My honor for high school graduation was the graduation video. This was a 10-minute audio-visual affair, which, back in those days, meant a narrated slide show. I took the institution to new heights by including actual video footage of the student body taken with the family camcorder. The footage I took was of a mass of students from a distance, because it would not be right to display the actual graduates at an event for which men were present.
I was quite proud of this job. After all, the valedictorians only got five minutes each, and nobody except their parents would pay attention. I had ten minutes to say my part, and people would pay attention because my speech came with visual stimulation. Oh, and I didn’t have to go up on the stage and speak in front of an audience. In fact, I didn’t have to speak at all – my co-producer did that. How much better could you have it?
I don’t remember my narrative at all. It was probably the usual graduation tripe about using the foundation provided by the school to go forth and build a bayis ne’eman biYisroel. It was easy to illustrate with stock photos of inspirational themes. Sunrises, sunsets, mountains to climb, piles of laundry to conquer…
Well, not the last one.
There is only one line I remember, and that’s because it was not easy to illustrate. In fact, it was impossible to illustrate. It was about mothers and daughters spending time together.
After a frustrating evening spent looking for an appropriate photo, we gave up and threw in a picture of an anonymous woman and daughter in an amusement park.
The video was completed by the deadline necessary to get it post-produced (this was before you could bang this kind of thing out on your laptop, let alone your phone). But then, the day of the deadline, the Rebbetzin asked to see it. (To be fair, I don’t know why we thought we could publish anything without her review.) The Rebbetzin loved the entire video – except that mother-daughter photo.
Firstly, it was a picture of a woman. Secondly, it was some random woman. Not that it would be better if the woman was a student’s mother — that would be worse! But why were we illustrating the concept of motherhood with a random mother?
Maybe we could have searched longer. Maybe we could have found a pair of mismatched silhouettes in the sunset with a high enough resolution that it would have worked.
But it was past deadline, I had finals, and I was ticked off by the censorship. So, I yanked the amusement park and replaced it with the first non-womanly thing that showed up in the image search. So instead, when the narrator grew sentimental about mother-daughter quality time, the picture that came up had no humans in it.
There was a mother and daughter elephant.
High school graduation is a solemn affair, and ours was more solemn than most. But for a few brief seconds during the graduation video, the audience was rolling in the aisles.