Graduate is one of those words with meanings that seem at cross purposes, like cleave, or inflammable. This time of year, to graduate is to move up, to ascend from high school to the unknown beyond that is life, whether that's a job flipping burgers, bumming around Southeast Asia, or the lonely horrors of summer school.
To graduate can also mean to divide, and that seems appropriate too. It is a dividing up, a separation, a goodbye. Kids bidding adieu to their old schools, their friends, to being the big fish.
I attended my niece's high school graduation last night. Three-plus hours in a lovely old theatre, our seats front row balcony, craning our necks to catch her eye and impudently stick out our tongues.
This photo is from our April trip to Kansas: my 2 older nieces sitting on the steps of the schoolhouse my grandmother attended as a girl in the 1920's, and where my great-grandmother taught. Blue Hill, derelict now, the interior rotted and collapsing, windows busted out, the white magnesium limestone weathered and sooty. My grandmother wouldn't get out of the car . Watch out for snakes, was her succinct advice, as we clambered up the dusty steps. It made me sad to see the old building, where she had spent so many happy hours, so ill-used. As we continued on our drive toward Fairport, she told us that my great-grandmother--her mother--our Nannie--had once killed a rattlesnake in the outhouse behind the school.
The Blue Hill students have long since graduated. Many have lived out their days completely. My niece is at the beginning of that spectrum still. I see her fresh face, glowing with the excitement of the unknown, and think that if we remember what we share--the thirst for knowledge, the desire to see the world, to experience it and love it--we are never divided.