"Graduation Night 1971" (Part One)
Excerpted from "Goin' Crazy", an unfinished autobiography in novel form.
by Michael F. Nyiri 1977
I wrote five chapters of my autobiography while on unemployment in 1977 at the age of 24. The undertaking was to write the book as a roman a clef, substituting fake names for the people in my life, so I could get inside the characters' minds, and hopefully create a more fulfilling and rich tale.
The very first chapter is what I am presenting here, detailing Graduation night. It is where I started the novel. I didn't go to the Grad Party. A group of us, scholarship winners and school leaders all, decided to toilet paper the houses of a few select teachers that night. This series of four blogposts, all posted together so the whole or parts of the story can be read at one or more sittings, was first "published" online on my blog WhenWordsCollide when it was hosted by Xanga in 2005. I am posting it here on the latest incarnation of my blog, which I never seem to find the time to keep up with, in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Graduation night, which took place on June 17th, 1971.
Chapter One: June 1971 "Stay Cool, and Don't Ever Change"
He sat, listening to the monotonous drone of names being read uninterestedly by his Assistant Principal of Activities, his present thoughts masked cleverly by a look of bemused indifference. He saw, but did not notice the expressions, mannerisms, or actions of the three hundred maroon robed figures interminably passing before his glazed eyes. The Assistant Principal of Activities, a burly young man of forty with small graying sideburns and close cropped, rapidly thinning hair, handed each lucky student - he was down to the V's and their partners, thank God - a gold leaf embossed diploma booklet, smiling from ear to ear as if he meant it.
"Isobel Vaughn", the Assistant Principal of Activities quipped in what seemed an overly terse voice. He noticed the disinterested walk and sloping brow as Isobel Vaughn approached the old wooden podium, which had seen so many of these graduations it had probably turned blind by now. Even as Isobel met the Assistant Principal of Activities' paste-on smile, he knew the girl was as bored as he. How does the Assistant Principal of Activities manage to look so interested and so much at home here, he wondered, as he half heard Isobel's partner's name, Harry V. Lumming, emit from somewhere in the cold night air above his head.
At fifty-two, Dr. Harold Durslag had survived seven of his twenty-nine years in the dubious field of education as Principal of Rosemont Hight School. Six years ago, he hadn't felt particularly interested in the two hour long ritual known as The Commencement Exercise and time had not helped to change his mind. In that time six years ago, (it seemed like decades) he viewed his position as principal as a job and nothing more. He had never for once believed all that bullshit about "teaching a child is preparing him for the future" and "once we come in contact with an emerging mind we can either mold it for better or worse". Himself a product of varied backgrounds (most people were themselves, whether they believed it or not) he never could envision any molding process in education. He'd entered the field originally simply because he was good at teaching his subject, had a commanding personality, a pleasant voice, and an authoritarian nature. Four years ago, when these "emerging minds' before him had first entered the "hallowed halls" of the sadly dilapidated and overcrowded Rosemont High School, he had changed his view of education and his place as principal only slightly. He still knew most students emerged from their high school experience unscarred. (In fact, the smarter ones could teach some of those ancient witches with tenure a thing or two.) He'd worried then about how education would affect those "new wave" teachers, young, overzealous, eager for a challenge, and above all, unequipped to cope with fifteen to eighteen year old kids.
"Juliana Verrazano", the Assistant Principal of Activities still bravely wore his cardboard smile as Juliana Verrazano, and incredibly fat and pasty Mexican-American youth trudged to the podium with her hand out - Durslag shook his head to rid his eyes from the glaze settling over them, and silently wondered whether the condition was caused psychologically or physiologically. Hmm, never seen Juliana Verrazano before in my life. Interesting.
