Yes my Compadres, that which I have longed for these many, many years has finally arrived. From that day seventeen years ago when I dropped Mortimer at the school gates, all wide-eyed and full of eagerness to learn (Mortimer that is, not me), I have had one eye on the eventual completion of the educational process for all three of my young’ns.
And now that wonderful day has occurred and it was worth the wait. As I observe my colleagues and acquaintances wrapping up this year’s schooling and making preparations for next year I place my metaphorical feet up on my metaphorical desk and let out a very real sigh of contentment.
Now I understand that many of you will have attended your own ceremonies and formals, but for those of you who didn’t quite make it that far (like me) let me tell you what to expect.
First up – the Graduation Ceremony. If somehow this blog has reached beyond the shores of Australia, for the benefit of our foreign brethren these ceremonies traditionally take place at the end of November or early December, which down here is the beginning of summer. So with the rising temperatures in mind the organisers of these things ensure that there is a shed/hall/barn of just the right size to not quite seat everyone who is in attendance, has only the bare minimum of ventilation and the hardest plastic seats available to ensure that you all become a compacted, sweaty and uncomfortable mass of humanity.
Of course every man, woman, student executive, gardener, handyman, vagrant and/or concerned community member who has ever had even the slightest involvement in the school in the last 100 years feels the urge to make a speech. I’ve attended a number of these things over the years and the speeches are all the same – “as you head off into the workforce, be proud of what you have achieved during your time at XX School, etc, etc, etc.”
Although having said that, occasionally someone will come up with a speech which causes the assembled masses to abruptly wake from their slumber and take note. This happened this year where the male school captain, a young Indian lad, made one of the best speeches I think I’ve ever heard in any arena, covering off on the wonderful support of diversity within the school and a sincere level of gratitude for the opportunities provided to him and his family in their adoptive country. Many of our politicians, commentators and community leaders need to get their hands on this speech and take some serious notes. To the young man in question, if you’re reading this, may the best of everything come your way in the future.
So the long, very long, and short of it is the ceremony will drag on for hours and hours until the moment you’ve been waiting for has arrived, and it is literally a moment. Your young’n, who has put in years of hard work, ably assisted by you, walks on stage has a quick handshake, handing over of a certificate, quick photo and now ‘get of the stage the next kid is coming.’
After every student has had their five point two seconds of glory, it’s time for the extra awards which usually go to those students who spend a fair degree of their school life with the nose planted firmly in the teacher’s posterior.
And then it’s all over. You head outside in the blessed relief of open air, seek out your graduate for personal congratulations, pose for a handful of sweaty photos and then leave the school grounds to prepare for the next part of proceedings – the formal.
Now gather round my people as I have wisdom to impart. If you are lucky enough to find yourself the parent of a child of the masculine persuasion then rejoice and give praise to whichever mystical sky fairy you choose to follow, as your child’s preparation for the formal will comprise of a rented suit, a shower and delivery to the appointed location. Ah Mortimer’s formal is now but a pleasant memory.
On the other hand if you are the parents (particularly the father) of a girl child or two, then my advice is to head for the hills and lock yourself away in some nice secluded cave and don’t come out until the all-clear is sounded. I have negotiated this minefield twice now and am still undergoing counselling to help me regain my psychological health.
You may think preparation for this wonderous evening only needs to be considered in the week or so leading up. But my poor sweet, naïve friend you are so very, very wrong. Preparation beings towards the start of the year. Yes you read that correctly, the start of the year. The requirements may seem quite simple at first and can be narrowed down to three main components, ie the dress, the hair and the make-up.
Firstly the dress needs to be identified and deposit paid as early as possible to ensure no one else snaffles it up in the meantime. Once the dress is chosen and deposit paid you may be forgiven for thinking that’s the last you need to worry about it. But rest assured it’s just the beginning. From here on there will be doubts. “What if I put on weight? What if I lose weight? What if I suddenly grow an extra metre and the dress no longer fits? What if I simply decide that I don’t like it when the time comes?” This will go on allllll bloody year. Be prepared.
And just a quick aside, man those things are expensive. $600+ and they don’t even throw in a pair sleeves. Bloody hell. Anyway.
Hair and make-up also needs to be considered and booked so far in advance that fashions will change by the time the girl-child actually gets to sit in the chair. Why so far in advance you may ask? Because apparently they get booked out if you leave it too long. Now I admit I am not exactly the font of all knowledge when it comes to these girly type customs, but what’s wrong with slapping on a bit of face paint and running a comb through the follicles at home an hour before kick-off?
So anyway, after the interminably long ceremony it’s all systems go for the beautification process. Your little princess emerges and all of a sudden you’re confronted with a young lady but you kind of expected that. What you didn’t expect was to roll up to the venue and all those other young princesses which you have known since they could barely walk have also turned into young ladies, and a little part of you dies as you realise just how old you really are.
But the part of you that survives is much happier now that it has been freed from the burden of schooling. You can look upon your contemporaries as they take their ever-so-brief hiatus before taking up the struggle again next year and say unto them, in the most supportive manner possible “enjoy another school year, suckers!”