LONG BEACH — Crowding in front of a hallway mirror, each taking peeks at themselves while adjusting wine-colored caps and gowns, the graduates looked and behaved like, well, graduates.
While Carol Adams fretted with her white collar--"I have no idea how to put this on"--Sheri Beebe told her friends: "I'm glad. I'm ready to move on."
This, however, was no ordinary rite of passage. For 22 women, the ceremony Monday night was a "graduation" from the Woodrow Wilson High School PTA.
Two days before their children's real graduation, the women held their own ceremony--march, diplomas and all--to mark the momentous occasion: an end to 12 years of Parent Teacher Assn. meetings and activities.
As PTA President Mari Hooper explained in her address to the group, now the mothers can: " . . . Go to the carwash while the paint color is still determinable. Take Domino's (Pizza) out of redial. Enter a hospital and have your stomach pumped to remove stored up McDonald's McNuggets and barbecue sauce. . . ."
Shirlee Bouch, who won the honor of "PTAtorian in Perpetuity" for her 30 years in the PTA, put it this way: "I'm delighted we might have a clean room."
So after sipping on donated French wine and nibbling on hors d'oeuvres, the graduates donned their children's caps and gowns ("We have strict orders to not soil them," Hooper said) and noisily assembled on the winding staircase at PTA member Jean Forman's home. When Vice Principal Vic Backstrom turned on a tape recording of "Pomp and Circumstance," the far-from-solemn group marched into the living room, where they had a "Bear Scout Flag Salute," (the school's mascot is a bear,) read their own PTA pledge and sang their PTA anthem.
"We are singing in the key of C," Hooper said to the group's laughter.
"Do I put my hand over my heart for this?" another woman quipped.
They then chanted in unison: "Oh, PTA god, grant me the serenity to accept the jobs I don't care to have, the courage to delegate them back to the president and the wisdom to know the difference."
Not Out of the Woods
But those words were more appropriate for the 20 "Bearly Graduates," the PTA moms with a graduating son or daughter but with more kids in the school system.
The Bearly Grads received rolls of candy Lifesavers.
The irreverent ceremony was marked by awards to special members such as the "Valiumdictorian" and "Salutatorium" and a "McDinner" of hamburgers and fries--the fast-food meal that became a common staple for many of them through the years.
It's been a busy year, the PTA president explained, and the Monday night festivities, which included a dual presentation by the school's principal and former principal, was a way to "lighten it a bit" after a season that included working on drugs, alcohol and teen-age suicide programs.
'Reward for Year Well Done'
"We've had a really serious year. It's like everyone (now) is putting up their feet and eating bonbons, and this is a reward for a year well done," Hooper said.
PTA members attending the graduation credited the unusual ceremony to Hooper, who they said often comes up with unique programs.
"This is just an average night with my wife," Foster Hooper said, shaking his head as the group of giggly PTA graduates marched in front of him. Brad Hooper, president of the school's 3,200-plus student body, also shook his head, amused but not surprised: "That's just my mom. She's always doing stuff like this."
Incoming PTA President Norma Abu-Dayyeh said she doesn't expect to top this week's festivities, but hopes to do something similar: "When something good happens, you may as well keep it going."