It is that time of year, when high school and college students leave the perceived safety of the status quo to move on to new adventures and challenges.  For some reason, people across America (students and parents) feel the need to celebrate this transition with a party.  We have just experienced such an event as our second child (a daughter) graduates from high school.

There is always a great deal of preparation.  What do we cook?  What do buy?  What do we serve?  How many people do we invite?  How much seating should we provide?  Will there be any decorations?  As the dad, I do not have to be part of the discussion, I just have to perform the assigned tasks.

What is difficult to understand about these events is how truly eclectic they are.  They cannot be on the day of graduation, or there would be too many at once.  They cannot last too long, because people have to go to many parties on the same day.  Gifts are usually only given by people who cannot attend the event.  The students cycle through during the allotted time; eating, talking, then moving on to the next party.  The honored student disappears with special friends for a while, or shows up late from a preceding party, then leaves early to catch the next one.  Parents invite their own friends and sometimes old neighbors.  This group rarely intermingles with the younger crowd and seldom even discusses the future plans of the student, although there is always the obligatory “I remember when she was only this tall” comment.

We had a relatively easy time of it.  I had to grill hamburgers and hotdogs.  We made some pasta salad, cookies and brownies the night before.  Everything else was prepackaged; from carbonated beverages to the cutlery.  Even though over 200 people were invited, we only cooked for 50 so the costs were not that bad.  Clean up was easy, what wasn’t eaten was tossed, and the kids who came were very helpful before they left.  Much more mature than I was at that age.

The older crowd stayed well beyond the published end time for the party.  It was nice to reminisce with old neighbors and friends.  You can find out so much about other peoples plans, dreams, troubles and histories by just sitting and talking on a warm May evening.

So why have a graduation party?  I say for the parents to enjoy themselves.  My daughters say it is for the students.  My son, who had six pizzas and six friends in the basement for video games, claims it is all for the stores to make money.  In the end, a party is for everyone who plans, throws or attends it.