High School Graduation Parties, Montessori Schools & Tying Shoes, One Last Ride With the Posse, Freedom’s just another word.

Greeting to all and welcome new friends to the East Wing.

One way to tell you’re getting close to summer’s front door is when ya start getting the high school graduation party invitations. Depending on how many ya know from any year’s graduating class, there’ll be somewhere between a few to none to lots and too many. Yet they come every year. Just after the hummingbirds come home for the summer, so comes the high school graduation party invitations.

Over the years invitations to high school graduation parties, those rights of passage, have evolved from simple word of mouth, to elaborate embossed cards purchased from elaborate embossed card companies, to computer printed handouts, to email, to texting. Yet the message remains much the same, come to my party, and bring me stuff.

The parties too have evolved from where they were when I graduated from high school to a recent one attended. They’ve changed. The She says I’m being too critical, I think that we, as a society, have dumbed ourselves and future generations down to the level where mediocrity is considered reason to rejoice. It’s sad to hear a high school graduate brag “I’ve carried a solid D all the way thru high school”. Had this been my child I’d have had the party in the linen cosset with the lights out. Some parties just never need to see the light of day.

I didn’t send out invitations to my high school graduation party. Didn’t need to ‘cause my Mama just said she’s gona have a party for me and my sisters to celebrate that I’ve graduated from high school. When your Mama says she’s gona have ya a party, then ya don’t need to tell anybody else, your Mama’s gona take of everything. Mama took care of my party.

All my family came to my high school graduation party and two other people, my Uncle Burl King, my Mama’s brother, and an Italian girl from North Judson, Regina Griffo. By the time I graduated from high school, I think my family loved that Italian girl more than I did, but that was impossible, after all I was the one she smiled at in the Gable Theater.

Bologna Spread Sandwiches made my high school graduation party special. Now we ate bologna sandwiches a lot but on special occasions such as high school graduations or when someone died, then my Mama would make Bologna Spread Sandwiches. Bologna and cheese and sweet pickles and mayonnaise and a little bit of pepper and even less of salt, and I think the secret ingredient was lots of Mama Love for her boy that made the Bologna Spread taste so good. We ate potato chips along with those Bologna Spread Sandwiches, drank Pepsi-Cola in bottles, and had vanilla ice-cream on sticks. The vanilla ice-cream was covered with dark chocolate . It was soooooo good. A party for the ages.

No onions in that Bologna Spread. My Mama never used onions in her whole life in any recipe she ever made. Didn’t like onions, didn’t even wanta talk ‘bout stuff with onions in it. My Mama didn’t like onions. And garlic, I don’t think I ever heard my Mama even say that word “garlic” in her whole life, but I’m pretty sure that my Mama didn’t like garlic either. When my Mama didn’t like something she’d let ya know right up. Onion was one of the things she’d let ya know ‘bout.

The high school graduation parties of today are different. They’re scheduled over a longer time to allow everybody to go to ‘em all. Friday Evening, Saturday and Sunday are the days of choice. Never start before 10:00 AM or later than 8:00 PM, while most are 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM.

Many of these parties are held outside the home. Fire stations, banquet halls, town parks, back yards, even parking lots have hosted high school graduation parties in my home town. And they’ve all got food. Some with “finger food” I never quite knew what finger food really is. I don’t like to eat with my fingers. So I’ve always been a little leery of “finger food” all my life. Don’t know why, just am. Maybe just don’t like the term. Finger food sounds ugly to me.

Then some of the parties have food fit for the king. I’ve even attended a high school graduation party that had prime rib served to your choice at the carving station. There’s always tables and places to set and eat at high school graduation parties, some have place settings while others have stacks of paper or plastic plates along with those little white knives and forks where ya help yourself. I hate those little white plastic forks. They break way too often.

If I could tell the world one thing ‘bout parties it would be “spend that extra 5¢ per guest when you’re putting on a high school graduation party and buy a damn good fork. That clear plastic kind that don’t break when ya try to use it in place of that little white knife that won’t even cut butter.

And while I’m at it here giving unsolicited advice , don’t even think ‘bout those thin paper plates, you know what I’m talking ‘bout, those flimsily little white pieces of round paper that someone passes off as plates and ya can buy a gross for .79¢. The kind that ya put one spoon full of anything and you’re in a juggling match to hold anything else. I hate those kinda jokes passed off as plates at parties . I’d rather bring my own plate to the party than have to put up with one of those little joke plates.

