About two weeks ago, the sports boosters club at my son’s high school started posting senior tributes. Every morning, I go to the club’s Facebook page and I click like for every single profile. I don’t know the tennis player with a big serve. Nor do I know the cheerleader who can do back flips or the quick-dodging lacrosse player. But I click “like” anyway.
I used to be this way with birthdays when I felt it was meaningful to extend social media birthday wishes to people across the country. These days, I am hit or miss with Facebook birthdays. I am too busy recognizing seniors.
I miss prom photos
It’s not just the senior athletes that I feel nostalgic about. I miss prom pictures, too. Like everything in our culture, they’ve gone up a notch because of social media. Pre-prom photo sessions are now heavily choreographed. In the small town where I grew up, kids converge on the local college for photos. Where I now live, some kids head to the water. Otherwise the best backyard is selected as the backdrop.
Each year there is always one photo in which the girls arrange themselves in a half moon according to dress color. It’s a rainbow of satin and silk—short dresses if it’s their junior prom, long dresses if it’s senior prom.
I love all of these pictures. I love seeing the dress styles from year to year and the changes in my friend’s kids. Junior boys look like they are still boys. Senior boys are so much taller and more mature—they are ready for us to send them into the world.
Years from now when we look at these photos, the hair, dresses and tuxes will bring us right back to 2018 or 2019 as much as a white tux jacket and black pants immediately shouts “late ’80s” when we look at those photos.
There won’t be any “real” prom pictures from 2020, of course.
My son is a high school senior. He is most upset about missing his senior season of baseball, but he is also disappointed about missing prom—wearing a tux, asking the girl he’s been wanting to ask for weeks and celebrating the occasion with his pals.
We are trying to make his virtual graduation special
His virtual graduation is at noon on a Friday and doesn’t feel real to him. I picked up his cap and gown last week in a makeshift drive-through in his school parking lot while he attended online class. I had to make a sign with his name on it to hold up when I got to the front of the line.
On the day of the ceremony, I will take off work and we will sit in the living room with family and watch commencement. Then we’ll probably have carry-out from one of his favorite restaurants. It will feel like a letdown, I know it will. But there is nothing we can do about this.
To invoke some festivity, I have started decorating, adding another graduation sign to the yard and ordering “Class of 2020” cupcake toppers. My mom and I have exchanged numerous phone calls about table clothes and cutlery; our planning has reached an almost Christmas level of whispering and price comparing as we seek to make this day memorable.
There is a popular meme about our grandparents being called to war, while we’re being called to stay home. People remind me of this, as though I need reminding of my good fortune. We are healthy, I still have a job and I completely understand how much worse this could be.
What I wouldn’t give for hard chairs and boring speeches
But what I wouldn’t give to sit on a hard chair and listen to boring speeches. Or chuckle at the parents of a graduate who go all out at the highest possible decibel with their hoots and hollers.
Anybody have a white paper program that I can use to fan myself?
Yes, the world has changed since my grandparents came of age. And yet, the graduation rituals are the same with “Pomp and Circumstance,” long speeches and a line of robed kids eager to get that diploma.
We mark these occasions, because they’re worth marking. We celebrate the proms, the last games and the end of high school because none of us really needs to be told there will be moments more difficult than this.
Milestones are milestones because need them to be. And without them, I will keep liking Facebook posts and waiting for prom pictures so let me know when you post some.
Jessica Gregg is a Baltimore-based writer and an editor with Mid-Atlantic Media. Her book of poetry, “New from This Lonesome City” was published in 2019.
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