A classmate informed me of the following tradition at her high school: “It’s a tradition for the graduating senior class at my high school in Virginia to get a wall – every person gets to write on it, who is a part of the class. There are only about 70 seniors every year, and the wall in painted a background color for them. People usually put significant quotes, and it’s always done at the end of the year. Started in cafeteria, and has moved to halls and stairways … but always on the walls of the hall or stairway. People in school are very close – the school goes from 6th-12th grade with only 600 total students…it’s an alternative to others in the area. It also promotes the arts, and is, or feels much more relaxed. It makes sense that, uh, what would be considered defacement is encouraged. It’s a way of remembering the previous classes – it’s inspiring.”
I agree with the idea of this tradition being inspiring and performed as a way of remembering those who came before you. Likewise, it is a means of preserving where you have been for those writing on the wall. Borrowing Van Gennup’s idea of rituals and “liminal stages,” this fits within the notion of the liminality of ending high school and commencement. It is a beginning and an ending, the conclusion of childhood with the onset of being an adult and all that is encompassed with it. Very often this time of an individual’s life is celebrated, and this example provides one more of the many ways in which group identity plays a part of the process. As the informant mentioned, it is a small school, everyone knows each other, and the writing on the wall is not only tolerated, but encouraged by the school’s administration. This definitely showcases one of the defining qualities of folklore, that of letting people know to which group they belong. Those who write on the wall know they have been part of this school, they will leave a part of themselves with the school, and the younger students see these textual memories throughout the year as a reminder of who they are and who they will be upon their graduation.