Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Graduation Reception

The graduation reception for the school was last Thursday. A friend of mine and I coordinated this event...which meant that I can now die happy having finally been able to chair something at Trinity Presbyterian School. See, I am one of those mothers who is normally called to do the job that few really enjoy or will even consider doing...games at Christmas when everybody is jacked up on sugar and artificial coloring...that kind of thing. Or doing a scrapbook for fifth graders where the only picture most of the boys brought also included a dead deer on the back of a pickup truck.

I've enjoyed (or at worst survived) all of these jobs, but as one of the "working mothers" it was apparently assumed that I wouldn't have time, interest, or ability to pull something together of the importance of the Trinity Graduation Reception. My sweet friend - who chaired it the year before - thought I could handle it and nominated me. I love her faith! I'm pretty sure that she was praying the entire time that her daughter's reception wouldn't be a disaster of unspeakable magnitude. And thankfully, her prayers were answered. Lord knows that if it had been a colossal failure, mention of it would one day appear in my obituary followed by..."bless her heart..."

The graduation reception is chaired each year by two junior class mothers and is worked by all of the mothers in the junior class. You get out of reception duty if you have a child graduating, but you have to be critically ill, hospitalized or severly contagious otherwise. I do love that one of our mothers with four children has just worked her second and last reception as she has children graduating in each of the next three years. She does not advise this method for getting out of working the reception. On the other hand, my friend and I worked last year as trainees...so for our two children...we have both worked (or will work) three receptions each. Something is wrong with this picture...

Thankfully, my friend who co-chaired it with me is also the one that co-chaired the 3rd grade Easter Egg Hunt and numerous joint birthday parties for our sons through the years. She has complementary "skill sets" with me...and that totally rocks. We work well together because we aren't bossy, type A, overachieving banshees by the end of the event. Nobody wants to slap anybody and it always gets done well. Oh, well, I assume that she didn't want to slap me at the end of the event. I suppose I might be speaking out of turn. At least she was still speaking to me...so there's that...

She checked that the budget was in line, that the people with jobs requiring lead times were contacted, that work got done earlier than scheduled the day of the reception, and that all of the boxes were checked in the twenty five pound manual of words of wisdom from the ghosts of receptions past. I wrote the letter to the Moms, did the public speaking, got the tables straightened out, and made quick decisions. I even guarded the silver for 45 minutes...something that rates as #1 on the boring-o-meter in my humble opinion. It is worse than waiting for your toenails to dry after a pedicure, sitting through a cantata, and suffering through any book of required reading that my children have ever had assigned. I know this because I have read them all. Even "Kim" by Rudyard Kipling...a book from the Library of Hades if I've ever read one...

We also had a dozen totally awesome Graduation Fairies who did the next level of work so well that they made us look really good. They were perky, knew how to delegate, pulled it together, and begged favors from the people on their committees to get it all taken care of with gusto. You just have to love people like that. We tried to pick people that we could count on...but women who weren't called to do everything normally. We felt like it would be far more fun to have people who made us laugh but were reliable than people who were no fun but highly efficient. In my opinion, highly efficient is seriously overrated.

I'm happy to say, though, that we truly didn't have a group of slackers. You know...women who pay people to do everything for them so that they lose touch with the concept of grunt work. Because if the graduation reception is anything...it is grunt work...on steroids. I'm not knocking those women by the way...lest you think I am being unkind or insanely jealous. I'm just saying that it might be a little difficult to relate to being asked to take out a bag of garbage, wipe off trays, or pick up stray cups when they haven't actually done this since 1985...or, possibly...EVER.

One year, I remember one of the mothers was in mid-story with one of her friends stopped me as I was going from Point A to Point B to tell me that the trash can needed to be emptied. Funny thing, though, she wasn't "in charge" and I wasn't on the Clean-up Committee. Apparently I have that "I once worked at McDonald's" look going on or something.

And no, I didn't kick her in the face. I just took out the trash. I wasn't going to try to trump her in the Tackiness Department.

This reception marking the celebration of the milestone of high school graduation is meticulously planned, organized, worked, and managed each year on a budget that is adequate, but far less costly than one would guess. Using the junior mothers to work is actually quite ingenious on many levels. Not only is there an army of 60-75 women who are a captive group of workers, but they get the opportunity to reconnect with other mothers that they haven't seen since the children began driving...or have even met at all. That senior year is quite a ride...and it is nice to know or reconnect with those who are in the boat with you. It also makes one truly appreciate all of the effort that goes into YOUR child's graduation reception when they are seniors...because pretty much...that night is a blur otherwise.

Yes...a blur. I've been in the "mother of the graduate" role once already, and I'll be back there again next year. I've found that there are Mamas that are incredulous that they are there in that role...they can't believe that their "baby" is finally through with school, and others who are just grateful that their son or daughter has actually graduated...and will be going somewhere - ANYWHERE - to continue his or her education in the Fall. The first group walks around looking dazed and teary. The second group would be doing back handsprings if there was adequate space in the sea of humanity...but there is not.

I ran into examples of both last week. I even had meaningful conversations with them while checking with one eye to make sure that we weren't out of cheese cubes on table 5. Amazingly, we WERE out of cheese cubes. After years of ordering less and less...we finally hit on the exact amount of cheese cubes that one needs to offer instead of insanely ordering way too much and then returning half of the order every year once the reception is over. We took the crackers away this year because nobody eats crackers at the reception, and they seemed to just enjoy the cheese with the fruit. Or maybe we had an extraordinary number of people on the Atkins diet with it being nearly swimsuit season and all.

We found that ordering four kinds of rock-star cookies was better than having eight kinds of semi-icky ones. One of the mothers of a class of 2008 graduate was kind enough to bake six pans of her amazing brownies for graduation. They were totally awesome and also totally gone. The thumbprint cookies were also inhaled. Not a big shock there...as they cost over sixty cents each in the bakery. The other two offerings had some leftovers, but not the trays and trays that marked past receptions I've seen.

However, there were so many leftover cheese straws that it was truly amazing. When did people start being anti-cheese straws? Isn't failure to consume cheese straws against some unwritten Southern law of formal gatherings? I don't think that we overordered...but then again...perhaps folks loaded up on real cheese instead. Who knows?

The fruit was amazing...as it always is. In 2007, I was on a committee that carved swans out of honeydew melons and baskets out of watermelons. It took us hours, and those trays were truly a sight to behold. But this year rivaled that year in beauty, creativity, and "wow" factor. Plus, the strawberries were ridiculously huge but tasty as well.

Our punch chairman made ice rings that worked well, and our flower chairman and committee outdid themselves. Nametags were made, tablecloths were arranged, and silver was gathered and cleanup handled. All did their jobs...and did them well.

The graduation reception is thankfully over for another year. However, attending it reminds me each year that time marches on. Last week was the sixth graduation reception in a row that I've attended. Next year will be my seventh...and my last for a few years...or so I think right now. Next year, I not only am the mother of a graduate...but I'm "graduating" from Trinity as well. I'm trying not to dwell on that.

I'll be making the final tuition payment in December, Lord willing, and I'm having that moment photographed. In reality, I've been paying what amounts to college tuition since 1996. If making that final payment doesn't constitute a Kodak moment...I don't know what does.

And I have that wonderful reception to look forward to next year...because I already know that it will be wonderful. I also know that as of right now...in the realm of graduation receptions...I AM RETIRED. :)

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