Tuesday was my son, Sam’s high school graduation. I know, on a Tuesday afternoon, really!? What were they thinking? Oh, yeah, they were thinking safety and doing the best they could during a pandemic.
I don’t actually remember much of my own high school graduation, but I remember a few things. The day before graduation, I got a haircut, my hair was very long — and became very short, so that I became nearly unrecognizable. When we had our practice run through, that day before, one of my best friends, Deidre Leggett, gave me three peacock feathers. (As an aside, Deidre lives a few miles away from me, and we reconnected when Jeff, our daughter, Riva, and I moved back to Denver in 1999.) I was sternly warned not to bring the big colorful feathers to the actual ceremony — something I didn’t even think about, but all of the sudden, decorating myself in peacock feathers was something I wanted to do desperately. And I would have probably gotten away with it, because the reality was, I was one of more than one thousand students graduating, and the logistics were astounding.
Because my graduating class was so large, we held it in the Denver Colosseum. To give an idea about the size of the place, this is one of larger venues where the National Western Stock Show takes place every year, since 1906. It attracts more than 650,000 visitors. They have cattle and other livestock showings, sheep shearing, food stalls, vendors from all over the world selling farm supplies, western shirts and garb, Native American dances, barrel racing and other rodeo events. And this Colosseum is where the class of ’83 from George Washington High School held their graduation. The Stock Show takes place in January, and the graduation was in early June, but it was impossible to class up a place that large and that sparse. I had on a silver dress, and although it was mostly invisible under my black graduating gown, but I still felt a little bit like a girly astronaut. But everything else, the speeches, the procession, having my name called out, walking across the stage and receiving my diploma — all of that is gone from my memory. I supposed I needed to preserve brain memory space for future things like my kids’ shoe sizes, my husband’s birthday, and the theme song to Cheers. I was just glad to be out of high school, not understanding at the time that one carries high school with them everywhere they go. But I digress.
The point is, as crappy as the last semester of his Senior year was, and how awful it was not to even be able to walks across the stage, my son, Sam, is never going to forget his high school graduation. Like many others, the Overland High School class of 2020 had a drive-through graduation. That’s right — we waited in line — a long, long, long line of cars snaking through the parking lot, down one street, and onto another, all of us in our cars, and slowly, ever-so-slowly crept along at a glacial speed (it took a over an hour and a half/even though they had partitioned the class by sections of the alphabet). We commandeered the whole right lane of a fairly busy street (the passing cars honked and waved), and around the corner, and into the school parking lot, and around to get a yearbook, t-shirt, diploma and finally, if anyone so choose, a photo with the principal (who wore a face mask, as did everyone who directed cars and those handing out items). And yes, Sam did choose to get a picture with the principal — more “as a goof” than any true sentimentality.
Some cars in the line were more decorated than others, with writings and posters of “Graduate 2020!”, “Congratulations Nay Nay!,” “Yay, Joseph!” and other such pithy things. Sam’s car was more restrained, with only two green helium balloons tied to it. (Overland High School colors are green and blue.) Sam wore his dark blue cap, and gown, and once he received his diploma, he moved the tassel on top of the cap to the other side. Formalities done, my son was now a high school graduate at the time of the Covid-19. Woo hoo!
But the part I will remember, and I hope he remembers, is that the whole family was with him — mom, dad, and sister. While we were creeping along, we talked and joked, and then we rocked out to some tunes we knew (most of the words) by heart, all of us bobbing our heads and playing air guitars (I played air drums). It was a weird, boring, fun, frustrating, interesting, loud, funny experience, and we share it together. Afterward, we got the giant cookie cake my son requested, to go with his choice of New York-style pizza from his favorite place (thin, foldable crust — garlicy and chewy). Considering all the circumstances, I think it was a great day.