It’s that time of the year. Caps and gowns. Yearbooks. Goodbyes. Commencement.
It’s been 44 years since my high school graduation; 40 years since my college commencement. Lots of pomp and circumstance has played over all those years. My daughter’s graduations. Then 21 commencements with my inner city high school kids. Always a time of looking forward to what the future would bring.
One day this past week, while talking with a friend, the past came rolling in like the tide on the beach, bringing in the jetsam and flotsam of a long-lived life. My friend’s daughter had graduated in 1968 from the same small-town rural high school where I was attending. I was only a sophomore at the time, and although aware of my friend’s daughter, did not come any where near her sphere of popular. Diane is her name, and she wore pencil skirts, pullover sweaters and Capezio flats. She was well-known for her humor and her artistic skills. She won awards for her drawings and paintings. She is still known for her art. She was highlighted in the yearbook you see at the top of the post.
I met Diane’s mother, my friend, three years ago when we worked on the church history. We didn’t know we shared so much history beyond the church walls. It came to light as we worked on those 130 years of church life, sharing our own stories, intermixed with church stories. She had grown up in the same town as me, gone to the local high school. Her kids, it turned out, were close to my age. Our paths had crossed, like the daughter who graduated in 1968.
While chatting on the phone last week, my friend asked if I would bring the yearbook to church so she could look through it. I perused it first, turning page after page, floating back to a time when I lacked confidence and felt left out of the popular circle because I did not have Capezio shoes nor any talent like humor or art. I was so bad in PE that I was put in a special ed class for physical misfits.
Reading the notes that were written by fellow students buoyed me a bit. I was smart. They noted that. They also wrote of how I had helped them in various classes. Even my bus buddies wrote of how I made them laugh on the long trip home every afternoon. Maybe I wasn’t fashionable, but I had my own good qualities.
That summer of 1968 would bring changes. My dad would die and I would decide that I would be successful at what I did and make him proud. Two years later, when I graduated, I would have garnered enough high grades and accolades to earn scholarship money to attend college for four years. I would go on to graduate with honors from the state university.
Forty six years later I can laugh about the girl who didn’t have Capezio shoes or run in popular circles. Commencement means going on to find success in what we do well. To try new things and meet new people. Remembering who we were helps us see who we are.