Bay Reflection
Graduation Days -
Here's to All Who Barely Made It
by Aloysia C. Hamalainen

Wipe your eyes and smile!

I offer a toast to the parents, grandparents and guardians of those who barely made it through high school graduation this June. Our charges have had no asterisks next to their names acknowledging awards and academic excellence. We have the dubious distinction of not knowing anyone who graduated with distinction.

How many of us called the school in deepest dread to find out if we were among the "fails" or "passes"?

There are more of us than you think. At my son's graduation Monday, I was amazed to overhear the same conversation over and over: "I didn't know until Friday afternoon that (fill in the blank) was going to graduate this morning!"

The speeches by valedictorians were charming, but terribly one-sided. How about us? Were we not just as newly minted, we shiny parents of the barely graduated? We have another perspective on the same four years.

That freshmen year of discovery and awakening. The direct proportion of the stubble on the cheeks and the glazing of the eyes. All the new friends who shuffled through our doors and camped out for days on the rec room couch. "At least we know they are here, and safe," we whispered to each other, as the refrigerator door opened and closed and the microwave hummed in the background. All the sleeping lumps on Saturday mornings and breakfasts on Saturday afternoon. The cycle repeated that night in another home, another refrigerator.

Ah, the surge of independence that coincides with the driver's license! And the shock of the cost of insurance for teen-age boys. Three times old mom's rate. You ascend to another, higher level of worry. Everytime a siren goes off, you check to make sure you know where everybody is, and if you don't know, you worry. The sadness is gut-wrenching when you hear of another teenage car accident. Our faces have a few wrinkles from wincing and frowning.

Somewhere, midway through these four years, we hit some real slick spots. Perhaps a little "fun" or "prank" got the attention of government authorities, and a stint with "Juvie."

We took our precious darlings, surly and snarling, to their appointments with their probation officers. I saw you in the waiting room, pale and patiently waiting. We often crossed paths in the guidance counselor's office, tense and anxiously waiting.

There are princes in this netherworld and unsung heroes who see our children with clear eyes and have rescued more than they will ever get credit for. But we picked the children up and took them where ordered and paid for these extra lessons in the real world.

A while after that, perhaps, the current changed for some of our fuzzy-cheeked babies, and the words "alternate school" and "detox" and all kinds of "anon's" became part of our language. How often, when we bumped into each other, did we know not to ask about the children, saying instead, "how are you doing, really?" Sometimes only a small shake of the head was necessary, and we would hold and rock each other.

Eventually, when we're finally getting used to all this, things changed again, and the concept of "credits" and "loss of credits" clicked. Saturday school, night school and summer school became part of our schedules, and budgets, as our young adults struggled to catch up. It surely seemed impossible, but they did the work, made the hours and finished. They finished!

Look at us here, after the graduation, our faces full of joy and relief. We race over to congratulate other members of our exclusive group, Parents of the Barely Graduates. If we never see each other again, I thank you. Your help, support and love for your recalcitrant children has enriched us all. They will go forward and teach the rest of the world your blessing of tolerance and faith.

You did great!


-Aloysia C. Hamalainen won a Maryland, D.C., Delaware Press Association award for her New Bay Times Reflections in 1997.

| Back to Archives |

Volume VI Number 23
June 11-17, 1998
New Bay Times

| Homepage |