It was high school graduation day last week. We didn't go to any ceremonies -- with no relatives graduating we would have seats up near the roof of the gymnasium where the temperature range is about 137-138 degrees, which means I would have dozed off and probably tumbled all the way to the floor.
We did go to some receptions -- including going on the wrong day to the wrong place. We didn't actually turn into the yard -- I noticed a certain lack of cars parked along the driveway, took another look at the invitation and discovered that I had the right kid and time, but the wrong location and day. Sorry about that Kobie -- you'll get your card in the mail. On the plus side, you didn't have to give us lunch.
I really like graduation receptions. The young people are relaxed, the pressure is gone, their neckties are off, some are barefoot and there's nothing left to do but accept gifts and bask in the glory -- not a tough gig.
There was one great moment. In the middle of a perfect day -- clear skies, moderate temperatures -- everything just right -- we were sitting on a lawn, listening to an impromptu band. They started playing a slow song and the graduate and his mom took the dance floor. Okay, it was just a smooth spot in the lawn and there weren't any elaborate moves, but the whole crowd stirred into motion, pointing cameras, cell phones and at least one video camera at the duo. The looks that flashed across the graduate's face were priceless. First, there was a just a hint of embarrassment. I'm sure many young men around America relish the thought of dancing with their moms in front of a crowd of friends and relatives who are taking pictures and shouting advice, but I don't know very many of them.
But there was more than just embarrassment on his face. Maybe I'm wrong; maybe I was seeing things that weren't there, but I believe I saw pride, and pleasure, a certain amount of confusion, and in the midst of it all, the dawning realization that on this day he was entering a different world.
It's a strange situation for these young people. I doubt if there's been a group of young people in the history of the world who have had the advantages and coddling of the average American high school student. Yet they are going out into a world that is harder and more daunting than we've seen in a while. College is expensive, jobs are scarce, and some of our best are headed off to an uncertain and dangerous future in uncertain and dangerous parts of the world, while we grown-ups leave no end of messes for them to clean up.
It's odd and wonderful the way our young people line up to get the diploma and then step off into an uncertain future armed with nothing except the confidence of youth and the whatever bits of knowledge weâ€™ve managed to pass on. We can't live their lives for them, and it's always a mistake when we try. There will be joys and terrors, mis-steps and giant leaps, and sooner or later, the cycle starts all over again.