Saturday, May 17, 2014
Pomp and Circumstance
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: As you're reading this, I'm in Northampton, Mass., waiting to see if the traditional Smith Ivy Day procession is going to take place in the Quadrangle, or in the Athletic Center (we're expecting heavy rain.) Tomorrow, Commencement Day, the sun is expected to shine, and we'll get to watch our daughter, along with 672 other young women - and a few men(1) - complete her four year journey. I think I'm getting weepy already. It seems like just yesterday she was graduating from her Catholic high school - unfortunately, she can't just recycle the white dress and robe from 2010 (above.)
Of course, we're not the only ones waiting to hear Elgar start playing. All over America, the Class of 2014 will be marching into high school auditoriums and civic centers and Alumni Halls and stadia. Parents will sniffle, the class clown will stand up and bow, mortar boards will be tossed in the air, and the young people will be ushered out of one stage of life and into another.
I have graduated three times and I don't remember very much about any of the commencements. I recall it was beastly hot at the Syracuse Civic Center when Liverpool High's Class of '79 passed through. Our salutatorian quoted the Grateful Dead. The commencement speaker for Ithaca College's Class of '83 was Isaac Asimov, and despite the fact I love his writing, I don't remember a single word he said. My parents were stuck way up in the back of the gym, as Athletic Centers were known in the early 80s. My mom told me it smelled faintly of urine and old socks, something I'm sure is not so in Athletic Centers. When I graduated from the University of Maine School of Law in 1990, we sat in the lovely and historic First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, founded in 1675. Who spoke? Not a clue. (Maybe Brenda Buchanan can fill us in in the back blog.) Graduating from law school doesn't feel like as much of a rite of passage, since you're going to see all your classmates next week in bar review class.
How about you, Reds? Any memorable graduations? Your own or others?RHYS BOWEN: I remember my own graduation from London University very well, because there was a lot of pomp and circumstance. The queen mother was our chancellor and each of us was presented to her as we received our diploma. My parents, were in the congregation but near the center aisle. As the queen mum came down the aisle, graciously nodding to left and right, she recognized my father (who had shown her around the British industries fair several times) and gave him a big smile. My dad never forgot that moment.
My son's graduation from UC San Diego was also memorable because President Clinton spoke, so the security was horrendous. We had to be in our seats about 3 hours before he arrived. And he was late. Dominic was due to sing a solo with the gospel choir but they had to cut their performance to one group number.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: The QUEEN? The PRESIDENT? Huh. I got nuthin. Except I got sent home from my high school graduation because my white lace mini-skirt was too short. (It was, looking back on it.) It was gonna be under a robe, what was the big difference? I remember thinking--I'm not going back. I thought: What are they going to do, expel me? I did go back, because my parents cared, and I don't remember one BIT of it except for being thrilled that stupid horrible high school was over.
In college, we were protesting Kent State. Nobody went.
Julia, congratulations! Hurray! (Pomp! Circumstance! And didn't Smith cancel the speaker?)
JULIA: They didn't cancel - after the student body protested against the selection of Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Money Fund, she withdrew. (They objected to the IMF, not to Mme Lagarde.) Instead, we're going to hear former Smith College President Ruth J. Simmons deliver the address tomorrow. She's also the former president of Brown - the first African-American woman to head an Ivy League school. I'm looking forward to her speech!
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Julia, congratulations to Smithie! All I remember of my high school graduation is wearing a white dress (it was an all girls Catholic school) and then for college our speaker was Madeleine L'Engle, who I thought was fabulous. And it was an outdoor ceremony on a day that was ridiculously hot.
Before I became a parent, I wouldn't have understood — but the kiddo's preschool graduation was incredibly moving. He'd spent three years in the school and we all just loved the other kids and the teachers.
But onward and upward! Now sometimes we run into some of the kiddo's former teachers in the neighborhood and he doesn't even remember them — but I do.
HALLIE EPHRON: We wore white dresses to high school graduation, too, and it wasn't a Catholic school. Madeleine L'Engle -- WOWEE! I'd have been over the moon.
I skipped my own college graduation -- political ferment of the 60s, we were protesting. At my daughter's graduation from Columbia, security was brutal (it was not long after 9/11) and it was teeming rain, so all we could see were umbrella undersides and we couldn't leave until it was over. The queen mum did not attend.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I didn't graduate from high school, having dropped out the beginning of my junior year. I did graduate from college, however, with a BA in Biology from Austin College in Sherman, Texas. (Yay, Roos!) My strongest memory is that it was hot (surprise!), the ceremony was outside, and I was smothering in my cap and gown. My hair was very short, and I had on big chunky-heeled shoes underneath my robe. My parents were deliriously proud. I have no idea who spoke, but wish it had been Madeleine L'Engle! That, I would have remembered!
My daughter's high school graduation was so huge (held in the "sanctuary" of a mega-church) that we could barely see her on the stage. When she graduated from college, I was out of town, on book tour. Sigh.
Julia, huge congrats to the Smithie! And what's next for her?
JULIA: She's home for the summer (and beating the bushes for a job, so if anyone in Southern Maine knows of one...) and then it's off to Boston in the fall, where she'll be pursuing her MLIS at Simmons College. I'm very proud of her. Keep an eye on my Twitter feed Sunday - I'll be posting pictures!
(1) There are trans* students at Smith who identify as young men.