“Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” — Mae West
In April 1995, we were nearly brand-new Worthington residents.
My husband had been working at his local job for a couple of months while I was home with our six-month-old son—a radically different situation for me than the full-time professional position I’d previously held for several years, complete with frequent travel and non-stop interaction with other adults.
Aside from my husband’s work colleagues and a few other similarly stunned first-time mothers I was gradually getting to know at Early Childhood/Family Education classes, we knew virtually no one.
In particular, we knew no one who was graduating from high school, or whose child was graduating from high school.
So when Worthington High School’s commencement rolled around, we knew this: We weren’t invited to a single graduation party, not one, though evidence of their existence was all around us.
Driving around town that weekend, we noticed red and black balloons pointing the way to open garages bursting with metal folding chairs, numerous people and long tables lined with seniors’ photos, medals, ribbons, certificates and plaques.
Not to mention food—and cake.
“Congrats, Grad!” was boldly lettered on several signs staked in the yards of homes in our Okabena Heights neighborhood wherein Class of ‘95ers resided. I could smell the ham buns and mile-high frosting on deliciously decorated cake squares from the sidewalk as I pushed our kicking, cooing boy, content in his navy-and-white-striped stroller, past the parties.
Oh, the chattering, laughing groups of adults and teens clearly familiar with each other, and with each other’s histories, caused a few pangs in my heart, but even more troubling was this realization: There were dozens upon dozens of pieces of frosted graduation cake out there, whether chocolate, white or marbled varieties, but not one of them was destined for my stomach that year.
So intense became my craving for and preoccupation with CAKE that I was nearly salivating. Sure, I could have simply gone to the store and bought a cake, or….could I have dared?…..walked up to one of those garage parties and nabbed a slice—who would have noticed, or cared?—but that seemed to defeat the purpose.
I was still an outsider, and stolen cake couldn’t possibly taste as sweet.
What a difference 20 years makes.
That first spring was the only year I stoically endured the absence of graduation cake. By May 1996, we were invited to at least one party (at which cake was, happily, served), and thereafter we’ve never had fewer than two or three graduation parties to attend.
In recent years, we’ve had to devote at least two weekends each May to nothing but attending graduation open houses. A trend toward changing up menus and not always serving cake has worried me—two weeks ago, we attended three parties and there was no cake to be had at any of them!—but my fears were allayed last weekend.
We grabbed a spreadsheet of times and locations and stocked up on cards and cash before mixing and mingling our way through 14 parties on one day and five on the next. There was more than enough cake spread among the sites to satisfy even my greedy sweet tooth, as well as bountiful supplies of ice cream, cookies, cream cheese mints and other tantalizing treats at the various stops.
Teachers, and high school teachers in particular, are certain masters of navigating the graduation party circuit, though some of them who are self-proclaimed introverts admit to finding the ritual occasionally awkward.
They might even acknowledge growing tired of graduation cake, with the dozens of open houses they sometimes feel obligated to attend.
Me? I enjoy a party, especially when it comes complete with cake. And having suffered through that lonely spring without a crumb of graduation cake, I never take an invitation for granted.
Besides, as our kids graduate from high school and move on in life, eventually our list of graduation parties will dwindle and we’ll once again be on the outside looking in.
Until then, I think I’ll have another piece.