Here's Johnny - Get back in high school!
As of last Friday, I am the father of a high school graduate. Like many such people, I feel proud, happy, sad and darned old, and there's a part of me that wishes Anna McGary could repeat her senior year again. In Lexington, where Anna attends - excuse me, attended school - the public high schools hold commencement ceremonies in Rupp Arena. That's where I graduated many moons ago from Henry Clay, and where Anna's commencement ceremony was held for Lafayette/SCAPA (School for the Creative and Performing Arts). At the risk of stating the obvious, watching brought far different emotions than participating. Back then, I wasn't all that impressed with the event. Hey, 500-plus other Henry Clay kids graduated, too, and aside from acting in a few plays, emceeing the senior benefit and lasting two weeks on the cross-country team, I was something of an underachiever. Actually, I was a heck of an underachiever. If there'd been a school contest for underachieving, I might have won. I might have also neglected to enter it, because underachievers usually can't be bothered with such matters. Of course, had I been a straight-A student and become a national award-winning dancer like Anna, I might have felt differently. I sat in section 34 of the lower arena with my mother and Anna's mom (who deserves the bulk of the credit for our daughter's achievements and temperament) for the 90-minute exercise. Anna sat in the 11th row on the floor. Though she is 5'8", she looked so small down there in a red gown. (Students got to pick among the colors of Lafayette, which are red, white and blue.) My mother didn't have a program, so I left my seat and walked around to get one. In the concourses, I heard Anna's name called out: she was third in her class of 479. (Er, sorry about that, kid. It was your grandmother's fault that I was out in the hall and not in my seat.) I learned they were all out of programs and walked back down to my seat. Two of Anna's SCAPA friends gave short speeches; I'd known each for years, because they attended the Diana Evans School of Dance with Anna. The rolls were called. Each graduate-to-be had their moment in the sun, shown on large monitors in the arena (and concourses), and though the crowd had been asked not to cheer each student, that request was ignored by many. With a last name beginning with the letter "M," Anna was called to the stage around the middle of the ceremony. Unlike a few of her classmates, she didn't display a few dance steps or strike a pose. She just smiled, accepted her diploma and a handshake, and walked back to her seat. In 12 years of school, she's never received less than an A, danced for 15 to 20 hours every week at Diana Evans without complaint (though with a few injuries), and, as far as I know, never even been questioned by police. "Pomp and Circumstance" played, as it had when commencement began, and the graduates began filing out of the arena. Anna was somewhere in the middle of them. At least, I think she was, because by then, dust or allergens or something had messed up my vision something awful.