Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Yesterday was a day that I'm certain I'll never forget. I have been going to Glenlawn Collegiate for four years, and I have so many fond memories of the school, my teachers, the classes (especially band and Grade 11 history with Mr. Kornberger), Spirit Week, the band concerts, all the friends I made (as well as my old friends from George McDowell School), the girls I've had crushes on, and...sigh...the homework. That's not the point, however. (Okay, maybe it kinda was.) The point is that yesterday was my high school graduation!

It felt surreal to be graduating already. Those four years flew by so fast that they felt like two! (Maybe I should have gone to a school where everyone was rowdy and the teachers stood there and just droned on and on. Just kidding!)

So I have finally fulfilled my quest for world domination and I shall control every nation on Earth! Again, just kidding. Gosh, the jokes are just pouring out of me! Too bad I couldn't laugh like Mrs. Nordheim, our principal. (Last year, there was a fundraiser where people could actually download her iconic laugh onto their phones as ringtones!)

Okay, now I'm going to try to be a little bit more serious. June 24 was the dinner and dance, and yesterday (June 25) was convocation.

To start it off, on June 24 we were just cleaning the house (while I was jamming on my keyboard), and I went for a couple of bike rides. During my second ride, I got to shoot a video of piles being driven into the ground, which was really cool because I've never seen that actually being done with my own eyes!

Since I knew that the dance was going to last until 3 in the morning, I took an hour-long power nap while Mom and Dad were out and driving to various places. Once I was done my nap, I played RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 for a bit.

A couple of hours later, Mom and Dad returned while I was in the shower. I put on my dress pants, only to realize that I had to wear the pants that came with my suit! (Oops!) At that instant, Auntie Brenda and my cousin Jess arrived, while I was half-naked! I quickly got into my suit after deciding whether I was going to wear my green shirt or my blue shirt. I ended up choosing my blue shirt and matching tie.

Once I was done that, I stood behind the wall and then Mom proudly announced my name. I came out with my suit, starting a chorus of "Wow!"s and "Look at you!"s. We began taking pictures after that, and with three cameras taking pictures of me, it seemed like my fellow photographers were the paparazzi! Then again, it was my Grade 12 grad, and I had every right to feel like a celebrity.

After a ton of pictures, we drove to the Winnipeg Convention Centre, where the festivities were being held.

We had no problem parking. Once we got out of the car, we heard the rumbling of Mr. Gerl's Corvette. (He is one of three vice principals at Glenlawn.) My dad and I absolutely loved the sound of the engine. We got to speak with him for a little bit before riding the elevator up to the Convention Centre's lobby.

Once inside the lobby, the first thing I noticed were the girls' outfits. Some of the girls I didn't even recognize because they had beautiful new hairstyles, and their dresses were very pretty. The next second, my eyes were diverted towards Grammie, Grandma Gisele, and my cousin Joey. More pictures followed of course, as well as lots of hugs and kisses. Several of my friends said hello and had their pics taken with me, such as Rosie and Ali, who I knew since preschool.

Before long, the doors opened up for us to head to the room where all the action would take place. After signing in, we entered one of the meeting rooms, except there were several tables taking up most of the area. There was a dance floor on the front-right side, a casino to the left, and a bar closer to the back-left side. Straight ahead was a long, elevated table where the three vice principals and Mrs. Nordheim sat. The theme of our grad was Paris, France. The lights were quite dim, making for a very classy setting. There were at least 134 tables, and we sat at Table 41.

All eight spots were filled at my table. We socialized for a while as a group, and more people I knew stopped by for a visit. First, Mr. Monson, my wind ensemble teacher, stopped and said hello to me before our pictures were taken. (He was also my band teacher in Grades 9 and 11.)

We then began looking at the menu. Our table had a black tablecloth and eight circular white plates arranged around the edge. There were two sets of forks and knives, and two wine glasses per person. One glass had water in it, and the other glass held a rose-colored serviette. The centerpiece was a clear vase with a white flower floating in water.

