Sunday, June 26, 2016

REMINISCING: Graduation

Two weeks ago we revisited prom season and how awesome (and cheesy) that time of our lives was. This week, as we celebrate another round of graduations, I thought it was time to take a look back at that special event. Generally, when we see graduations in the movies or on TV, we see the most fantastic of events that go off with nary a hitch. Reality, as is usual, is far from the sparkles and fairy tales that we see. Still, it is one of the most incredible times of our lives.

I graduated from Lockport High School in 1992 with about 400 of the greatest people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. Our ceremony was held at the Kenan Center. I think my sister’s was, also, in 1995, but I know my brother’s was held at Artpark in Lewiston. I think it was kind of special that my graduation was held in Lockport rather than all the way across the county. However, the size of classes demanded the move to the performing arts center at Artpark.
With my grandmothers on graduation day.


The day before graduation, we did a rehearsal at the Kenan Center. I was excited not only for the ceremony, but also for the fact that I had a new car. I bought my mother’s car from her when he bought a new one. For me, I now had a car that was only three years old. I was pretty happy about that.


It was an exciting time. We had worked hard for thirteen years for this date. All our hard work had paid off and we were finally going to be free. At least that’s what we thought. Adulthood has its own set of chains that keep you weighed down the same way we were escaping from in school. It was the last time we would all be together. Looking back, it is bittersweet. This is not a column about how easy and great it would be if we were still in high school. That subject has been very overdone.


The morning of graduation, my friend, Matt, told me that he was going to trip while accepting his diploma and make one of the distinguished board members kept him. I laughed thinking he was joking. He was not. He tripped at the top of the stairs and one of the people from the board reached out to catch him. He was laughing when he came back to his seat, so I’m pretty sure that him fulfilling his earlier promise. He made it look really good though, so I guess we’ll never know.


I have no memory of my sister’s graduation (sorry, Krispy), but I do remember Bobby’s at Artpark. It was hot as hell. And crowded. His was one of the biggest classes in school history. It was also the first time I had been the Artpark. The sunset over the river was absolutely amazing. The red sky reflecting off the rushing waters was beautiful. That was the last graduation I went to until we went to my twin nephew’s graduation last year.


Just a few weeks ago, we went to Indiana to see our niece, Brianna, graduate from a new type of high school. She attended East Allen University where she was able to simultaneously graduate from high school and earn an Associate’s Degree from college. She was part of the first graduating class from this school. Although this graduating class had less than 80 members, their families and friends packed the auditorium at the college where the ceremony was held.


This was the best graduation I have attended or seen on film. Not only were the students and their families excited about the event, but the administrative staff from the newly formed school was equally ecstatic. Their principal, Doug Hicks, had a smile on his face throughout the entire ceremony. He was proud of his students, proud of his school, and happy that the chances they had taken four years earlier had resulted in that moment.


These young men and women made quite an accomplishment. In a specialized school that was in its infancy, most of the graduating class had honors of some sort. They are entering the next stage of their lives a step ahead of where many are. They worked very hard for that moment, and earned those awards.
Brianna with my Dad and Mom at her graduation


That’s not to say that we all didn’t work hard to graduate from school and move on. We all did. Some more than others. But we did it. Thirteen years of dedication to our friends and family came down to that moment that we moved our tassel from right to left. Thirteen years is still longer than I’ve kept a single job, so it really is a big accomplishment to graduate.


I have to tell you that I did get a little emotional at Derick’s and Jayson’s graduation, and at Brianna’s. As an aunt or uncle, many of us have invested a lot of time in their lives to help ensure they become the best people possible. In the case of the twins, I spent a ton of time with them. They’re good kids, and they will be remarkable men. Brianna now lives in Indiana, but I feel we’re still close. She spends time at our house when she’s in town. In fact, yesterday she spent the morning with Wendy at the craft show downtown, and spent the night before with me watching “Smokey & the Bandit.”

Graduation was a special time. It was a celebration of all our hard work, and it was a big step towards our independence. We were heading out into the world to forge new and leave our marks whether the world was ready or not. When I see family members graduating, I think back to the days they were born, to the times they asked for my help, and when they didn’t really need my help anymore. They’re good kids. And they have the future at their fingertips.

Craig Bacon dedicates this column to all his classmates from the Lockport High School Class of 1992.

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