Monday, January 28, 2013

Happy ending

The machine that is in charge of reunions for my high school class is getting cranked up again. I've done some work over the years finding people as well as writing up such documents as invitation letters to former teachers. This year I added another job to my list of talents. I guess I'm now in charge of social media.

Here's the translation: Julie Kreher Porter asked if anyone knew how to set up a Facebook page for a group in anticipation of an October reunion. I've done that, and so I set up the basic page in about 10 minutes. It's not hard with a little experience, which I have.

I've posted a few items from my scrapbook and other sources - a couple of pages from the school newspaper, some pictures from past reunions, a link to my blog on the Abdul Rahman award. But there's a story I've never told anyone, and this isn't a bad format for it.

I graduated from high school back in the stone age, in a world of eight-tracks, in 1973. The ceremony was at Villa Maria College in Cheektowaga, and in the 40 years since then I think I might have been in the parking lot once.

The proceedings were in the afternoon. We had a class of close to 350 people. As I recall, there were instructions before the graduation event that applause was discouraged for each individual graduate, as it might drag the ceremony from Sunday into Wednesday or so. Naturally, I tried to make a few trades with other members of my class along the lines of "I'll clap for you if you'll clap for me." But I didn't really expect anyone to do it.

We went through the ceremony, which was pretty typical, and headed up to the stage by row. As I recall, I had planned while walking across the stage to smile at my two friends and classmates who were on the stage, Jane and Brenda. My name was announced over the public address system, and I started to walk.

And lots of people began to clap. I'm not saying it was a thunderous ovation, and nobody stood up. But it was certainly much more applause than anyone else had received so far, a warm sound that caught me completely off-guard. As I walked across the stage, I did the logical thing for a 17-year-old - froze emotionally - and completely forgot about smiling at anyone on the stage.

When I walked down the steps to return to my seat, I can still picture Mike Coppola sitting in the first row on the aisle. Our class president seemed as surprised as I was, and just shook his head and smiled at me.

After the ceremony was over, I saw my parents pretty quickly. My mother came out with this: "Oh my God, everyone in the place was clapping but your mother. I didn't think we were supposed to clap, so I didn't." She added that one of her friends had just come up to her and said, "Budd got more applause than Dr. Moomaw," the superintendent of the school system.

It turned out that my last moment as a high school student might have been my best moment. So, almost 40 years later, my fellow classmates, I finally thank you for that.

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