The First Ward Report – You wouldn’t remember your high school graduation anyway!

The First Ward Report – You wouldn’t remember your high school graduation anyway!

In the sense that the offense-based mob mentality is so eminently easy to predict, I do have a basic understanding of the incessant garment rending and teeth gnashing revolving around the lack of any formal 2020 high school graduation ceremonies.

This is the very same horde who threw a hissy fit when classrooms canceled cursive despite their failure to apply that useless skill for decades. I’m sure their PDAs are still sitting in a drawer somewhere.

Granted, I’m old and my 70s era graduating class consisted of a considerable 998 Evanston compatriots, but other than I’m convinced I was there, I remember just two things about my high school graduation.

The first was the something-datorian’s attempt at a funny speech that fell so flat, it was far more amusing than if it had worked.

Drive By Graduation

The second, and it’s still one of my favorite memories, was, having gleefully returned the blue gown, dashing out that east side Dodge Avenue exit while running directly into the much more popular Michael Tarkington. With a grin befitting of a Carroll-esque feline, he turned to me and said, “It feels good to get the hell out of there doesn’t it?”

Summarily breaking into a similar smile, my simple reply was, “Yes it does!” That was the last time I ever saw or spoke with Michael, and, aside from fantasies like ‘The Breakfast Club,’ it may have been the only time a geek and an in-crowder truly connected.

Meanwhile, I have absolutely no recollection of my name being called or marching up to the stage to get my diploma.

Fast forwarding forty years, aside from it being a blisteringly hot late May day, I can only remember two things about my older son’s Geneva High School graduation. The first is laughing my ass off as he made a beeline for the diploma while utterly ignoring the outstretched hands of all those on-state-administrators. The second is eminently tall GHS Principal Tom Rogers hugging his almost-as-tall daughter with such zeal that her feet left the ground.

And that was just five years ago!

I actually remember more about my younger son’s glorious decision not to attend his high school graduation than I do about the iteration in which my older son participated!

But isn’t that the stark reality of these things? Despite the hugs, the tears, and the promises to reconnect, unless you ill-advisedly choose to remain in your small hometown, you’ll barely remember and never see or hear from those people again.

The vast double irony of Green Day’s ‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)’ becoming the most played high school graduation song certainly isn’t lost on me. “Good riddance? C’mon! That ballad isn’t about fond remembrances, it’s about parting ways with someone you never really want to see again.

And that’s particularly fitting for most high school graduates, who, for the first time in their young freshman lives, abruptly realized their elementary and middle school teachers lied! Being different wasn’t something to be celebrated, it was something to be endured.

So, it’s the parents of that small student plurality who actually enjoyed high school who primarily keened about these coronavirus cancellations. But the truth is, those ceremonies are beyond boring, parents tend to behave like inebriated Bears fans, and the speeches are consistently and distressingly unremarkable.

High school, in its current form, isn’t something to be celebrated, is a lot more like a category four hurricane – it’s something you hope to survive. Only our absurd nostalgic capacity can make that torture seem like “the good old days!”

I understand how important milestones and rites of passage can be to the parents and older relatives who’ve had to contend with teenagers. But if you want to make that transition memorable, then make it memorable! One of the most important lessons any high school graduate can learn is if you wait for the world to accommodate you, you’ll die long before it makes the first move.

Furthermore, I fervently believe the class of 2020 will remember and smile more about their drive by graduation ceremonies than their more formally matriculated peers ever will.

Get used to irony graduates!


3 thoughts on “The First Ward Report – You wouldn’t remember your high school graduation anyway!

  1. Yep the graduation ceremony is for the parents in most cases. Geeks and nerds couldn’t care less. Girls maybe more for the social aspect. Kids
    at the top of the class probably like the recognition. As well as a few jocks.

  2. Your column sure brings back memories of things i DON’T remember. Graduated in Minneapolis in 1968. Catholic school nerd who’s graduation was held in ‘The Basilica’. I don’t even remember what the inside looked like. I DO remember the first thing I did once I was outside though. I lit up a cigarette. Mom told me to put it out because ‘your father will soon be here with the car’. To which I laughed and said ‘well he always told me I couldn’t smoke in front of him until a was an adult’. My first act of defiance I guess.

    None of my five children, ages 44, 43, 43, 24 & 24, yeah twins, remember much about their graduations except for what building they were held in and how long the ceremony took.

  3. I guess I’m the oddball here, but what else is new, right?

    I wasn’t popular in school, but I had some close friends who I consider like brothers to this day. I remember sitting at Memorial Field on a warm day and hearing my friend Matt’s mom ring her cowbell every time one of our group got called up. I remember there was a girl that was probably in her third trimester sitting one row in front of me, and I was wondering if she went into labor if we would make the 5 o’clock news. Our valedictorian laid an egg with a real nonsensical speech about building bridges upon bridges in order to build another bridges on that bridge, which made me wonder how our valedictorian didn’t understand that by the time you got to the 10th bridge it would probably cause issue with the original bridge’s foundation. I mean I slept through Physics 101 and still figured that out.

    Afterwards I remember bouncing with friends to each of the parties our parents all held for us. We were saying goodbye to some friends who we knew were going to lose touch with, and making plans for an awesome summer with those we still cared about before heading out to college in the Fall.

    Maybe I remembered this so vividly because of the group of guys I ran with. It’s rough that the 2020 class will miss out on prom, their senior trip, etc. Most probably had Senior-itis and stopped paying attention to their studies by the time the schools were closed anyway though…

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