Yes, it is that time of year for graduations of all kinds. When I was growing up we graduated from high school and college but now kids graduate from kindergarten, 6th grade, middle school, high school, junior college, college and graduate school. Who knew that there would be a need for so many caps and gowns, graduation announcements, parties, gifts, cakes and cards.
Herff Jones, a leading company that deals in graduation regalia including rings, diplomas, and caps and gowns estimates that graduates can spend up to $1,200 each to complete the commencement experience. The National Retail Federation estimates that parents and others spend in excess of $4.7 billion per year for graduation gifts alone. That doesn’t include party costs which average about $1,000 per graduate, cards, photographs, and other graduation essentials sold on site. I’m sure I am leaving out something but regardless the total annual cost for graduations across the board is astronomical. A whole industry has grown around what once was a simple ceremony on the high school or college football field attended by graduates and their families. Boy have times changed.
My son just graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance. I can only hope there is a job in the near future. In any event, they do not have a football field to hold graduation as they did when I went there. Instead, they have a state of the art basketball arena complete with jumbotron. Of course the football team plays at Qualcom Stadium, the home of the San Diego Chargers. Nothing is too good for the Aztecs and people wonder why tuition is so high. But I digress. My husband and I drove to San Diego the night before and stayed in a hotel, cha ching, went to a restaurant for dinner, cha ching, went to the Viejas arena at the crack of dawn and bought two waters and a muffin, cha ching, watched my son graduate in the regalia we had to purchase, cha ching, went to my dad’s house for a party, cha ching, then drove home where I found an e-mail for graduation photos taken that day at the ceremony, cha ching cha ching. I don’t even want to think what the whole day cost including diploma frame and other sundry items. I might keel over from shock. Nevertheless, like parents around the country with kids in kindergarten through graduate school we paid the money and stood proudly with our son as photographs were taken to memorialize his right of passage into adulthood and hopefully the full-time job market.
I just don’t know how it happened that things have changed so much from the days when I graduated. I suppose it is like everything else; more complicated without the need to be. I am an avid listener of old-time radio. The programs are simple and straight forward and funny, interesting and compelling. They inspire my imagination and challenge my intellect without taking themselves too seriously, being vulgar, hypercritical or overly complex. They are just fun like a day at the baseball park when my beloved Cardinals are playing. Perhaps, my love of these simpler things in life has me thinking about how complex graduation has become even for a five year old who is given a cap and tassel to walk down the aisle in his kindergarten classroom with his beaming parents, cameras in hand, watching as their child goes through the first of many rites of passage to come until, like my son, there is nothing left to do but search for a job that may or may not be there for him.
I suppose in the end, the pomp and circumstance of commencement and the feeling of accomplishment that graduation provides is worth all of the cost, complexity, and crisis management that comes along with it. After all, it only happens once in a life time and I would not have wanted my son to miss out on a minute of it.