Graduations and cowbells

It’s hard to believe that four years have gone by since our family’s last cowbell incident. My grandson Andrew was graduating from high school and as we were heading out the door that night my daughter said, “Mom, do you still have that cowbell? And yes, I did. Back in the day, I collected bells of all sorts and this was one of them so I located it, dusted it off, put it in my purse, and off we went.

Later, at the point in the program where the students began filing toward the stage to receive their diplomas, various family members would applaud and cheer politely as their graduate’s name was called. We just smiled as we awaited our turn, with our soon-to-be-clanging secret weapon at the ready. Finally, when Andrew’s name was called, we just shook that cowbell for all it was worth. The racket must have filled every crevice in that gym. On hearing it, our graduate, somewhat shy and unassuming by nature, gave a slight smile and then made a beeline for his seat. He was probably in hopes that the audience thought some other kid’s parents did the noisy deed.

It turns out that Andrew took our loud graduation acclamation quite well. I’m not sure the people sitting directly in front of us did, however. They are probably still suffering from acute hearing loss to this day.

Last week — now four years later —Andrew was graduating again, this time from Boston University. As I sat in the backseat of the car heading for the festivities, I clung fast to my purse because I had something special in it. I hadn’t conferred with the rest of the family, but I thought why not? A grandmother deserves a little fun.

This time, however, we made sure to warn the people sitting in front of us before getting out our secret weapon — the cowbell. They gave us knowing smiles, and seemed to appreciate the heads-up we offered before “it” happened. However, when the time finally came for Andrew to get that diploma and we rang the old cowbell with gusto, those people who were immediately in front of us had moved to another row, and in their place were some poor unsuspecting folks bearing the brunt of our ear-splitting salute to Andrew full force. Now it appears that thanks to us, another whole family is doomed to have auditory problems for the rest of their lives.

This year the family had two more graduations to attend. First, my grandson RJ was graduating from a community college in Harrisburg, Penn., and we all went down to cheer him on. We are proud of him earning that degree. An Asperger’s Syndrome guy, he worked hard for that diploma and did it while he held down a job besides. It’s too bad we didn’t bring the cowbell with us because it turned out that the graduation ceremony was held in an arena called The Farm Show Complex. It would have fit right in.

Our final graduation comes this month when granddaughter Hope graduates from high school. She is a whirlwind of activity and fascinating to watch. When not in school, she’s either on a soccer field, involved in theater productions or volunteering for countless worthy causes in the area. I figure that these accomplishments alone will qualify her for a few rings on the old bell.

Once Hope moves off to college this fall it will seem pretty quiet around here. My daughter and husband will enter a whole new era: their empty nest period.

But wait! Not so fast. The house won’t be completely empty. I’m still over here in the in-law wing, aren’t I? And don’t forget, I’m the one who owns the rights to the cowbell. Chances are they are going to need it again in about four years. I just hope that when the time comes, I’ll still be able to remember where I put the darned thing.

Joann Snow Duncanson, a former Peterborough resident now living in Greenland, is the author of “Who Gets the Yellow Bananas?,” co-author of “Breakfast in the Bathtub” and author of her latest book, “Eight Crayons — Poems and Stories by an Almost Sane Woman.” Reach her at www.jsnowduncanson. com or email

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