Sunday, May 21, 2017

Graduation 1949/2017

We gather for brunch (chez moi) with four young women who've been part of our advanced placement literature and language composition class. It's a special group of students who love literature and language, and who were willing to push themselves academically.

We've had a great year. We read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Cormac McCarthy's The Road, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre; a myriad of short stories, and the poetry of Milton, Shakespeare, Yeats. They wrote essays--boy did they write essays. They looked for literary terms and searched for universal truths within the imagery, the diction, the tone, the structure. They read to understand logical fallacies, to discover the ethos, pathos and logos in time-tested communication.

The class culminates in two nationally administered tests. On both May 3rd and May 10th, they answered 55 multiple choice questions and wrote three essays to demonstrate their understanding of literature and the nuances of rhetoric. We won't know their test scores until mid-July, when hopefully they can apply their high scores to college credit classes.

Once the test is over? It's party time: reading Pablo Neruda just for fun; gleaning Free Fruit for Young Widows, just for the profound life lessons...and brunch on the regularly scheduled final, because it would be cruel to give them another final after the AP tests.

Yuri has brought an insulated bag full of crab, salmon, vegetables to make sushi. She has a portable rice container with sticky, flavorful rice. I am the crepe maker and Sarah helps me cut up strawberries, bananas, and squeezes the lemon juice.

Deb has brought beautifully wrapped presents: books. She scoured the used book store for antique classic treasures. She even brought a new edition of The Great Gatsby, stamped with the coveted Paris Shakespeare book store quatre corner from Notre Dame. It's for Jocy who adores F Scott Fitzgerald's iconic, tragic hero.

As the girls open their classics and ooh and ahh, I ask for a closer look at a beautiful, old Wuthering Heights. Except for the dated cover, it could be new; I suspect it's never been read, but the owner did leave a piece of her past within the pages. When I pull it out and open it, I gasp~!

"You're not going to believe this!" I exclaim to the girls. The moment is pure serendipity. The paper has been folded and hidden for 67 years. It reads: Graduation Requirements June 1949- a mimeographed list of instructions. Perhaps the book was a graduation present.

We are in a circle on the floor. I place the copy in the middle of the six of us. We bend over and twist to see how graduation requirements might have changed for these modern women.

Indeed it has. Their graduation requirement list will not mandate that:

*Hair should not be visible on forehead
*Girls must wear starched collars which must be basted to the neck of gown
*Length of gown:should be anywhere from 6 inches to 14 inches from the floor
* (caps gowns) will be turned in to the checkers in the Barn and the Student Body Office

On the eve of graduation, that we have found a young girl's graduation requirements in a book---is lusciously coincidental.


I have always loved margin annotations. I have always loved surprise notes left in between the pages. Love notes, a poem, even a to-do list. I've decided to personalize my bookmarks~~ and hope that someday~~50-100 years from now, someone will open a book I once owned, and squeal, "Look what I found!"

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