One of the real cool things ‘bout writing from the East Wing is ya can just rip into anything and not give a damn ‘bout offending anybody ‘cause ya never said a bad word ‘bout anybody in your whole life. Just random thoughts from the East Wing on a summer evening, just thinking ‘bout knives and forks and paper plates.

The problem with these parties is no matter when it’s scheduled, seems ya have two or three on the same day. Knowing ya still have parties to attend before ya sleep, ya can’t set and eat as much as ya wanta, so ya take little portions of good stuff and hope the little white forks don’t break as ya walk around and say hello while ya eat. I’ve even stuck an extra white fork in my shirt pocket, just in case.

Eventually ya find the graduate somewhere there in the middle of a posse of cohorts . Protocol dictates ya must congratulate the graduate, so ya stick your hand inside the group and say “congratulations, on a job well done” or something truly memorable like “way to go” .

Sometimes ya may encounter a little girl who’s just graduated from high school and ya want to say something like “why in the world are your wearing a blouse that exposes so much of your chest? Have ya found work as a street walker, right out of high school? Or have ya just outgrown your clothes? But ya don’t say those things, those things that should be said at the graduation party. Ya just say instead “good luck in the future”, or some other equally dumb statement to the graduate and move on to the next party. There ya repeat the process. And hope it’s a boy so ya don’t have to look away if the graduate bends over.

Most all high school graduation parties have the same display. Pictures pasted and plastered on poster board. All the way from birth thru those just taken at the graduation ceremony, to some just taken by the i-phone, sent to the wireless printer and pasted up of the previous guest arrival at the party..

For some graduates awards are on display along with the pictures. Depending on what type school the graduate attended, some of the awards may or may not be of importance. If, for example, ya went to a Montessori School, they tend to give out major awards for learning to tie your shoes, and/or not using both sides of the Kleenex, then they’re not too inclined to display those awards at the high school graduation party. But it was a big deal at the time of achievement.

Montessori Schools have never been the main stream of public education. A public education system which dates back all the way to Ben Franklin. The Montessori School concept has never really taken roots in our society, with some 20,000 Montessori Schools across the country, ya can only say it’s a minority approach to education at best. An approach that’s not garnered large public support for its concepts.

Knowing full well somebody’s gona yell and scream ‘bout my words on the Montessori System, Oh well. There were words that needed to be said at the last graduation party I attended. Words that were not spoken, that should have been said. In the EastWing when thoughts occur, words get on computer screens.

There’s always a table for presents. At every high school graduation party there’s a table for presents. The big presents are sometimes on display, those from mom and dad, from aunts and uncles are usually on display too. Some wrapped in nice paper are on the table. Then there’s always the basket. The basket for the cards. The cards that the graduate hopes to hold money. It’ll be the last free money they’ll ever get in life.

It’s the day after the high school graduation party that the graduate then starts to realize that life’s not fair and there no such thing as a free lunch. But while it lasted, while it lasted, that high school graduation party, it guaranteed one last ride with the posse. A time to remember.

As many of you know, I seldom say much ‘bout the Wednesday Letters to the military people in harm’s way. There’s just not much these two worlds have in common. Except for the simple fact that one world totally depends on the other for its continued existence.

Freedom’s just another word till ya find yourself half way ‘round the world, scared near to death, knowing your job is to defend the right of existence for the United States of America. You’re the army of one. Freedom’s no longer just another word. Defending freedom’s now your mission in life. You pray to go home alive. All the while knowing that not everybody that does your job goes home alive.

A few weeks ago email brought news from the desert. Before the end of the day of July 1, 2011 all of the friends of the East Wing will have left the desert sands of Iraq. Coming home.

On that same day, prayers of many Mamas will’ve been answered when the last soldier steps onto that big bird, that C 40 transport plane bringing their babies back. Forever babies in the eyes of Mammas. Soldier Babies.

But until that time arrives, stay safe in Afghanistan and Iraq, now just count the days.

From the East Wing, High School Graduation Parties, Montessori Schools & Tying Shoes, One Last Ride With the Posse, Freedom’s just another word.

I wish you well,