Two years ago, positive none of the "new wave" teachers could do any harm (They weren't even noticed at staff meetings) he'd radicalized his opinion of education ever so slightly again. Or at least education at Rosemont High School, nestled snugly in the center of the San Gabriel Valley, with no view of the San Gabriel Mountain Range although they rimmed the horizon, which could even have once been called outstanding if it weren't for the smog, which hitch-hiked daily into Rosemont on the San Bernadino Freeway along with the commuters from L.A. His radicalization really was only a condescending switch in point of view. Althought the newspapers daily had been filled with outrageous stories of love-ins, sit-ins, student protests, and drug swallowing hippies, Rosemont High was spared. Durslag didn't think for a moment teaching had that much to do with it, but the beaming faces and congratulations from students' mothers slightly helped sway his opinions. After all, he rationalized, Rosemont's neighbor to the east was "Friendly El Rojo", a town notorious for gangs, beatings, rabblerousing and troublemaking. Since Rosemont remained untouched by this kind of volatile behavior, it must be due in part to the fact that Dr. Harold A. Durslag ran a clean high school. He kept his kids off the streets.
The cold night air became a trifle colder, causing Durslag to pull his old maroon robe tighter at the neck. As he heard the Assistant Principal of Activities start voicing the W's, he reviewed the night's events. He summed them up in one unobtrusive word: boring. The only excitement rattled up by this year's Commencement Ceremonies had been two weeks earlier when three churchmen expressed their wishes to pray for the Rosemont High School Class of 1971. The Hope Union, Methodist, and Episcopalian churches all sent delegates and try as he would to convince the reverent assholes that a graduation had but one invocation and one benediction, the three kept quarreling. Swearing he was glad he quit qoing to church at twelve, he finally resolved the problem by letting the pastor of the Methodist Church make a short speech following the A Capella Choir's off-key rendition of "We've Only Just Begun", which he guessed was sort of a teen anthem although he only remembered it as being a bank commercial jingle.
"Linda Joy Walton", There was a name he knew. He looked up to see the tall blonde, everything but her face and flowing hair obscured from sight by the dark maroon graduation robe. She obviously looked pleased, but her marching partner, a swarthy football player named Kurt Hanover, looked as if he had wanted a girl with a last name starting higher in the alphabet to pick him so he wouldn't have to step up to the podium this late, when everyone obviously looked to be so bored. Durslag could swear the boy actually grabbed the diploma out of the Assistant Principal of Activitie's hand in anger.
He rubbed his eyes, trying to rid their glazed condition again, and stared out to the last rows of metal folding chairs, which had earlier this evening been arranged neatly on the grass of the football field. He heard the cheers from family and friends for Linda, who had been a popular girl, as he noticed only two more rows of students waiting to stand. They didn't look at all eager from this far away, but that's because they probably weren't. Once they had stood, marched to the front and returned, there remained only the benediction and the alma mater before they all could go home. Durslag needed a drink badly. His mouth was dry and his eyes ached. He wondered if any of these ex-students would get blotto tonight. He'd been extemely luckier that old "Papa" Hotchkiss, the prinicpal of El Rojo High, who'd constantly need guards to throw the drunks out of his football games and dances. This year had been ideal. No drunks littering the campus. Only a few fights. One cherry-bombing and no excitement.
Oh, yes, there was some excitement. He'd almost forgotten. If it hadn't have been for those PTA committees and those countless meetings with Christopher McLaren, the Associated Student Body President, Rosemont might very well have been put in the news, and all because of a lousy issue like the campus dress code.
As the Assistant Principle of Activities called out more meaningless names, Harold Durslag reflected on the near-crisis which might have given Rosemont High status along with Attica and Woodstock and Kent State and all those other dreadful places.
He searched the ocean of mortar-boarded faces for the instigators of the "free dress code" issue, but could only find one, and only because he sat in the second row alongside the other California Scholarship Federation Gold Seal Bearers and was therefore quite visible. His name was Michael Nichol Franklin, an articulate and intelligent individual who probably didn't really care about the issue at all when he had presented it. The other two who masterminded the scheme to abolish Rosemont High School's ten year old dress code had probably bamboozled Franklin into bearing the brunt of the burden of making out a proposed new code and presenting it to teachers, parents, and obliging students, who probably savored any intrusion on their placid life as "emerging minds" in Rosemont High, and therefore backed the proposition staunchly.
