Friday, May 25, 2012

Three Rings and a Robe

'Tis the season.  The season for receptions and speeches, advice and tears, dreams and reminiscing. For well wishing, cakes, and platitudes.  For travels to distant cities, for ceremony, for tradition, for costumes strange and medieval, for pageantry.  For giant leaps, bows, and tossing apparel in the air.

For graduations?

For a circus!

Actually, I find it quite delicious that the Kid's Korner graduation here in Tarkio incorporates a circus into its graduation festivities.  Anyone who knows and loves a preschooler already knows how life with a 3,4, rising 5 year old cannot possibly be confined to three rings.  Each and every child there has, in turn, been a tiger, a clown, a magician, a stunt man, and a trick rider.  

In the audience sit moms and dads, a raucous assortment of little brothers and sisters, grandmas, grandpas, aunties, uncles, babysitters, and even, for the fortunate, a notable number of great grandmas and -pas.  This assembly is what sets our little town apart from the majority of preschool programs taking place this merry May: whether or not we know the names of the little ones dressed up on the stage, we know who they are. ( Those eyes; they are just like her momma's....I remember when she graduated from grade school. )  How many towns in our country 
gather four generations for a preschool program?   Not many, anymore.  What sets this place apart is how many names in our cemetery still exist in our schools; how many families have remained faithful to town, school, church and even political party lo these many years.  Its a blessing; its a curse, but its a characteristic, and a notable one, of our little town. Goodness knows, I am filled with regret each time a denizen of one of the grand old families passes on.  It is also cause for celebration when there are four year olds on the stage in their jaunty black "mortar boards" whose mommies and daddies have settled in the same little towns where their grandparents are buried  and the same old schools where their photos in the graduating classes of  whatever gradually fade to black and white.

We don't all come home again.  Far, far away on the tradition laden lawn of a historic campus, we will celebrate another graduation.  Despite the University of Virginia's school colors of orange and navy, the graduates of the School of Law will be wearing sober black when they receive their rolled diplomas.  There will be hoods and mortar boards, brunches and receptions, and general lauds for the class of 2012.  We dither about the correct interpretation of 'summer cocktail wear' for an afternoon reception in the Law School's courtyard garden and comfortably air conditioned halls.  There are gents in bow ties and boating shoes, ladies in broad brimmed beribboned hats.  I am gratified and justified when I spy seersucker even if it is not the rule, but the exception. Fruity frosty desserts await in cunning little square glass serving ware; we slip a couple into Ann's bag for Lizzie's preferred souvenir ('something breakable, Mommy, but not TOO breakable'). Perched on the granite wall, we enjoy the people watching; we even meet a professor or two before heading off to supper.  It seems only fitting that we warm up with tiny tidbits before the main event of ribs and fries at the Barbeque Exchange in Gordonsville.  Our version of summer cocktail wear looks more than a little too upscale for the clientele banging in and out the screen door and squinting in the westering May sunshine.

Little do we know that graduation at UVA is a circus unto itself.  We queue up for a city block for a bus ride to the hallowed and historic Rotunda.  Despite the august surroundings, a party atmosphere overrides the solemnity of the black gowns.  Thomas Jefferson appears to be floating on a sea of mylar balloons with shapes and characters of special significance to each graduate...or perhaps just easily recognized by loved ones in the mob lining the sidewalks.  Are we sending the next generation off into the real world, or are we watching a Chinese New Year's celebration or Thanksgiving day parade?  I expect to see Underdog float over the Rotunda.  

Our party of ten echoes the congregation at the Kid's Korner circus;  grandparents, wife, sisters, mom and dad, aunt and uncle arriving in three different flights and a Honda CRV.  When Ben's name is called, we raise enough clamor that the lady from North Carolina next to us asks us to cheer for her son when he walks across.  We double our efforts.

Circus to commencement; stunt man to J.D.  We are family; we will celebrate.

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