The parking lot was filling up fast with cars, SUVs, vans, and many trucks. As we hurried into the gym, our senses were greeted with the sound of excited voices, clashing perfumes, and a scene of people of all ages looking anxiously for those they were saving seats for. The Grandmas were already fanning themselves with the programs handed out at the door, as the exhaust fans installed at each end of the building did their best to keep the place cool. Children and parents alike were dressed better than they would be for the average day on the farm, and there were more cameras ready to flash than a bus full of Chinese tourists. Music that I didn't always recognize was being played on the piano by the Band Director. This, my friends, is the scene of a small town graduation.
There were eleven young adults graduating from High School. Eleven! You can bet each and every one of those kids were friends in one way or another. The Eighth Grade graduating class had burgeoned to more than double that number - I think 27. Granddaughter, Emily, was part of that class. The Band Director playing the piano happened to be Emily's other Grandmother. Pretty special, huh.
I'll have to admit as those young adults proudly processed into the gym, I felt a lump in my throat. It was like I was being transported back in time to when my own children graduated, and even further back to when Jim and I moved from one phase of our lives to another.
At first I was a little dismayed when I realized we were not attending just the 8th Grade Ceremony, but rather a combination of 8th Grade and High School. We were in for a long night and obviously needed to sit back and get comfortable on those hard folding chairs.
As the ceremony progressed I was so glad we were here for the whole shabang. The students spoke from the heart to each other, telling stories of each and every one of the students, as they talked. You can do that when there are only eleven in your class. They thanked all who helped them achieve, including family, friends, and teachers, and gave encouragement to the Eighth Grade Class that was taking their place. For their Commencement Speaker, they had asked a former teacher (I believe she was the Librarian but don't quote me on that) to return. She mixed humor, life experience, and advice for the future, in her speech. She made fun of the Kardashians and Snooky, pointing out which way is the wrong direction to aspire to. She related to the students on every level.
As these kids (they will always be kids to me) walked onto the stage to get their diplomas and certificates, the tears welled. I was so proud of Emily. She has grown into such a confident, beautiful young lady. They played a video with photos from their High School Days, with a segment for each individual child that included their own personal song as their life was documented in photos. Again, only is that possible in a small town. When the older kids presented their parents with flowers, thanking them, and as often as not shedding tears with them, it was almost more than I could take. Cara was hanging on to her Grandpa's arm. She didn't know that his emotions were coming from memories of all of the students who had passed through his classroom for those 30 many years, in addition to memories of his own kids. She just knew he needed hanging on to.
After the ceremony, we indulged in cake and ice cream, more photo takes, presents for our lovely Granddaughter, and a late night drive home. Emily, thank you for being the wonderful young lady you are. We are very proud of you. Thank you for asking us to share this experience with you. It was great.