The other two, Ron Fujiwara and Ken Doheney, actually hatched the plot, and both Durslag and the PTA had successfully staved them off until he could come to a lenient compromise, authored by Christopher McLaren, the chief proponent of conservatism on campus, when he was elected ASB President.
Rosemont warmed to the proposals of a clean-cut community celebrity who had always been active in campus and city events. A few months before, Rosemont had been revolted and shocked by the proposals of two long-haired campus radicals whom nobody had ever heard of plus a popular kid who talked too much. He looked at Franklin, who seemed as much bored as everybody else, and wondered how he, a scholarship winner and faculty wunderkind, had ever been talked into supporting the ideas of a long-haired campus president and his crony. Hell, Franklin ran for office against Fujiwara, lost the election, and was promptly appointed as a Fujiwara yes man. Well, thanks to McLaren and a supportive PTA, a compromise was reached, and no fighting broke out. Durslag hoped future graduating classes wouldn't wrinkle the system. For them it was only four years. Harold Durslag lived here.
"Well, buddy. A few more to go. Doesn't it just make you proud, Harry. Like you're big daddy to three hundred kids?"
Durslag slowly turned his head to the left, listened to Edward Fox's inane remark and coughed. Fox continued unabashedly in a low excited whisper. "You know something, Harry, we have got a wonderful school here. I mean it. We can really be proud of these kids. They aren't going to mess up what they learned like so many of the young people we read about today. They're going to do something."
Durslag smiled cynically at his new Vice-Principal, a greenhorn from New York state who overenthusiastically resumed his tirade, thinking the Principal had smiled in agreement. "Did you hear Chris' address to the class? It really showed us how they think, what they're encountering. The world needs these young people."
Harold Durslag heard Chris' speech very well, in fact he'd heard the same speech for nearly twenty-nine years. In fact, Ray Lanser had recited much the same speech in 1937 at his own high school graduation. The words might be different, but the themes always tumbled out of these kids in much the same manner...we think of this as an ending. A conclusion of four hard years fo high school. To some, Commencement might stand for the end of formal education, but by no means is this the end. Commencement literally means 'a beginning'. It is an ending and a beginning. We feel finality and we feel the unknown. The beginning of a new life...Durslag had often wondered whether that sentiment would ever make it to the movies. He envisioned a montage with Chris McLaren, his short brown hair sprayed hard so it wouldn't wave in the breeze, reciting the moving words, superimposed over images of the American Flag, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and hundreds of figures clad in mortarboards and dark maroon robes clashing against each other on a battlefield resembling a mammoth football field. On the sidelines cheerleaders in scant uniforms screamed. "Push 'em back. Push 'em back....Waay back." He smiled and Edward Fox again mistook the smirk for interest in his revelations.
"'Tis a beautiful sight, isn't it Ed?", said the Reverend James Patrick of the Hope Union Church seated to the left of the Vice-Prinicpal. "The legions of tomorrow. A lot of our young people attend church nowadays, also. It's a lot better than it has been in a whale of a time."
"I don't doubt it", Fox turned his attention to the preacher. Durslag smiled again. Increased church attendance. Really now. These are teenagers. Even if they aren't hellraisers like those asshole students from El Rojo, they are teenagers, and he was sure they were no different "spiritually" than he had been as a youth. Increased attendance in the church, my ass. The night was a bit too cold for June. No clouds, no breezes, really, but dreadfully cold. He wished he had brought a heavier coat to screen out the chill. These thin ten year old Commencement robes didn't serve any purpose at all. He crossed his arms on his chest and hugged himself. Now the Assistant Principal of Activities had reached the last row of faceless names. Still had that ear to ear smile pasted on his face, causing him to look exactly like a jack-o-lantern.
The smile which Harold Durslag mistook for a cardboard cut-out was as real as the warm feeling welling in Arthur Dunbar's heart as he watched the last of the Class of '71 receive their diploma booklets. Just four years earlier, when most of these striking young people entered the halls of Rosemont High for the very first time, he had entered them for the first time as well. In his post as Assistant Principal of Activities, he'd played host, teacher, business partner, and father to a great many of these kids. In no previous assignment had he ever felt happier. He belonged at Rosemont, had formed several fat friendships with these young people, and now felt as if his personal class was graduating. Like Durslag, he did not know a few of the names or faces, but he did know and cherish more. When Chris McLaren ro Laurie Summers, or Mike Franklin or countless others shook his hand tonight when he announced their names, he could feel a fatherly affection in him and could tell the students felt an affection for him.
