Reflections: Graduates of 2011 makes us very proud

Graduation night at Reed City High School certainly triggered a lot of memories in my own mind, and added a few new ones.

Good ones for the most part.

Wes Benzing, the gentleman who received the Distinguished Alumni Award, started things off long before the graduation happened. He wandered my way to just visit. I didn’t know the man, but after talking a bit, he learned that I graduated from Cadillac High School, and I learned that he had once played football Reed City.

Back in 1960 he said Cadillac had a great team. In fact, he remembered that whenever he tried to hand the football off to one of his RC teammates, so notorious were those Vikings, the Coyotes didn’t want any part of what would happen once they got the ball, “and they just refused to take it from me.”

Then the band began playing and this years graduating class began the long march down the track and to their places in front of the grandstand this fine June evening. Some spotted family in the grandstand and waved. There were big smiles both directions. A few tears. Probably a few fears.

Often such things as graduations have a tendency to bring a gamut of emotions along with them. One of the ingredients. Tears of happiness and joy. Tears of a special kind of sadness. The moving on and leaving behind kind.

I remember those tears. Had them at mine. Had them at each of my children’s. Undoubtedly they will well up again as each grandchild graduates, and marries, comes to visit and leaves again. Ah, yes. The tears.

I applaud the band for a remarkable job throughout the evening. And the graduates. Thinking back, it’s hard to believe how young they are, and how totally adult they were before, during and after. Many stood on the steps at the high school, watching the crowd gather in the parking lot and flow into the football field area.

So many came, the school ran out of programs long before they ran out of crowd.

They made their way to their seats, then stood and waited for all their classmates to join them. The two young ladies who spoke brought more grins and tears, fun and laughter to the podium with them. They did such a nice job. Hearing the class roll read, and knowing some of the names, watching the long string of gowns flowing and at times, caps flying off, brought more tears and grins, and shook still memories into my mind and made new ones for those graduating and those in the grandstand.

When this group moved from students officially to graduates, again there had to be tears among them, but there were also great smiles as they looked toward the absolutely packed grandstand, and moved the tassel. Some waved. There was no hooting and hollering from the kids. Only tears that were wiped quickly away, and grins that broadened as they spotted family and friends.

When it was time to move over to the victory bell, they did so as a real team. Walked proudly, slowly as though absorbing much more than just this night, but especially the moment. The bell rang and rang, again as each pair of students reached it then moved to the throng of people who had, by then escaped the confines of the grandstand and could hardly wait to hug and handshake and honor these “kids” who suddenly seemed to turn into adults.

Yet in the halls of the high school as I trekked them throughout the year, I often met up with these same young adults. When I must have appeared lost (and probably was), someone would ask if they could help. When I couldn’t relocate the front door, a young man said, “Just a second,” went into a classroom, apparently explained to his instructor my dilemma, and then walked with me there.

I insisted he could simply point the way, but he politely said, “That’s OK. I don’t mind.” And I believe he didn’t.

This was their night. They made many proud. Me too.

To the Class of 2011, my congratulations. And thank you too. You touched my heart.