The cover of the menu read "Glenlawn Collegiate 90th Anniversary Graduation Dinner", and a picture of a lion walking proudly with his tail held high was below. At the bottom of the cover, the text read, "June 24th, 2013". I couldn't believe that Glenlawn was 90 years old! (I had better make sure to return in 2023 when the school turns 100!)

We then looked inside our menus to find the following information: a timeline of the events to come that night, and the dinner menu. After, four more special people said hi to me. Mr. Nightingale, one of the staff members who works in Student Services (and my piano teacher's boyfriend!), talked with us for a bit, and we had our picture taken. A few minutes later, my longtime friend Sabrina walked up to our table, accompanied by her boyfriend. My whole family began talking with her about grad and how fast the years have come and gone. After a bit of reminiscing, we had our picture taken: first Sabrina, her boyfriend, and me; and then just me and Sabrina. I hugged Sabrina before we said goodbye, and watched them walk towards their table.

We turned back towards the table and conversed some more. I was in the middle of editing my pictures (I am not a person who likes duplicates or blurry pictures on my camera) when someone said hello and gently laid a hand on my right arm. I recognized her immediately as Tessa, who was one of the most special friends I had at Glenlawn. (The other was Rand, who I knew from Grades 9 and 10. I knew Tessa from Grades 11 and 12.) She looked absolutely gorgeous. She had relatively long orange-blonde hair (I'm guessing it's called strawberry blonde) and a beautiful orange dress. However, her looks were not the reason we became friends. Sure, we talked quite a bit in Grade 11 history, but at first we only knew each other because we happened to be desk partners since the first day of class. What really made her mean something to me was that we were both fans of Iron Maiden, my favorite band of all time. Our friendship evolved from that point.

After maybe one or two seconds, Tessa let go and continued on towards her table.

The last person we talked with before dinner was none other than the principal, Mrs. Nordheim. Out of all the principals I had over the years, she was easily my favorite. Last year, she won the Principal of the Year Award, which meant she was chosen out of every other people at every other school in Canada! She really succeeded in bringing us to our destiny as full-grown Lions, and she was so personable and knew how to have a genuine conversation with every student in the school. Sure, she said "hi" in the hallways like other principals, but unlike most of them, she really meant it and greeted her students wholeheartedly. I will always remember her.

Before long, our attention was diverted towards the long table at the back of the room. The Masters of Ceremonies were Calvin and Garret. Grace followed, and then our lavish dinners were laid out in front of us.

First, there was a large selection of breadsticks. The breadstick I chose was quite long and narrow, and it was very crispy and crunchy, just the way it should be. Almost immediately after I started eating my breadstick, clear glass plates of Caesar salad were placed in front of each person. The salad had a giant crouton-like piece of bread in the middle. I felt like I was in paradise, since I love Caesar salad and well...well...it's my Grade 12 grad, of course!

Once we were done with the salads, the main course was dished out. For my meal, a grilled supreme of chicken madeira took up a large portion of the plate. There were roasted vegetables that were cut with a fancy ripple or crinkle-cut design. There were also Duchess potatoes, and to top it off, a fried banana lay across the potatoes and the other vegetables. Everything tasted delicious, especially the chicken and the potatoes.

Of course, the last course (notice something here?) was the dessert. It was a strawberry shortcake with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.

After dinner, things got a little more serious. Mrs. Nordheim gave her speech, congratulating all of us on our success, saying that were "absolutely fabulous." She then went on. "Tonight is your opportunity to celebrate with your friends, family, and staff. We are so fortunate that the Glenlawn tradition includes a formal, classy evening where can socialize together. We also have a wonderful convocation to look forward to tomorrow." She then said that a few people won't be at the convocation the next day. One of my friends from McDowell, Yelena, was going to leave for Australia, so Mrs. Nordheim presented her diploma right there in front of us all. She even gave Yelena a Glenlawn blanket in case she felt homesick.

