Friday, June 26, 2015

Pomp and Ceremony and Such

I’m worried about these next generations of kids growing up.

Every event has to be painted as a major victory. Every task as a major accomplishment that deserves reward.

Last Wednesday, my little family attended my eldest daughter Alannah’s grade 8 graduation ceremony.

She had to have a fancy dress. Yes, she did look beautiful in it, and yes, she is becoming a fine young woman. But this was a formal gown affair, and – well – Alannah’s gown was indeed “formal”.

And expensive.

I put my foot down on that idea. But they bought it anyway.

You just don’t get it Daddy” was the winning counter argument.

When we arrived at the high school where the ceremony was held, the same high school Alannah will be attending as of September, the first thing they handed her were graduation robes. And the formal expensive gown was covered by a white robe.

At that point I did my first deep sigh of the night.

And yes, Alannah behaved perfectly as she marched up the stairs and walked across the stage to shake the hands of her teacher and principal while receiving her diploma – a rolled up white piece of blank paper with blue ribbon tied around it – the real one was home on the kitchen table.

Most of the guys in her class screamed “We did it!” as they marched off the other side, holding up the paper roll in one fist while doing that upside down piece sign thing rappers do in videos. And some of the young ladies were posing on stage as the others waited – “Vogueing” as Madonna would call it – striking several overly dramatic poses as their parents begged them to stay for one more shot.

It’s the eighth grade people.

This school couldn’t fail a student if they wanted to, the parents have to consent to little Jimmy or Sally being held back – no matter how poor the marks. This leaves one from my generation to wonder just what the heck was really achieved?

They had a ball afterwards. I mean they had a formal ball. And one of the fathers happens to rent limousines as a business, so there were a couple of limos parked out front.

Yes, I understand, it's a milestone. Lets get the fireworks ready.

In grade 8, my Dad moved us from Minnesota to Georgia as the result of a promotion he achieved. Minnesota had a very strong public education system. Georgia did not – at least at that time. So when I arrived for my first day at school that October, I was greeted by very syrupy southern drawls that I thought only existed in Mayberry, and to school work I had done 2 years before.

I mentioned this to my teacher that day.

“Well, ain’t you special? This should be easy for you – what are you complaining about? Now go sit back down!”

It was easy. I didn’t learn diddlysquat.

And on that last day of 8th grade at Lillburn Middle School, once the bell rang we all sprinted for the door and the school bus – and went home.

We went home and went swimming.

No formal event. No fake diploma with blue ribbon presented in front of the whole town. Not even a real diploma. That came at grade 12. When you were really done. When they really start to keep score. 

And yes, I not only adjusted to hearing the southern drawal, I adopted it as my own too. It took me ten years after moving back to Canada to finally lose it, although when I get tired, or I get mad, the old twang comes back sometimes. I miss it.

As I walk through our open space offices at work, I see a lot of our younger staffers and our summer students, the age Alannah will be in five and ten years from now.

I watch them walking out of their work-spaces – eyes glued to the screen – reading and typing as they walk – around corners – up and down stairs – into walls – and into each other.

I see them somehow gather together out in the courtyard – likely by GPS and Google Maps – all sitting around a table with the umbrella wafting in the breeze and talking – but not to each other – tapping those little fingers on those little screens – talking to people who are not even there. The odd time one will hold their phone up for another to see – and most often no words are spoken. For all I know they may simply be texting each other.

When Alannah and Ashley-Rae have friends over, the all gather in one of the girls bedrooms. When they were little – before the iPod and smartphone – the room would be loud with jumping and crashing and laughing and giggling. If it were quiet, it would be time to worry.

But now as I peek in on these bedroom congregations, they’re all sprawled out over chairs and beds and floors and tables – looking at their little screens – typing away and reading what’s typed back – and sometimes showing the screen to the closest person next to them – as the music – if you can call it music – plays in the background. Maybe they are texting each other – so that they can record for perpetuity their own conversations.

Good grief.

It’s hard to remember that we are still in our technology based infancy. At some point these things will be implanted in their brains. People’s brains will be connected by WiFi and cellular LTE data plans large enough to upload what they see and what they imagine, and at night what they dream of to the cloud of their choice for friends to like and comment on.

A big thumbs up to a video of your nightmare – with friends commenting “wtf – what u eat b4 U went 2 bed last night lol”

My lovely wife Darlene had her smartphone at Alannah’s grade 8 graduation ceremony. And she used it to take pictures and video of Alannah and her best friends and classmates. And she leaned over and showed me what she had taken.

We didn’t say a word.

I just smiled at her and gave her the thumbs up. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Not a bad Father’s Day

Its Father's Day today, and I am spending the morning on the back deck with my faithful black lab Suzy, while the rest family dozes inside.

The temperature is about seventy four degrees with a soft breeze.

The coffee is great this morning.

And Pat Caputo is on my radio musing on the third place status of the Detroit Tigers.

The girl's school will be finished on Thursday this next week. Alannah is graduating from 8th grade and she has her best friend Erin sleeping over because next year they will be attending different high schools. Erin's birthday is later this week, so my lovely wife Darlene bought her a cake that we haven't eaten yet, so we will likely do so sometime this morning.

The pool is not open yet, the black tarp still covers the surface. My deck is in desperate need of a good painting and needs to be done before we open the pool, but it has rained so much we haven't yet had the opportunity. And ball tournaments most weekends limit my free time availability.

Maybe today. But it will have to be this morning because we are heading to my Father-In-Law's house this afternoon. Its Father's day.

But what a great morning.

Father's Day is a nice sentiment. And it would be nice to be recognised today for all the Dad stuff I do. But it's hardly imperative.

It would have been nice to play golf with friends today, but I haven't really swung a club in four years now, and I don't really have any friends outside of work or the circle of parents of kids on my daughters' ball team.

It would be nice to go to a Detroit Tigers game, but they are in New York playing those dastardly New York Yankees – and getting slaughtered these days.

Yesterday, coming home from a fundraising event for our ball team in Kingsville, we realized that we didn't have a key for the house. So while we waited for Darlene to come home and let us in, I opened the combination lock to the back yard through the gate and checked the back door to see if we locked it. Of course it was indeed locked.

So I got out the lawn mower and cut the grass.

But still no sign of Darlene.

So I examined the windows on the back of the house, and noticed that Ashley-Rae's bedroom wasn't locked. And there was a tiny hole in the screen. So I stuck my finger through the hole and pushed the window open. I removed the screen – dropping down onto Ashley's room floor.

Then I hoisted Ashley-Rae up where she climbed in through the window – disabled the alarm – and opened the sliding glass door.

At that same time, Erin's parents arrived for Erin to sleep over, while I explained to the security company on the phone about how I had to break into my own house. So we got in just in the nick of time.

So we have a great Father's day story for this year. It just so happened to occur the day before.

I don't want any more excitement this week. But I would like to open this damned pool.

And I need to take that screen over to the local hardware store to get it re-screened.

Ernie is the neighbor behind me. He is scrambling to get the back year ready around his pool for all his kids to come home and express their great appreciation for his fatherly approach in their lives.

Good for Ernie.

I'm going to open the pool.

Then I'll have a piece of Erin's birthday cake.

And then we'll head over to Darlene's Dad's house so we can celebrate his Fatherly achievements.

And I'll think about my Dad today who passed away 15 years ago.

He was a great Dad too.

And I'll think about all the sailing weekends we celebrated this day on the water. Where he loved to be.

And how lucky I am to be able sit here on my back deck writing a headstuffing post – where I love to be.

And you know – this isn't such a bad way to go.

I hope they save me a piece of birthday cake.

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