On a long Memorial Day weekend we flew back east for two celebrations – a college reunion for my husband and our niece’s graduation – festivities on opposite ends of a spectrum (sometimes identified by numbers of yesterdays or tomorrows). Both held on leafy campuses with plenty of brick and ivy, these events celebrated on one hand, the challenges and accomplishments of long lifetimes and, on the other, the challenges and accomplishments of short but significant, college years. Reunions brought long-ago friends together, and graduates parted from friends made these four years.
Not being a participant at these events, I remembered a favorite moment in a Drabble novel when a character recognizes passing time and warms to the pleasures of the observer’s role. (And as a bystander I had time for two mini-reunions, rare face-to-face visits with East Coast friends, connections maintained by email and Christmas cards for so many years. I cherished both encounters – over pomegranate juice and potato chips with one friend and lunch and apple pie with the other – renewing our friendships with much talk about families and work.)
From the reunion in New Jersey (hot, muggy, soft summer air), an hour-long flight on a skinny jet took us north to Maine (foggy, marine weather like home, tulips and budding lilacs).
A grassy square in the middle of campus made a perfect setting for graduation day, sheltered by huge oak trees dressed in spring green. A bagpiper led the procession of faculty (wearing their traditional gowns with colorful hoods) followed by the graduates, fresh-faced and smiling in their black bachelor gowns.
The speakers (always more treat for observers than participants I suppose) gave all the requisite encouragement and advice to the young people – reminding them that you “can’t control what you’re dealt, only how you deal with it,” encouraging the celebration of one’s “peculiarities,” and recommending the examined life as the well-lived life. They advised dreaming big dreams, but employing persistence and fortitude.
The lowered gray sky gave way to sunshine as the graduates moved tassels from right to left with sounds of trumpets and joyous hoots.
Hooray for our family’s newest graduate – an inductee to her school’s Scholar-Athlete Society. Well done!