Graduation differs from undergrad to graduate

April 17, 2012

At this time of year, a great many parents and relatives are preparing for that graduation date in May or June. Whether it’s grade school, high school or college, there is a certain joy in participating in the completion of such a worthy cause. That cause being some peace and quiet around the house; just kidding, education is key today.

But hold on to your check books. All this pales in comparison to watching your son or daughter walk across that stage with a diploma in hand from graduate school.

Parents at graduate school ceremonies have a different look about them. Their complexion, if they have any, could best be described as a sienna brown, much like rust coming off of an old car; obviously writing out all those checks for tuition payment$ has taken its toll. They mumble the word “job$” inappropriately in the middle of a sentence when the minister is preaching from the pulpit. And they have a lot of hole$ in their shoe$.

I can remember when our son finished graduate school. We arrived with hope in our hearts at the thought of the light at the end of the tunnel. And we were anxious to explore this new level of maturity all this schooling had brought to fruition. He picked us up at the airport, an hour after our plane had landed and security asked us to leave the luggage carousel. The new graduate to be was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, what I assumed were a pair of shorts and blue wrap-around sun glasses. We had just finished paying off the Jeep he careened in on. “I have a couple of bags of laundry for you,” he told me as he threw our luggage in the back seat.

“But we’re staying in a hotel,” I explained.

“Awesome, just send it out.”

We stopped at his apartment, for which we’d written monthly checks for the last three years. One look around assured me there was no chance we were going to get our security deposit back. Of course the down payment for the moving company had come in under what we expected, so that was something.

Eventually we were seated in late afternoon under arched oak trees on the historic grounds of the campus for the ceremony. See, I think these schools all look beautiful with their ivy-covered walls and greenery because they know that by this time most parents are one step away from going out on that ledge. Green is supposed to be soothing. “Isn’t it wonderful,” I leaned over and whispered to my daughter.

“Get over it,” she told me. “How many times do you have to hear, ‘Pomp and Circumstance.’ Do you think we could go shopping after the little deadbeat gets his diploma?” Like I said, we are a close-knit family.

I noticed my husband up front with a calculator. He likes to multiply the number of people times the amount of tuition for each student just so he can turn a new shade of purple. The new mature graduates straggled out of a gray building, buttoning their gowns, passing hats around and flashing thumbs-up signs. Sure, they looked more like a Mafia roundup, but I was grateful no one was streaking across the green. I recognized my son by the red high-top sneakers peeking out from under his black gown.

Once settled, we heard the traditional speech about setting out on the path of life armed with the tools of knowledge to face new challenges. We heard about a deconstruction movement and externalism. It was a speech worthy of the graduating class from “Star Trek.” There was no mention of earning a living, paying bills, getting a job or just plain common sense. But that’s life; well not as you and I know it. Congrats anyway.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.