Seniors & Aging

Pam Stone | Ceremony a mystery for passing eighth grade

This is how out of the loop I am being childless (and Porsche-less, as well as gated communityless) – I was completely unaware of a cherished tradition that a friend of mine, who also happens to be a mom, posted on Facebook: the “Moving On” ceremony for eighth-graders.

“What is it?” I typed, bewildered.

“It’s a graduation ceremony for them before they ‘move on’ to high school!” came the prompt reply.

Ohhhhhh, I get it.

We had this, too, when I was a kid. It was called “passing eighth grade.”

But we didn’t get a ceremony or anything. Report cards were mailed out, resulting in my mad dash to the mailbox each summer afternoon before anyone else in my family in order to snatch and stow away the small folded testament to my “does not apply herself,” “daydreams” and “draws horses instead of focusing on math problems,” along with a scattering of C minuses, Ds and, just to mix it up, an F.

In math. Always in math.

There was never a suggestion, as far as I knew, of any public celebration that we poor, downtrodden, lily-white children from a middle-class neighborhood should be celebrated for obeying state law and trudging through our studies for eight years. Instead, my no-nonsense, self-made, German father, who left school at 16, would blithely state, “I could care less if you’re all too bloody stupid to make good grades. The world always needs another janitor. Just don’t expect me to help. You’re on your own.”

As children learn what they live, I’ve always thought that was rather good advice. Which is probably why I’m rarely asked to speak to assemblies of elementary or high school kids. Because I’d say the same thing. No touchy-feely, “Hey, that’s greaaaat!” as I dole out blue ribbons to each child at a science fair, regardless of whether one kid cracked the security code for Chinese intelligence while another stuck an Alka Selter in their mouth after taking a swig of club soda.

Nope, I’d look at that kid with the froth coming out of every orifice in his head and say, “You’re a moron, but if Carrot Top can make millions with a prop act, so can you. Go get ’em, tiger.”

But that’s just me.

It’s not that I’m against celebrating achievements. I think that’s a grand idea. I simply didn’t realize that passing eighth grade was an achievement. If I lived in Syria (or Chicago) where I was being shot at, every day, on the way to school, that’s one thing. Takes a lot of guts to put your life on the line to attend classes and not even feel safe once you’re inside the building, but at a New England prep school? Or Matthews, N.C.? Or Seattle?

Look, don’t send me a bunch of irate emails explaining why Dylan and Hannah deserve this celebration, and who am I to belittle it … I just felt an old rant coming on and caved to it, K?

In the meantime, I’m “moving on” to clean up the kitchen.

Reach PAM STONE at pammstone@gmail.com.

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