Next up were the greetings from Student Council, as well as the greetings from the Grad Committee. A slideshow followed (obviously made on a Mac; I could tell they used iMovie), and it contained photos of pretty much everything Glenlawn-related over the past four years: Spirit Week, band concerts, sports tournaments, shots of every classroom and subject, and even photos from Facebook made up the slideshow. They even included a Facebook photo of me from when I got my new watch! (And with my thumb up of course!)

After the slideshow came the toasts to the parents, teachers, and graduates. All of the toasts were very well done, but it was the toast to the teachers that stood out for me.

This toast was provided by the one and only Connor Duff (and Nicole, another one of my good friends). Connor was a friend of mine for four years, and we share a lot in common when it comes to our humorous side!

Some of my favorite phrases from Connor were as follows...

Talking about Mr. Hanson (one of the English teachers): "At least you can leave with a mark higher than 85, unlike Mr. Bradshaw."

Talking about the band teachers: "I don't know if you knew this, but Mr. Monson...especially spent the whole day being sassy. Well, Mr. Crowe, he's not as sassy. You see, he usually spends his time, uh, going out for jogs, and, you know, he's a vegetarian of course, and he always has that nice smile which says, 'Yes, that's right, I'm better than you.'"

About Mr. Thoroski, my Grade 12 math teacher: "Mr. Thoroski, we all know that you could be a little fast-paced, but on behalf of your pre-cal class, please just slow down, we still have work to do."

Once the toasts were over, we began mingling with our friends and teachers while the room was being prepared for the dance. I got my picture taken with Mr. Kutcher (my advocate and favorite math teacher), and everyone's favorite comedian (none other than Connor Duff).

Everyone was ushered out of the room while the final preparations were made. While waiting in the hallway, Mom and I had our pictures taken in an area made to look like a café in Paris.

It didn't feel like very much time had passed once we were free to go back inside the room. The room had almost completely changed. The casino was set up and would open in a bit, and of course, music was blasting from the speakers, accompanied by multicolored lights as well as lasers. Most of the overhead lights were turned off.

I had my picture taken with Calvin, and then I sat down and continued to edit my pictures.

After maybe ten minutes, a group of at least ten girls came up to my table, grabbed my hand, and pulled me right into the middle of the dance floor.

The story goes like this: in Grades 7 and 8, I was a wallflower at the school dances. I usually leaned against the wall and just tapped my foot to the music. During my Grade 8 grad, I felt more brave and danced to most of the songs. This time, I danced to nearly all of them. I figured all I had to really do was stay on the beat (which of course I'm very good at, since I'm a musician) and kinda move to the music. With each minute that passed, I was actually getting better and better at it. I came to realize that I didn't look like a weirdo because I "sucked at dancing", and it actually became a lot of fun!

However, during the first slow song, I opted out because I couldn't really find anyone to dance with! I still enjoyed the music, though. The song was "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith, and I love that song. I even told myself I would learn it on the piano when I'm not busy.

Once the faster, more upbeat songs came back on, I was back on the floor with my friends. We made new groups and combined some groups with others, or people simply transferred between groups. I noticed a lot of the girls in my group were smiling at me, and a few even told me I was doing great, which only boosted my confidence even more.

Another slower ballad, "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey, followed. Sabrina, myself, and a few others found a group, and we singing at the top of our lungs (and us guys were also exercising our falsetto register). When the guitar solo came around, we were all playing air guitar! It was a ton of fun.

The Macarena followed after. It was one of the few songs I actually danced to when I went to the dances at McDowell. It took me about five or ten seconds to remmeber the moves (I watched the others dancing first), and simply joined everyone and had a good time!

While all of this was going on, my parents had a job to do. My dad was monitoring the entrances to the bathrooms, and my mom was helping out at the candy table and visiting other parents. I got to talk with both of them. (I went to the bathroom three times over the course of the evening, in case you wanted to know. I'm guessing you didn't, but too bad. It was an integral part of the experience.) I asked them how they were doing, if they were having any fun, you know, stuff like that.

