It's 4:30 in the morning, and I am in a motel room in Terre Haute, Indiana, basically killing time until I can leave. Much as I would like to leave now, people always get killed on the highway at 5 in the morning, plus I'd miss the free breakfast. So I'm waiting until 5:30 to take a shower, pack up the cat, grab some chow, and hit the road.
The last few days have been a whirlwind, leading up to Friday, one of the most bittersweet days I have ever had. Graduation Day.
I had showered the night before and put my hair up in rollers, so when I got up on Friday morning (after a restless, tearful night full of dreams about papers I forgot to write which meant I couldn't graduate), all I had to do was get dressed. My grandmother, grandfather, and brother had all arrived the day before, and we all had a nice breakfast before I hit the road, as I had to be there early to get into my cap and gown.
They had bobby pins, safety pins, hairspray, and mirrors set up for us in one of the classrooms. I had Susannah fix my hair and cap, there being absolutely no way I was going to wear the point down over my forehead like you're supposed to, because it looks awful that way on me. She made a little poof with my now-curly bangs and pinned the cap on, and it ended up looking really nice.
At about 10:10, we all started herding out to the front of the school. Our graduation was set up on a lawn at the college next door to the law school. (It is not, for those keeping score, the college with whom we are affiliated. It's just a college that happens to be next door and happens to have the same name, which confuses the hell out of everyone.) We were given a little chart that told us how to line up so we would file into our seats correctly once we got there.
I should say here that it really could not have been more perfect weather-wise. We had had six straight days of rain, and no one wanted to be indoors for the graduation, but on Thursday it started to clear up, and on Friday, there was not a cloud in the sky. It was sunny, 75 degrees, a slight breeze... only perfect.
We marched in to the traditional pomp and circumstance music. I had seen my family earlier, showing my brother the school, but I didn't know where they were sitting, so I don't remember much about walking in except looking around for them. It wasn't until I got to my seat that I found them, and they had just happened to pick seats on the left, rather than directly behind us or on the right, which was great, because my seat was third from the left end of the row. I didn't even have to lean to look over and see them, which made me happy.
I couldn't really complain about the weather, because it was just gorgeous, but it did get a little hot, sitting there in black caps and gowns, with the sun directly on us. I was thankful that (a) I remembered my sunglasses and (b) Samantha offered me sunscreen in the robing room, because I hadn't even thought of that. I still got quite a tan, and all the girls ended up with a little upside down triangle on our throats from the hood (the thing post-secondary graduates wear down the back of the gowns, which you have to hook to your robe at your neck.)
The ceremony itself was nice, a bit uneventful. They did a little thing about the merger with Penn State (my law school was acquired by PSU the summer before I started, and the end of the three-year affiliation period is the end of June, which is when the merger is finalized), we bestowed an honorary degree on some British guy (I shouldn't be that flippant, apparently he's the highest-ranking jurist in the U.K.), Governor Ridge spoke (I can't for the life of me remember anything about what he said), and then it was our turn. We went through about half an hour's worth of recognition of award winners and honor society members, during each phase of which people were asked to stand and face their families as their names were read. They did it in groups, and I didn't even know they were going to do a phase of trial team members, but they did, so I got to stand up. That was kind of cool, and I don't think my mother ever put the camera down.
And then, the procession across the stage began. I clapped for everyone, hooted and hollered for my friends. When it was finally my turn, I made sure I reached for my diploma with my left hand so I could shake the dean's hand with my right, and as I did so, I glanced out at my class, this sea of black with purple tassels, and I was proud. The whole thing had a very surreal feeling up until that moment, when I realized what we had accomplished. What I had accomplished. And it became very real.
And then it was over. After the recessional, I hugged a few classmates, then walked around to where my family was. My mother was crying, my father was beaming, we found a nice spot under a tree and took a bazillion pictures. They fed us, good picnic food, and then my family went home, leaving me behind for a while to say goodbye to my friends.
That was tough. But I didn't cry, not yet.
Back at home, we had ice cream cake and presents. Very bountiful, including some serious cash from my grandmother, which will be very helpful in getting me through an unemployed summer.
It was a wonderful day, just what a graduation day should be. Ceremony. Recognition. Applause. Closure.
Time to move on.