In North America, a big deal is made out of high school graduation. Even more so now than when I graduated high school. Sometimes limos and tuxedos are even rented. The pomp and circumstance has reached incredible proportions. And I get that. Always important to celebrate a milestone in someone’s life.
Having sat through the graduation ceremonies of each of my kids, held in a 2,500 seat auditorium, I can tell you that graduating classes have gotten much larger than in my day. With a limit of four guests per student, their graduating class would have been somewhere close to 500 kids.
My grad class was only 148 students. Although, even with that meager group of graduates, when you add up parents, brothers and sisters, you’re still looking at an audience of at least 500 people.
All of us graduates up on the stage at once, alternately standing and seated on a set of bleachers, in our caps and gowns. With stage lighting and etc., as anyone who has ever been on stage could tell you, it’s hard to see the audience. And since we were all shunted backstage when we first got there, I had no idea where my family was seated. I spent most of the ceremony scanning a crowd that I really couldn’t see, trying to find them. Even when I did my march across the stage to get my diploma and shake the principal’s hand, I was unable to get a bead on them. I just wanted to wave at them from up on the stage. No biggie.
Once everyone had done their walk, the emcee got on the mic and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, the graduating class of 1982!” and chaos ensues. The crowd comes to its feet while applauding, all of us throw our mortarboards into the air and cheer. Bedlam.
For some reason, right at that moment, the house lights came up. This was my chance to find them and wave. I did a quick scan of the crowd and somehow, in that sea of people and in all that frenzied motion, I spotted my father. He was only in about the third row, just off center. Maybe 30 feet away. And he was looking right at me. And although the moment was probably only 5 seconds long or less, remembering it now, it seems much longer.
Our eyes locked.
The rest of the world vanished.
He smiled and nodded as if to say, “Well done, son. Congratulations.”
He just looked so damn proud.
I never did get to wave, though.