Graduation 2020 Style

This was written for my Close to Home column in my local weekly paper. Granduation was held outdoors with grids painted on the football field for families and friends. The graduates were in chairs spaced six feet apart. The ceremony was livestreamed via Current River Broadcasting – the school’s media broadcasting class – for those ot comfortable mixing in a crowd, even though a spaced-out one.

The Doniphan High School graduation ceremony will have happened by the time you read this column. I hope you are looking at lots of graduation photos in these pages. If it didn’t happen because of rain, it will have been rescheduled, again and again…till our seniors have their moments in time. The district has a ‘we’re gonna do this in a safe way no matter WHEN it has to happen’ attitude.

What a different set of memories for this year’s graduating class! They are not paving the way for future classes; they are clearing a path as they go.

My brain has been getting a workout remembering the hoopla surrounding commencement for the Class of ‘70. Here is a mini-view of my recollections.

*Was the ceremony held in the armory? Someone will remember, maybe. Remembering the color of our caps and gowns stumped some of us till a photo revealed the combo was blue.

*Who to walk with? If one was going steady, not a problem. Otherwise, a big deal. For me it was a big deal.

*Who would rebel – opting to dress casually underneath that gown? I was not one. For me it was a dress-up affair all the way. Of major worry was keeping my cap on without having too many bobby pins showing.

*About that cap. We were given strict orders NOT to throw them in the air after we switched the tassels. We ALL rebelled! Perhaps it did detract from decorum, but it was the end of the ceremony. How else to show our unified jubilance and prove we were beyond school rules once and for all?

*After all the photos were taken and families and friends dispersed, there were parties and sleepovers. We worried about grades and credits, sports wins and losses, scholarships and car insurance during our senior years, but we engaged in all the pomp and circumstance of graduation, too: senior photos, the quote beneath it that would define us forever, yearbook signings, announcements, our senior trip to Big Spring (the last school bus ride for some), all the hugs and “Remember you always’” scribbles and whispers.

In an instant it was over. We felt liberated, though some of us didn’t know what we were doing. We DID know what was ahead: work or college or military, and for many a move to somewhere else and marriage. Life was somewhat predictable.

But it certainly isn’t now. COVID-19 has dragged the needle of life across the record of the future for 2020 grads. It’s warped before they get to compose any nostalgic tunes to play back now and then. All these years later, it is even messing with the grads of ‘70. We have postponed our fiftieth class reunion until ??

I wish for the grads of 2020 some hilarious moments of dealing with the small stuff and some carefree fun. With circumstances as they are, I am not sure how liberated they can feel in all this uncertainty. We can help by keeping hope alive and guiding by example as we all struggle in these times. We can show them how to be flexible, optimistic, creative, kind and loving, forgiving of self and others, unafraid to ask for help – and always with a Plan B in a back pocket.

About Teresa Pearson Lee

Retired after 33 years of teaching English and French (one year in private school in Memphis, TN and the rest in public school in Doniphan, MO. Enjoying new adventures - all those things I put off for lack of time, energy, now I can try them! Pottery, writing, traveling, camping, kayaking, dancing, listening to some of the best live music ever, and making lively new friendships. All christened with an appreciation for great red wine! Created and operated KC's on the Current, then sold it and managed it for new owners. You might still find me at the reservation desk when spring rolls around. Born and raised in St. Louis, MO near The Hill. Though a transplant to Southeast Missouri, still a city gal at the core with a deep love of the natural resources in these Ozark foothills. Currently I am a content coordinator for Poplar Bluff Living Magazine and a columnist/stringer for the local weekly The Prospect News. My rescue Siamese helps with most of the proofreading; he has a great ear. I relish the solitude easily had in the Mark Twain Forest but thoroughly enjoy lively outings for music, wine, conversation close to home or in my beloved hometown. Technology is my greatest challenge but so worth the shared connections. There may be a need for solitude but there is little loneliness. The material in this blog written by Teresa Lee is her property and cannot be used without express written consent to do so.
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