Graduation Day

Marci and I were married on May 30, 1998. This year, it just so happens that our 22nd anniversary coincides with another major milestone for our household. Our oldest child Elliot is graduating from Theodore Roosevelt High School here in Kent!

My brother and his wife were going to fly in from Texas. Two sets of grandparents and two sets of aunts living in Ohio would have joined us, too. But then, of course, a plague of coronavirus came along and changed things. Consequently, our circle of celebration has been limited to the five of us who all live under the same roof. Still, the school administration has come up with some creative ideas. Our family has added a few of our own flourishes. And I’d say that even if it’s an unusual Anniversary / Graduation Day, we’ve made the best of things.

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We decorated ourselves (Elliot with all his graduation regalia and the rest of us in what I would have once called “church clothes”). We decorated our minivan. And then we drove to the high school at 1:00 PM for a drive-through distribution of diplomas and awards.

On the way, we listened to a Trap Hip-Hop Remix of the traditional graduation march: Pomp and Circumstance. We waved to teachers, administrators, and classmates through the windows.

And then we waited in a line, like waiting at a fast food drive-through. The school was really organized and pleasant about things, so it still felt fun and festive. But also kind of weird.

As we approached the Diploma Distribution station, we rolled past banners that had been specially made for each of the graduating seniors. (The city of Kent loves banners for some reason; we’ll be adding this one to the set that includes one for Soccer, one for Band, and one for Track). But there was no stopping, no getting out of the car to take pictures. We just kept rolling along until it was our turn at the front of the line.

At the Diploma Distribution station, masked members of the school administration gave Elliot a long-stemmed rose, his diploma, a decorative diploma cover, one ticket to the drive-in movie theater for the evening screening of commencement ceremonies, an award medallion, two copies of the program for commencement, two glossy photographs of his official graduation portrait (which was taken two weeks ago, when they recorded all of the different elements for commencement ceremonies), a copy of a student publication called The Colonel, and (oddly) a three-page print-out of his immunization record. The school’s band director also took pictures of the graduation packets being handed out. And then a large contingent of faculty waved and cheered as we finished the drive off of school property.

When we got home, we had Elliot enact a graduation tradition that we remember fondly from our days in the Netherlands. He hung his school backpack from the flagpole on the front of our house.

And I took a lot of pictures along the way. (You can check out my Flickr page if you want to see the whole collection).

After some more family portraits on our front lawn, Elliot decided that he wanted to dunk a basketball while wearing his cap and gown — and I was pretty impressed that he didn’t seem to have any trouble making his “authoritative statement” in spite of the circumstances.

I’m really proud of the way that Elliot has overcome some challenging circumstances over these last few months. He’s making statements in all sorts of different ways. He’s finishing high school with strong academic achievement, a sense of direction for where he’s headed next (studying Marketing at Kent State University), and his own unique style. At the commencement ceremonies this evening, he’ll address the student body of 274 as one of only four students selected to give speeches that will play at the live screening in the drive-in movie theater (the internet version will include a few extra speeches by other students). And I love the message that he has to share with his classmates.

I’ll post an update later, including the link to the commencement ceremonies (with Elliot’s speech) here, when it’s made available. But for now, I’ll just say that I’m very proud of this young man. Our whole family is proud of him.

Elliot's Official Graduation Photo

Marci and I dreamed that there would be moments like this, when we said our vows to each other 22 years ago in Mansfield, Ohio. But it’s pretty special to see them actually happening — and to wonder what the next 22 years might hold.

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