It felt “normal” and it felt good. If even for a moment.
We had individual videotaped graduations last week. Each 2020 graduate had his or her scheduled 5 minutes on stage — walking the walk and ending it with a signed diploma.
It was a time to celebrate. I choked back tears — for my son’s accomplishments, as well as for all we’ve lost during the last two-plus months. Bittersweet to be sure. I was glad I thought to bring a tissue.
But afterward — oh afterward. As circumstances would have it a group of friends — boys — all walked at about the same time on the same day.
Some hung around. Some came early. But they all got the chance to see one another again — from a socially safe distance, of course.
And parents? Well, we did what parents do on graduation day.
We took pictures.
We tried to keep them 6 feet apart, but you know how that goes. No one hugged or touched each other, but they were so glad to be together. It was obvious. More than willing to put up with parental photographing if it meant 10 more minutes together. In person.
At one point we asked them if they had masks. I thought it would make for a striking photo. I expected an answer of “No.” I was wrong.
All but a couple had masks. The rest of us had extras. High school boys toting masks in their back pockets because they are good kids and follow the rules — it broke my heart.
So we took one last photo of them as a group in their masks. It should have been funny, but it wasn’t. Nothing about wearing masks at age 18 is funny, unless it is Halloween. We are still more than five months out from that. Hopefully by then masks won’t be mandatory. Hopefully by then, masks will be only part of a costume. Hopefully.
As things were winding up, I could feel the friendship vibe in the air. Kids lingered. So did parents. We were done, but weren’t quite ready to be done. Finally, people started heading for their cars.
I found our vehicle, but my son was conspicuously absent.
I exited the car and there he was — taking more photos with friends. These boys who normally squawk at photos were posing for more — on their own. Taking selfies. Wanting to make the moment last.
I got choked up. Again. It’s become something of a habit, I’m afraid.
While my husband waited patiently, I took extra photo after extra photo. Each boy wanted a picture with this friend, and then that friend.
The next morning, while I was busy in the kitchen I noticed my son scrolling through my phone. I asked him what he was doing. He gave a non-answer, as teenage boys are wont to do. Later I looked at my phone and saw that he’d texted some of the grad pics from the day before to himself.
These were pics he didn’t want to take. He even asked, “Why do you need to take so many pictures?”
He sent them to himself (to share with others, I’m sure).
And although I can be accused of being that mom who interferes just a bit when interfering isn’t wanted, I felt vindicated.
In a year that feels anything but normal, we had a moment of normalcy. Honestly, it is all these kids and their moms and dads want: To feel normal again. It’s all any of us want.
I’m so very glad we got together — for our kids and ourselves to immortalize the moment with a couple of simple photos — even if just for a few minutes.
Here’s to the class of 2020. You are important. Your sacrifices matter. We understand. You will do great things. We love you. All of you.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.