Springing into life, blooming into us

by John Pixley

I didn’t know him, but I knew he wasn’t just another kid in the line. As I saw him waiting on that bright, fresh Saturday morning with the sun poking out from clouds to walk under the arch of orange and white balloons, I knew he wasn’t another kid but a son, a friend, maybe a brother, possibly an uncle. Not only that, I knew he wasn’t a kid but a young man.

Just as I was the son of a proud father now grown up when I graduated from UC Riverside in 1985. That, in fact, was the only reason I participated in the ceremony. I had finished my required credits at the end of winter quarter in March and didn’t care to see the campus again, at least for a while. I really wasn’t interested in going back to sit through the ceremony, featuring a dull university administrator giving the address, on a hot June afternoon, but my dad insisted. Plus, it was Father’s Day (and we did go out to dinner at my favorite Chinese restaurant, a tiny but superb place that was alone on the road out to Adelanto or somewhere.)

Strangely enough, my high school graduation was much more exciting and meaningful to me. This was when Claremont High School held its commencement ceremonies at the athletic field at Pomona College. Perhaps this made graduation that time more exciting.

There were no doubt other factors involved, but perhaps the young man in the line last month was also not interested in being there. Perhaps, like me almost 30 years ago, he was just going through the motions at the ceremony. I don’t know. But I am fairly certain there was someone in the audience who saw him as more than “someone in a line.” Someone who was interested in him more than him just being there. Someone who was cheering for him.

This line of 200 graduates, in which the young man stood, was at Pitzer College—of course, with the sunny and funny orange and white balloons, with the smooth jazz quintet playing the prelude and processional and with comic and presidential speech-writer Jon Lovett greeting the graduates by telling them they looked like gay judges in their “fabulous” white and orange robes. And there was the peace sign, the flip-flops, the recycling logo and the sunglasses among the happy circle of images on the program cover. I didn’t check to see if the graduate had on flip-flops or Birkenstocks under his robe.

There were 6 more lines of graduates during that weekend last month, as well as another one a few days later at the School of Theology. Each were made up of young—and not-so-young—men and women who were more than people in a line, more than names on a list. Each person in these lines was a son or a daughter, a nephew or a niece, a brother or a sister, perhaps a mother or father or an aunt or uncle, a wife or a husband or a friend, who is loved and supported, celebrated and cheered.

No doubt each of these sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, fathers and mothers , each of these uncles and aunts, wives and husbands, and friends deserved a ceremony of their own. Each of them deserved to be more than a person in a line or a name on a list. Such is the impatient feeling, the awkward nature, the imperfect quality of graduations.

And no doubt, as with many of the other such events taking place during these late spring weeks, this will be the case next week at the commencement at Claremont High School, which will, in another difference from when I graduated from CHS, include graduates from San Antonio High School. For every graduate and for the loved ones present to cheer them on the field and the pomp and circumstance will be all theirs.

They all deserve this fete, and so, in a sense, do the rest of us. Not that the graduates aren’t special and deserve their special day, but these spring rites aren’t the only sign growing and moving forward.

Look at all the concerts and performances that went on at the colleges during the spring, leading up to the commencements. The same has been going on for the last couple months in other schools with open houses, shows and fairs. And it appears that nearly every club and organization in town has recently wrapped up its year with special luncheons, soirees and galas.

As if all this blooming wasn’t enough, add in all the popular April, May and June weddings, the proms and such, and there is a veritable spring bouquet of activity and achievement.

It is no doubt another sign of growth and moving forward that after years and years of dreading June in Claremont with very little going on, I now enjoy the quiet this month.


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