Yesterday, the family of a young woman who just graduated high school hosted a party that was reasonably well-attended (despite being on a Friday afternoon) by a diverse group of people including our pastor, the person in charge of the youth choir, a variety of teenagers from the congregation, and some of us who are in between old and young (including a lot of parents). When I arrived at the party, after a harrowing drive through traffic on SR-217 (which was slowed because of an accident whose remnants were still visible on the side of the road as well as the usual evening traffic), I deposited my dutch apple pie and talked with the fellows, so as better to let the young ladies enjoy themselves. As has been the case previously with this group of people , the conversation was quite humorous and full of wit, as we talked about a variety of subjects including Jamaican history and Leverage.
I had planned to spend most of the afternoon and evening speaking with the other adults and generally keeping myself out of harm’s way, but as is often the case this did not end up happening. When the first round of hamburgers and hot dogs were grilled, there were enough spaces and food for twelve people to go through the line first and then eat in the garage. Because there were enough teens (largely because one of the families of a potential high school graduate, although I do not know for sure if she is finishing this semester, was unable to make it), a couple of us slightly older folk were personally invited to go along with them and then sit with them. Again, I wished to keep myself out of trouble, as the first table was full and I didn’t wish to crowd anyone, and so while I started to eat alone at the second table, I was invited to sit at the table and ended up in a place where one of the people near me kept brushing my feet with her own. Shortly thereafter, we combined the two tables together, and had an enjoyable conversation that veered from extreme silliness (zombo.com) to extreme seriousness (talking about the etiology of mental disorders in childhood trauma), while even getting to say hello on Skype to one of our local young adults who has gone to Thailand to teach (which prompted some questions from a young lady to me about my experiences in Thailand, and a request from the other room from her mother about how to find the location of the school on her Google Earth phone app). I also had a humorous conversation about names (actually, one of several through the evening), where one of the young people expressed the thought that her first name was too common, and that she would prefer to be known by her middle name, which happens to be the name of an adorable and precocious and somewhat clingy girl who is one of my little friends at church. When I explained that picture to her, she got the point that her middle name is a bit more common than she might prefer as well, and wondered why her parents did not give her the middle name of her father, for sentimental reasons. Given her family situation, which is not so different from the one I grew up with, I could understand that wish, as I could understand her frustrations about the custody arrangements of her family as well.
In the course of this dinner conversation, all of us who were eating among the young folks were invited to a park of sorts, and while I thought we were going to drive there (silly me), we ended up walking the ten minutes or so it took to get there (and back), which was a bit more walking than my gouty foot was used to. Needless to say, it was a bit of a painful walk even if the company was pleasant, and once we got to the park we found it that it was the abandoned elementary schoolyard of the school that had been attended by the graduate and her older brother. In a way, for them, the trip to the park with friends was an exercise in nostalgia, as we sat, talked, played on the swingsets and jungle gym (and where one of the young people executed a very polished straddle of a slide with no sides that looked somewhat dangerous, which was somewhat daring). We also played frisbee in the field and some of the young people threw a boomerang around (which fortunately did not hit me). We did this for a while, until twilight, when our festivities were broken up by the adults wondering where all the teens (and a few of us young adults) had gone, and the host father walked with us home (and I chatted with him along the way about class divides in Lake Oswego and schools and other related matters).
After that, I stayed and chatted with the adults (now that the teens were under the watchful eyes of their parents) until about 11PM, mostly with a couple of parents (and the teen daughter of two of the parents there, who was in rare and humorous form, talking about the wedding plans she had made already in wanting a hot pink dress, even though she is only thirteen). I was reminded about my own experiences as a teen in dealing with the breakup of my family and various other drama, and the conversation prompted discussions about names (again) as well as relationships with parents and my disastrously poor timing and so on. It was nice to see the evidence of good relationships between brothers and sisters, something I wish I had more of in my own life. In all, although the evening went much later than I expected (although, in fairness, I don’t tend to leave such soirees early ), it was an excellent evening, even if a bittersweet one. Graduations are bittersweet times, for they are portents of change, and of the closing of a particularly dramatic chapter of life and the brave embarkation on a journey into unknown lands and situations that test one’s resolve, one’s faith, and one’s character. And such tests never end, so long as we draw breath on this lonely planet.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: