Graduating levels of excitement...

After my family moved from the south side of Chicago out to the suburbs, I had to change grade schools. I had been attending Edgar Allen Poe grade school, and my new school was called Sunnybrook. This troubled me because for as long as I could remember we had a copy of the book Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm in the living room bookcase. It was an oversized book and the cover always annoyed me. It was a painting of an eleven or twelve-year-old girl, dressed in a blue gingham dress and bonnet, perched on the seat of a horse-drawn surrey, complete with a fringed canopy.

I’m assuming that the painting was of Rebecca, and that she was on her way, like a smug little Miss Smartypants, to Sunnybrook Farm. I’d read just about everything on that bookshelf a couple of times over, but I never opened Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. The cover just bugged me too much. All of this made going to Sunnybrook grade school that much more annoying. I was hoping that there was no connection between the book and the school. (I never found out for sure, but all these years later I assume the school got its name because of the brook that twisted around the back of the school, on the far side of the baseball/football/field hockey field.)

I graduated from Sunnybrook in 1973. The ceremony was held in the auditorium of the high school I would be attending after that summer. The graduation was the first ‘formal’ affair I’d attended since a big family wedding I attended when I was five or six, so I didn’t have any appropriate attire. My mom took me to Gatley’s Peoples Store on Michigan Avenue and bought me my first necktie and sport jacket. I was warned not to get either of them dirty because both were going straight back to the store the following day. I guess it made sense. We seldom dressed for dinner in our household.

The sport jacket was nondescript. The coolest thing about it was that it had inside chest pockets—the perfect spot to holster my pistol, if I’d had one. The tie intrigued me because it was Navy blue with an alternating pattern of the ‘Man’ and ‘Woman’ symbols I’d seen during the opening credits of one of my favorite old television shows, Ben Casey. (The opening featured a series of five symbols being drawn on a blackboard. Man, Woman, Birth, Death + Infinity. A narrator identified the symbols) Long before I wore a necktie featuring them, I’d been interested in these symbols. Were they a part of some language of hieroglyphics that I would be required to learn to communicate with one day? I having a hard enough time with English and now they’re going to be tossing something new at me? I had been seeing a lot of the ‘Woman’ symbol on the news and such, because this was a point when there was a lot of women’s rights speeches being spoken and bra burning going on. As often as I saw the ‘Woman’ sign, I still tended to get it mixed up with the symbol for ‘Man.’ They were both basically circles with extra parts added on. I finally figured out the way to remember them based on the added on parts. The ‘Woman’ symbol had a plus sign attached to the bottom of it because women wanted to be added to stuff (?) and the ‘Man’ symbol had an arrow sticking out of the upper right side of it that sort of looked like a stubby penis at half-salute.

I was stylin’ at my graduation, with my bad self dressed in my sport coat and tie that had these semi-racy symbols on them. I had a full head of hair back then and during the fuss of getting ready for the occasion my dad had forgotten to take me to the barber to get a trim. My mom compensated by styling my hair with a variety of brushes, combs and garden rakes, and then sealing the deal with a half can of her Hair-Net hair spray. I accepted my eighth grade diploma looking fairly dashing. I recall a number of girls who I’d schlumped past in the halls each day for years doing a double take at the sight of me. The coolest thing about the helmet of hair that my mother had fashioned for me was that it was just that, a helmet. It was an inert mass. I could hold it with both hands and it felt rock solid. Not a single strand was going anywhere. As the evening wore on, I believe we went out to dinner afterwards, I continued to fidget with it, producing oddly satisfying crunchy sounds when enough force was exerted on it.

Fun times indeed. And now, some thirty-three years later my daughter Dakota is graduating from grade school. For a variety of reasons, some of them undoubtedly very good, her school is not having a graduation ceremony. Instead, they held a dance and are treating the students to a variety of fun events during the last week of school.

She looked astonishing beautiful in her dress for the dance. She got the royal treatment to help her get ready, including manicure, pedicure, spray-on-tan (yes, we do still live in sunny California, but who has time to go to the beach and do it the natural way?) and hair styling.

Here are some pre-dance photos of my stunning daughter with Lucky (the guard dog sheep), her best friend Selena, and her fadda.

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