"Fredrica Zegers", he called the last name, and then her partner Joseph L. Kuhn, and felt a tear inching slowly down his right cheek. He smiled wider and firmly grasped both Fredrica's and Joe's hands. To some, he thought, a Commencement Exercise probably became boring and lackluster. To him it as the time he felt proudest. Especially this Thursday night, when the boys and girls who had been Freshmen right along with him in 1967 graduated. He would not soon forget this warm evening. Even as the last two students resumed sitting far back in the last row of metal chairs, he still stood rooted to the spot with a look of pleasure on his face. He was extremely glad Rev. Carson of the Episcopalian Church would give the benediciton immediately, because his feet wouldn't move and he felt as if he couldn't do anything except stand where he was and savor his rich feeling.
About fifteen feet from him in the second row of chairs, two students, both wearing the gold tassels which identified them as Gold Seal Bearers or the California Scholarship Federation, talked rapidly in hushed whispers.
"Well, I do forgive you Mike, but you have to admit it was a rotten thing to do-" Judith Lamont leaned forward so that her listener could hear her better.
Michael Nichol Franklin wrinkled his brow and whispered, "I know, but I really did want to march with Shelley and I thought you had a marching partner."
"I did have. You." She felt very miffed, even now that Michael Franklin had asked Shelley Penrod to be his partner at both the Baccalaureate and Graduation, after she had asked him the year before. One time, she really had felt extremely hurt but decided to forgive him. There were more important things to think about on graduation day.
"I was pretty selfish, I guess." Michael Nichol Franklin conceded, although he remained glad he had picked Shelley. Of the three girls he had an interest in, Kathy Brighton, Gabriella Bonelli, and Shelley, who were all, coincidentally, best friends, she was the only one who had been unhitched at the time he asked.
Shelley, who sat to Mike's immediate right, turned around and said, "Shhh, guys. They're going to give the benediction."
"Okay, Shel. " Mike turned around just as Mr. Dunbar asked everyone to stand. He lightly brushed his right leg against Shelley's robed calf as they stood, sending an electric shock through him. As everybody bowed their heads in prayer, he glanced sideways at her face. Although she really wasn't beautiful, he thought she was. He adored her bright brown eyes, her dark complexion, her high forehead, long black hair, and wide, full-lipped mouth, which always seemed to be smiling. He knew she didn't have any feelings for him besides friendship so he savored their friendship. Although he'd known the girl four years, he had developed an intense attraction to her only this past year. Some might call her flighty but he saw her as open and warm. He could be positive, however, that her love life, of which he knew nothing, would never include him. Neither would the love lives of blonde, shapely, beautiful, popular Gabriella Bonelli, or tall, cute, warm and wonderful Kathy Brighton. Right before the prayer ended, he glanced over behind him to where Kathy stood beside her marching partner and boyfriend, Steve Kaup. She looked simply radiant. Mike wondered if he'd ever see her after highschool. He had secretly admired Kathy Brighton for three years, and, earlier this school year, just as he was about to ask her if she would be his girlfriend, one of his better friends had asked her instead. Kathy, Gabriella, and Shelley. He reverted his gaze back to his black haired marching partner just as she raised her head at the conclusion of the prayer. He smiled and she warmly returned his affectionate gaze.
Back at the podium, Dr. Durslag shook Reverend Carson's hand and addressed the assemblage. "Ladies and Gentlemen, it is customary to remain standing for the singing of the Alma Mater, after which you can greet your graduated sons and daughters on the field. Thank you." Arthur Dunbar beamed as the high school band, now standing directly to the left of the podium, struck the familiar strain of Ta ta ta ta ta - ta da, All persons in front of him raised their voices unanimously for the last time together to belt out the familiar hymn to the school.
