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Some Days in the Life - Brewster's Graduation

Posted 5/29/99

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Do you remember graduation? Assuming you've graduated from high school -- there are just enough people reading this that I know I don't know all of you personally -- do you remember what it felt like on that day? When twelve years of your eighteen year life culminate and end? When the first major milestone of your life is passed?

Oh, you had milestones before then... the first day of Kindergarten. The first day of First Grade, when the teacher told you that playtime was over, and it was time to work and learn. (My First Grade teacher didn't have much magic in her life). The first day of Junior High. The first day as a High School Freshman. The Prom. The first time you talked an attractive member of the opposite sex into breaking some of the school's acceptable use policy....

But graduation... that was different. The entire of your life encapsulated to that day. Your memory of it is far clearer than... well, most of High School, really.

There is a buzz -- an anticipation in the air today. A feeling combining nerves and profound relief. We've reached that milestone... that day... for the Class of 1999.

They're good kids. Extremely good kids. Good enough that I don't mind putting on a hot, black gown, sitting outside and trying to give out an award with a sore throat (which is better, but I'm coughing a lot more today). There are jokes about how there's been sunny weather for eighteen straight years at graduation, which apparently is true. People ascribe it to the Headmaster. There are kids practicing Graduation songs. Everyone's wearing their sunday best, despite the fact that the gowns cover them up head to toe.

I remember graduation. I sang the National Anthem -- I was All State Chorus, so I could do it by right. I even hit that Rocket's Red Glare note, believe it or not. We had a boring commencement speaker. We didn't throw our caps. Our School Theme choice was Where Everybody Knows Your Name, but the music teacher thought the lyrics were inappropriate so she substituted Seasons in the Sun on us -- a graduation theme far more suited to her high school graduation.

But you needed one more day of authoritarian rules before you could move onto the main course, right?

We graduated well. Our "Alcohol and Drug Free" party was thrown at Loring Air Force Base, and lasted all night on the School's nickel. They had a bowling alley, a 'disco' (I swear), a pool, a hot tub....

It was fun. We pulled in at eight in the morning, feeling like we'd seen the naked face of God on the bus ride back from Limestone, where the base was. It was a feeling of unity -- we had all gone through twelve years together.

Most of those kids I've never seen since. I wonder how many are dead. Some of them I know have kids who are in Junior High now.

One stands out in my memory. Kevin Gagnon. He stands out because he and I bowled together that night, and he was also the first kid I got to know in Kindergarten. He sat next to me, and he had what looked like a little plastic briefcase of "school supplies." Kevin was a good guy. We didn't hang out for the most part, but we liked each other just fine. I haven't seen or thought about Kevin since that graduation party. After I post this entry, I'll probably forget about him again. But he was a large part of a long part of my life. No longer more than half my life, but a large part nonetheless. It's worth giving him a thought on Graduation Day.

The students here don't have quite that advantage. The longest most of them can have known each other are four years, but even that's rare. Four-year Brewster Students are called Lifers, and they're almost an exclusive club come graduation. I think we have ten or fifteen of them. But it's still the day when they pass that milestone. That moment of pride. They become adults.

Or so they think. Sadly, they have about three more of these rites of passage before anyone considers them adults. Twenty-one, college graduation, and the day they get a sensible haircut, for example. But no matter what happens, this is a rite of passage that they'll never forget, and I'm happy for them.