Bright and breezy, it was a picture-perfect afternoon — and Mother’s Day, too — when my daughter graduated from a Midwestern college last Sunday.
Like new graduates across the nation, she was dressed in a cap and gown as she and her classmates walked in a stately procession to the tune of Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.” Of course I was focused, mentally and literally with my camera lens, upon my daughter. Like the hundreds of parents seated around me, I recalled many moments along the path that had led my child to this milestone.
But I will admit that my thoughts strayed a little bit while “Pomp and Circumstance” played on and on, repeatedly. Not only did it occur to me that the piece was perfectly composed to be repeated on such occasions, but I also wondered why it was given its title. “Pomp” seemed an entirely appropriate word choice for the formal ceremonial piece of music. But “Circumstance”? What was going through Elgar’s mind as he added that word to his title?
This was not something I could determine during my daughter’s graduation, but as the ceremony progressed, it occurred to me that during these trying times, this graduating class of college students cannot afford to simply celebrate their accomplishments in a purely joyous occasion. After all, even the graduation speaker was reminding them of the difficulties that loom over them as they leave the halls of academe and take on the realities of adult life.
From procession to graduation speech to the did-you-find-a-job-yet question some asked as soon as the tassel on the graduate’s cap was tossed to the graduate position, it was abundantly clear that the Class of 2009 was one for which Elgar’s tune was especially appropriate. Along with the pomp come some pretty challenging circumstances.
If my daughter is any exemplar, it is evident this generation of college students may be better prepared than some ivory-tower types of the past. After all, although some certainly were spoiled in growing up in an affluent age, they also saw the realities of divorce, single parenting, environmental and economic deterioration, and more.
As my daughter once told me, “We are not as romantic about life as you were.”
Thus when, two days before her graduation, a major question arose about her planned housing situation beginning this week, my daughter took this in stride. In one evening, she networked online with a dozen friends and faculty, perused alternative housing options, and soothed her worried Mom.
When I told her, “I’m concerned about how fragile your situation seems to be,” she told me firmly, “My situation may be fragile but I’m not. Don’t worry, Mom. Now, let’s just enjoy my graduation.”