"In the heart of our fair valley, stands our worthy school, "Where maroon and gray mean honor, school of Golden Rule. "Raise your voices, shake the pillars, all our values tell- "Hail to thee, our Rosemont High School, which we love so well."
Immediately following the last trumpet burst, three hundred young people raised a tremendous shout, then screamed, hollered, and threw their mortarboards into the air, sending electric sparks of happiness throughout the arena nd into the cloudless June sky.
Although Mike and his friends had agreed to toss their caps only slightly in order not to lose them, because they has to be returned in good order, before on could receive the actual diploma; he threw the cap as high into the air as it could fly anyway. Catching it with his left hand, he abruptly turned to Shelley and grabbed her shoulders. They both jumped up and down excitedly, and then Mike planted his lips on hers. He lifted her up and hugged passionately, and she warmly returned his kiss. Heaven opened up momentarily and the moment passed as an hour for him. Graduation, the excitement, and the kiss. He didn't want any of it to end.
When it did end, Shelley slyly winked and said, "Boy, Michael, that was some kiss!" He smiled and then they laughed.
Arthur Dunbar watched interestedly as the tall chain link gates which separated the football field from the bleachers opened to admit the radiant parents of the graduates. It looked as if the entire city of Rosemont poured out onto the field. Almost immediately he was immersed in a quicksand pit of parents and students, all pumping his hand and uttering their greetings. Behind him, Dr. Harold A. Durslag painted a wooden smile on his face, let a silent fart escape from his buttocks, and wished he were home. How, he wondered, could anybody be so excited about a droll ceremony like Commencement? Oh well, better to shake the community's hand and congratulate it. I'll be home soon enough. He tightened his robe neck and turned to the crowd.
Michael N. Franklin stood in the midst of the seething monster composed of human bodies and suddenly felt a new emotion quelling his exuberant excitement. He listened only half-heartedly to the frequent screams, whispers, jeers, salutations, and cheers emanating from the mob until they disappeared high over the football field. He suddenly turned his back on the pulsating, throbbing crowd of seniors; throwing their mortarboards into the air, weeping on their girlfriends' shoulders, and rippling among the throngs like maroon colored penguins ecstatic about a new ice flow.
He glanced up to the bleachers which were rapidly thinning as mothers, fathers, friends, brothers, sisters, and elderly aunts streamed onto the field. He still couldn't check this new emotion. If he were home, he knew, he'd immediately pull out his notebook and write a poem, but he wasn't at home, he was here, standing on the edge of the crowd. What was that feeling? He was sure he had never felt anything like it before. A sadness? A desolation? Ecstasy? Happiness and sadness mixing themselves together haphazardly on the palette of life? He glanced down at his own maroon robe, softly rippling against his legs in the night air. Everything seemed so far away, as if he were the only spectator and everybody else a participant. He felt older, more detached. Alone, yet here he was surrounded by friends. He suddenly felt the future pushing closer around him, cutting him off, clapping it's hands over his eyes and ears as if it were a living, breathing thing forcing him to think. But he didn't want to think. Not now.
Suddenly shaking his head wildly to rid his mind of these somber thoughts and feelings, he turned back toward the crowd, focusing on individual faces. Mark. Donna. Chris. Kathy Brighton. Shelley was lost. He moved slowly back to the people, looking for his parents, and is eye caught a glimpse of a crushed mortarboard, lying on the ground. Funny, he thought, picking it up and trying to bend it back into a semblance of it's former self. Someone lost their cap. Funny. He threw it silently onto one of the metal chairs, which had been aligned with the others in a row several short moments before, but which now stood facing the street in back of the football field. Now with the broken cap seated on it, Mike thought it looked as if the graduate under it had shrunk rapidly into nothingness. And no one would hear his silent pleas for help.
Glancing to the spot where his parents and brother and sister had been sitting, Mike continued to move closer to the center of the crowd, all thoughts now on their whereabouts. He quickly hugged a few girls he knew, and pumped the hands of some fellow graduates, but could not see his father's familiar bald head among the people.
