Elise Topazian: Graduation party itself is one final test

I'd thought that stress-filled days were behind me.

Tests are completed (for the next three months), deadlines have passed, and there are no more papers in my backpack waiting to be turned in. Little did I know that my graduation open house would match any final exam I have had to endure.

Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating, but it is accurate to say the events of this (now last) weekend are truly like none I have ever experienced. Sure, I've stood on mountain peaks, run through bottomless mud pits, and endured hours on squeaky airplanes, but nothing compares to the perfectly chaotic mess of the past few weeks.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the ritual of a graduation open house, it is simply a block of two to three hours where family and friends gather to celebrate graduation. That description makes the whole event sound much more tiresome than it actually is; typically there are lots of pictures and games, food and drinks, and rooms crammed full of people.

The first order of business for my open house was choosing which foods to have. While this may sound like an easy task, it proved to be especially difficult when my mother and I had completely different ideas. Suffice it to say, she won.


The next task was choosing pictures to display. I enjoy looking at great pictures, so I figured this would be an easy thing to accomplish — pick a handful of pictures and be done with it, right? No. While I did get some laughs out of most of the pictures, the whole thing turned into an hours long process due to the thousands of family pictures we have accumulated over the years.

My father especially loves to take photographs, which means that each family vacation is accompanied by hundreds of pictures. My sister also has a tradition of taking pictures on trips, but instead of photographing scenery or the family, she takes at least one picture of her feet at every stop. After wading through picture upon picture and dozens of feet photos, I finally found the few that were perfect.

It may seem to you I have wasted 300 words in this column complaining about family. If you do feel that way, let me defend myself. Life events like graduations, weddings, and funerals, force us to think about family in new ways. I know that in three months, interactions with my family will be completely different than they are now. I think, though, that the way these events help us to see our family differently is good. They are a catalyst, a means to the end.

Sure, I had to search out great pictures among some not-so-great-ones, but the not-so-great-ones are the ones that represent my family the best. They are true to the moments in my life when things haven't been a picture-perfect scene.

So really, I haven't been complaining, I've been savoring. Soon I won't have my mother by my side to tell me which foods to eat or how much milk to drink, or my father next to me taking pictures of every exciting event in my life. I will, however, have her voice in the back of my mind and his pictures on my computer to remind me of the guidance they gave me for 18 years.

By the time you read this, my graduation open house will be completed. If you see me around town, ask how it went. Until then, may the odds be ever in my favor as I try to stay afloat during graduation week.

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