Monday, June 11, 2012

KAPPA-SKEW - POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE - HAIL AND FAREWELL

I love my son Andrew.  But loving your kid is like doing your homework...you don't get any credit for doing it, you only lose credit if you don't.  So in his case, I not only love him but I admire and respect him as well.

My admiration and respect for him is seeded in the notion that I want more for him, than I had.  On a deeper level, my hope was that he'd turn out to be a better person than me too.  I'm proud to say, he's on the right track. Andrew, through his own doing, has exceeded the limits of what I could ever provide and is destined to greatness.

Andrew always stood out in a crowd.  I appreciate that I had something to do with laying a solid foundation for him.  But as I look to college and beyond, it is clear to me that he will find his own way to success and personal fulfillment. Yes, on the rare occasion I will be there for him, with a swift kick in the ass to keep him focused, but only if my wisdom and experience, trumps his intelligence, sensitivity and generosity.  And even then, I will still trust his judgement to accept or reject all or part of my advice.  That's the essence of why he is unique, will have a better life than me, be a better person and stand out in whatever he does.

These wonderful traits became clear to me when he was young.
AT A FRIEND'S THIRD BIRTHDAY, IT WAS FUNNY TO ME HOW MANY MOM'S TRIED TO ADJUST THIS PARTY HAT.  HE WASN'T BEING VAIN, HE WASN'T BEING OBSTINATE.  HE WAS JUST BEING HIMSELF. 

At pre-school, the teacher's aide told us Andrew had an incredible sense of right and wrong for such a little kid.
WHEN HE GRADUATED PRE-SCHOOL, THE TEACHER KEPT TRYING TO STRAIGHTEN HIS CAP BUT ANDREW'S SENSE OF STYLE WON OUT.

Maybe there's something special to cocking one's hat?  And maybe Andrew should create the KAPPA-SKEW fraternity for individualists.  Because throughout his schooling, Andrew has been a beacon of positive energy that others have gravitated to and prospered from.  Now that he has graduated high school and I have read the voluminous yearbook comments from his peers who have fed off his force-field of confidence, optimism, fair play, humor and creativity, I see how they perceive and appreciate his individuality.

This past Thursday June 7th, the Absegami High School class of 2012 held their commencement exercise on the school football field. During the week, we all held our breath as the WEATHER CHANNEL predicted one beautiful day after another...with one glitch...Thursday June 7th.

All the way until that Wednesday, I encouraged everyone I knew to do a "NO RAIN DANCE." It must have worked because when I woke up for the big day, it was indeed a delightful morning.  Even the weather reports down-graded the rain to a mere 30% for late in the day. Still, it was a long time until 6:PM.

The early afternoon gave way to scattered clouds.  It seemed every time I got pessimistic, the sun would re-emerge for a couple of hours.  My heart then skipped a beat when a single engorged cloud wandered overhead and dumped heavy rain on Galloway.  Three minutes later like turning off a spigot, the cloud vanished.  I then envisioned being good to go, for the rest of day.

At 4:PM, we basked in the moment of a perfect 70 degree day.  We then had a photo shoot in front of our house before walking the ten minutes to the festivities, (to avoid the insane traffic on the way home).
IT'S SHOCKING HOW FAST ANDREW'S PRIMARY SCHOOLING HAS PASSED.
On the way to the school, we walked through the open spaces and saw that the clear horizon looked as promising as Andrew's future.  At the event site, harmless looking clouds appeared in the far distant south.  My wife Sue and I found ideal seats in the aluminum bleachers and took advantage of the social opportunity with the other early arrivals.
DURING THE DOWN TIME, I READ THE PROGRAM AND FOUND OUT THE CLASS OF 2012 HAD NAMED THEMSELVES, "SABBELEU," THE LOCAL NATIVE AMERICAN PHRASE FOR; TO SHINE BRIGHTLY.

Spirits were high as the gathering SRO throng exhausted every seat.  At 5:PM, I whispered to Sue that I wished they could start immediately because the far away gray clouds were gaining momentum.  At the same time, attendees with computers started spreading the word that out-lying towns were getting rained on. Then our worst fear came in the form of rolling thunder and a lightning bolt tearing through the clouds behind the school.
MOMENTS BEFORE THE CEREMONY STARTED, IT BECAME OBVIOUS THAT WE HAD A RACE AGAINST MOTHER NATURE ON OUR HANDS.
The band members began warming up.  Then right on schedule, the 476 grads, in their gold and brown cap and gowns, marched from the school, towards the north end zone. 
IT LOOKED LIKE THE CLASS OF 2012 EARNED THE "SABBELEU" NAME WHEN THE FATE OF GOOD FORTUNE SHINED DOWN WHEN A BURST OF BEAUTIFUL, GOLDEN SUNLIGHT RAYS WELCOMED THEM TO THE FIELD.

Sue and I were giddy as we watched for our son to appear.

ANDREW,  EVEN AS THE WIND PICKED-UP, REMAINED RELAXED, CONFIDENT AND LOVING THE WHOLE SPECTACLE. 

It seemed odd that the band remained mute as the precession of students took their places.
WHO STANDS OUT IN THE CROWD BETTER THAN ANDREW...NOBODY !
When everyone was in place, the principal announced that if it only rains...the program will continue.  For some reason, she didn't dwell on the pending thunderstorms or the need for a Plan-B.  Instead, she asked us to rise as the band played the "NATIONAL ANTHEM."  The musicians followed that with, "POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE."  The band never played another note. 

