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Beware the fork in the road - it may not lead where you hope

June 2, 2019

We’ve come to that fork in the road; it’s known as the month of June, when graduations loom large. You can’t have a commencement speech without mentioning the fork in the road, the path in the road or for that matter, the future in the road. I’ve sat through so many of these speeches, I’m ready to stick a fork in my head.

But graduation is all about choices, the most frightening of which is a child spreading their wings and moving right back home, only to never leave the basement.

But that’s beside the point. You’ve now gone from those insane volcanic science projects in the fourth grade, when you careened around corners holding onto your precious cargo in the car. Not the kids, but cardboard cutouts stuck together with bubble gum and panty hose. You’ve gone from that to being the proud parent of your son or daughter walking across the stage to receive their degree of higher learning. I know, having been through multiple graduations, that this is the time when a hush falls over the crowd and parents hold their breath, just hoping against hope that this piece of paper has been signed.

Oh, you’ve been an audience member for your child many times. You’ve sat through countless dance recitals, where your 4-year-old wearing stage makeup performed the can-can. She was sort of a miniature Lady Macbeth in black fishnet stockings, according to your mother-in-law and pastor. The dance recital hall is always set at a balmy 100-degree temperature, so that makeup runs, cameras melt and the smell of sweat permeates the air like in a pet shop. The boom from batons bouncing off the stage and into the front-row seats is enough to set off most of the pacemakers.

And let’s not forget you went to those endless sports banquets, not that there is anything wrong in that recognition. It’s just that more than five minutes’ notice would have been helpful. In fact, you never knew your children even played sports until you found some trophies under the bed.

So you’ve put in your time. You’ve heard “Pomp and Circumstance” played so many times it has you ready to join the Foreign Legion. You can understand the greenish hue emanating from the faces of the parents sitting in front of you.

For those who have children in graduate school, one stanza of this song can cause a massive crowd panic attack. Stampedes at these events are especially dangerous with all the artificial hips and knees creaking and groaning. There are a few faces in the audience that resemble something out of central casting for a movie about the Okies during the Dust Bowl era. These parents don’t have anyone graduating today; their minds are so blown out from working overtime to pay for college, they just automatically head for the nearest ceremony.

But here you are, planning for that event which is upon us soon. Graduations have come to symbolize pride, dignity and a certain reverence for the whole educational process, not to mention the heavy metal groups Metallica and Smashing Pumpkins, which your child has listened to more than any professor.

Once the program starts, there is the usual procession of graduates, looking mature and adult in their caps and gowns. Well, those and their red high-top sneakers and wrap-around green sunglasses.

Yes, another generation is on the march. You aren’t sure what their major is, but you are sure your basement will be turned into kind of a de facto apartment for the returning graduate. You will have to explain what the word “job” entails and tell them about FICA. I’m sure there’s an app for that.

It may not be the fork in the road you envisioned, but at least it’s a start. School graduations have come to symbolize the words of Richard Dreyfuss in the movie “Jaws,” when he examined what was left of a body mauled by a shark, “This was no boating accident.”

  • 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.