By Diane Ako
I was wholly unprepared for the big deal that is preschool graduation. How big a deal could it be, for four year olds?
Apparently, a big deal. There were families we saw walking in with balloon bouquets, big congratulation signs (can the kids even read that?), choke lei (money, seed, nut, candy, ribbon, fabric flower, or real flower), and gift bags for the graduate and their close friends.
It should go without saying that there were more cameras than children.
Naturally, this is a bigger deal for the adults than for the kids. Put differently: I asked Olivia what does it mean to graduate. "I dunno," she replied.
My parents and I each came with one paltry gift bag, one lei, and only three cameras for the five adults in our party. I thought that was a pretty strong showing, but I was wrong.
People came in herds. The big families took up large sections. I know, because we came only minutes before the call time, and there were rows and rows of seats saved for blocks of relatives. The strategy: one person arrives first and reserves the whole row for the rest of the team.
I would think I saw an empty few seats, but upon closer view, it was being saved. All the lei and signs were serving a double purpose by acting as placeholder. Our group had to split up.
Each graduate came marching down the aisle when his or her name was called. I noticed right away that there was humongous cheering as the name was called. It's a little like when the football player goes running through the tunnel to enter the field and the fans go crazy.
I knew Olivia was the sixth child up. "Guys," I nudged Claus and Jul, "You have to yell loudly when they call her name." They are both pretty silent, so I made them acknowledge the request and agree.
I live with two quiet Europeans, but for that moment, they did me proud. They hoot-hooted when Olivia came down the walkway. I was consumed with photography, but I think I saw one of them pump his arm.
Since we had to divide up, my parents were on the other end of the room. Probably sleeping. They're at the age where they fall asleep if they're still for more than ten minutes.
Even if they were awake, only my dad would comply with my request to cheer. I'm sure they were having a dream in which there was all this wacky screaming and hollering that was out of place.
I also kept waving madly from the side trying to catch Olivia's attention to make sure she knew we were all there for her. She was extremely mopey and actually cried for a long time because I couldn't attend her May Day recital. Claus went, but that wasn't good enough.
After the ceremony, the families met the graduates on the playground for photos and hugs. Unfortunately, it was now 7:45 p.m. so we had to go home and to sleep rather than enjoy a celebratory ice cream or snack. Bedtime is 8 p.m.
There will be no next time in my immediate family, because Claus has decided we're one-and-done with the babymaking. But for her kindergarten graduation, gymnastics graduation, swim team graduation, or whatever the heck else silly ceremony there exists in today's society for the smallest of milestones, I will remember the following:
-Bring extra friends to act as a cheering section (the opposite of the Chinese tradition of hiring extra wailers for a funeral)
-Bring airhorn and rattles if not
-Bring five extra lei so it looks like she's super popular
-Go really early to reserve seats
-Make congratulatory billboards
What was your preschool graduation experience?