Almost every late spring for many years now, I have thought back to my graduation and the events leading up to it. I grew up in a small rural community in the middle of Wisconsin, it is the kind of place where neighbors know each other on a first name basis and all of us kids hung out on the weekends in one big clique. We had a couple of traditions in my high school that had been handed down for many years. The seniors would not have class the Thursday and Friday before graduation weekend. Somewhere along the way every class would have an overnight camping party at a local park, the night after graduation practice. My class was no different.
On the drive out to the camp ground I was very much looking forward to hanging with my friends and having a great time, hell this may be the last time I would hang out with some of these people. A lot of the anticipation I felt was also the thought of spending some time with my girl friend, her name was Lori. She was everything that was great about my senior year of high school. We had started dating the end of our junior year, took the summer off from each other and then we went steady all through our senior year. She was not the cheerleader type, yet very well put together. Pretty, but not vain, and very smart, Lori had earned her class ranking and by graduation she was the valedictorian of our class.
By the time I got to the park a couple of my friends who got there first had the camp fire going and started to drink some beer. I grabbed a barley pop myself and sat down in a my lawn chair. For the next half hour or so, many people from our small class stopped by, some had planned on staying, others just wanted to have a couple and then take off. Lori pulled up in her car, I got up went over to greet her. She had a funny expression on her face, I could not place it, it had to be the strain of graduation I thought. As valedictorian, Lori had to give a speech at the commencement ceremony, she had been working on it for weeks, and she was very nervous about it. When I got close Lori said, “walk with me Mark”. That was a bit of a shock, she never said hello, nice to see you, nothing.
We walked a little ways, I tried to hold her hand, she only crossed her arms and kept walking.
When we finally got out of sight from the others she spoke. “Mark, don’t say anything and don’t try to change my mind but, I do not want to be your girlfriend anymore.” I stopped, frozen for a long moment, totally in disbelief of what I had just heard. At that moment in time I could not speak, I could hardly move. Lori turned and started walking fast for her car. I thought maybe she was crying but I think that was wishful thinking on my part. I went back to the camp fire, hardly said anything to anyone, everyone noticed but no one said anything about what had happened. I left after an eternity of about fifteen minutes, my mind full of things that had never been there before this night. On the way home I was angry, shocked, and hurt I think, but I decided to do as she asked and not try to change things, if that is what she wanted, good. Graduation is in the morning, time to move on.
Our big day came, commencement speeches, mortar board hats, long gowns, and honor cords, we had it all, along with hope for a bright future, and a feeling of peace that comes from being surrounded by friends and family. I don’t remember much about the ceremony, much like my wedding day 7 years later. I made it through the ceremony with a rye smile on my face and my mind somewhere else. Lori’s speech was great, I will take everyone at their word for that, I was in the auditorium but never heard it. My mother commented later that the speakers at our graduation were the best she had ever heard and that Lori had done an outstanding job. After the ceremony I told my parents that Lori and I had broken up. My mother said she felt really bad, Lori was such a nice girl, and by the look on my mother’s face I could see she was wondering what I had done to end the relationship. My dad flatly stated that it was for the better, after graduation he said, “everyone flushes like quail and ends up moving all over.” It was a great day and never have I been so happy for a day like that to end.
A couple years ago when I was updating my Facebook page, over on the right side of my profile a window pops up with a picture of someone I vaguely recognized. The caption under the picture says 8 mutual friends. I clicked on the picture and it was Lori, her family, husband, and bunch of her families pictures. Then I closed the window and decided not to click the friend request, she will eventually see my profile pop up I thought, then she can add me and I will accept. As I added more of the people I went to school with, Lori and I had more and more mutual Facebook friends. The last time her profile came up we had about 25 mutual friends, I finally sent her a friend request.
Time will tell if Lori will add me as a Facebook friend or not. But either way, I my not remember much of my graduation or what was said at the ceremony, I know I will never forget the chain of events leading up to it or who was the valedictorian of my class.