Living in Canada means we get included in the bigger events of hubby’s siblings’ family lives. We are lucky because the nieces and nephews are grown/growing up and they do the things I only know from the movies, like a graduation. Earlier this month we were at his youngest newphew’s graduation (from high school, not kindergarten; he is 17) and as Valedictorian he got to speak to all of us.
It was the first graduation I’d ever been to. I kind of missed my own… You see between our exams and the ‘graduation’ there were a few weeks of sheer nothingness. Holidays, but not totally as you could still flunk the whole year. At the time one of our girlfriends lived in Paris as an au-pair. My other girlfriends and I timed it such that we could all come and that we’d be home in plenty of time before my graduation. Plenty of time back then was counted in hours: grad started around 5pm or so, and our train would arrive at 1pm, so plenty of time.
About 35 years ago we could not afford to fly around. We saved up for a train, and it was not a fast one either. But when we got to Paris everything was so wonderful, so full of promise, freedom, handsome men, beautiful weather and tons of things to see and do. We did as much as we could fit in and were totally not ready to go home yet. But I had a graduation ceremony to go to, so we had to say goodbye.
We made it to the station on time, miraculously really as it was pretty early, and even the train took off right on time. As we leaned back into our chairs, thinking we had made it and really: what could go wrong. Well…
We had not counted on mundane things like a wildcat strike (a strike action undertaken by unionized workers without union leadership’s authorization, support, or approval; usually also unannounced) in Belgium. The Belgians were not known for their strikes; the French yes! But we had survived that! The Belgians were supposed to be working. But they did not. And we didn’t move. They were rather kind about it, but that didn’t get us back home any sooner.
I had to call my mother internationally and she was furious. There was no way she could come and pick me up, drive back and still make it to the ceremony on time. She had been looking forward to it a lot more than I, so her disappointment was a lot bigger than mine. I wasn’t that excited really, it was just a piece of paper. Ha, when you’re 18 you know everything!
Thankfully the train continued a few hours later, and my mother was waiting for me at the station. We drove straight to my school’s gym, where everyone had already gathered and where all the speeches had already been given (well I assume there were speeches?). The moment I walked in – in my scruffy clothes with the Parisian dust still on them – they called my name and I detoured straight to the front. My mom didn’t even have a chair yet.
Anyway, the diploma was mine!
Dave’s nephew’s commencement (graduation ceremony) was very different. It was more like the ones you see in movies. Speeches, performances and the handout of all the diplomas. Except that these students still have to do their exams!? So the school organizes the graduation ceremony and the prom before the students even finished their lessons? Interesting concept, and you cannot help but wonder why.
Instead of a diploma the students got a “thank you for participating in the commencement” certificate, together with their graduation photo. Hmmmm, less rewarding for sure. But they did get to throw their caps into the air, and isn’t that what it’s all about?