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Silver Threads: Graduation still a rite of passage

High school graduation ceremonies probably haven’t changed much since I walked down the aisle to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance” nearly 60 years ago — except that if the use of cell phones and other hi-tech devices isn’t forbidden during the formalities, there will be texting and tweeting and skyping and Facebook activity unimagined in my day of wearing a gray gown and mortar board.

I got to thinking about that, and about the class of ‘53 while searching the newspaper for the name of a friend’s daughter among those of the many high school and college graduates of 2012.

The practice sessions leading up to awarding of our diplomas are what I remember most about the time, inasmuch as I sat next to one of the cutest and coolest of male classmates and we passed the time we weren’t processing in a prolonged and erudite discussion of Ayn Rand’s recently published “The Fountainhead.”

Being Bettye Tucker, my chair was in the back row with that of a brainy W., who was destined for a fancy college up north and greater things than the nearby pranksters whose last names began with an S and who since than have attended all our many class reunions and turned out to be surprisingly upright and accomplished men.

(I don’t remember any of the other Ts who always sat with us at the rear of class gatherings, or indeed any other girls being at practice at all, which shows where my primary interests lay. I just hope I had actually read “The Fountainhead.”)

I felt very grown-up during those sessions in the high-school gymnasium, and was remembering that as we watched our soon-to-be 17-year-old grandson get his senior class ring last week. He and his classmates, who will receive diplomas next spring, sat in rows on the many steps in front of their school for a brief ceremony — no speeches, just the longed-for rings — followed by jambalaya in the library. A nice preview to what will be a memorable senior year.

When this little red-headed boy entered kindergarten at Lusher School on Willow Street, I never imagined that his days there would pass so quickly — at least for me. But by the time he began middle and then high school on the big campus on Freret Street, I knew that his college days would be just a breath away — at least for me.

That funny thing about time is how it takes such baby steps when you’re a youngster — remember when there seemed to be at least 60 months between each Christmas? — and hops and skips by so rapidly when you get old: just at the time you’d like for it to slow down a bit, take a rest, give you more time to enjoy the scenery.

I could swear that our grandson’s childhood has been much, much shorter than mine, even than his mother’s. As joyous as grandparenthood can be — and has been for me — there was always the knowledge that there would be the inevitable moving apart, the natural asserting of independence, going places where I could not follow. It was also there when our children “came of age,” wasn’t it? But maybe we were just too tired to grieve overmuch.

I’m just hoping that as our grandsons grow up I will remember how grown-up I felt — and was — as we practiced for our graduation in 1953, and give them the respect they deserve. It’s easy to dismiss 17-year-olds as children. But they aren’t.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living Section, for which she wrote Silver Threads until her retirement. Email her at


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