Honorably Mentioned

Oops.

My last son is attending a snooty school. The parents make sure of it.

Which explains why I haven’t once set foot on the campus. I don’t have any Manolo Blahniks.

At our school, every kid’s a winner.

We don’t have losers.

I was told by the school that my kid was receiving an award from his PE class during an assembly that would last two hours. I could not imagine what would take so long, but being a dutiful mommy, I put my rigorous schedule on hold to attend.

I had not one doubt that my son was entitled to singular recognition. Our kids get awards all the time. Why, a year doesn’t go by without my having to attend numerous award ceremonies wherein my child is called forward and patted on the head for outstanding citizenship, record breaking attendance, athletic prowess, or academic achievements.

Usually, all of them.

Any one of my children would walk away, head bowed beneath the weight of medals, hands full of certificates signed by the office staff, and occasionally the President of the United State of America.

It’s not bragging if it’s true.

But boy is it obnoxious.

I’m getting one of those bumper stickers that reads, “My Zombie Student Ate Your Honor Student’s Brain….Now Who’s Smart?”

I have one of each. So I know.

Arriving at the school a half hour early was not my best plan. Everyone else had arrived earlier. Cars were double parked and parked on top of fire hydrants and in front of red curbs or blue walkways.

Obviously these awards weren’t for hereditary successes.

I parked three counties over and ran gasping into the back of the auditorium. Standing room only. Behind lots of balloon clusters loudly proclaiming “Congratulations!” even though they were clearly meant for a wedding.

I found a sliver of wall to lean against and looked around for my son.

Once we made eye contact, our silent body conversation went on for a while. His raised eyebrows meant, “I see a parent here. This means I’ve won something. Wonder which one?”

My eyes rolled heavenward meant, “Look, kid, this is torture just for you. You’d better appreciate it. Do you see a vacant chair anywhere? This award better be good!”

I got excited thirty minutes into the program when I noticed the police had arrived. Finally, the police department could make their ticket quota in one fell swoop. Perhaps these crazed parents were getting their cars towed at this very minute!

Oh the justice of it all.

Until I realized the truth: they had kids receiving awards here today. There were two cop motorcycles illegally squeezed into a ramp in front of the office outside.

Shoot me now.

An hour and a half into it, my face shouted at my kid across the auditorium, “They are handing out awards for breathing in and out all year…and you didn’t get one! When will they call your name already?”

Why do I keep showing up for these things?

Once the PE teachers arrived on stage, I started to relax. I stood upright and rolled my shoulders, restoring circulation and tentatively feeling for my feet. My shoes were cute, but not a good choice to run and then stand for two hours in.

The awards were handed out.

Had he done the most sit-ups and push-ups? Had he run the fastest mile? Perhaps displayed excellent Sportsmanship or Leadership among his peers?

Thirty students were called up for recognition, my son among them.

It was for “Outstanding 6th Period Physical Education”.

That’s it.

Written up on a Del Taco coupon.

My son had won a free kid’s meal.

For breathing in and out every day in 6th period PE.

I am so proud.

James Bond Does A Graduation

The June sun presided over an outdoor commencement. Perspiration crept along hairlines.

The college president was Kenyan, the keynote speaker was from Iran, the flowers were Hawaiian.

Among the grad-crazed families sat a single Russian spy. His beloved princess was graduating magna cum laude today with a degree in Political Science and another in Chemistry. He set aside his routine of espionage to sit in the anonymous audience of hundreds. He never perspired; not even when carrying bits of high-tech radically engineered weapons information for the Kremlin. Today he was travelling light.

Just passing through.

The devilishly alluring man in the impeccable Brioni suit and dark glasses moved casually to a seat nearby as the ceremony began.

Queue the James Bond theme song.

In the long line of flowing black robes, Natasha is announced. She walks across the stage to receive her diploma. Women shriek, balloons escape skyward.

Only when the crowds clear the field, hours later, does anyone notice the body slumped in the chair.

Covered by an air horn blast and surrounded by parents straining into the sunlight to see a glimpse of their own prodigies, the elimination went undetected.

James Bond fades into the background.

Mischief managed.

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I can’t stand the boredom of ceremonies. I just can’t. Society dictates that a person has not graduated, married, given birth, or died, unless a party has been properly thrown over it, money spent on it, and particular traditions carried out in his honor. It must involve vast quantities of food.

But first and foremost, you must stand witness to the event.

Even if you’re a Russian spy.

If I had spare time I would spend it reading a good book, sleeping, or daydreaming about 007.

During my daughter’s graduation, I did all three.

I’m fairly certain no one noticed.

There are approximately 300 graduates to run the gauntlet. The first string comes through and random clusters of family members clap and cheer politely. Until the second row, fifth grad in, when his family decides to jump up, blasting air horns, and shriek at the top of their lungs.

We levitated for a moment over our seats.

We will never know who the sixth grad was.

Once my hearing returned, it was much too late to send them harsh looks of admonishment because, by George, every other family decided they would not be upstaged or (heaven forbid) their own child feel less loved due their lack of vocal enthusiasm.

Nothing is more irritating than having your nap interrupted by women clearly having liposuction without anesthesia. There were shrieks of agony from all corners of the audience and I looked everywhere for the mass murderer.

Sometimes the men would attempt the same decibels in a lower octave and it only managed to sound like they were about to take the warpath. Or they’d had a kneecap busted. Or maybe they’d just seen the VISA bill for the after-party.

After a while I was feeling sorry for the grads with polite parents, but I would find myself looking up from Pride & Prejudice wishing the sudden silence would last longer than three names.

I heard a whistle once, but instead of the police coming to arrest obnoxious guests, it was a mom who wasn’t about to sacrifice her tonsils to the cause but needed to make sure her presence was acknowledged.

At the end of the ceremony, we were all told very specifically how to exit the field and where to meet our grads. I held onto my chair and braced. The very moment tassels turned, the audience surged like a tsunami and met the incoming wave of grads, crashing together in a mindless smash-up of humanity.

Our family had the back of the stadium to ourselves as we hugged and smiled and snapped a couple of photos.

We casually strolled to the cars, drove home without a trace of traffic, and yes, had a wonderful after-party full of family, friends and fun.

Far be it from me to defy the tradition of ages.

If I noticed the solitary man in the tailored suit and dark glasses, a wry half-smile on his face, I certainly didn’t make eye contact.