He listened intently in order to catch his name if his family were calling it, but could hear nothing except the overall crowd sounds and whispers emanating form the public address system. He looked up to the podium and saw Mr. Dunbar trying to shoo away three little kids who were talking into the microphones, filled with wonder at the echoing sounds of their own voices carrying above the football field. Someone turned the system off in the next moment, so he listened harder, and, positioning himself on a folding metal chair for increased visibility, he surveyed the area more carefully. The air was quieter now that the crackling sounds of the p.a. system were gone, and Mike looked up at the speaker poles skirting the field. Just minutes ago they had been alive with the echoes of three hundred names, and the tear-filled words of the school alma mater. Now silent. He imagined next they would turn out the arc lamps which bathed the field in the glow of artificial daylight. After that, darkness: the end of high school. Already he could see many students and parents streaming through the front gates by the ticket stands, on their way to the gymnasium where the graduates would exchange caps and gowns for actual diplomas. He suddenly turned around to see if he could catch a glimpse of the broken cap he'd put on that chair behind him but was interrupted by the soft voice of a girl standing beside him.
"Mike, what are you doing up there?"
"Oh, hi, Pam." he jumped down from the metal chair.
"By any chance did you happen to see my mom?" his former classmate asked.
Mike giggled. "No, I've been too busy looking for my own." he paused. "You haven't seen any of my family, have you?"
"No, I haven't. It's not hard to see how everybody can get lost in this excitement, though. Wow. I really can't believe it yet. Graduation. Just think. We're on our own."
"Yeah, it's crazy. Seems like just yesterday I was sitting in Freshman Algebra not knowing anybody. Now it's all over."
Pam pointed to the podium. "Hey, Mike, isn't that your sister over there by the podium?"
"Huh - hey, yeah. Thanks, Pam. Man, they haven't even seen me yet. I'll see ya." He waved goodbye and began to run through the crowd, yelling his sister's name. As he approached the raised platform where Mr. Dunbar had given out the diploma booklets, he now noticed his mother talking to Dr. Duslag.
"Well, look, here he is now, folks." Durslag indicated Mike who now came up alongside his parents and the Principal.
"Hi, Dr. Durslag," Mike said, then turned to his mom and hugged her.
Edna Franklin warmly returned the greeting and then held her son out from her by the shoulders in order to savor how he looked this moment. He had taken off his cap and the hair spray had disappeared, leaving his longish brown hair falling across his forehead. Mike swept the hair back with his right hand and adjusted his black horn rim glasses on the bridge of his thin nose. "Where were you? We looked everywhere."
"I've been looking all over for you. What happened?"
"Well, son, I'm not as quick as I used to be," his father piped, "we got lost in the crunch."
Michael Franklin moved over to his father and hugged him tightly then grabbed his hand. Frank Franklin didn't have any suits anymore, and he wore his familiar brown evening coat, but even though he seldom wore a tie, he had one on now, and it looked as if it were struggling to loosen.
"We sure are proud of you. You know that, don't you?"
"Aw, Mom, don't cry."
"I'm not," she said as she wiped some tears off her cheek. "It's just that you aren't my baby anymore."
"Oh, Mommy," Mike kissed her and cradled her in his left arm.
"How does it feel to be all grown up?" his sister Maribeth squealed in delight.
"Oh, no different. My moustache hasn't grown out overnight." Immediately he checked the joke as he noticed a pained expression appear on his mother's face. "Just a joke, Mom. I'm sorry."
"Oh, that's okay I know. " Edna really couldn't place a finger on the pain the moustache episode had caused a month ago. At first she knew the idea was ridiculous for her son to wear a moustache to Graduation ceremonies. But when she asked him nicely to shave it off, he had refused, and the subsequent scene had been hell. After the episode, she'd relented, and apologized to here oldest son for getting upset, and he had apologized for yelling. Throughout Michael's life, he had been a model son, but there had been some very bitter fights. Always they made up, as they made up after the moustache episode, but Edna still felt a pain in her heart when she thought about it. She felt happy her son had been so successful in school, winning the scholarship to his favorite college, the University of Southern California, but she felt sad that he seemed to be more distant now. She refused to let his thoughtless mention of the subject of a moustache ruin the gay mood of the Graduation ceremonies, but she reminded herself to talk with Michael concerning tact in the near future. He had always had a bad habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, and she'd warned him all his life that someday his "mouth was going to get him in trouble."
