As You Like It: The Graduate

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As I sat through two graduations during these past few weeks when so many of our children were graduating, the strangest word popped into my brain: plastics. You may remember the 1967 film The Graduate. Dustin Hoffman plays a recent college graduate who was unsure of what to do with his life. At his graduation party a well-meaning family friend pulls him aside and tells him he has one word for him, “plastics.” Evidently, that’s where he felt the future lay for the very confused lad. Thankfully, unlike Dustin, both my girls have a good idea of where they’re heading.

We began our celebrations with Mariel, who was graduating from the University of Arizona with a master’s in geosciences. As many of you know, my youngest is madly in love with rocks and the earth that they come from. Her interest was ignited by a fantastic Galvin Middle School science teacher, ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Ms. Birtwell, a father who loves science, and a family trip to a Hawaiian volcanic caldera. The only thing that I can say is that I bought her a bag of pretty rocks when she was 8.

We set off for a long weekend in Tucson, excited yet a bit apprehensive. I no longer love flying the way I used to thanks to all the rules and regulations involving liquids, shoes and clothing removal. On this trip Steve and I were introduced to body scanners. We could have chosen to be frisked, but I had heard from friends how “intimate” that could get, so I opted for the scanner.

It was strange. Not only do you remove every extraneous article of anything on your body, but you stand spread-eagled with your hands above your head while the scanner finds out if you intend to blow up the eastern hemisphere. Just my luck, I was also randomly chosen for a body pat down. “Why me?” I wailed uselessly, since random is random, yes? I like to think that it wasn’t random at all — that I was chosen for my great beauty.

We flew to Houston without incident where we were scheduled for a four-hour layover. However, the gods were not smiling on us. Due to mechanical malfunctions and Texan storms, we ended up waiting for eight hours until we were finally allowed to board our plane. Half of us on that plane were scheduled to attend graduation at the U of A the next day, but we were the only ones whose ceremony was at 8 in the very early morning.

After landing, figuring out the time change (Arizona does not change its clocks), and picking up our rental car, we were blitzed. Thank goodness our hotel was across the street from the rental place. After four hours of sleep, we groggily set out.

At 7:15 a.m. Steve and I shook hands, congratulating each other that we had made it. Now all we had to do was stay awake. The ceremony, which was only for the school of science, was held in a sports arena so there was a jumbotron hanging from the ceiling. Instead of the usual pictures of people going nuts when they saw themselves up there, the names of the graduates, their degrees and parting comments were shown. These ran the gamut, from “I love you mom!” to various existential quotes, to “Meet you on the unemployment line!” It was hilarious.

When it was Mariel’s turn to be “hooded” for her master’s, I tried in vain to get a picture while enjoying the moment in real time. It went by so quickly, I didn’t even have time to cry. I took a few deep breaths and tried to get used to the fact that I was old enough to have a daughter with a master’s degree.

Thank goodness for Lisa’s graduation we did not have to separate fluids or be body-scanned. All we had to do was drive into Boston on a beautiful summer’s day. Lisa was also graduating in an intimate venue, Boston University’s Agganis Arena. She was getting her master’s degree from the School of Public Health. Unfortunately, it was as cold in there as it is when the hockey team is playing — I could have sworn I still saw ice on the arena floor. And because everyone there was getting a master’s or PhD, everybody was being hooded, which meant that we had plenty of time to enjoy not only every second of our daughter’s moment, but of everyone else’s child’s as well.

And that was actually wonderful. Sitting there in the midst of hundreds of proud parents, knowing that our children were part of the lucky few who were beginning their professional lives with degrees — knowing that there were doors that would open for them because of their education — was at once gratifying and humbling. As I knew so well, there were countless others who would not even finish high school, whose futures were mortgaged before they even began.

Lisa, Mariel and I have often joked that we want to try and save the world. I have since narrowed that down to my local world and then even further to one person at a time in my neighborhood. One by one, step by step. And hopefully all of our graduates will go out into the world and save a bit of it too. It all adds up.

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avatar Posted by on May 30 2012. Filed under As You Like It, Featured Content, Opinion.
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