent teachers, incompetent administrators, and every high school peer stereotype anyone can imagine, and has a diploma (and an honors cord!) to show as a result, with no problems with the law, substance abuse, or nervous breakdowns to run her into the ditch in the meantime.
She did a great job. Now we see what lies ahead.