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A strange end to senior year

Our small community celebrated its graduates in a big way this year.

In the September issue of Successful Farming, my column, “The First of the Lasts,” talked about my oldest son, Jake, starting his senior year of high school, and all that meant for our family.

I wrote, “Jake’s season as a high school kid is winding down. The days of having all of our boys under one roof are numbered. I can’t promise I won’t shed a few tears this year as I watch him walk through these lasts.”

September – we were all so young then! It seems like a lifetime has passed since I wrote those words. I knew this was going to be a year unlike any other for our family, but I had no idea just how different it would be.

Who would’ve guessed that the entire fourth quarter of Jake’s senior year would be spent at home? He missed his last classes with favorite teachers, his senior golf season, several academic team meets, the spring play and concerts, countdown traditions, and priceless time with friends. (We are still hoping for an in-person graduation ceremony and prom this summer.)

I’m so proud of the way he handled everything. With perspective beyond his years, my history buff reminded himself that if he was living in the Vietnam era, he could very well be worrying about being sent to fight the jungle rather than his messed-up spring break plans.

Finding the silver lining

Of course, we gained the kind of family time we have never had, and will never have again, so I am incredibly grateful for that. Our busy schedules slowed, we were all five together every day, and we truly enjoyed each other.

The world has shown a lot of extra love toward this year’s graduates, and that holds true in our little community. New traditions were created by this class, including signs featuring photos of each senior placed in each of our district's three towns and a social media campaign by the student council sharing a daily senior spotlight that included each graduate’s plans for the future.

On the night in May his class was supposed to graduate, the school held a drive-through diploma pick-up, followed by a parade through the towns in our district. Jake and his 31 classmates rode in decorated cars and pickups, and were cheered by their neighbors as they were driven along the route, led by firetrucks and other emergency vehicles, lights and sirens blazing. The town streets were lined with families holding signs and shouting congratulations to each graduate, and those who live in the country came to the end of their driveways to honk and wave at the procession.

When I saw our friends and neighbors gathered to shower these kids with love, the tears flowed. The seniors definitely felt the love, and so did the parents. I have never been happier to live where we do. It was the best day since coronavirus became part of our vernacular. It was pure joy and pride and celebration. 

Jake is heading off to college soon, and his future is so bright. No matter where life takes him, he will always remember the night his community lined the streets for him and his classmates, and he will know that whenever he wants to come home, we’ll all be here waiting with open arms.

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