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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Miss Manners and Graduation

By Jody Worsham

All rights reserved for Tassel Tossing Time

They say the mark of "old age", besides the appearance of many, many brown spots, is when you tell people you walked two miles to school in three feet of snow uphill…both ways…all year… until graduation.  I haven’t reached that point yet, but I do remember graduation as it used to be.

In the beginning, graduation was a solemn and revered event.  There were certain rules of decorum and fashion that had to be followed.  A young man had to wear dress pants under his graduation robe along with a white long sleeved shirt, tie, and shoes.  A young lady had to wear hose, heels, and a white dress under her robe.  They had to act like they were interested in the speaker.

Graduation announcements were sent out inviting people who could actually attend the commencement ceremony. Graduation gifts of clothing, pens, wallest, and luggage were proudly displayed on the dining room table for guests to view.  Formal thank you notes were written in long hand and put into matching envelopes, stamped and mailed within three weeks of graduation.

My, my, how the times have changed. I should have seen it coming.  There were signs, especially when I attended my husband's doctoral graduation exercise.  As each of the doctoral candidates crossed the stage and was draped with the hood of their school and given a diploma, various members of the audience would rise up (some even standing on the stadium seats) and would shout such things as:

"I'm quitting tomorrow!"

"No more Shake and Bake."

"Wahoo, no more coupon cutting!"

"Baloney to baloney."

"Let me eat cake."

At first I thought this was just unique to Texas A&M, but over the years, I started noticing changes in other schools.  Maybe it was because of the streakers of the 70's or lowering the drinking age to 18, but the last few years at the school where I taught, seniors had to pass through a robe check and finger-to-the-nose check before marching in to "Pomp and Circumstance."

Even this year a young man attempted to do a back flip off the stage after receiving his diploma at a university.  He didn't complete the flip, an Aggie would have, but fortunately he was wearing pants under his robe.  I'm not sure I could say that of an Aggie.

When I graduated, my English teacher gave us the history and meaning behind our graduation mortar boards.  I still have my graduation cap carefully preserved in tissue paper. I guess no one does that anymore because at a friend's junior college graduation some of the mortar boards were decked out with flashing lights, glitter, and rolling LED messages.  I'm thinking someone had a hard time with biology...and spelling.

Facebook and E-invites have replaced Hallmark for invitations and in many cases thank you notes are now a blurb on Facebook or a quick Twit.  I now get graduation invitations from three states away. I am glad to hear from my scattered friends and view it more as an announcement than an actual invitation.  Gifts are displayed, if at all, on an end table.  You don't need much room for gift cards.  Flip-flops will replace heels and as likely as not cell phones will be sandwiched in between the pages of the graduation program in their hands.

As I attend graduation ceremonies next week, I'll grin at the shouts coming from parents for I know their relief.  I’ll remember those students that I inwardly shouted for joy when they graduated knowing that they would not be in my class, again, next fall.  I'll laugh at the tops of the decorated mortar boards and hope this new graduating class can spell better than previous classes.  I’ll hope for no injuries in the event of gymnastic type celebrations and pray they are all wearing pants.  I’ll wonder how long the mortar board LED lights will continue to flash after being tossed in the closet or if the hat will even make it that far.

Graduation, for all the changes and continued traditions, is still a time to celebrate and to pause, a time for looking back and looking forward, endings and new beginnings…

…and for  walking two miles to school in three feet of snow uphill…both ways.


fishducky said...

i made that walk in the snow and it never snows where i live!!

Sharon said...

Great story, Jody. Loved the descriptions. So glad the student had pants on and no LED lights under his robe.

Everything is so different these days. I guess it's a sign of old age that we say such things.

Keep up the good work.

BTW, I had to walk through three feet of snow, five miles and uphill on unpaved roads both ways.