Two years ago we sat in the early morning humid heat of Florida along with our daughter and her family, to see her oldest child walk across the stage set up under the spreading trees to receive her secondary school diploma. We were delighted to have been able to participate in this important life event of our first granddaughter. It was a nice ceremony, followed by a procession of the graduates along a treed pathway to another area for photos and congratulations and best wishes and hugs from family and friends. We prolonged the celebration even further by lingering over lunch at her favourite vegetarian restaurant. Then she apologetically headed off to continue the celebrating at various parties. It had a very satisfying feeling for all of us.
This past Saturday was the graduation of her younger sister. This time we did not fly to Florida to repeat the previous experience, we just rose early, dressed, drank coffee and then settled on the couch at home to watch the ceremony on the computer. Although we had been surprised that the school had decided to go ahead with the ceremony, we should not have been given the late stay-at-home order and the early re-opening in the state of Florida.
The school had established what they felt was a safe setting by moving the event to the football field. Guests were limited to four for each graduate and the field was divided into spacious squares by taping the ground. The graduating class wore masks (matching their gowns). The staff officiating did not.
The ceremony followed the familiar pattern and both student speeches were thoughtful and well articulated. I felt a pang of pride as my granddaughter crossed the stage (a little tear escaped too). At the end after the closing remarks of the head of school, the screen went blank and there we were back at home by ourselves – no smile, hug or congratulatory remarks to the graduate, or her also proud parents. We were glad to see her, but the experience felt empty in comparison with two years ago. But we did see her, and we do feel grateful for that and the jerky sometimes frozen feed that brought her to us. How many youngsters have not had the recognition and closure that a graduation ceremony brings to their years of secondary or university study. And how many family members have not been able to be with them, even if the ceremony took place.