Please allow me one moment of parental pride. Our daughter, Stephanie, graduated from the University of Virginia this weekend. She “walked the lawn” along with thousands of other students en route to their destination: graduation. It has been her objective for four years. Poof! You are a graduate.
It doesn’t seem real to her. “My friends and I agreed,” she tells me, “we’re prepared to graduate, but we’re not ready to leave.”
She loves her university. Loved it from the start. She engaged, excelled, drank fully of the Wahoo cup. The last semester just couldn’t contain her. So many things she wanted to do, try, be part of, experience, before she left. Alas, every good thing must come to an end. And so it has.
She walked the lawn, found her seat among all her classmates, and sat behind many, many rows of graduate students, professional students, nursing students and others. LeBolt Stephanie Diane, there in the middle of the masses, most of the way to the back. So far back, in fact, that she couldn’t hear the graduation speaker, or the president of the University who stood and spoke the words she had waited four years to hear: “I confer upon you the degree of Bachelor of Arts, and all privileges belonging there in.”
I sat approximately 100 miles away, in the ticketed seats for ‘special guests.’ We saw it all on Jumbo-trons placed strategically along the lawn. I could hear just fine. It was an event. A spectacle. The advancing of a tradition. The pomp and circumstance, regalia and formality were right for the day.
Still, I came to celebrate my little girl. One in the crowd. Incredible blue eyes and the biggest, kindest smile you will ever see. I was glad that the departmental diplomas would be awarded in a small ceremony after the event.
Except we were prevented from entering by a tall, serious man behind blue velvet roping. His stance, frown and hand wave meant No Trespassing. We asked a nearby faculty member (you can pick them out by their colorful graduation gowns) where to get in and she directed us down and around and up 2 flights of stairs. This time we talked our way past Mr. No (from the inside) and were the first parental arrivals in the upper room.
The ceremony was more personal, albeit brief. Just a handful of grads to receive their scrolls and their handshakes. A few hugs and hearty well-wishes later, we are snapping last photos from a window atop the Rotunda looking out onto the lawn where many of the crowd are still gathered below.
We descend the steps and, reluctantly, make our way to the exit. “Thank you for coming,” says Mr. No, now pulling aside the roping so we can depart.
I chuckle at the irony. Four glorious years end with, “Thanks for coming.”
Our small procession, Mom, Dad, shiny new graduate and her 2 sisters, makes its way past the statue of Thomas Jefferson, past the steps of the Rotunda – well, around, because the nursing school grads are gathered on the steps – on the path toward homeward bound. We are ushering her off the premises, pausing for the traffic light at the corner. A police officer punches the walk-request button. We wait.
A baby blue convertible accelerates through the intersection. Its driver, a young Asian woman, waves happily at Steph and shouts, “You look smashing in your gown!” We all laugh as this driver disappears around the corner.
Steph smiles awkwardly, turning to us. “She probably thinks I am someone she knows.”
The Dean knows you Steph! You’re the one who looks smashing in your gown. You’re gonna knock ’em dead! She can tell by looking. Even in drive-by, on her way outta town.
The world says you’re worth more today than you were yesterday. They’re wrong. You had infinite value yesterday, as you do today as you will always. A pearl of great price. Worth selling all that I have to buy back. Smashing, indeed!