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Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Graduate: Saga of a Done Monkey

I had a bit of an old man moment the other day when I noticed on a friend's Facebook profile that he was born the year I graduated high school. Well, what really made me feel old was that this wasn't someone I think of as a kid, it was a guy I think of as an adult. Younger than me, obviously, but he's a grownup.

Though I suppose having my youngest daughter graduate high school is a sign of middle age. It's not like I knocked up a girlfriend in high school, I was in my late twenties when my kids were born.

I was kinda struck by how big the graduating class was. Gardner only had maybe 10,000 people when we moved there in 1997. I didn't move there to perpetuate sprawl, I had a job in Gardner for a bit over ten years, so I moved there to cut my commute down rather than the typical American model of competing to live as far as possible from your paycheck. The town has been a hit with the sprawlers. The growth has slowed down since the housing bubble burst, there was about a decade where they were throwing up houses as fast as they could haul lumber in.

The first order of business, once I found a seat (they'd moved us indoors for fear of rain, though I guarantee you none of these kids would have melted, their parents either), was spot my honyock. The gym was at capacity with close circuit TV piping it out for all the grandparents and uncles and whatnot who wouldn't fit in the bleachers.

All these hundreds of people are there but for the most part everyone is interested in just one kid, the one they have graduating. Sure, our kids have friends and we like them well enough, I guess, but I'm sure everyone wishes the rest of the kids could kind of speed it up a bit.

Actually I ended up shooting quite a few shots of other kids as I tried to figure out my best strategy for photographing Mo as she crossed the stage.

I was able to get on the end by the stage but was up relatively high, top of the lower section of bleachers. And if I was able to get closer than I could in the football stadium, the lighting in gyms is infinitely shittier. You could farm mushrooms in a field house. So I played with various combinations of high ISO, my 18-105mm kit lens (which is slow, only f3.5 even at 105mm and gets even more sluggish as you zoom in) and my 35mm prime lens. I'd shoot a few pics of other people's kids and chimp them, trying to figure out what was worse, the noise of high ISO, the blur of the shutter being too slow for hand-held shots, the lack of telephoto on the prime lens, etc. I've coveted a prime 85mm for a long time, and I think I would have been glad to have one today.

Then we all retired to Mo's mother's house where both sides of the family converged on a table spread with Mo's favorite foods. A couple of her teachers stopped by, which was super sweet.

I'm proud of Mo, of course. I also realized how lucky I am that divorce didn't have to stay ugly. It had it's moments back when the wounds were fresh, but not everyone is able to throw parties together with their exes like this, and that puts people in a place of having to choose which side to celebrate with and puts one parent or the other in a losing position for, say, a graduation after-party. But then, my own parents modeled that well, in fact they carpooled down to the whole affair, my Dad and his wife and my Mom.

A few years ago, Mo had finished a meal and while she was still at the table she was reciting dialogue from a video (she does that a lot), something about a monkey. And I asked her what kind of monkey she was and she looked at her plate and said, 'Done monkey!' There's a program that she'll actually attend until she's 21 that's on the campus, but as far as being a high school student, she's officially a done monkey.

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