The Old Fashioned

Today was hard.

Today, I passed out caps and gowns to my seniors.

In a mask, socially distanced, with some of my best teacher-friends.

And not hugging every single kid was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in a long while (and I suspect I was not alone in this). Some of these kids show up to Zoom chat almost every day. Some I see when I walk through my neighborhood. Some I know will be life-long friends. But some, I haven’t seen since March 13, and I wonder if I’ll ever see them again.

The problem is — I LOVE my job. It took me a long time to decide what I wanted to be. Teaching isn’t something I just fell into; it was a hard-fought, conscious choice. And I love my kids.

And I’m used to working so hard to make graduation perfect for them. Every year, I work with valedictorians on speeches and comfort the ones who *just* missed it — because, in case you’ve forgotten, Calculus is hard, y’all.

I will never forget working graduation as a first year teacher positioning chairs on the field with a ruler so they’d be perfectly spaced — while a seasoned veteran bellowed instructions using a bullhorn from the stadium seats.

Or the year it rained right before the ceremony started and I dried all 200-some-odd chairs with old towels the football coaches found for me so that no kid would have to sit in a puddle. Or the year it rained DURING the ceremony…

I could go on, but watching the sun set over the stadium while 200 kids I love cross the stage is truly one of the best parts of teaching seniors.

Graduation is the longest day of the longest week of my teacher-life… and I would give A LOT to be able to make it happen this year — even in July.

But for today, I sat outside and enjoyed the sunshine. And rode bikes with my 10 year old. And made myself the Old Fashioned that my great aunt — one of the strongest, smartest women I know — taught me one Thanksgiving a long time ago.

And yes, I shed a few tears for the class of 2020. They will forever be in my heart, and I hope that this experience only makes them stronger, more empathetic, and even better equipped to make our world a brighter, healthier place.

Aunt Glenna’s Old Fashioned


  • 1 tablespoon simple syrup (see below)
  • 1 1/2 ounces good bourbon
  • 1-2 dashes Angostora bitters
  • 1 maraschino cherry (Luxardo preferred)
  • 1 piece orange rind


  • Make the simple syrup. Bring 1 part sugar and 1 part water to a boil. Allow to cool to room temperature. *Usually, I prepare a cup at a time. This keeps well in the fridge in a mason jar, but on more than one occasion, I’ve had a friend ask if it was moonshine. So labeling may be key.
  • Pour 1 one scant tablespoon of simple syrup into an old-fashioned glass. Add the bourbon and bitters and stir. (“Not too sweet!” — Aunt Glenna).
  • Add ice.
  • Garnish with the cherry and a piece of orange peel (not a whole slice, because, in the words of a my aunt, “It’s a cocktail. Not a fruit salad.”)


3 thoughts on “The Old Fashioned

  1. Love it, Katherine! You are a great teacher because of the love you have for those kids. It shows! No high school graduation …… what a let down! You help soften the blow.
    PS — you probably already do this, but if you muddle the Luxardo cherry and BIG piece of orange rind before you pour in the bourbon, it releases the zest into the whiskey…. delicious! —Nancy


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