Later, the song "Cha Cha Slide" began to play. This was a line dance that I had no trouble with, even back in Grades 7 and 8, since it literally tells you what to do! "Slide to the left, slide to the right! Criss-cross! Criss-cross! Cha cha, real smooth."

There was one part where it says "Charlie Brown". For the years I danced to this song, every time it gets to that part, everyone wavers or freezes or does random stuff, probably thinking, "What the HECK am I supposed to do?!"

I then socialized for a bit with some of my other friends, specifically Jeff Lopushniuk and Zach Sveinson. We talked about grad of course, but we also talked about trucks. I told them about my disappointment when Dad had to get the muffler replaced in his Chevy Z71, causing the engine to sound only half as loud as it used to be.

I ran back onto the dance floor when the good ol' disco beat of "YMCA" began pounding through the speakers. I knew most of the moves to the song (especially the chorus of course), and it was so much fun to dance to. It has been my favorite disco song for many years.

Later, I got myself a bacon-and-mushroom pizza from a big table adjacent to the bar. There were at least thirty or forty boxes of pizza on the table, all from Pizza Hotline.

After I finished my pizza, I snapped some photos of the action going on at the casino, where at least fifty or more people were crowded around the tables. I then danced alone in the center of the floor for the next few songs. (By that I mean I wasn't in a group of any kind.)

When there was about an hour remaining in the dance, I was just standing around and taking in everything as if it was my last time seeing this (which was technically true). I heard my name and I saw Tessa walking towards me. I could tell she was excited to see me because her voice was extremely high-pitched.

We said hello and conversed for a little bit about graduation. We also talked about what we would do next year. Obviously, I told her that I was going to the University of Winnipeg, and she told me that she was going to travel and visit Australia. I wished her a good time, and she reciprocated it back to me.

Just before I was about to open my mouth and say goodbye, Tessa did something that I was not expecting at all, but it would be our last time seeing each other, so maybe I should have expected it. It was a way of saying goodbye that was more powerful than words, and it reflected our friendship, from when we first sat beside each other out of pure coincidence in Mr. Kornberger's class, and all the days that followed, until now.

Tessa reached out and then we embraced for only a few seconds, but to me it felt like several minutes. The whole room, as well as the dance floor, seemed to fade to black around the two of us. We had a strong, kind, and caring friendship with each other, and this hug was the perfect way to say goodbye before we would journey off on our separate ways. We let go and I watched her walk away to re-join everyone else.

We didn't get our picture taken, but that was okay, because the two years of our friendship, like my friendship with Rand, will stay in my memory forever.

While that special moment was sinking in, I went off to dance with some more of my friends. Forty-five minutes came and went, and another slow song began. This time, it was me and Mom dancing together, which was the perfect way to end the dance. (Maybe not quite true about the ending because one more upbeat song closed it all off, but whatever.)

I was amazed that the dance lasted for five hours, because it only felt like two and a half. Even more amazing was that I still felt energetic and wide awake at 3 in the morning.

I knew the moment would come eventually, but I felt slightly sad about the fact that all good things must come to an end. The good thing was, those good things will only make way for more fantastic events, such as convocation the next day.

We signed out, walked across the lobby of the Convention Centre, and took the elevator down to the parkade. Once the doors opened, we couldn't see our car! We were on the wrong level! After going to the level above, we had absolutely no problem finding the car.

Remember how I felt so energetic? Well, so much for that. As soon as I buckled my seat belt, I instantly felt tired! I know it almost seems comical to think about it, but that's truly what happens when the excitement is over after a dance at 3am!

While riding home, I was able to talk with my parents for a bit about the dance (and my moment with Tessa, as well as me, Sabrina, and my other friends playing air guitar).

Once inside the house, I simply hung up my clothes, said goodnight, and went to bed. I quickly logged into Facebook and posted a status about how awesome the night was. I locked my iPod and fell asleep, thinking about the convocation that was soon to come.