In exactly five days, my son will be a high school graduate, attending the party in the high school gym that the parents put together. This party is a much-anticipated annual event and planning begins in the February of our children's junior year, more than sixteen months in advance. In some towns, it is called Project Graduation. In our town, it is called Grad Ball.
Grad Ball is not a project for the feint of heart. It takes lots of planning, designing, painting, hammering, painting, cutting, painting, pasting, painting and heavy lifting. Did I mention painting? In other words, it takes lots of hard work. Some parents put in hours that add up to days and weeks of effort. I think they go weeks without seeing their children.
It is one of the greatest tangible gifts that the parents in this small town can give to their children. It is the only gift that all the parents together give to all of the children as a class.
It begins with a meeting at which we twist the arms of two talented couples to become the Grad Ball chairs. Next, more arms are twisted to chair the many committees. Some are tough jobs like running the annual fundraising event, the Beef Steak Dinner, and some are smaller, but just as important and time consuming like gathering each senior's baby picture and framing it for display at the event.
Next comes the most important decision in the life of a senior parent - choosing the theme. One would think choosing a college is more important, but, in truth, it most definitely is not. The choices are narrowed to three and and each chosen parent must build a miniature version of the event. Every skill learned in helping small children create dioramas in a shoebox is put to good use at last. The winning diorama, chosen by popular vote, becomes THE BOX. The box is carefully guarded and secured with a padlock when not being used for reference.
The big fundraising event - with auction items and great food - takes place in November. Work on the decorations begins in January in what is called the Rifle Room. I have no idea where the name came from, but it is jammed with the ghosts of Grad Balls past - signs, posters, boxes, decorations, wall panels, floor boards, cans of paint, and on and on and on. Serious work takes place in the Rifle Room - repainting the wall boards, building the dining tables, creating the decorations. Every night, parents populate the dim low-ceilinged room and have a very good time.
We create collages for ads in a journal that every graduate brings home. It is filled with words of wisdom, wishes and expressions of pride, joy and love. (Some parents wisely choose not to reinvent the wheel from one child to the next!)
Things move into high gear on the Friday before Memorial Day. Construction begins in the gym. The windows are blacked out to prevent senior spies from learning the theme. The floor is covered with tarps and then boards that have seen innumerable Grad Balls and have been trampled on by hundreds of parents and new graduates. The walls are covered with the panels created in the Rifle Room. Suddenly, the gym is not longer a gym, but a giant set.
For the next few weeks, parents labor in the gym to create something magical. One year, Hogwarts rose from the floor. Another year, a TV studio complete with a Cash Cab with a lighted ceiling came to life. Many years ago, the Titanic made its fateful trip once again. This year, well, the theme for this year will just have to wait.
I do not paint or hammer or decorate, but I do photograph. So, I have many many a trip to the Rifle Room and the gym over the last few weeks to take photos of the progress being made there. With only five days to go, things are moving along quickly as the set takes shape. Not until the lights dim on that last night, however, will the full effect be revealed. Not until that night will the efforts of many parents come to fruition in the most wonderful of ways.
Sometimes I think that the monies spent on this event could be used for something better, but when I see the friendships that are created from parents working together closely for a common cause, I know it is worth it. When the set rises from the floor of the gym for an event that will keep our children safe and under our watchful eyes, I know it is worth it. When I realize that this will be the very last time that all the kids in this class will be together before going off into the wider world, I know it is worth it. When I see the look of wonderment on the faces of our usually jaded teenagers, I know it is worth it.
It is worth every single penny that was raised, donated, haggled over and spent. It is the last thing that we parents do together for our children, the event we have been waiting 13 years to help create, an event that we had hoped, somehow, would stay somewhere off in the future and never really arrive.
The story of this event in on the card in the pocket just under the title.
Supplies: cardstock - Recollections, Paper Company; chipboard letters - Pressed Petals; paint - Ranger Paint dabers, Viva Paint Pen; ribbons slides - Making Memories; glitter - Ranger Stickles; marker - Micron; other - invitation, journal ad; tape - Queen and Company.