30 years ago today, I was standing on the grass above my high school football field waiting in line to graduate. Standing in front of me was my friend, Erik Franklin, and in our hands were pieces of paper with our names on them.
I was thrilled that Mr. Babel, the business teacher at the high school, was going to be reading off the names to the crowd. He went to high school with my Dad so I knew that for once my last name would not get botched.
My classmates and I walked down the hill and one by one crossed the stage as Mr. Babel read off each name signaling that we had officially graduated. As each student passed by him, cheers erupted from friends and family in the bleachers.
Erik and I got closer to the stage, I wished him well and said, "Congratulations." He handed his slip of paper to Mr. Babel who announced in a deep voice, "Erik James Franklin." I applauded and screamed for Erik and got ready to accept my diploma.
Finally, I'd get to hear the words I'd wanted to hear for so long proclaiming I was officially done with high school.
I approached Mr. Babel center stage, handed him my slip of paper and walked past waving to friends and my family.
Within a few steps, I heard the last thing I expected.
Not some odd pronunciation of my last name like CVS is wont to do when they call about a prescription.
No. Mr. Babel said something I'd never heard before and haven’t heard since. Into the microphone, he bellowed "Robert Amy Gelfenbien" with great emphasis on the "Robert" part.
I was so shocked and almost off stage by that point so I didn't have a chance to say anything to him or even think about it. He was already onto the next graduate.
Instead, Erik and I cracked up as we hugged and bounded down the stairs as new graduates.
Later, when I watched the videotape with my family, I heard them hooting and hollering as I crossed the stage and then, when it got to the moment when my name was read, my Mom screamed, "Robin! Go back and correct him!"
There's a part of me that wishes that I did, but then again, I don't know if I would have any other memories of that day, so thank you, Mr. Babel for making my high school graduation absolutely unforgettable.
I'm glad I had a good sense of humor then and an even better one now.
Robert (better known as Robin) Amy Gelfenbien