On graduation night, I open and close the door.
I am the Doorman.
Actually, it’s probably not the worse graduation duty a person can get. There’s parking duty, where you stand and direct traffic under a hot, southern sun for about two hours. That’s always fun, because everyone coming to the graduation is absolutely certain they’re entitled to the best parking. Mind you, their child is not the valedictorian, the salutatorian, or even in the top ten percent. Actually, their child almost didn’t graduate, but save for the grace of God, some miracle was performed on their child’s behalf, the kid is going to walk, and now they must get priority parking. To hell with everyone else.
So yeah, parking duty is always fun.
Or, even better than parking duty is program duty. What is program duty, you ask? Let me tell you. It’s the handing out of the graduation programs. Oh yea, that’s a cushy job, because much like the entitled drivers looking for parking, everyone is also absolutely certain that the “one program per family” rule applies to everyone else but them, because it’s only in their family that Grandma and Grandpa came all the way down from God only knows where to see the child graduate after all, and so it’s absolutely imperative that each peron in their family get one. It’s always a good time when you have to tell parents and relatives that although we as a school are eternally grateful for the outstanding job they did with their child, we have to limit the programs for others.
For some reason, people are really offended by that.
So I can’t complain, I guess, except…that I do. Every year, it’s the same damn thing. After an already crazy and long week, after an exhausting final day…the day goes on and melds into graduation night. It’s twelve hours into the job, and the job is not over yet. Not by a long shot. And so I get irritated, because as I stand at the door, waiting for the students, I pass the time thinking about what I could be doing: spending time with my kids, looking for something to watch on TV, trying to beat my husband at WWF…watching paint dry.
Anything but standing by those stupid doors to let the seniors in.
After a long day, really, it’s salt in the wound. It’s pepper in your eye. It’s completely tedious and mindless, and I’m usually about this close to slitting my wrists when…
When there’s a knock at the door.
Or a rap, very gentle, but excited nonetheless. Seniors at the door. Ready to come in. These few kids here I don’t recognize at all; they’ve never been my students in the four years they’ve been here. Either they didn’t take a foreign language, or they didn’t take a foreign language with me. It happens.
I let them in: a couple of young girls with their hair perfectly coiffed, faces heavily–although still nicely–made-up. High heels and short skirts, and the green robe to hide it all. Caps in hand so as to not mess up their hair.
They ask me for directions and I send them down to the 200 hallway, where they get ready for their final march through these halls, through this school.
I watch them go, and for a minute, for an instant, I know I smile. It’s infectious, the miracle of graduation, the joy of completion, and it comes to me that it should be celebrated…
And then there’s another tap upon the door. A couple of more kids, young men this time. Ties askew, belted black pants, patent leather shoes. They’re fooling around with the uncooperative ties, while waiting for me to let them in. So I swing the door open, and direct them accordingly. They head on down the hallway, still struggling with the neckties, and just for a second, I can see these young men as the boys they once were, young and innocent, without worry or concern, nothing but bundles of fun and energy. It reminds me of my own son, and again, a smile pulls at either side of my lips.
It’s funny how as I watch the kids come through the doors, my irritation begins to fade. My anger dissipates and my boredom just disappears. Watching paint dry suddenly does not seem anywhere near as exciting as watching these kids make this first big transition in their lives, and the tight ball of irritation in my chest seems to get lighter–
I hear the door handle clang and jangle, and I open it yet again. This time, it’s a couple of kids I know, kids who had me for three years of French, and when I open the door, quick hugs exchanged and I share words of congratulations with them. Good kids that I”ve known for three years, watching them grown from naive sophomores to graduating seniors, learning to become responsible and productive adults.
It occurs to me that I’m somewhat responsible for that success, and it’s a cool feeling–
And again there’s a knock on the door. And again. And again. And still the kids are coming.
As the time draws nearer for the kids to come in and get ready to walk into the stadium, I come to realize that of the many hats that I wear during the day everyday here at the job, this one job that I have only once year is probably the single most important one. To anyone else, I’m just opening doors for the kids to get into the building. But as I stand here, I know that I am doing more than that. From this point forward, they are moving on, moving up, moving out. Their whole lives are ahead of them, and for those students who have sat in my classroom, and even for those who have not, there is perhaps no other place that I would want to be this evening or no other job I would prefer to do.
I’m not just opening the door to a locked building so that the kids can get where they need to be for the ceremony.
When I open the doors for them, their leaving childhood behind and entering adulthood.
I’m opening the door to their futures.
As far as graduation duties go, that’s not a bad job to have.
Congratulations to the Class of 2012! All the best to you!