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There’s a time for every purpose under heaven--including a time for black stockings

My granddaughter Adriana was graduated from the sixth grade the other day at Ivanhoe elementary school, in Silver Lake, and of course my wife and I attended the ceremony.

Ivanhoe is a pretty school, built in the old Hacienda style around a patio. The patio was decorated with clusters of pink, green and lavender balloons; pink, green and lavender bunting was strung between potted palms, and tables were set out for lunch with napkins of the same color.

After the ceremony, the graduates were going to have a farewell lunch.

I suppose I should say that the class was culminated, not graduated, since that is the new word; but I don’t like it.

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The ceremony was held in the auditorium. There was of course much last-minute business by teachers, PTA members and pupils, and I was growing restless for it to start, because I had a luncheon engagement in Beverly Hills and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stay to the finish.

Finally the lights went out, the processional began, and the pupils marched in from a rear exit and took their seats in front of the audience.

Lights on. A girl rose and began to recite: “Good morning, and welcome, parents, teachers, and friends. We are glad you could come to join us for this special occasion, our sixth-grade culmination.

“The theme of our program is ‘We Are the World.’ This year has been a very special one for us at Ivanhoe. We have learned many new things, reached great heights, and look forward to the new challenges that Junior High School will bring us.

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“Will you please rise, and join us in the Pledge of Allegiance?”

They were as clean a bunch of schoolchildren as I have ever seen. They looked absolutely scrubbed , and their clothing was laundry fresh.

A boy stood: “We know,” he said, “that the world can sometimes be a hard place. We all go through our share of hard times and bad breaks. Yet, we also know that by working together, we can overcome any hardship or obstacle.”

There was a parable about forgiveness, and a boy said: “And for the many times you have forgiven us, we appreciate it!”

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They sang a solemn prayer, in two parts, then recited some “Alice in Wonderland” nonsense verses, and a boy played “Waterloo Sunset” on the guitar.

Then they danced to Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.”

They are surely a different subspecies, our Southern California children. Is laid-back the word? Have you seen those rock videos on TV? That’s the way they danced--gyrating, moving their heads this way and that on their shoulders, faking a rhumba, and wiggling their fingers above their heads. Chorus lines have been doing that stuff since the ‘20s.

It was great.

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I noticed that my granddaughter was wearing black gloves, a knee-length blue dress with black polka dots, and sexy black stockings.

“Aren’t those stockings pretty sexy?” my wife asked our daughter-in-law.

“No,” she said. “They are not sexy. They are just black.”

I assumed that was the French way of looking at it.

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Then they did a sort of rock version of Ecclesiastes, called “Turn, Turn, Turn.”

“To everything, turn turn, turn, there is a season, turn turn turn, and a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, a time, to die, a time to plant, a time to reap; a time for love, a time for hate, a time for peace--I swear it’s not too late!”

They couldn’t have got more wisdom if they had had a famous sage for a speaker.

A boy stepped forward: “We’ve shown you kindness. We must never lose sight of the fact that kindness is not just something the other person does, but is everyone’s responsibility, as John Donne so eloquently expressed it.”

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Then, various pupils taking a line or two, they recited the famous poem:

No man is an island, entire of itself. . . .

And therefore never send to know

For whom the bell tolls;

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It tolls for thee.

Pretty heavy stuff.

The two sixth-grade teachers presented the awards, calling forth the pupils one by one, and describing the special achievements of each--in mathematics, English, literature, sports, or in service to the school and the class.

I wanted to wait until my granddaughter was called forward, but I was running out of time.

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“I’ve got to go,” I whispered to my daughter-in-law, pointing to my watch.

“Oh, Mr. Smith,” she said, “they’re in the Ps already. They’ll get to Adriana in just a minute.”

I waited, deciding it was better to be late for my lunch than to miss my grandaughter’s culmination.

Finally I heard the name: “Adriana Smith.”

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She walked forward, a tall blond girl in a blue dress with black polka dots and black stockings.

“Adriana Smith,” the teacher said, “has a quality that most of us adults wish we had. She has a mind of her own.”

Immediately after this eulogy was bestowed, I slipped out the back door.

I guess I missed the singing of “We Are the World,” which ended the program. I’m sorry. It’s a stirring song, and I think it’s encouraging that our children are conscious of other children, elsewhere in the world, and care about peace.

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And I’m glad that my granddaughter has a mind of her own, even if she isn’t an academic superstar. In how many other countries can children grow up with minds of their own?

I don’t think her stockings were too sexy, either.

But they were black.


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