Saturday, June 07, 2008

Graduation at St. Colmcille

So yesterday I dressed up a little for work, and after work I took off to Oakland, home of St. Colmcille, the tiny inner-city Catholic school you may recall I worked at last year.

The reason I was on my way to St. Colmcille was that my homeroom class from last year was graduating the eighth grade, and they had cornered my lovely coworker and friend Ms. Mirele Gans (NO, that's not her real name) and demanded to know if I was coming. Mirele called me and demanded to know if I was coming. So I went.

They do the graduation from St. Colmcille in the little, Gothic parish church next to the school. It was built with the hard-earned money and old-fashioned piety of Irish immigrants around 1930, and everything about it, from the shamrocks carved into the supports to to the serene-faced Irish saints in the windows (Colmcille, Jarlath, Brigid, Patrick) shows that. Later generations have added images of la Virgen de Guadalupe and statues carved in the Mexican tradition, as the neighborhood has changed. The graduation ceremony takes place from the altar, and is open to the whole parish, as well as the school community.

Oh. Oh. The heartstrings. The choir singing sweet folk-Catholic pieces. Father Toledano (no that's not his real name either) beaming. The parents glowing and schepping naches all over the place. Cameras flashing. Ari, with shamrock-green bands on his braces to match the regalia. The girls carefully walking in their first (much too high) high heels. Mirele, radiant with pride. Pomp and Circumstance.

I hugged everyone. I cried. Shaina nearly broke her neck on a kneeler trying to get to me in her strappy sandals. Nisanit, (who never caused me a moment's trouble last year), cried and apologized for the way her class had treated me. Dovidl went to another school this year, but was there to cheer for his classmates and congratulate me for working in Richmond with 'all those black gangsta guys'. (Dovidl would adore to be a black gangsta guy, but is cursed with a middle-class mother who won't let him.) I sat in front of Mushkie's extended family, who yelled every time her name was mentioned. "GO Mushkie! Go go Mushkie!" The seventh graders surrounded me, upbraided me for leaving, admired my wedding ring, and suggested I come back pregnant or with a baby for them to admire when they graduated next year. And even Netzach graduated (as he went up for his diploma I muttered to Svetlana-the-Social-Studies-Teacher "by the grace of God", but he got one).

They were all so beautiful. Even Netzach.

Afterward, Mirele, her wife, I, and a friend of theirs who played the trumpet for the ceremony, took off for a tiki bar, and drank things with ridiculous names, and rejoiced. It's been a rough year for them, but heck, the class of 2008 graduated.

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