Monday, May 19, 2008
The Class of 2008
My niece graduated from college yesterday. My baby brother’s oldest girl. She is the second child to be born to our small circle; the first was my son, fourteen years before her.
I’ve mentioned L before. She is responsible for one of my favorite nicknames – “HiHiDi”. When she was a baby she’d delight herself (and me) by screaming “Hi Di! Hi Di!” every time she saw me. I could leave and re-enter a room a million times and each time – “Hi Di! Hi Di!” Even after she got sick of it the alleged adults in her life would beg for more. “L, say Hi to Aunt Di, say Hi”. Finally she’d get so tongue twisted that it would come out “Hi, HiDi” and family folklore was born.
Waking up at 4 AM on a Sunday morning can really remind you how much you love someone. By 5:30 we were on the road to the Motherland (Brooklyn) and by 6:30 we had picked up bagels, stopped at my brother’s house, consolidated cars and were on the way to Connecticut.
The skies were sunny and the temperature was perfect. The weather experts had forecast rain. I am so glad we ignored them! In the event of rain graduation would be held inside and only parents could attend. Everyone else would only be able to watch via closed circuit TV. My daughter-in-law and I discussed not going since the forecast was 70% chance of rain – what with the getting up at 4AM and all – it was an understandable discussion but we decided on campus, even if over TV, was better than not being there. This was L after all!
We thought we were outrageously early and almost decided to stop for breakfast #2. Trust me – when you’re up at 4 and you’ve driven many, many miles 9:30 seems like lunch time. The school is in a small town so all the restaurants were crowded and we moved on to the campus. Good thing! The ceremony was scheduled for 11:30 – it actually started at 10:30 – none of us knows why we had the time wrong, we’re good at being blissfully unaware. All the front rows were taken – some people had been there for hours. Gotta love a dedicated Grandma!
Speaking of dedicated Grandmas – my niece’s Grandmother made a bee line for the side section – direct albeit diagonal view of the stage and quickly claimed 8 little white folding chairs. So there we were – me – my brother the proud papa – his ex-wife the proud mama – her parents the proud grandparents – my daughter-in-law – my niece the proud little sis – and last but not least one of the proud cousins. My son had to work but we kept texting him progress reports and e-mailing him photos.
I love a good ceremony. I can do without long speeches by trustees and benedictions always give me the religious shakes but this one was pretty cool cause I loved the center of it all – my L in all her educated cap and gown glory! I got chills and was glad to hide behind my sunglasses while I watched all the lovely young men and women march out. They paint such a hopeful yet heart tugging picture. So strong in a fragile world. So much possibility in an uncertain time.
Lisa Ling gave the main commencement speech. She is a wondrous young woman and she spoke eloquently about activism and following your heart.
1363 young people received degrees yesterday. And I clapped for each name. When L was announced we all cheered (she heard us!) and I did my best Brooklyn “Yo L – Way to Go” – I am nothing if not a lady.
We spent a lot of time on campus after the ceremony. I’ll see if L will give me permission to share some photos. I only took a couple of hundred LOL
Then we drove into New Haven, stopped and admired Yale – as my brother puts it, the entire family doesn’t have enough organs to sell for L to have been able to go there - and then went on to dinner at a wonderful old deco style restaurant. I’ll put up some photos of the architecture soon.
We left L at her apartment to pack and say 4 years worth of goodbyes in a week.
Even Sunday night traffic from CT to NY and then on to NJ could not dampen a wonderful day.
Congratulations to the class of 2008 – each and every one of them in towns and cities all over this country. I hope the world gives them better leaders – leaders who will value them and keep them safe. Leaders who will inspire them. Leaders worthy of them.
As for my L – as if my son turning 35 last week wasn’t enough to lube up my tear ducts! This first baby of the brother I raised! This beautiful, strong, funny young woman! The world better be good to her or it will need to answer to me. And trust me – I have had skirmishes with the world before.
On the ride home last night my brother’s cell phone rang. It was his daughter – the graduate – calling from her apartment. She was doing what they do all the time. Calling her Dad to tell him what Seinfeld episode she had just caught and quizzing him on their shared favorite line.
I told my brother many times yesterday how proud I am of him; what a good Dad he is. It is so wonderful to see my son, my nieces do well. See them happy and healthy, enjoying their lives. One of the best gifts we can give the next generation is to pave the way, to leave a trail for them to follow, and to give them enough tools to always get back whenever they’re lost.
There are many theories about the cycle of neglectful and abusive parenting. I’m here to tell that it is possible to break the cycle – difficult? Yes! – but possible.
And on we go …