"I won't mention moustache again, ever, Mommy." he cast his eyes down to hers and smiled, still confused by the entire scene of one month ago. Although his mom had stood by his side all through the fight for a more lenient dress code at school, and had originally let him grow a moustache after the new code finally passed, she had flatly refused to let him wear it or his large curly sideburns to graduation. He'd trimmed them and trimmed them to look especially nice for his mother, but she had continually yelled and cried until he shaved everything off. I guess I'll just give in as usual, he'd thought. After all, I'm only eighteen. Soon I'll be in college and I can do what I want. As long as I get good grades and don't mess up, she'll give in eventually.
"You sure look sophisticated. I don't think I've ever seen you in anything but dirty t-shirts and jeans." Daniel Franklin joked to his older brother.
"Yeah, this is really a suit. And I'll be sure to put it in mothballs so you can have something to wear in three years."
"No, you can have it - and the mothballs. I'm going to have an electrically brilliant white suit at my graduation."
"Oh-sure, okay." He turned to his mother again, releasing his hold.
She said, "Now where are you and your friends going tonight?"
"Over to Ev's. A bunch of us decided that we didn't want to go to the all night party, so we're just gonna goof off at Evan's place."
"That's fine, son," his dad said, "now don't get in any trouble."
"Oh, we won't. It's just Chris and Jim Saybert and Bob and a bunch of the gang. We'll be good." he laughed.
"Do we have Evan's number?" Edna asked.
"Yeah, it's in the address book. But I'll be okay. Honest."
"I'm sure you will, son." his father looked aside and saw a couple of boys in maroon robes approach Mike.
"Oh, hi. Joe, Fred. Dad, these are a couple of guys I know. Joe Johnson and Fred Passman. Guys, this is my family."
"Hello, Mr. Franklin, Mrs. Franklin." said Passman. "You gonna go to the all-nighter, Mike?"
"No, Fred. Chris and a bunch of us are going to celebrate at Evan's place. Why don't you come along with us?"
"I really got a date for the party." Joe said.
"Well, Mike, I got tickets, too. It's not too late to buy. It'll probably be fun. I'm going stag."
"We already have our plans for a celebration and I don't really care about the party, you know. I'll see you around, though, Joe, Fred."
"Okay," Joe called as he left with the other boy, "but the party's going to be good. I'm positive whatever you guys have planned, won't be as fun."
"We'll see. See ya." Mike wasn't going to tell them in front of his parents what Chris had planned, because he knew they wouldn't approve, but he knew both Joe and Fred wouldn't have half as much fun tonight.
"Just what do they do at an all-night party?" Edna inquired.
"Oh, nothing. It's really boring. They show a dirty movie and play records and talk about high school. There'll be too many people. Fred shoulda come with us."
"Well, I'm sure they'll have just as much fun."
"Franklin, you look lost in that purple robe." Mike saw his buddy Steve Kaup, looking very natty in a plaid suit and wide dark tie, standing with his girlfriend Kathy Brighton: both had shed their caps and gowns.
"Kaup, you old fool. What did you do. Hock your robes? You look indecent; everybody's supposed to wear these things till midnight, so nobody can tell each other apart."
Steve Kaup ignored Mike's remark and shook his parents' hands. "Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Franklin. Danny. Maribeth. You don't know Kathy Brighton, do you?"
"No, we don't. Glad to meet you, Kathy."
"So you're Kathy Brighton," Edna offered.
"Mike, you rascal, you talk about me at home?"
"Sure, you're the best looking girl on campus."
"Watch it, Mike. I'll roll your head off your shoulders." Steve stated laughingly.
"I saw the way you kissed Shelley Penrod, Mike," said Kathy devilishly. "What are you trying to do, take her away from her boyfriend?"
"Sure, doesn't everybody?"
