the ceremony itself was much different than mine in high school; short and sweet. each student's name is called and he or she stands up and bows to the principal. diplomas are not handed to each student, and there is no clapping. supposedly only the mothers make an effort to come. one of my favorite students scandalized the entire auditorium when instead of answering "hai" when his name was called (apparently the only acceptable response other than silence), he answered, "hai~~~chu!" which is a kind of taffy candy. the number of gasps and murmurs that circled through the room made me snicker. it seemed like a pretty harmless kind of rebellion to me. he was forced to submit, though. they repeated his name until he answered satisfactorily. i wanted to clap him on the back and say, "come to america. you'll do well there." of course, maybe that's why japan remains so safe; rebellion is not tolerated unless it falls neatly within the boundaries of acceptable deviations.
after four hours of last goodbyes, i crawled home emotionally spent.
seemingly every single day of the year there are students coming and going tirelessly from the school. band practice, sports practice, extra studying, or just hanging out with friends, from dawn on the weekends to hours after dark weekdays, there are always sounds emenating from the school. the day after graduation was so utterly without sound, it was like time caught and held its breath all day. i felt alone in a hollow world, but it was good to have that silence to let my bittersweet mood ebb away naturally. later in the day, feeling lonely and needing some sun, i drove to a park to sit out and read. what i didn't expect was how packed the park would be. melancholy doesn't mix well with happy kids playing ball with their dads.
i settled down on the edge as far out of the way as possible, but i felt as silly and out of place as a sad clown. the sun couldn't dissolve the chilly breeze either, so after thirty minutes i crept away.
happily, i have many dear second years to keep me company next year, and some spunky first years too. one such fellow, after announcing several times that he loves me, filled out his final one-on-one "job interview" sheet with answers that really surprised me (note, he asked me if they were ok, and i said sure). i wondered if he would have the guts to say them to my face when the time came...and he did! i play the interviewer and the student is obviously the interviewee. read on:
notice my next line is, "that's good to hear." at this point we both lost it and started laughing. finally he got up to leave and reached out to shake my hand, but he used his left hand, and i was boggled for a moment (after all, i've gotten used to driving on the left side of the road). i recovered and explained we always shake with right hands, and with one final, "i love you," he slipped back into the classroom.
thank you, sweet boy. it made my day.