Another holiday weekend during pandemic times has passed. I find myself reflecting on how many of our traditions have had to change. Last week was supposed to be the first time that the famous Ribfest was going to be held in my hometown, Romeoville, Illinois. There was tons of excitement about the many concerts and great food that was going to be right in our own town. As sad as missing that is, it’s even sadder that this huge event raises money for many non profits in the area. During a time of great need by many, those donations would have really helped them. Although we didn’t have ribs and concerts, we did have fireworks which sadly is not something everyone can say. Our town got quite creative and did 3 shows at the same time throughout the village while matching the show to music on a local radio station. This was a first to be done in a suburb and the Village got a lot of press around it, which is really cool! Everyone was able to sit in their yards to watch and not have to worry about driving somewhere. My brother's yard faces one of the show locations. We had tons of fun hanging out over there with family and friends!
The most noticeable changed tradition, which can be seen throughout the U.S., is the graduation ceremony. Both colleges and high schools across our country had to celebrate and say goodbye to their students in a different way. The same can be said for middle schools, elementary schools, kindergarten classes and preschools. To ensure the safety of our families and communities, they all needed to make adjustments. Many waited as long as they could to make final decisions, hoping our state of current affairs would shift. But to their dismay, that didn’t happen and as they say, the show just had to go on.
My oldest son, Zach, was a high school senior this year. Needless to say many of the things he’d hoped and dreamed of throughout his four years of high school didn’t come to fruition. This was crushing for him at first and had effects my husband and I didn’t even realize. What we didn’t realize even more was how much it impacted me as a mom. As many of my readers may know, Zach is very active in school and I as a mom am very involved in volunteering and supporting his teachers and friends. For 4 years I sat there enjoying many end of year traditions where we said goodbye to our seniors. Each time I fast forwarded to when Zach would be there and we’d be celebrating him and his friends. Those moments, like many others, were taken from us. The hardest for me was something that couldn’t be replicated- seeing/hearing his small group of choral friends sing at their graduation ceremony.
Once we pulled onto the RHS campus we followed a path that had us pass through a couple of different parking lots. Waiting throughout the path were teachers sitting outside their cars with their own decorations cheering the graduates and their families on. There were also huge signs of encouragement posted on fences along the way. We drove at a very slow pace with music blaring in the car (which Grandma just loved) and waved at teachers and fellow classmates we passed along the way. Grandma, who was driving the car, did encourage him to turn down the music repeatedly. At one point he chose to play songs from his childhood, like Barney, which Grandma enjoyed more than his usual selection of music. I think she especially enjoyed it because he and his cousin were singing to the childhood songs just like they used to when she watched them together as preschoolers. After the final turn, graduates were able to get out of the car and walk along a path with letters as tall as them. The letters spelled out “Seniors 2020” and were a great backdrop for our pictures. At the end of the words was the stage that he walked across where we, and family watching at home, heard his name read and saw him toss his cap. He exchanged words with the principal as he got back into the car and we drove under a really cool sign that signified his entry into the world as a graduate. The visual was great and very similar to driving
Driving thru and being cheered on while being with your family was definitely more fun than sitting in a gym or football field packed into closely spaced chairs having to quietly listen to speeches and hundreds of names be called. The thing that was missed was talking to friends and their families before and after the ceremony and getting photos of them together on campus in their caps/gowns, as well as seeing each kid cross the stage who you’ve watched grow up for years before. This could easily be created/coordinated by having an overflow lot to park/meet before the drive thru and another to stop/meet after with the live streamed show being broadcasted in each lot. Once we’re in past Covid times, being next to each other again shouldn’t be a huge concern. The speeches also could be played via a QR code on the program that was passed out when we entered and we could watch on our phones in the car, or they could be played on big screens as we pass by with a radio station dedicated to playing the sound. The options of taking this concept to the next level are endless, especially when administrators and students can plan them with more certainty and less restrictions, paired with more time. Although as I type all that, I sit back and think of the nostalgia that comes with everything and the little things that you miss when you break away from all the traditional ways of doing graduation. I’m honestly not really sure how I’d prefer to proceed in future years. Fortunately, I’m not the one who gets to make those decisions. So I suppose I’ll just sit back and wait for it all to unfold, knowing that whatever happens it won’t be the end of the world if things change…..and could possibly be even better than I had imagined. How have you personally experienced changing traditions and what did you like or not like about the changes? Comment below, we’d love to hear!
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