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The ‘Z’ Factor

All the commotion — and rightly so — over the lack of in-person graduation ceremonies during the COVID-19 pandemic brought back a funny memory. My son graduated from Wheeling Park High School in 2004. The commencement ceremony was held at WesBanco Arena, an appropriate venue for his size class and all the relatives and friends who came to witness the event. It was a hot day in May and the arena was a bit on the warm side.

As regular readers of this column know, my last name begins with the letter Z. On the day of our son’s graduation, we waited and waited and waited some more as the hundreds of names of the graduates were called. Each student mounted the steps to the stage to accept his or her diploma. It was a long and tedious process with families breaking into shouts and applause as their loved ones crossed the stage.

And then our son made his way to the stage to a roar of thunderous applause. It was not because of anything extraordinary that he did (he was an honor student, lettered in sports, etc.) It was because he was the last student in the Class of 2004 to receive his diploma, marking the end of the ceremony. It’s no wonder some of his best buddies had last names that begin with Z — they spent a lot of time at the back of the same lines.

I have become accustomed to being last when it comes to anything alphabetical due to the Z name. What I do not understand is the discrimination when it comes to the letter Z. Have you ever tried to have something monogrammed or etched with a Z? It’s not a common letter in most retail outlets. No Z hand towels to be found; forget a Z on a backpack.

I believe the lack of Z’s is due to the cursive Z that no one really knows how to correctly write. I will admit that it took me some practice to write my married name on checks and other forms.

It makes me understand why younger generations have opted out of writing cursive and prefer the printed version of the alphabet.

And with the advent of computers, we no longer have a course called penmanship. It’s obsolete when you can virtually sign any document online.

I have, however, found solace with the treatment of Z’s. Each spring I make an effort to push some tiny seeds into the earth.

And each year I am rewarded with the perfect gift of beautiful zinnias.

These flowers never disappoint in their ability to push through the ground and bring a smile to my face. Now that’s Z power.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.

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