I invigilated the CAT exam. Myself, and another two adults, were trapped for long hours in the computer lab. We passed the time by walking amongst the students, checking up on them.
I remembered invigilating other Matrics years before, at a private school in Cape Town. There, the students had been dressed in casual clothes, and a few had showed off their tattoos. Others had sported various facial piercings. The hair of many had been long, and some had dyed it black, and it had hung, lank and scraggly, over their eyes.
They were very different to the Knysna High Matric students who I watched over the other day. But, the look in their eyes had been the same.
They had also had that wide eyed, just a little afraid, resigned gaze that the eighteen year old has, just as they are about to put pen to paper, or make their first strike on the computer keyboard, at the start of an exam.
That look is probably universally the same.
I’ve seen that gaze, again and again over the last few weeks.
This season, the eighteen to nineteen year old season, is probably the one in which the most changes in any one life occur. In a planned sense, I mean.
In a way that is scheduled, like trains pulling up at station platforms.
L and I were privileged to attend the Matric Farewell the other night. I hardly recognised the students under their hairstyles, their suits and their extravagant, shiny dresses.
Only their eyes remained familiar.
Again there was that wide eyed gaze, just a little afraid, with a hint of trepidation and more than a touch of bravado.
There was also another group of Matrics, and another Matric Farewell, which we attended a few years ago.
That group of Matrics had lived in a very small dorp in the Langkloof.
On their special night, they had seemed to me to be like so many fresh fruits, just plucked and put out on show. It was an orchard town, and they were like the latest harvest, beautifully displayed, in the NGK Church Hall.
In Knysna we all pretend to be much more sophisticated, but Knysna always strikes me as being very similar to how our Matrics were, on their special night out.
At heart Knysna is really only a country girl, dressed up in an adults’ ball gown.
We made a slightly worried crossing of the lagoon that night, to Featherbed on the other side. In reality we were acting out the crossing that each Matric was making in their own lives.
I do spare a thought for my own son, who completed his own passage just one, short year ago. He has crossed continents and cultures since then. It seems that the journey just goes on and on, during this season of life.
There have been numerous other social events and ceremonies at Knysna High this term.
We watched the appointment of the new prefects for next year.
Our Matrics shed their badges and responsibilities just like the emerging butterfly, which I drew with Koki pen, on a hostel girl’s white shirt, on the last day. The wings of that butterfly were later patterned with the scrawled signatures of many friends, all getting ready to take flight.
On that last day, the Valedictory, a wild gleam was added to the other twinkles in the eyes of all the eighteen year olds.
They were, for a moment almost fearless, taking to the streets of Knysna with banners and flags and an occasional toyi toyi, like some, slightly awkward, revolutionaries.
I see the intention to study hard now, in the resigned gaze of our hostel Matrics.
We have made our own intentions, when we pat their shoulders, and speak our encouraging words. We will serve hot drinks, and make muffins, and wrap them round with warm blankets, as if they were on the deck of a ship in a wild sea.
Other than that, this is a crossing that they will have to make alone.