Graduation(s), a Yiddish lesson & me
Posted May 18, 2010on:
I didn’t attend my college graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I made up for it this weekend.
Back then in 1975 I was already working at the La Crosse Tribune as a reporter. And, being the rebellious person at the time, I didn’t see the value of going through such a ceremony when I was already living my dream of being a newspaper reporter.
A generation later, we had double duty – opportunity – this past weekend.
At 8:30 a.m. Saturday, May 15, we attended the Maggie in the hood ceremony for our daughter at the University of Kansas. That hour-long commencement ceremony was for master’s degree students and undergraduates of KU’s William Allen White School of Journalism.
A hooding ceremony goes with a master’s degree, which Maggie earned while working full time in communications for Blue Valley School District in Overland Park, Kansas. She has no plans to leave that terrific job.
After the hooding and handing out of undergraduate journalism degrees, we took photos, ate brunch in Lawrence, Kansas, and then hauled the rear portion of our anatomies about 430 miles north to Minneapolis. Maggie and her husband and his parents joined us on the next step on our academia odyssey.
We arrived about 9 p.m. and met Michael, his girlfriend, Jenny, and her family for ice cream before calling it a night.
The next morning I called to confirm there would be two cakes for the graduation party – one for our Kansas graduate and one for the Minnesota graduates. There was a mix-up. The store I called had no record of our order that I already had paid for over the phone. They transferred me to the bakery for the chain and they had no record of our cakes, but were willing to decorate one that morning.
I had the wrong store, as it turned out, but the company offered to refund my money for the unfound cakes.
Michael’s commencement, more than twice a long as Maggie’s, was for a bachelor’s degree the University of Minnesota in cultural studies/comparative literature with a minor in linguistics. Michael will go on to Emory University in the fall in comparative literature.
No hood for him from Minneapolis. And no cap for him, either. At the end of the ceremony, he assumed everyone would throw hats in the air. Only a few did, including his, which went forward enough that he couldn’t get his back as he joined the recessional out of the Northrup Auditorium.
After graduation and photos, we joined the party with Jenny’s family at her apartment. It was great fun to meet more of her extended family.
And as someone who loves photo ops, it was wonderful to get joint pictures of the three graduates, including Maggie who I insisted wear her recap, gown and hood for pictures. I am an evil woman.
And now it’s time for your Yiddish lesson: kvell.
That’s exactly what I’m doing. Kvelling is a Yiddish word for beaming with pride and pleasure, as a Jewish mother does over her kids’ achievements. Of course, they aren’t exactly kids any more; both are graduates of the University of Minnesota plus in Maggie’s case that master’s degree (with hood).
As we were driving back to La Crosse, I read an article about Boston University inviting back its class of 1970 for the commencement it never had. Students were sent home early because campuses erupted after the shootings of students on the campus of Kent State University.
About 300 of the 3,000 in the class came, wearing peace symbols on their caps and gowns. One of those interviewed was Kit Coffey, who said it was “a hoot” to remember her origins as a rebellious college student.
“How did I become a suburban housewife?” she was quoted as asking in a New York Times article. She described the era as “hard to explain to people … You look back at this time and think, wow, what was that all about?”
I graduated high school that year, not college, but I wore a peace symbol in the form of a God’s eye over my gown. What a rebel.
I’m sorry, Mom and Dad, that you missed out on kvelling at my college graduation. As Coffey said, “What was that all about?”