Hats off to Hannah And High School Graduates of 2011

I never graduated from high school.  Not officially.  Sure I got my diploma, but I  never tossed my cap to the wind. I was sick the day of graduation. Back then  it was simple.  We had one senior picture,  a ceremony on the field and a little cake and punch party with a few family and friends.

The class of ‘75 signed year books, promised to keep in touch and moved on. With the exception of a handful of close friends – living within a block – I lost touch with everyone  until 35 years later, when I reconnected with classmates via Facebook (which, incidentally, today’s youth complain the old people are ruining!)

happy Hannah graduates from high school

happy Hannah graduates from high school

In June 1975, to humor my parents, I donned the blue gown with the gold tassels and stood in the yard while my grandma snapped a half a dozen blurry photos from an Instamatic. And that was that. Then I headed back to the gym to shoot hoops.

Big difference from the grad walk of today. For my niece, Hannah, a senior at Armstrong High School, it was a whole new ball game.

In the fields behind the Minneapolis suburban school, graduates spilled over an emerald hilltop in a sea of red, while parents sat in soccer chairs capturing the event on camcorders. Then to keep the kids off the street, parents chaperoned students at an all night party filled with games, magic, music and movies.

Weeks later, Hannah hosted a grad party. She invited her rugby team, half the church, the entire neighborhood and all of the relatives from Chicago to Omaha and in-between. Hannah has lots of friends. From the time she was born, the ready-with-a-smile, happy-go-lucky, laid-back kid always drew a crowd.

These days, the grad party is a must. The invitation, which features the student in a favorite pose from the hundred-some senior pictures, is more elaborate than wedding cards were in my day. (Hannah’s sister, Marie, graduated three years ago, but her invitation remains  on my frig, too beautiful to throw away.)

The party can be extravagant, complete with bouncy castles and gourmet meals, but Hannah, settled on a simpler fare, featuring her favorites – croissant sandwiches and ice cream treats.

Food ordered, tents set up, card tables unfolded, coolers packed. And a room filled with of memorabilia of student life : a bulletin board of childhood photos, dance recital, play bills, band equipment, musical instruments, certificates, medals, trophies, team jerseys, diplomas, stuffed animals, postcards, bits and bobs of a child’s’ magic moments. « I thought shrines were at wakes,» I said to my sister.

« Just shows how long you’ve been out of the country, Sis. »

And forget gram’s fuzzy black and white photos. Nowadays the event will be commemorated on video and DVD. While in progress, graduates cover Facebook pages with hundreds of photos for the entire world to admire.

hats off

hats off

My only dream back in the seventies was to play ball; Hannah set a more noble goal. She is going to be a neonatal nurse; she has already cuddled premies as a volunteer at the local hospital. She started applying for scholarships her junior year. With her dad’s Nebraskan Big Red blood, Hannah knew (before anyone else)  that she was headed  to Creighton in Omaha, where the rest of the Carlson clan lives.

Yep, babysitter, soccer player, a State rugby champ, honor student, loyal sister, fun loving friend, kidding cousin, nifty niece, cherished granddaughter, a dream child and all around good kid. No matter what hat she wears, Hannah fits the bill.

Posted in education, inspiration, relationships.


  1. Ohhhhh sis! I have been holding together for weeks but you hit the heart strings and the tears are flowing filled with happiness, sadness, laughter and nostalgia of the days that seemed to have FLOWN by….But THANK YOU on so many levels! this blog captures it all; the excitement and extravaganza of what HS graduation has become in the states and the sweetness of watching our Lil Hanners grow up right in front of our eyes! Thank you for playing a huge role in influencing Hannah to follow her dreams and travel far. Cannot wait to see you in a few weeks!

  2. Pat….you captured “our” Hannah! What a beautiful tribute to her and her parents!!! Thanks!

  3. I feel so famous!! 🙂 Loved it, but want to know what i loved most of all?? “a dream child” haha. Love you and miss you and see you in a few weeks at the cabana!

  4. We can’t wait for Hannah to join us in Omaha. And, as a Creighton grad, I’m esp. proud and excited to have her here. She may get tired of seeing her Aunt Mary regularly though. 🙂

  5. Yes, this auntie had a few tears in her eyes too. They have grown up so quickly. I just feel so privileged to be a part of all of my nieces and nephews’ lives. What amazing young people they are. I know Hannah will accomplish everything she sets her mind to and will continue to make us proud.

  6. What a wonderful trip down memory lane,Pat! Thank you for sharing Hannah with us~delightful. I am thrilled that she is going to be a nurse and have this vision of passing the torch of patient care onto her as I transition out. Hannah, I hope you experience as much joy and satisfaction with nursing as I have for the past 44 years. It is sacred ground and we need people like you to carry on the tradition. Congratulations and enjoy!
    Thanks for another wonderful post,Patty and love your new look 🙂


    • What a lovely thought…passing on the torch of the caring tradition. I am sure Hannah will step up even though your are leaving her behind awfully big shoes to fill. Thanks so much for this kind comment to inspire a newbie to the profession.

  7. It is indeed amazing how graduation has escalated! Yours was later than my 1968 one, Pat. So I had one fuzzy photo in the back yard. After the ceremony, I went out for an ice cream cone with my best friend, then went home to rest up for my physically demanding summer job. And my sister, 8 years younger, attended and noticed that only the senior class president could be sure of being able to speak at graduation. She decided then to be pres. of her senior class, and she was!

    • Loved this…one fuzzy photo and an ice cream cone…oh for the good ol’ days when life was so much simpler. And I bet there was no recording of your sister’s graduation speech as class pres. Wouldn’t that be fun to hear again on tape!

  8. My daughter-in-law is a neonatal nurse and I really commend anyone who has this as a profession. I know Hannah will do well as she has the McKinzie blood in her. I am so proud to know the whole family and what they’ve become. Hope to see you when you’re home.

    • Oh yes, it takes a special breed to enter the medical professional and even though I have hospital phobia and avoid the place like plague, I am convinced there is a caring gene in the McKinzie bloodline. ha

  9. I can only echo other’s comments on how proud we are of Hannah and all the youth of today that are going to make this world a better place. What a wonderful world it will be!! Thanks for the inspiring tribute and wonderful writing, Pat.

    • Know you will take good care of Hanners in Big Red Territory. Yes, indeed hats off to all our youth who hold the future of the planet in their hands. As you well know, that is why our job as teachers is so vital. Thanks for following.

  10. Pat, I have to confess that I forgot that you were not at our graduation ceremony. I might still have your high school or your graduation photo though, around here. I am thrilled that my nephew, Jacob Landis, won the Roscoe Eades award this year for good ole’ SHS. He lettered in cross country and track and won the science award and student of the year.

    Cheers to the nursing profession. It has given me an incredibly wonderful life and hope it does for Hannah as well.

    • Congratulations to Jacob and the proud Auntie! Sounds like he is a great athlete, great student, great kid! Where is he going to college? As some one who has spent more than my fair share time in hospitals and doctors’ offices, let us all give a huge shout out for the nurses who help sustain us in our weakest moments!
      Three cheers for the nurses! Kudos for your valuable work for mankind!

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