The View from the Cheap Seats



Wednesday was the graduating seniors’ awards night at TG’s high school.  TW and I showed up with every intention of embarrassing The Girl through our dorky enthusiasm every time she won something; we accomplished our mission.


Since this was at a high school, I got to watch from the cheap seats. The students sat in the first four rows while the families were in back.  That meant that we could watch the students interact even as we kept up with the official program.  As Yogi Berra famously put it, you can observe a lot just by watching.


For example, the gender split among the academic awards was striking; we were at least a dozen awards in before the first male student won something academic.  


They gave a “perfect attendance” award, which struck me as questionable in the context of a pandemic.  No disrespect to the student who won it, but given high transmission levels in our county, this is not the time to incentivize showing up to school and toughing out illness in public.  


The first batch of awards were memorial awards in memory of people who had died.  They were usually presented by family members, who would talk a bit about the person after whom the award was named.  In a couple of cases, the awards were named after people who would still be in their teens if they were alive now.  As a parent, those are tough to hear.  But I’m glad those awards exist; they’re lovely and constructive ways to honor someone’s memory.


Some awards were already spoken for, so there wasn’t much suspense.  But when they got to the awards in the various academic disciplines – decided by the faculty – it quickly became obvious that the students hadn’t been told in advance.  The speakers would offer long-ish profiles of the winning student before saying the name, and we could see the student section abuzz with people whispering and looking around, trying to guess.  In a few cases, we played along.


Then they presented the award for English.


Hearing your own daughter described from the podium as “a voracious reader,” “a lover of language in all its forms,” and as the author of “an extended research paper so good that it’s hard to believe a high school student wrote it” never gets old.  We cheered obstreperously, mortifying TG.  I’m completely fine with that.  I hadn’t put together everything she had done, but hearing it spelled out, I couldn’t help but be proud: author of a book review column, editor of the school paper, published poet, trusted source of recommendations for novels.  All true.  


Her friends cheered for her, and she cheered for them when they won.  To my experienced eye, they looked like college students, which they almost are.  Some of them reminded me of my friends in college; I could immediately place types.  There’s something reassuring in that.  The sense of continuity, even as each student brings unique gifts, was comforting.


Write on, TG.  The cheap seats will be farther away soon, but we’ll still be cheering you on.



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