Soon the administrative dignitaries were introduced.  Then the Salutatorian and Valedictorian made their speeches.  In both cases, the audience was distracted by the black clouds that had engulfed the sky as well as claps of thunder and nearing streaks of lightning.

The ceremony started to pick up pace.  Perhaps as an omen to the forbearance, the first person to receive their diploma, the student president of the school had her name butchered.  Andrew was in that first group, so his name was not hurried and announced loud and clear.
WE WERE LUCKY BECAUSE WITHIN MINUTES THE TEMPO OF THE PROCEEDINGS TOOK ON THE CHARACTERISTICS OF DESPERATION.
The time bomb of nasty weather starting to tick down to detonation.
TWENTY MILES AWAY, OCEAN CITY WAS ABOUT TO BE CUT UP BY THE STORM.
The alphabetized graduates waiting for their diplomas were still in the "M's" as the officials called up the grads at hyper-speed.  Most of the crowd waiting for the thrill of hearing their kid's name probably missed the cherished announcement because it was speedily garbled.

Only a small percentage of people saw the stormy writing on the wall...and left.
BY THE TIME THE "T's" WERE CALLED, THE OVERWHELMING BULK OF US, BLINDED BY STUPIDITY AND THE DESIRE TO HONOR EACH AND EVERY GRAD, LIKENED THE LOOMING SITUATION TO A TORNADO OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS.


The timing was perfect as the last "Z" was announced, the first two rain drops fell.


IN CELEBRATION OF THEIR ACCOMPLISHMENT, THE STUDENT BODY TOSSED THEIR POINTY CAPS IN THE AIR AND APPARENTLY RUPTURED THE EDGE OF THE WATER BLOATED CLOUDS.

The proverbial skies opened up.  Torrents fell on the screaming, panicky participants and onlookers.

IT WAS APROPOS THAT THE GIRL'S YELLOW GOWNS LOOKED LIKE RAIN SLICKERS WHILE THEY RAN FOR COVER.  IN THE MEAN TIME, SUE AND I WERE MOMENTARILY TRAPPED AS THE SPECTATORS SLOWLY OOZED FROM THE GRIDLOCKED STANDS.
We were drenched before we were on ground level.  We used the idea of the shortest distance being a straight line and cut across the field.  Luckily, lightning was not a factor. But the horizontal, windswept rain flew past us as biting bits of hail made matters worse.  I spotted a log jam of people at the exit and diverted Sue to the "safety" of the alee side of the field house.
I REGRETTED NOT HAVING MY CAR AS WE SHIVERED FOR TWENTY MINUTES AND ENDURED STINGING DIME-SIZED FALLING ICE.  WHEN THE WIND DIED DOWN, OUR TEMPORARY SHELTER WAS USELESS.
We made a mad dash for the school.  We waded through several ankle deep mini-lakes as two ambulances cut through the confused parking lot.  In the sanctuary of the building's warm lobby, I likened the mob to "Titanic" survivors.  People, soaked to the skin like drowned rats were scared until they were re-united with loved ones.

When the sun came back out, the destroyed spirits slowly perked up. The long awaited graduation was unceremoniously over.  A lot carefully designed outfits and hairdos were ruined.  The joy of lingering and saying bittersweet goodbyes were also washed away. 

While it is true that the sensitive allure of the sacred ceremony was abbreviated or lost, the strange circumstances, for the students, will live forever.

For Sue and I, there was no shortcut through the woods.  To avoid the muddy trails, we chafed during the long walk of shame home.  It was then that we realized that a few folks were hospitalized and the price of forcing in graduation could have been much worse...even fatal.

The next day, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS" commentator Brian Williams did a nationally seen item on the severe weather during our graduation.  So did CBS and CNN. Absegami even went international as the BBC also did a piece.
WILLIAMS NARRATED OVER THE OMINOUS CLOUD VIDEO AND THE FLEEING PEOPLE.  HE IMPLIED THAT IN THE MIDWEST, THEY COULD'VE RECOGNIZED THAT IT WASN'T A TWISTER...BUT THIS HAPPENED IN NEW JERSEY.
So for my son Andrew, his friends and the rest of his fellow graduates, in this case, you will always share this unforgettable bond. 
HOURS LATER, THE STREETS OF GALLOWAY RETAINED THE TELLTALE SIGNS OF THE HAIL STORM.

I think, as a sign of their individualism, all the Absegami 2012 graduates should always remember the football field littered with their caps left askew and that even without the full blown pomp and circumstance that they richly deserved, they can proudly say; hail...and I do mean HAIL...and farewell.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I like your site and found your graduation story crazy especially for the kids. I will continue reading your stuff. --- RC Virginia Beach VA

Anonymous said...

Hello again. Congratulations to your son and the whole family. The storm must have made the big day more special. It did not make the news here. I'll google Brian Williams and hailing at New Jersey graduation. --- BLIGOO MARSEILLE FRANCE

Anonymous said...

Ohhh my God! I don't believe you got caught in that storm. I saw something about it on CNN...and now I find out it was happening to you. Loved your pictures. Great work buddy, your son is lucky to have you. --- FREEDONIABOB - NIAGARA NY

Joe said...

High school in like a lamb out like a lion

Anonymous said...

Hail and fairwell, funny. We didn't get hit in Manahawkin...just some thunder-boomies. I had my kids read your article too and they were amazed by the amount of hail in your garden hours later. Glad you guys survived. --- MERMAID

Anonymous said...

Steve, I enjoyed reading your blog. If I didn't experience the weather for myself that evening, I would swear the dark cloud was photoshoped in! And yes, Andrew has a great future ahead of him.