From a freewheeling lifestyle it comes to this. Mortarboards, gowns, cloaks and paraphernalia.
Then they come, we stand, as we stand at a football match. The players arrive following a medallion mascot masquerading as a legionnaire’s standard. It is carried aloft though at an angle, almost casually, with little pride. Who is the bearer? It’s a $20/hr clerk. Pageantry processes, capes and cloaks, caps and tassels, suppressed “oohs and aahhs”, we’re in for a fun night.
The audience sits only when told do do so, and with doffing of caps, the players speak to themselves. Formalities which add weight to the occasion, ritualize the moments. Standing the candidates are presented, then suitably blessed the graduands become graduates, fit for vice chancellor presentation.
Row upon row of graduates, stand in turn, their dance cards to hand, to line the left hand wall. Shuffling forward every ten to fifteen seconds forward to the podium,they look like a herd of something, maybe black cows with hats, waiting to be milked. Their parents have in some cases been milked dry, though for others the debt is against their future earnings. Some girls teeter, tremble, the tentative talking ceases as they rise up the ramp to the introduction zone. Handing their dance card to the red gowned official they say their name, then wait.
A gap of twenty meters has opened between them and their queue predecessor, who by now is being congratulated and welcome into the university by the vice chancellor.
Dressed to the nines the girls sparkle five to one over the boys. Most Asians creep across the stage, that eleven seconds of dread, what hand do you shake with, which hand do you receive with, such a lot to remember.
“Celina Rose Poon”, and she’s off. From around me the wolf whistles and cat calls boom out, others look around to see who is associated with this Poon woman. Is their pride or embarrassment at the attention? The clapping only returns to it’s former low murmur when she strolls down the off ramp, papers in hand, graduated.
It’s a long walk around the right hand wall, behind the sloping grand stand on which we sit, walking back down to the front of the stand, and across the front of it to the centre aisle before finding her seat again.
A valedictory speech, crafted from the present in hope of a future. An homily, delivered by an esteemed alumni, words for a future delivered from the past.
When it’s over the halls are crowded, the free food and grog at the centre of the marquee is on for 30 minutes only and we barely take the edge off of our hungries, elbowing through the crowd to the marquee edge, congratulations filling the air.
Some pics under a sign with the uni logo and the year to perpetuate the occasion, where an African mum graduate poses and manages her oh so cute five year old. He could be Satchmo reincarnated, he moves with fluidity, suited and hyper active.
He’s so damn cute I take a snap or two while we wait Celina’s turn under the dating sign.
Seen a few graduations here now, Nick, Timbi, Elisa and now Celina. It’s been long time. How long?
“Hey Dad, don’t take the little kids pic, they might think you’re a pedophile!”
The time between when graduation pics of others celebrating used to be just graduation pics of others celebrating, to the time when graduation pics of others celebrating earn the epithet from your kids of being a pedophile.