"Why, Mike," Daniel quipped, "You mean you finally learned how to kiss?"
"Shut up." Mike hit his brother's blond curly head with his mortarboard. Daniel started to pin his arms behind him.
"Boy's stop roughhousing." Edna cautioned, separating them. Daniel started to grab for the cap but Mike intercepted, nearly knocking him down. "Come on, boys."
"Yes, boys," Steve said, "Michael if you don't stop trying to kill your brother, your mom won't let you go to the all night party."
"I'm not going anyway, Kaup. Chris and me and a few guys are going to Ev's."
"Oh, shame. Drinking beer again, eh?"
Edna looked shocked. "Beer?"
"Mom, he's just kidding. You know I don't drink."
"Yeah, Mrs. Franklin. We know Bill Sadler. He gets drunk at every all school play party and goes out to the street trying to play bullfighter with the oncoming traffic. None of us needs that." Kaup considered Mike again. "Why don't you come to the party, though? It'll be fun."
"Kaup, this sounds like a rerun. I just heard all that from Fred Passman. Don't worry. We'll have fun."
Kathy looked at Mike and winked. "But Shel will be there, Mikloas."
"With her boyfriend," Mike interjected, then held his hand up to his mouth and silently said, "But if you can ditch old Kaup here, I'll give you a run for your money."
"I heard that, Nudnik."
"Only kidding, only kidding, " he held his hands above his head in mock surrender.
"Mike, " Frank Franklin cut in, "My arthritis is starting to act up in this cold air and you do have to turn in your cap and gown. We'll see you tomorrow, son," he pecked Mike on the forehead with his closed lips.
"Okay, bye Dad." He hugged his mother again, and promised her he wouldn't get in any trouble. "See you later, Mar - Dan'l." The four walked slowly away, Frank beginning to limp from the pain in his right knee. When they got to the gates by the ticket booth at the far end of the field, Maribeth turned to wave, and Mike gave an exaggerated gesture for her, then his family was gone.
Kaup watched the gate also, then, draping his arm around Kathy, asked Mike, "Hey, buddy. I'll see you this summer, won't I?"
"Hey, sure. I wonder how many people we won't see so soon, though."
"Yeah, Carol and George are attending school back east."
"Uh-huh, and Ken's going overseas with the Air Force."
"Well, Franklin. We gotta get going and change for the party."
"Yes, Mikloas, too bad you aren't coming."
"Don't worry, Kathryn Anne. I'll have fun. I'll tell you all about it when I see you next. Have a good time."
The two walked away, waving, leaving Michael alone. By now the field did not have the fervor and excitement of a half hour earlier. A lot of students and their families had left, and most of the teachers had retired to the gym to hand out diplomas. As Mike surveyed the grassy area to find members of the "Rosemont Rebels", the loosely organized gang with whom he would spend the better part of the night, he again detected that strange feeling, which seemed to drain the excitement and elation from him. He remembered Chris McLaren's words from his valedictory speech. "We have passed through the portals of this phase of our life and our graduation signals and end, but a far braver beginning to the next phase, our lives as responsible adults." And ending and a beginning. A dichotomy. Just like the feeling of happiness and sadness welling within his heart. At the root of this feeling lay the unknown. Who could say what would happen. Up till now, life had followed a set course, and for him these last two years, a very easy course. What would college be like? When would he get a job? Move away from home? Maybe leave Rosemont? He thought of Ken Pleshette, who used to sit at their morning table alongside Kathy Brighton and across from Gabriella Bonelli and himself, cracking dirty jokes. In two weeks, he would leave the country in the employ of the United States Air Force. He thought about Nancy Carruthers, who'd been a three year graduate and now had a husband and baby somewhere. Life held surprises. This was a beginning. He noticed a group of rowdy Mexicans in now-dirty maroon robes kicking over folding chairs at the rear of the arena. Well, he thought, at least his life was planned somewhat, thanks to hard work and a scholarship to USC. Those guys probably have nothing to look forward to at all. What would become of them? The future may hold surprises for Michael Nichol Franklin, he mused, but at least not for a few years.