Middle- and High School graduations are in high season. Some schools are providing zoom-only events--grandparents can watch from the comfort of their home screens. But with the weather warmed up and the outdoors deemed safe by the CDC, the in-person event is also happening. And we're allowed to attend.
School rules vary but last weekend our granddaughter graduated from a school that was able to hold an in-person outdoor ceremony. Not that it fit all the traditional markers. Each graduate could have six people sit in their pod--six chairs huddled together and set at least six feet from other pods.
The pods were well spaced not only from each other but from the "podium" and from where the graduating seniors were seated in chairs six feet apart. Everything was spread out for health-spacing purposes, which meant that our pods were far from the action. (The equivalent of the nose-bleed section.) Still, we were there. When the graduates walked in (traditional Pomp and Circumstances on speaker system) it was hard to tell one student from the other--the gowns, the caps, the distance.
A pre-ceremony email set out the rules of attendance: Masks on the way in; masks on the way out. No socializing with other families before or after: Deliver your child, listen to speeches, watch your child receive their diploma and then take them home.
The sun was shining. It was a hot and beautiful day where the breeze was just enough to ensure covid-safety, especially with everyone masked and most guests and graduates vaccinated. Socializing happened. How could it not? Of course, we were from out of town so we knew no one to socialize with. We could watch as our daughter and her family met her child's friends and their families. How pleasant it was for them. How joyful. A major stepping stone in their child's (and our grandchild's) life: Achieved.
To be honest, there were moments when we the grandparents felt like hangers-on--a bit left out. Was it the recognition that we are no longer center stage. Our children and their children have the starring roles now. As they should. But it wasn't that. A year of no in-person visiting had left us in an information vacuum. We hadn't been around to pick up the small details about friendships made and the small triumphs and disappointments of our grandchild's year. The things too minor to mention in a zoom call but in the air when you visit in person. That's why at a celebratory dinner with our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter we had trouble following the conversation about our grandchild's various friends and what they would be doing this summer, about the funny challenges of the senior year, about the underlying meaning of the valedictory's speech.
Was it worth the trip? You bet. We are so fortunate to be around and healthy enough to make the trip. It's what we do. We wouldn't have missed it. Especially when, as we were walking back from a morning-after shot of coffee, my daughter said, "It meant so much to all of us that you were here."
We're the audience that takes notice. We're a necessary part of the on-going play.
photo: graduation day, June 5, 2021