Tag Archives: Graduation

Home Ownership: The American Dream?

For Hubby, me and our newborn daughter, our rental house proved a sanctuary.

Apartments worked for Hubby and me — until a percussion major moved upstairs. Then, upon expecting our first child, we learned our complex was a drug trafficking center.

We rented a house.

The only upstairs residents were squirrels. They pattered across the roof, but none sold drugs or played xylophones.

We possessed three whole bedrooms and a garage. No more scraping ice off car windows. Hubby and I began to succumb to the American Dream. …

However, the driveway didn’t shovel itself. Our house boasted a real yard — whose grass never stopped growing. Flowers I planted attracted real weeds. We purchased a shovel, mower and garden tools. Lawn chairs. And …

The infinite to-buy list should have warned us about home ownership.

But tired of paying rent, I longed to choose the colors of walls and carpet. Bang nails to hang pictures without asking permission.

Our younger daughter welcomed her new brother to the little ranch we built. Thank goodness the water and sewer system had been connected!

So, we built a little ranch in a new addition … where roads hadn’t been completed. Also, water and sewage hadn’t yet been connected to the town’s system. During that inflationary era, the special 12 percent mortgage seemed cheap, compared to an earlier 21.5 percent prime rate.

We brought two newborns to that ranch. Mysterious stains marred my carefully chosen colors. I spent years watering grass and breastfeeding babies. Neither was ever satisfied. I also discovered I wasn’t handy. If I banged a nail into one wall, a gaping hole appeared in the opposite one.

The American Dream?

Our home for 24 years.
Before we knew it, the toddler had a prom date.

One other house we owned ate water heaters and softeners. Another featured a pillow-soft porch roof, as well as a toilet that randomly ran over and soaked anyone playing Ping-Pong in the basement.

We occasionally considered living in a grass hut in Bongo Bongo.

Still, Hubby and I have called all three houses “home.”

Home, where our babies took first, shaky steps. Where they learned to watch for traffic as they walked to school. Home, where we took prom and graduation pictures. Home, where they and their children now come for holidays.

Home is the only place where Hubby and I can put feet on the furniture. Where we can blow up and make up. Bake brownies, eating them all without anyone judging.

Image by Hans from Pixabay.

Our American Dream is no HGTV superstar, but at this address, we can be us.

At home.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What home-owning adventures have you experienced?

Graduation Then and Now

Image by Gerhard C. from Pixabay.

High school graduation celebrations have changed since my husband — then boyfriend — and I graduated in 1971. Boy, we painted the town red.

We went to the Dairy Queen.

Today a 50-cent sundae no longer cuts it. Graduation celebrations now resemble a Times Square New Year’s bash or a Walmart’s grand opening.

Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay.

Parents suffer from open house syndrome, in which they attempt to recreate their worlds before anyone discovers they’ve been living in squalor. Forget painting the living room. Talented home renovators add new wings, while home improvement klutzes knock out one too many walls. To offset costs, creative parents charge admission to open houses, with extra fees for use of bathrooms and chairs. Some install magnets in sofas to collect loose change.

Image by Vicki Nunn from Pixabay.

Mothers experience acute cleaning disorder. Even the gentlest women blow away dust bunnies. Advanced cases not only clean under their own appliances, they sneak next door to scrub under neighbors’ refrigerators. While most recover, chronic sufferers cannot cope with normalcy. When they run out of children to graduate, they recruit teens off the street.

Those with severe graduation syndrome also share all 50 poses of their children’s senior pictures with waiters, flagmen and ATMs.

Other aspects of graduation have changed. Cards nowadays are honest: “Congratulations! We never thought you’d make it!” and the ever-popular “Happy Graduation. Here’s money. Please leave our state.”

Although graduation gifts have evolved from pen sets in 1971 to Porsches in 2022, books remain a staple — a mystery to students, as they have waited 13 years to escape books. Still, they open Great-aunt Clarabelle’s rectangular gift, hoping it contains gold bars rather than devotionals like God Is Watching You at College.

Image by Kris White from Pixabay.

Hubby and I would never hurt friends’ feelings, so we attend open houses and force ourselves to eat piles of meatballs and little hot dogs. To honor graduates, we sample each and every cake, finishing with a sentimental stop at the Dairy Queen.

With full stomachs, Hubby and I return to a house full of junk. We’re afraid to open closet doors. The yard resembles a pasture.

We jump back into the car and cruise downtown. There’s gotta be a kid there who needs an open house.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How are graduations celebrated in your area?

Trial by Graduation

graduates_hatsThough considered a sentimental rite of passage, graduation more accurately resembles a series of trials — for all involved. Other societies require sticking one’s hand into a glove full of tropical ants or running naked across a herd of cows’ backs. Still, few match the demands of a contemporary American graduation, where we face:

Trial by Speeches. Graduation requires that half the addresses be delivered by people who never make speeches.

