We went the other day to the culmination of our 12-year-old granddaughter Alison's sixth-grade class from Mar Vista School.
Norman Rockwell could have filled a sketchbook.
It reassured us that behind the dire headlines and the shocking TV news bits, children are still growing up sound, with hope, charm, enthusiasm, traditional values and a belief in the future.
Before the ceremony the graduates were milling about in front of the auditorium with their parents, posing for snapshots to commemorate this family milestone.
A dark gray limousine with opaque windows drew up at the curb. The chauffeur got out, walked around the car and opened the back door. A boy dressed in a tuxedo stepped out and marched stiffly into a crowd of his classmates. Everyone seemed to take this remarkable event with equanimity. It suggested to me that children more easily accept the bizarre and the unexpected than their elders do.
The program began with the salute to the flag, led by Todd Saretsky, Student Council president, and evidently the class standout.
Then came the processional. While Elizabeth Gonsalves played "Sonatina" on the piano, the graduates moved with alacrity down the aisles and took their places on the stage four tiers deep, the shorter persons evidently being in the front. I counted 60 of them.
The Saludo de la Directora (the principal's greeting) was given in two languages by Mrs. Consuelo Garcia. "Well, here we are," she began.
The class then sang "Wind Beneath My Wings."
\o7 I can fly higher than an eagle,
'Cause you are the wind beneath my wings.\f7
Several graduates then made brief speeches about their classes, including my granddaughter, who spoke about her interest in geography, that much neglected subject. Then, much to my surprise, she marched to the piano and played "Canon in D" by Pachelbel. I thought it was flawless, though Martin Bernheimer might have complained that she approached some passages with cautious hesitation and completed them with compensatory speed. Mark Shurgot and Tim Overbeck then played "Heart and Soul" on an electronic keyboard.
There was no uniform garb. Some of the girls wore party dresses, white or pink satin with lace, bows and ruffles. Our granddaughter wore a bright green middy dress with white trim on the collar and a white satin bow on her braid. She had a gardenia on her wrist. The boys, except for the one who had arrived by limo, were dressed like boys; some were slicked up in ties and jackets, some looked as if they were dressed for a pickup baseball game.
Someone pulled the curtains; a screen went up; then each graduate stepped forward and made a brief speech thanking his or her teachers and parents while a colored snapshot of that graduate was shown on a screen. The snapshots were informal: the subjects were at home with dogs, or at bat, or sitting by flowers. The boy in the tuxedo thanked his parents for helping to improve his behavior.
The teachers made numerous awards for everything from academic excellence to simply being a good citizen or having a great personality. Todd Saretsky was singled out as the all-around student. We were delighted that our granddaughter was recognized for academic excellence and for "being a good kid."
After this \o7 presentacion de premios especiales, \f7 the entire class sang "We Are the World." It is hard to hear a group of children sing that song without feeling a surge of hope and confidence for the future.
\o7 We are the world, we are the children;
We are the ones to make a brighter day . . .
\f7 The graduates marched out to Scott Joplin's familiar "The Entertainer," played on the piano by Jennifer Nash. As they reached the outside they sent up a triumphant yell.
So on to junior high school, with its opportunities, its perils, its discoveries, its hope, its anguish, its shining promise and its moments of sheer despair.
Three years from now, with luck and application, and a little help from their parents, those 60 students will be graduating from junior high.
Then on to the big time.