Best seat in the house for grad madness

June 05, 1999|By Rob Kasper

WE ARE IN the thick of the graduation season now, with parents beaming, educators speechifying, and students fleeing.

Yesterday, as some fellow parents and I waited for our sons' eighth-grade graduation ceremony to begin, a few of us recalled that back in the '60s and '70s we skipped our college commencement. Our absence was a protest, against something -- we couldn't remember precisely what. A couple of good guesses were "the establishment" and "the man."

Once I became a parent, I became the man, and a dutiful one at that, especially during commencement season. I think I know the graduation drill that parents must go through.

It begins the night before the ceremony with a clothing crisis. Some essential part of the graduate's wardrobe -- a white shirt, a blue blazer, a pair of leather shoes -- is either missing or has been outgrown. There is then a mad dash to the store, to a relative's house, to a neighbor's, to replace the missing item.

On the day of the ceremony there is a great hubbub as the family members are quickly bathed, dressed, fed and pushed into vehicles -- to arrive early at the site of graduation.

Getting there early, at least half an hour before start of the program, is important if you want to get a good seat -- close enough to see your graduate walk across the stage and grasp a diploma.

A variation on the everyone- gets-there-early routine is to dispatch one or two "seat savers," who arrive early at the site and reserve seats for late-arrivals. A purse or camera placed on empty chairs usually is a good way to save a seat or two for the grandparents or the proverbial late-arriving older brother.

However, when you try to save large blocks of seats, the situation can get testy. One seat-saving tactic uses masking tape. A "taper" arrives early and reserves large numbers of seats by using masking tape to block off a row or rows of chairs.

This works sometimes. But at a graduation a few years ago I saw a heated exchange between pro-tape and anti-tape factions. The anti-tapers prevailed. Stating that it was bad manners to hog several rows of seats, the anti-tapers peeled off the tape and sat down.

Since my relatives and friends have never wanted to attend my kids' graduations, I have never felt the need to save large blocks of seats. But if the occasion ever arises, I don't think I would use masking tape. Instead, I would use crime-scene tape -- the yellow stuff that police string up at the scene of trouble. It looks official and could probably scare away any would-be intruders.

Like many parents, I carry a camera to graduations. It is a relic, according to the last repairman who ministered to it. But it still captures "the moment" when the kid walks across the stage. And it can take the "post-game" shots, when the kid and a buddy or a parent pose for posterity. These are basic graduation photos.

Awards are given at some graduation ceremonies, and over the years I have observed that if your child wins an honor it is OK to act surprised but not shocked.

You should neither question the wisdom of the faculty members -- "My kid won a good behavior award? You gotta be kidding!" -- nor should you pout -- "My little genius did not win! This is an outrage!"

After the graduates pick up their diplomas they always seem to want something more -- a wad of cash, a lunch, a sports car -- for completing this stage of their education. Customs on graduation gifts vary from family to family. Our tribe believes in taking the graduate out to lunch at the restaurant of his choice.

A few years ago, when our older son graduated from the eighth grade, he picked Tio Pepe as the site of his celebratory lunch and feasted on baked Alaska. I was a little worried about the kind of restaurant this year's graduate, our younger son, would pick. When he and a group of classmates took a tour of downtown Baltimore a year ago, they ended up eating lunch at Hooters, a restaurant best known for the tight T-shirts worn by the waitresses.

If the kid had picked this place for his graduation lunch, his mother would have objected. Instead he picked Burke's Cafe, a Baltimore landmark at Light and Lombard streets.

The place makes a great turkey club sandwich, the kid told me. Which proves, I guess, that in his first eight years of schooling, the graduate has learned something.

Pub Date: 6/05/99

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