Yesterday the Princess graduated from Turner High School. Her time as a Turner Lion has come to an end… in the middle of a Coronavirus pandemic.
The last two-and-a-half years of her senior year were lost in a miasma of a mismanaged world health crisis. We have been in quarantine. Both of her parents are diabetics with blood-pressure issues. And we live in Red-State Texas where shutting down the State to keep poor people alive was a step taken grudgingly only at the last minute.
Senior celebrations and time with senior friends during graduation season simply could not happen.
But graduation happened in spite of the virus. It was an unusual sort of ceremony. It happened at Texas Motor Speedway, a NASCAR-and-redneck sort of place. The families were on the race-track infield in their cars, with a separate area for guests and extended families to park their cars. We all watched the graduation on the big video monitor where they normally show violent car-crashes in slow motion. Students were seated on the race track itself, their chairs all distanced six feet from each other. The graduates wore masks except for those brief times when pictures were taken. And some even wore masks during the pictures. (High School Staff was there to hand out masks to anyone who forgot to bring one, and to yell at anyone stupid enough to take them off at the wrong moment. Something that only happens with 25% of seniors… the ones eligible to graduate.)
I have only the greatest respect and appreciation for the staff and principals of R.L. Turner High School. As a former teacher, I know how extra-hard it must be to pull off something like this in the middle of something like we all faced this particular year. In 1975, during my graduation, a thunderstorm struck just as we were starting the processional to “Pomp and Circumstance” for our outdoor ceremony. We literally ran for the gym, and ended up crossing the stage in the auditorium while friends and family who couldn’t squeeze in watched on a tiny closed-circuit TV in the library. Everybody was water-spotted and smelling like wet farm animals. This year was a much bigger adjustment with a lot less weather problems. We sat in our cars as if we were in a drive-in movie and watched our daughter graduate on a huge outdoor screen. And her brother in Oklahoma and her grandmother in Iowa got to watch what we watched through a link on their mobile devices.
So, for all the regrets this year has brought already, at least this graduation ceremony was carried out with style, and will one day make a great story to tell future children.