Dreaming (in plaid)

Knowing, as he does, several people with young’uns who are walking in graduation exercises this month, it came as little surprise to The Curmudgeon that he recently had a dream about something from his own high school graduation forty years ago.

But his pants?

Yes, his pants.

Of course, there’s a story here. There’s always a story.

You see, The Curmudgeon attended a very large urban high school – Abraham Lincoln High School in Philadelphia, which had 4300 students, 900 of them in his graduating class. The school was so large that in some cases, the four minutes they gave you to get from one class to the next wasn’t always enough. He still recalls arriving at health class, in room 181B, about a minute late and the teacher greeting him at the door on the first day of classes with a stern look and demanding to know where he was coming from.

“Room 253,” the five-foot nothing student replied.

The teacher nodded; he knew you couldn’t get from there to here in four minutes.

You can’t have graduation exercises for a group that large in the high school auditorium or even in the football stadium, so graduation was held at the old Philadelphia Convention Hall, a facility that was the site of four presidential nominating conventions (Democrats in 1936 and 1948 and Republicans in 1940 and 1948) and the home court of the 1966-1967 NBA champion Philadelphia 76ers. While we had rehearsed graduation in our high school gym – a facility so large that it was the home court for several games of the NBA Philadelphia Warriors in the 1950s – the class gathered at the Convention Hall on the morning of graduation to rehearse where the exercises were actually to be held.

For most of us it was the first time we ever visited Convention Hall, and it was pretty overwhelming. The class would march onto the floor and our families would be upstairs, in the stands. As we rehearsed, a thought occurred to The Curmudgeon.

“How will my parents ever figure out which kid is me with them sitting all the way up there and 900 of us down here, far below them on the floor, all wearing one of two colors of caps and gowns?”

mortarboardIt was a question our teachers and the school’s administrators had anticipated, so we were warned: no markings on the tops of our mortarboards. Any students who had anything on their mortarboard would be removed from graduation exercises and would not receive their diploma that day. (The same threat was made for anyone who tossed their mortarboard into the air at the conclusion of the ceremony. It was a joyless event.)

So The Curmudgeon knew he’d have to be creative.

And he came upon a solution: his pants.

This was 1975, an era of bright, bright (double-knit) clothing, and The Curmudgeon had clothing that was among the brightest – although not out of the mainstream for that time. (A sad note: he still does, and he now is. He is not a very good dresser, although he’s not a careless one. When people see him poorly dressed today they might conclude that it’s carelessness. It’s not. It’s just bad taste.) So all he had to do was pick something so bright, so distinctive, that his parents, brother, and sister would know their boy when he strolled onto the Conventional Hall floor below them, one of 900.

And there was one obvious candidate in his closet full of seventeen-year-old’s clothes: a pair of bright green and blue glen plaid pants.

Bell bottoms, of course – remember, we’re talking 1975.

With cuffs.

saddle shoesAnd just to make sure, two-tone saddle shoes. (He liked those shoes – a lot – even though they gave him excruciating arch cramps, which always seemed unfair inasmuch as The Curmudgeon has no discernible arches at all. In fact, he’s been in the market for a similar pair (minus whatever structural flaw induces the arch cramps) for about four months now and is confident he’ll eventually find them.)

So that’s what he did: he wore green and blue plaid cuffed bell bottoms and two-tone saddle shoes to his high school graduation, and when he stepped onto the floor of Philadelphia’s Convention Hall that steamy June day, several thousand people were no doubt amused or appalled by what they were seeing – although The Curmudgeon likes to think at least a few of them had a “why didn’t my kid think of that?” moment – but four people sitting up in the cheap seats knew, beyond doubt, when their boy stepped onto the floor. (The Curmudgeon spent fifteen minutes online doing web searches to try to find something that looked like the pants but didn’t find anything that would do them justice. Draw your own conclusions about whether that’s significant.)

And last weekend, while getting what passes for sleep these days, The Curmudgeon saw those pants in a dream. Oh, they weren’t pants in the dream – they were a piece of fabric covering something he couldn’t recall when he awoke the following morning – but they were absolutely, positively those distinctive blue and green glen plaid pants recalled to memory by a recent spate of graduations that helped make his own otherwise unmemorable high school graduation something to remember.


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