The La Jolla High Viking girls graduated in red robes, the boys wore black. (Somehow that bothered me; red did not seem as official as black!)
My parents and I had pooled money to buy me that snazzy new 1972 Datsun 1200 fast back, in my favorite color: forest green.
A zippy four cylinder stick shift!
Yes, life was sweet! I was a high school graduate!
Today, just thirty six years later, I tooled down the road on my way to work in my practical Toyota 4Runner. I held steady as several cars zoomed past me.
"Class of 2008!!!" was painted boldly upon those car's rear windows. The sense of pride was palatable; they were part of this year's graduating class. They had had a year of being top dogs, the top guns of Kingwood High, now they were taking to the road as the newly graduated.
Since this time last summer they had swaggered and counted themselves mature, and far along in the world.
During the year senior pictures were taken, in many charming poses, and later the pictures were enclosed within announcements along with quaint little calling cards. What a thrill it was to see their name in formal old fashion script engraved upon those tiny cards. The family address book was consulted, the announcements are to be sent out to far flung family friends and relations, who deserved to be informed of the stellar event: High School Graduation!
Pictures and more pictures in prom dresses and tuxedos, and still more on graduation day.
Oh the giddy glory of it all....
I had to laugh a bit, in a world weary way as I watched the cars weave through the lanes ahead of me. In a few short weeks the feted and glorified teens will suddenly come to the scary realization that they actually are the lowest of the low on the totem pole of adult life.
Perhaps these newly hatched high school grads will enter the work force only to discover that their ballyhooed high school diploma scarcely entitles them to wages that will cover even their most meager needs at first. Time and experience apparently is held with greater esteem than the paper certificate of graduation.
Perhaps they will blast out of town at summer's end to a new life at a prestigious college. More glory that, yet it won't take long to discover that there no one will care about how cool they were back in high school.
The treasured high school ring will be tucked away and the prized letterman jacket will get pushed to the back of the closet.
Only a geek would dream of wearing those items once the next senior class begins their reign.
Slowly it will dawn upon them: never again will there be such an undeserved sense of accomplishment as was felt simply because they were a high school senior.
College graduation...graduate school graduation...no, they don't hold a candle to the big high school thing, at least around here. The twenty one, twenty two, thirty two what have you year old college graduates simply don't radiate the bloom of innocent and ignorant youth; no one at that age wants that many pictures taken, and proms just no longer make sense. Let's just hope to land a good job, get an apartment and pay off those student loans.
As the cars with the painted windows roared out of view, I silently wished them well, and hoped they would drive carefully, and live long long lives, long enough to once again enjoy their letterman jackets and treasure their youthful exuberance.
Perhaps a new custom should be embraced: Each June all high school graduates should paint their car's windows once again.
"Class of 1972!" "Class of 1945!" "Class of 2006!" our cars will proclaim as we long ago graduates go about our daily life.
And for a day or two, or until the rains wash the paint away, we can savor once again how life felt back when we were freshly graduated from high school.
(PS: I still have the pink brocade gown. And I think I still have my own box of calling cards somewhere. Unfortunately I don't happen to still own that car.)