Two years in a row, I've seen nieces graduate virtually, due to COVID-19.
Stay-at-home restrictions were just beginning to ease last year when my oldest niece graduated in early June from Charles A. Tindley School in Indianapolis, an accelerated program where students earn college credits early.
I was mostly listening to that ceremony, and my older sister was watching the live video stream while on our way to Indianapolis. We and other relatives would meet later that day to celebrate our niece and have dinner at the home of extended family.
This year, I initially scheduled June 7 off once my second niece confirmed earlier this year that as her graduation date. But as the months grew closer, the school announced graduation would again have attendance limits and eventually said each graduate would be granted just four tickets for in-person guests.
Along with her parents, my niece has three siblings – not to mention other close relatives in Indianapolis. I decided it wasn't critical for me to keep the day off.
Then the Thursday night before graduation, my niece called to let me know she would have two extra tickets. I contemplated how I could make it work to be there, but based on how staff schedules had evolved since I initially planned Monday off, it would have been a time crunch. And that would have made being there a bit less enjoyable.
So I decided I would watch the ceremony being held at a downtown Indianapolis auditorium through the school's YouTube channel.
Once the soon-to-be graduates marched in, I quickly spotted my niece standing in front of her auditorium chair and snapped a screenshot photo.
The program speakers, including a 2018 Tindley graduate who spoke eloquently, were good. The ceremony was about an hour.
When it was time for the conferring of diplomas and my niece's turn to walk up onstage, I grabbed a few more photos.
And then, I got to thinking, ... I had a pretty good angle – perhaps about the same as someone on the school's video team had. So in that regard, I almost felt closer than the graduation guests who all were seated in the balcony – away from the socially distanced students.
Now, I'm not naïve. I knew – even before seeing pictures posted to Facebook later that day – that my niece's mom and other family in Indianapolis would have close-up, in-person photos that exceed the quality of my virtual screenshots. But I appreciated being able to watch.
And I take comfort in knowing that a graduation open house is planned this month for my niece.
It's on a Saturday – one of my normal days off.
And I'll be there.
Snapping better photos.