There was lots of matriculation, mastication, and dang near car bustation.
To start the long weekend, we attended a high school graduation Friday night in a church sanctuary that holds 3,500 people. While it definitely was not filled to capacity, I was surprised at how many showed up for a graduating class of 92. Shannon and I were there for A, son of my first cousin, J.
We met some family members at a popular Italian restaurant called The Olive Garden. These are folks we usually see only at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and J joked a couple summers ago that she had forgot what my legs look like (pasty and liberally freckled), since we never see each other wearing shorts. When Shannon, Ben, and I moved to Texas, we landed about a 45-minute drive from A, J, and her husband, T. My aunt and another cousin joined us, along with some longtime friends of A and J. They had driven about six or seven hours to see A walk across the stage and grab his highly-anticipated diploma.
At the table, before everyone else arrived, I overheard a woman in the next table tell two younger friends, “You rush into something, and then 15 years later you have kids and you’re working two jobs to support a bum who can’t hold down one.” I’m pretty sure she’s had at least one bad experience with men. I wanted to stand up and proudly proclaim, in defense of men everywhere, that after almost 14 years of marriage, I’m still gainfully employed, and my wife is a stay-at-home mom in our child’s nascent years. Somehow. In fact, most of our friends down here are the same, except that they have not been married as long.
It was great to sit and have dinner with people we normally see only when trying to juggle a toddler, a dog, presents, turkey, pies, and all the other holiday trappings. They would have loved seeing Ben, but his Grammy graciously had agreed to take him for the evening. Sitting through a high school graduation is not high on anybody’s list, much less a boy only about to turn three.
We had so much fun that we, unfortunately, lost track of time.
On the way to the ceremony, my cousin C and I drove our respective vehicles in a line behind J, each following our predecessor out of complete location ignorance. At one point I was having trouble keeping up, and J called my mobile phone to inform us, “We have 10 minutes to make an 11-minute drive, so you gotta keep up.”
There were several four-way stops and, in the mode of just following the car in front of me so that I didn’t get lost, I ran one of them. As a pickup of some sort narrowly missed us, Shannon pealed off a scream that should be in horror movies.
We walked into the sanctuary during the traditional processional to “Pomp and Circumstance,” and caught a break when a graduation committee member on crutches held up the line. I was sorry for his misfortune, of course. By a stroke of luck, or just good planning, J and C’s father and stepmother had arrived early enough that they stood, waving us into our seats.
I hesitate to mention the next point, as I’m going to start sounding anti-capitalist. I’m really not. I just think we should keep money in perspective.
One of the officiants announced the scholarship money awarded each recipient — in order of dollar amount. It was either in bad taste or in the spirit of preparing these youngsters for the criteria too many Americans use when valuing a person — how much money are you worth? (Our own A was third-highest — woot! Wait a minute. Oh well. I’m an American, what can I say?)
The band played a retrospective entitled, “Young Person’s Guide to John Williams,” which started with tracks from
Star Wars Harry Potter, Hook and finished with two of his most famous non-Star Wars pieces. I was imagining Elliot on his flying bicycle, E.T. in the handlebar basket, until Shannon leaned over and whispered, “The kids playing that music weren’t even born when E.T. came out.” Ouch. They finished with the instantly recognizable Raiders of the Lost Ark overture march, another gem that hit theaters long before they were born.
Bear with me for the next paragraph.
Also a bit confusing was the number of prayers in the ceremony. I’m not one of those extremists who say public school students should be expelled for uttering a prayer of their own free will, but even in my consertative Christian upbringing, I constantly heard about the importance of the separation of church and state. In fact, my father used to get animated when recalling how the words “under God” were added to the “Pledge of Allegiance” in the 1950’s. Presiding over a Christian (or other religious) prayer at an official public school event of any kind is reminiscent of what sent British colonists over here in the first place — state sanctioned religion.
On to lighter subjects regarding the same evening, and the weekend.
We finally left there at about 8:40 p.m., and after two hours of driving, both of us were too drowsy to make the four-plus to Tulsa. In Paul’s Valley, Oklahoma, I passed by the Comfort Inn (about $70/night) to the Relax Inn, a bit more run down, but clean and reasonably priced at $34.95/night.
The motel clerk wore a shirt that read, “Alfredo is my homeboy.” Along with the phrase was a hand-drawn picture of a man giving the reader a thumbs-up. I had to ask.
“Who is Alfredo?”
“My tennis coach.”
With a bit more time in Paul’s Valley, I could have geeked out by dropping by what promised to be the “world’s only toy and action figure museum.”
As it was, however, we left the motel at 8 a.m. Saturday.
We had our own mini-reunion with Ben, who had left Thursday afternoon with his Grammy and Pa. The rest of the weekend was a normal family reunion, full of things we usually do about three times a year — eat lots of unhealthy food, play golf and see movies in the theater.