Missed Staples High School’s 132nd commencement exercises on Tuesday?
Or just missed that moment when your favorite graduate got his or her 15-seconds-of-fame diploma?
Retired video production teacher Jim Honeycutt was in the fieldhouse, filming the entire ceremony.
It was a model of efficiency: just 1 hour and 45 minutes for faculty and students to walk in, a couple of choir numbers, a few quick speeches, 475 graduates to march across the stage, cap-tossing, and exit.
Still, even though it’s all here, you don’t have to watch every second.
Click below for Jim’s video. Including the fast-forward button.
The other day, reader David Gusick took this pre-prom picture, and sent it to “06880.”
. (Photo/David Gusick)
Tomorrow, more than 450 seniors graduate from Staples High School.
Today — inspired by the prom, the rest of the graduation activities, and the upcoming commencement — he addresses his son Sam, and the rest of the Class of 2019:
You may think this is your day. But it’s our day too.
I am not the class valedictorian, nor do I wear any fancy robes or caps to indicate that I am a man of letters. But reaching certain milestones, no matter who you are, is a good time to gather thoughts, reflect and write them down.
So I did. And so should you.
Sorry, kids. This speech is for your parents. But you may still want to listen. You might learn something.
Staples graduates listen to Dave Gusick’s speech. Or at least, the Class of ’18 listened to someone last year.
While you may think this day is all about you — and to a certain extent it is — I’m here to help educate you that today is just as much about us parents, and the blood, sweat and tears we shed to help get you here today.
Almost every parent here today should agree that you, our children, are our crowning achievement. The greatest thing most of us will ever create. To see you successfully pass this milestone is just as much a testament to our hard work as it is for yours.
Even before you were born, “the worry” began. With each phase of your life, new worries begin. Because with every opportunity comes risks.
As newborns, you gave us a literal wake-up call (typically at 2 a.m.) that our lives no longer belonged to just us.
As babies you relied on us for everything. Your survival literally depended on us.
As toddlers we had our introduction to the “great letting go,” as we exchanged our control for your independence.
In a late-summer ritual, this eager group of Caccamo Lane and Juniper Road kids waited for the first bus of the year. (Photo/Pam Long)
That is the time we moved to Westport from New York. It was shortly after 911, and just before our son’s 2nd birthday.
Like many of you, we moved here for the schools. Westport schools always rank near the top in the state and nation. Plus, Westport had Bar Method classes, which my wife didn’t think existed outside of Manhattan.
We made new friends quickly with other parents who were also new to the area.
When kindergarten started, our playgroups scattered to the 5 elementary schools. While we remained friends with some families, our attention focused on families who attended our elementary schools.
Having children that age and younger is perhaps the closest your family will ever be. You go everywhere and do everything together. You are a team.
While certain children are easier than others, raising any child is never easy. Having children forces us to be our better selves. Whether you like it or not you are now their teacher, coach, mentor and role model.
Elementary school activities are perhaps the most difficult to watch as parents. The orchestra sounds like a beached whale begging to be euthanized.
The first year kids pitch in youth baseball is mostly watching them walk around the bases as pitchers futilely try to avoid hitting the backstop and batter.
For generations, a rite of growing up.
You attend these recitals, games, tournaments, performances year after year after year. At first their progress is so incremental you barely notice their advancement.
Then comes the middle school phase. The kids keep getting better and better, accelerating with seemingly no end in sight. Next thing you know, they’re going to the Little League World Series!
Finally, high school.
We come back together. One school, one community: Staples. Now our lives, schedules and friendships are driven by YOUR activities, practices, rehearsals.
This message is for parents and students.
To be a healthy and happy adult, it is important to understand closure. Having unfinished business — especially with your parents — will stunt your future growth. You can blame us for any of your problems, but know this: We did the best we could with what we had to work with. We did what we thought was best. As did our parents before us. As will you, too.
A parent’s job — and joys — never ends.
Only understanding, acceptance and closure will prepare us for our next chapter, and our continued growth.
Parents are no longer the gods you saw us as when you were little. We are flawed. To maintain that pretense would be a disservice to you.
I love the annual ritual of Staples’ Back to School Night. It a reunion of sorts for us parents. I jokingly refer to it as “back together.” Many of the couples we knew starting out are no longer together. But for one night we return to the way things used to be.
Now there is a weariness, from years of work and worry. For ourselves and our children, that took a toll.
And so it goes.
As you become upperclassmen, you make some sort of invisible leap.
