It’s graduation time.  Happens every spring.  Ten million kids grasp a piece of paper, shake hands and  face the world.

We went to a special graduation.  A proud one.  Everyone in the program had earned a graduate degree.  Masters, Specialists and Doctorates.  Impressive. There were more than  two hundred graduated.

My wife said “That’s a hell of a lot of term papers!”

There is a lot of work in earning a graduate degree.  If you don’t know how to write a term paper when you get there, for sure, you will know how by the time you graduate.

Graduate students don’t party.  They study.

I’m thinking “There’s two hundred stories, I wish I knew half of them.”

The speaker told us how only 12 percent of the population holds a graduate degree.  I realize I’m in the midst of a lot of intellectuals.

Even with a coat and tie, I didn’t feel smart at all. I know I forgot to polish my shoes.  I’m glad I didn’t wear my boots. How clean is my handkerchief?

Afterwards, they all hugged their families.  A thousand different  handshakes,  and maybe twenty-three thousand photos.

Everyone was smiling and being happy. The little grandmas leaned on canes, the stooped grandfathers grinned from ear to ear. Big sisters  stood along side little brothers.  Smiling even more.

Afterwards, we went over to the Golden Corral Restaurant for dinner.

I sat there, my wife on one side and the new graduate on the other.  Both were busy talking, the graduate was  excited and she should be.

Plenty of reasons to be proud.

I started  watching the family at the table across from us.  I don’t think they were in town for the graduation ceremonies.  I doubt they’d been to many graduations.

You could tell.

It was not their clothing, it was not the tattoos, although I did wonder what ever happened to “A-M-A-N-D-A.”

He was sitting alone. She was still on his forearm, between his wrist and elbow, Old English Letters, two inches high.  I hope he was eighteen.  I hope A-M-A-N-D-A loves him as much as he loves her.

It was not even the piercings. The ten year old had something in his eyebrow, the one sporting AMANDA had a ring in his lip.

It was not even the high school aged redhead with the six month old baby.  Grandma was holding and feeding the baby.

It was the looks in their eyes.  Something was missing.  They were hungry for something The Golden Corral didn’t serve.

Yes, The Golden Corral has a giant buffet of fried food, cheap steaks and a hundred different desserts.  The  restaurant gives away heart attacks as souvenirs and uses cholesterol for invitations.

Yes, the family gobbled the all-you-can-eat food like it was their last meal.  They watched each other eat, like there  was a note on the table, reminding them this place was “all you can eat for one money.”

Yes, they wolfed it down like the kitchen was closing for the summer.

I couldn’t decide if I wanted to laugh or cry. Then again, I was in my own little world, looking and thinking about where we were twenty minutes earlier and where I sat now.

So different.

I learned a long, long time ago, there is pleasure in having an education.


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