Saturday, June 18, 2011
To the Class of 2011
My son graduated from the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts yesterday. LACHSA is filled with talented, dedicated artists, and my son, as a member of the theatre department, has spent four years with his classmates. We have hosted innumerable film shoots in our back yard, shuttled to and from rehearsals, given standing ovations at many shows, and have watched this group of kids blossom into talented, eager, hungry young artists waiting to take the world of stage and screen by the tail.
From the ceremony at Disney Hall, to our lavishly indulgent dinner at the Pacific Dining Car, to the blow out after party at our house (that ended 16 hours later)... it was a magnificent, celebratory day.
Graduations evoke tears in the same that weddings do. They are ceremonies laced with hope and optimism and possibility. They are the culmination of one long and hard won journey, and signify the embarkation on a new and frightfully unknown voyage. The tears are ones of joy and relief and fear and poignancy. The graduates stand at a perfect balancing point moment between youth and adulthood, aching to fly with new wings, while loving the good friends and the shared memories of their fellow fledglings in the nest.
My husband Roger, his first wife (whom we all adore), the boys and I had made reservations at the Pacific Dining Car. And we were delighted when we found that our son's best friend, with whom he is rooming at college in Boston next year, was also having his celebration there, with his mom and a friend of hers. We changed to a table of eight, ordered some drinks, and settled in to what became one of the most undeniably great dinners of our lives.
The food was perfection, the conversation went to deep and satisfying places. The hierarchy between generations was flattened, and we were all honest, funny, happy, and truly ourselves. We were people who loved each other deeply, whether we had just met or had a lifetime together, and we were collectively dedicated to honoring the two graduates' accomplishments and to wishing them well on their new adventures going forward.
This was my toast to them:
This is about causes and conditions. There are an infinite number of things that have brought each of us here tonight, and without those things this moment could not have happened.
About five years ago, a girl we knew was unable to go to LACHSA. She had been accepted into the theatre arts department, was a shining star in her family and school, and she -- like our graduates -- had a sparkling future spread out before her like a feast. But she died after closing night of the 8th grade school musical. And the hearts of our town, and her classmates, and certainly her family, were broken in a way that will never fully be healed.
She was 14. And she never made it to high school. My son and I mourned her loss and the loss of her potential and the loss of her light. And through that mourning, my son came to understand something about himself, and we learned about this high school called LACHSA, and he realized that maybe it was his job to take up the torch that had been left untended when Marieke died, and he applied to the school, and he was accepted, and in this way he learned his life's passions.
The first week at LACHSA he met his best friend. They have been inseparable ever since. They have grown together, gotten in trouble together, shared their four years together, and now they are continuing to college together.
Roger's son went to LACHSA and was three years ahead of my son. When Roger and I started dating, one of the things that we found most indicative of how we may be "meant to be" was this fact that we have three sons, three years apart, all three want to be actors, and all three went (or are going) to LACHSA.
So there's a girl whose brief brilliant life lights a fire in the heart of a younger classmate. He takes up the torch and attends the school of her dreams. He meets another young man. His mother marries the father of another classmate. His brother entered the school last year. We all sit together at a feasting table, and we toast the infinity of the future, and the complex lace of the past. We toast Marieke and all she has meant to all of us.
Causes and conditions.
We are all connected. The life of one person changed all of our lives forever. One person performs a great scene, or writes a great paragraph, or sings a perfect high C ... and destinies are changed in a breath. Our art keeps us sane, gives us meaning, weaves a web of grace around our lives of hard work and emotional turmoil. One person has a spark, and it becomes someone else's flame, and that flame becomes a candle, and the candle becomes a torch. And we hand this life force from one to another, and thus keep our souls, and our humanity, and our passions fueled.
To the class of 2011... I wish you infinite blessings. I want to dip you all in a bath of inoculation from pain and hard knocks, but know that it is exactly those things that will continue to burnish and shape you. We, the older generation, cannot protect you... but we can love you, and encourage you, and share with you the stories we have learned.
Enjoy your summer. Enjoy your future. And keep your spark alive. There is no limit to the number of lives you touch.
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 12:55 PM 11 comments