According to the calendar, it was over sixty-seven years ago that I marched down the aisle of the little Buhler High School auditorium to the sound of Pomp and Circumstance to graduate. The other thirty-some students and I were a little nervous to get our diploma.
All the windows were open in the gym to let in the soft spring breezes. That, of course, was our air conditioning. The birds in the nearby trees rendered their cheery notes that grew to a sweet crescendo in the choir of nostalgia. The chairs had been set up to accommodate all the relatives and friends, all dressed in their Sunday best. The maroon robes and caps we wore made the sweat drops trickle down our necks but we didn’t care, we were seniors and we were graduating. As we began our measured tread to the front, our legs were shaking just a little.
Graduation…just the word made me want to both laugh and cry. I had reached the goal and I had attained it…that was the fun part. I was leaving behind all the life experiences that helped me to get there, friends, teachers, and classmates. I would never pass this way again…that was the sad part.
On the stage waited the teachers who had instructed us the last four years…Miss Pankratz, our English and Journalism teacher. She somehow had managed to make most of the kids listen and appreciate good literature; good writing and she had instilled in us a fear of chewing gum in class. She could send the wastebasket scooting down the aisle with the ability to make it stop right next to the guilty, gum-chewing culprit. It didn’t take a diploma to know what must be done…out came the gum, into the basket.
But more than that, we all developed an admiration for good writers. She read to us vivid excerpts from Edgar Allen Poe and Robert Browning. As we looked out the open windows of the schoolroom, we could see the Kansas breeze playfully flapping the soft green leaves on the trees and we could visualize the captain on the burning deck, the woods along the trail, the miles to go in life, the thinking about trying but never quite achieving. It was a moving picture in our imagination. She had a way of making it real.
Also, in front of the auditorium was our principal, Milo Stucky, who commanded respect. He had made a difference in the lives of the boys who didn’t want to pay attention or weren’t working up to their potential. A trip to his office was not something to be desired but also not to be overlooked. Yet he had a pleasant smile when we were doing well.
Barbara Bradbury, the young teacher who had taught dramatics and speech. What fun it had been to do the plays “Our Hearts Were Young and Gay” (Gay meaning happy) and others. We practiced our readings for the contests in the little auditorium and then before the judges.
Off to the side of the stage, Mr. Senner sat, ready to direct the school choir in the final songs of 1951. He was a music teacher who enjoyed getting students to take pleasure in the songs we sang, and he wanted us to be on the pitch. Sometimes he had a few jokes for us to get loosened up. He had taken extra time to give me music lessons in the early morning hours as he did to many.
Looking back, I remember so well the last few months at Buhler High School. Life was beginning to pick up speed and it was just a matter of time before I would leave behind the days of youth. It could not be any grander. I was to be married to John in two weeks and that thought overshadowed the sadness of the day.
I wonder if I will feel the same way when the time comes to graduate from this life. It will be sad to leave family and friends behind but exciting to know I am going to heaven to be with my heavenly father, and of course, that life will be forever.
Nevertheless, the feeling that comes with graduation is bittersweet.
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