Growing up in a small town was a blessing. Our neighborhood was safe, and we knew most people who lived near us. Mom and Dad had four children; I was the first. Since they had three more, I must have been a success. Or maybe they kept trying until they got it right. I prefer to think I was the prototype. We lived near the city park with a playground, ball fields, picnic area, band shell, roller rink, and a beautiful lake.

On our block were thirteen children, always something going on. We played ball, decorated our bikes and wagons for parades, gave original plays in our garage, and were outside most of the time. I can’t recall being too hot to do any of the things we did. That could be because the memories are happy ones, and they involved the activities and the interactions with friends.

As we got older, there were piano lessons, band practices, dance classes – I learned tap from a man from “the cities” named Harry Croskin – and we spent time with friends from early morning to dark. It was an interesting childhood.

During the mid- to late-forties, polio happened. Our mom and dad were extremely protective of us; we went nowhere in crowded places. All the neighborhood kids were as restricted as we were. Parents were more afraid of exposure than we kids were. We were being deprived of all the innocence of our previous unprotected days. We didn’t totally understand what was happening. A cousin who lived in our town and whose family were very close to ours, contracted the awful disease. We finally had some idea of polio’s devastating effect on a family.

I titled this blog post “Graduation” because I have seen a connection between that early quarantine and the past year and a half. During our recent sheltering in place, schools were unable to serve students in a usual manner. Senior year experiences like games, concerts, plays, proms and graduation celebrations were modified or simply not held. In a small town, the athletic competitions are part of the town’s identity. Music and theater departments’ performances normally drew support from the entire community. Award presentations were missed. All things that are usual rites of passage, especially in a small community, didn’t occur. In our family we had a college graduation and three high school graduations during 2020-2021. Somehow it all happened without the usual fanfare and celebration.

As a former teacher I felt empathy for students and teachers alike. I understood the difficulty of teaching remotely, and I sympathized with families who had to figure it all out to make some kind of educational sense of an extremely complex situation. Making accommodations for individual learning is more easily accomplished in an in-person classroom. Even there some students struggle. I suspect learning has been set back at least a year for too many.