Graduates’ talks — generally an exception — are thoughtful and well-practiced, thanks to parents’ and teachers’ threats.

Academic speakers, however, often push listeners to the breaking point. Perhaps the researcher who spoke at my son’s graduation had studied disembodied brains so long she forgot how to connect with those still residing in humans.

If graduates misbehave, the graduation gods will press a button, ejecting them onto Neptune without diplomas. So students Super-Glue their eyelids open. They ready socks to stuff into mouths that issue inappropriate comments or snores. Friends don’t let friends snore during graduation speeches.

Proponents support this polite façade because graduates learn the hypocrisy necessary to keep a job.

The opposition claims such courtesy perpetuates poor speeches. If listeners shot Super Soakers at a sleep-inducing windbag, quality would climb considerably.

Trial by Wardrobe. If aliens attended a graduation, they might conclude the assembly was undergoing mass penance. Suits, ties, high heels, body shapers and control-top pantyhose abound. Graduation gowns trap heat when dry and disintegrate into goo during rainy processionals.

Mortarboards, true to their name, work well for bricklayers. They should not be imposed on human heads. No woman’s hairdo in the history of western civilization has survived the ordeal.

Trial by Music. After 96 repeats of “Pomp and Circumstance,” even the composer might ban the tune forever.

Also, no one ever knows the words to a school’s alma mater. Tunes, however, seem familiar, since many alma maters are based on Cornell University’s “Far Above Cayuga’s Waters” — which borrowed its melody from a song about someone dying of tuberculosis.

No wonder we are moved to tears as, struggling to read the program’s print, we warble:

Steve-RachaelGraduation0001

Steve and me, June, 1971 Columbus (North) High School, Columbus, Indiana

Glory to thy bricks and ivy,

Airy halls of light and truth.

We leave behind thy golden towers,

Built by our bank accounts, forsooth.

Or something like that.

Trial by Smile. Graduates must hug hitherto unknown relatives. This is good practice for their weddings.

Yes, the bravest students, families and friends must endure this rite of passage known as graduation.

And we wouldn’t miss it for the world.

 

 

 

 

Lovin’ This Wild, Crazy May

MaypoleDisneyWhile I like the May Day tradition of hanging surprise flowers on neighbors’ doors, I’ve never been into pole dancing — even the old-fashioned kind, with village maidens and men weaving ribbons around a Maypole. Between my five left feet and mild dyslexia, I might wrap myself, my beloved and innocent bystanders like mummies.

Fortunately, this custom no longer holds a central place in spring tradition.

But wild and crazy May bursts with other rituals.

New beginnings

Baby showers bloom on May calendars like tulips. While most guys prefer the pro basketball play-offs, women flock to these events.

Just as well.

Men wouldn’t understand the games — baby food tasting, bottle bowling or stomach-measuring. Guys in my Sunday school class, eavesdropping on our discussion of a baby shower, growled wrathful references to Child Protective Services — till we informed them we played “Throw the Baby” with a baby doll.

Wedding showers also proliferate. But men probably wouldn’t get the design-a-wedding-dress-with-toilet-paper game, either. Nor would they comprehend the thrill we derive from passing around kitchenware.

They don’t realize this is all about new beginnings. Many women have forgotten what it’s like to own toasters that work and dishtowels with recognizable colors. We rejoice in such novel items and the bride’s shiny, brand-new smiles.

Instead, men invent challenges they can’t win: ““Blast! The lawn isn’t growing.”

Whereupon, they apply tons of fertilizer and pray for rain. The grass flourishes, and they complain, “Blast! The lawn’s growing. Have to cut it again.”

They rise from winter easy chairs to wipe out pretty dandelions and violets, the hardiest spring blossoms, and instead, coax flowers that refuse to rise out of bed. They blow budgets on dirt, rocks and … manure.

Proving their rituals are crazy, too.

Finales

If May overwhelms with new beginnings, it avalanches with finales.

Education-related events precipitate banquets that explode the calendar. Preschools, grade schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges — all aided by sound systems designed by misanthropes and chicken served in its most unrecognizable forms — distribute tributes and trophies.

GraduationThrowHatsStatistics cite May as the month in which ties and control-top pantyhose are worn more than any time of year. After eternal graduation speeches, well-dressed relatives shoot a gazillion fuzzy photos of one special graduate wearing a crooked grin and equally crooked mortarboard.

For the grad and his loved ones, May presents a shifting kaleidoscope of good-byes and fresh dreams.

For me? Breathing in a sweet May morning on my patio, back aching and fingernails dirty from digging into gardens and life, I welcome it all.

Though my five left feet don’t cooperate, my heart can’t help but dance around the Maypole.

Any new beginnings or finales in your May calendar? Are you dancing, too?