In a different time and place I would have evaluated final semester exams by now, averaged and recorded grades and given my principal the names of students who — heaven forbid — hadn’t qualified to march across the stage with the others next week expecting to find a diploma tucked inside the leatherette folder they carried back to their seats.
I would have reminded designated mothers to drop off their cookies, Kool-Aid packets and liters of ginger ale in the crepe paper festooned cafeteria early so other designees would have time to set up, prepare and arrange the after-ceremony reception and make it to the appointed matriculation site before the opening prayer and the swell of “Pomp and Circumstance” had set gowned and mortar boarded graduates to marching.
By now, if the sky threatened rain, I — the perennial commencement exercise organizer — would be cursing myself (but quietly) for having suggested years ago that we move the exercises out of the hot, crowded gymnasium to the roomier and cooler football stadium. One year was all it had taken to renounce the status quo and establish a new modus operandi.
Immediately prior to our outdoor commencement’s maiden voyage, a mass of blue-clad graduates crowded into their comfortingly familiar language arts classroom as others had before them — seeking comfort in their acetate sameness, milling about, chattering in high-pitched voices, appraising their classmates’ transformation, fussing over insignificance things — with me in their midst, safety pins to secure their white bibs in one pocket and bobby pins to secure mortar boards in the other, and only I could be trusted to do it right — as though nuances of differences would be noticed by those waiting in the bleachers who had come to celebrate the accomplishment of one specific graduate. Two at the most, but not often.
The time came to line them up in their designated order; to stand at the door, paper cup in hand to receive wads of chewing gum; to smile encouragement; to rejoice that there wasn’t a rain cloud in sight as we filed into the stadium at a stately pace in cadence with the beat of their hearts; to salute as the flag was raised mid-field behind the speaker’s platform, in front of the students standing beside their folding chairs in alphabetical order and surrounded by bleachers jam-packed with families (some tearful) who loved them.
A tender moment and a memory I value right up to when Old Glory reached the top of the flagpole and the canon went off. Yes, a canon, and more than once. Some would claim later to have fainted. I didn’t, though I was most deserving of that right. I didn’t even know we had a canon and wouldn’t have sanctioned its use if I had, but who am I to say? A tradition revered to this day was born before the last echo died.
MARJORIE ANDERSON is an Edmond resident.