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  • Writer's pictureJosette Abruzzini

Ruffles, Daisies and the Class of 2020!

In the midst of the sorrowful losses of this Covid-19 season, one particular group has been called upon to exhibit grace in a challenging situation.

Hats off to the High School Classes of 2020!

Long-awaited traditions have fallen by the wayside and been replaced with an abbreviated school year, new-fangled celebrations and uncertain next steps. I salute this year’s class and hope they carry their unique graduation experiences forward into wonderful futures.

These young people cannot predict which graduation events will reap their fondest memories. As for me, a dreadful gift from my aunt has provided a measure of joy...

I woke up one long-ago morning and cried. It was May 13th. I had "graduated high school" the day before, and I thought the best day of my life was behind me. In my small town in Newfoundland, Canada, the graduation ceremony, baccalaureate mass, and prom night were all celebrated on one day and it was glorious. There had even been a parade through town with honking cars decorated for the occasion, and a formal Grand March (with formations). Despite immense anticipation, May 12th had not disappointed.

I don’t have one picture to show for it, but that’s okay - I found a picture of my prom dress online! The gown itself is long gone, but let me tell you about it…

Dress shopping in Grand Falls-Windsor, in my memory, consisted mostly of ordering from the Sears catalog or purchasing fabric and a Simplicity sewing pattern. We could’ve driven five hours into St. John’s but there was another option – my Aunt Frances lived in Rochester, New York. She promised to send a prom gown.

I kid you not, it arrived two days before the big event. Mom brought the box into the house and I ripped it open. I tore away the tissue paper and there it was…

Where do I begin? Lime green with blue stripes, yellow daisies and white/blue daisies. A ruffle around the neck and long sleeves with more ruffles around the wrists. It was pretty in a “little girl” sense, but was definitely not in the range of anything I’d imagined wearing to the prom.

I kept my disappointment to myself; after all, there was no possibility of a suitable dress hanging on the gown rack at Riff’s Department Store. My aunt had purchased what she thought was the perfect dress and I didn’t want to disappoint her or my mom. This was it and that was that!

Of course I wore the dress and I had an absolutely fabulous evening. And in the years since, I’ve been blessed with many days that have been even more wonderful. If only I’d known, I wouldn’t have been so upset the next day.

Following that lime green muted drama I even let Aunt Framphery, as I called her, choose my college! She thought Nazareth College of Rochester would be perfect for me. I did not see the campus until I arrived in September as a freshman, but she was right. It was a wonderful school and I loved my classes and my professors. My Naz friends are close friends to this day, and I met my future husband at the college down the street. During my four years there, Aunt Frances, Uncle Shorty, Uncle Pat and Aunt Ethel were always there for me. My aunt's most important "choice" on my behalf had turned out well.

Through the years we enjoyed many wonderful visits and when I finally told her what I had thought of the dress, we had a good laugh for ourselves. Later, when my younger sisters were graduating high school, I sent them prom dresses from Binghamton, New York, where I was living. I hoped they'd like them... and they did!

A couple of years ago I found a pretty plate with the same features as that memorable gift from Framphery. It sits on a rack over my stove and reminds me of the gown, my aunt, the special place where I grew up, and of all those people who loved me and helped me along the way.

All these memories embody my message to this year’s graduates …

The disruption to your high school graduation traditions has confirmed for you that life doesn't always play out as expected. Whether you find yourself on a path that's wonderful or scary, keep in mind that it's not always what happens to you that makes the difference in the long run. It's how you deal with it. And most paths are actually a little complicated.

You don't yet know which graduation memories will best stand the test of time... Think twice when a favorite aunt gives you something bizarre!

I wish each graduate of 2020 an abundance of special moments. Enjoy them all, and have a happy and healthy life!

With special wishes to my 2013 class of

Jefferson Elementary School fifth graders

in Maplewood, New Jersey. Congratulations!

A former teacher, Josette Abruzzini is an aspiring author of picture books for children and historical fiction for adults. As the season of Covid-19 keeps her close to her home in Pennsylvania, she finds herself thinking back on a few memories and planning her next trip to visit family in Newfoundland. Fingers crossed, it’ll be in 2020!

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2 commentaires

18 mai 2020

Beautiful memories! And so true that we have no idea which happenings will become dear to us. I too, wish the class of 2020 all the best life has to offer.


17 mai 2020

I loved this. Your small town girl memories of prom and your high school graduation brought a smile to my face.

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