Part of the payoff for Dave Gusick: Watching his son Sam (3rd from left) in Staples Players’ “Twelve Angry Men.” (Photo/Kerry Long)
The musical ensembles are now pitch perfect. You sound like a single instrument. Your performances are infused with so much emotion that it brings grown men to tears. Seeing a Staples Players production is almost always better than seeing a Broadway show. The quality and standards are so high, and they are performed by our kids, for our town.
Just last week people posted prom pictures. Kids I hadn’t seen since nursery school have grown into such handsome and beautiful young adults!
You are now quicker, stronger, faster, sharper, more inquisitive and engaged than we are.
It is natural to feel nervous and scared about what comes next. I know I am. We have worked 18 years to help you be the best person you can be. To equip you with the skills you need to take care of yourself, and cope with all of the challenges life will throw your way.
To the graduating seniors: You are no longer children. Yet no matter how old you become, even when you are in your 50s and 60s we will refer to you as “our children.”
When each of you walk up to accept your diploma, there will be a community of people extending beyond your parents who have quietly rooted for you and your success.
So that brings us to today. Take a moment to forgive your parents for any mistakes you think we made. Thank us for the innumerable sacrifices you never saw. No matter how you feel about us, your happiness and growth have always been our #1 priority. In return, we asked for almost nothing.
Finally, to the parents: Our job will always be to listen. And to love.
On May 1 — “Decision Day” — many Staples High seniors wore college sweatshirts to school. Brown, UConn, Michigan, Elon, Middlebury, NYU … everyone, it seemed, wanted to share with everyone else the place where they’ll (hopefully) spend the next 4 years.
Well, almost everyone.
A mother writes:
My daughter isn’t wearing a sweatshirt for a university — because she isn’t going to one.
Her decision day happened a year or so ago. Through a lot of tears, she told me she wasn’t ready to go to college. And she knew that in a year she wasn’t going to be ready either.
Since then I’ve talked to friends, relatives and strangers. I’ve had to let them know that my daughter wasn’t headed toward a stripper pole, just because she wasn’t going directly to college.
My daughter has no idea what she wants to do. She’s 18. She has no children to feed, or debt to humanity to repay before her clock runs out.
The rush to the finish line is not one I’ve put before her. I don’t know if one even exists.
As she watches her friends and classmates go off into their lives at schools across the country, she remains resolute in her decision that her time will come.
But it’s not now. I sometimes see a little sadness in her eyes. But since forever, she has known herself.
Friends sent me texts. They acted as if I were someone who didn’t know the options, and that it was my decision to keep her out of college. They threw out lifelines to try to save us, not realizing there’s a level of depth and thought behind my daughter’s decision.
At 16 she saw the tension and stress of her classmates. She saw the harried decisions to find a path that didn’t fit with her.
So she talked to me, and told me her truth.
We don’t know what’s to come. She wants to work, learn something more about the world, and figure out who she is right now. Her path may not end in a degree in 4 years. But it will be one of value and worth.
To all of our children — those who are going to college, to trade school, into the military, working, or staying home — please know that you are valued and strong.
Your worth is not your accomplishments in these short years you’ve been here.
The other day, Jerri Graham posted a heartfelt message on Facebook’s “Westport Front Porch” page.
“WFP” is a popular online community. But Jerri’s words deserve to reach far more people than those who are members of that group. I asked if I could repost her comments. Jerri graciously said yes.
This just came in the mail:
When I opened the envelope, tears flowed. My daughter will graduate from high school!
While it’s not a big deal for some, it means so much more to me.
We live in a town where we aren’t the norm. We are a minority on top of a minority on top of a minority. I’m a black woman raising a biracial daughter on an at-times stretched income of one.
I haven’t any family in sight. It has been just Cat and me for over a decade.
She’s been this solid child with a heart that is loving and giving. She’s never once complained when she’s had to go without.
Each week since she’s started working — whether at Sugar & Olives, the Y, babysitting or now at Westport Pizzeria — she gives me her pay. She knows that each dollar she gives makes up where her other parent failed her.
She’s been a great passenger in my sidecar during our life here in Westport.
I came to this town to one day have this invitation in my hand. To raise a child in a clean environment, and where education matters.
I saw it in the faces of the kids around her who gobbled up chapter books, and inspired her to do the same.
I felt it in the parents who sat next to me year after year at school events when we didn’t always want to be there, but always were.
While I was forced to do it on my own, I do know that raising and educating my daughter here — where at least she had a good education, and friends — made it a lot easier.
I’m so proud of who she is, and who she will become. I’m thrilled that she knows herself well enough to forge her own path, regardless of what everyone else around her does.
Oh, the simple power of a card in the mail.
Congratulations, Staples High School Class of 2019!
And congratulations to two wonderful women: Jerri and Cat Graham!
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