Ok, so last Spring I decided that I was going to walk for Graduation. Or walk to graduation. Or Walk in Graduation. Whatever you call it. I was going to put on a funny robe and hat and sit somewhere and listen to people talk about the future and shit. I was mostly doing this for my parents who have always felt cheated that I didn't walk when I got my B.S. But I was so disillusioned about my degree when I finally (after 6 years) got it (hmm, maybe it's not them, maybe it's me?) that I didn't want to have anything to do with any pretending that I was happy to have it or that it represented some sort of accomplishment on my part (by that point I felt that they owed me a degree because I'd finally paid enough money and blood to them). So I didn't walk. And for years (years!) was treated to the whole our-oldest-daughter-graduated-college-and-didn't-care-enough-about-us-to-let-us-see-her-parade-around-in-a-stupid-gown-and-hat-she-must-not-really-love-us-after-all speil so that I promised them that if I ever got another degree I'd let them watch.
So. Last April. I'm on track to graduate. Successfully defended, passed all my courses, blah, blah, blah (this is before the Epic Struggle to Ensure That the Titles of the Poems in My Thesis Were All Exactly The Same Space Down From the Top of the Page and Not (As Some of Them Insisted Upon Being) Off by ONE MILLIMETER -- I kid you not. One Millimeter. The Thesis Editor had to hold the pages up to the light to point it out to me. This first epic struggle was the first thing to delay my graduation, but, as I said before, this story takes place before that...) I had made certain that my name was listed on the graduation program and that it was spelled correctly. I was ALL SET to graduate. Even though I never received any information about graduation or what would happen that day. Even though the only way I knew that I had to order my cap and gown was the big sign in front of the bookstore that read "LAST DAY TO ORDER CAPS AND GOWNS" I never did order any personalized annoucements. The (non-personalized) ones I did buy I didn't bother to mail to anyone. I handed a few to my parents as souvenirs.
I invited my parents to commencement. I didn't know when or where it was, but I told them they could come. They wanted to know if they should let my Grandparents and Aunts and Uncles know. No, I replied to them, this is not a big deal. It's not like I'm getting a Ph.D. or anything... ha. hahaha. ha.
Like I said, I never received anything in the mail about the specifics of graduation. I did get an email from the Graduate Assistant from Slothville asking me if I wanted her to invite any of the faculty to be at graduation for me. I wrote back to her to ask: "why would I need to invite faculty to be there? Wouldn't they be there already? Was there some special reason I needed faculty there?" "No," she replied, "just if you want to make sure that faculty you care about are there to see you graduate..." Huh, well, if there wasn't any specific reason I needed specific faculty there, I wasn't going to bug them into attending if they weren't already planning on it. I hate to inconvenience people...
Luckily Lauri (who was NOT set to graduate) received the information about when and where commencement would commence. And so she passed that info on to me who passed it on to my parents. Who asked me (again) if I wanted them to pass it on to any of the other family members. Again, I told them it was No Big Deal.
The day of Commencement I put on my funny robe and Kristin and I and my parents (and my 2 year old niece) go to the University. I leave them behind and make my way down to the floor where the other Masters candidates are. And there I learn of my folly. I had thought that there was nothing substantively different from an MA and an MFA in terms of graduation. Not so. Not so at all. In fact, it is quite different. And it is only because one of the busy people fluttering around trying to get eveyone into their correct spaces overheard my talking with Jennifer about my MFA that I ended up in the correct place. See, I don't know if it's this way anywhere else, but at the U, MFAs sit with the PhD students. In fact, MFAs get treated EXACTLY THE SAME AS PhDs. In other words, as we walk, some high-uppity-up reads a lovely little paragraph about our accomplishments, our Thesis, our committee, and then we are hooded just as if we are receiving a PhD by our committee chair. Yeah. The Committee Chair whose presence I didn't know I needed to request.
I sat there, furiously scribbling on a piece of scratch paper my paragraph for the upppity-up to read, while the assistant person tapped his toe over my unpreparedness, and quietly panicked.
A searing, searching glance through the assembled professors was enough to tell me that no, no member of my committe had decided to show up to graduation on a whim. Jackie Osherow, the woman who had encouraged my application to grad school, who had been the closest thing to a mentor I had (though she was on leave when I had to put my committee together) WAS there, but was too far away for me to get her attention or shout my need for a hooder.
My anxiety grew as I realized that this was a bigger deal than I had prepared for. And I was going to be the only person-to-be-hooded without someone special to do their hooding. I imagined the confusion in front of the podium as I stepped forward to be hooded and no one was there to do it. I imagined how I would look around at the assembled masses and triumphantly TRIUMPHANTLY! hood myself.
In fact, I was so worried about this, that I missed the cue for me to get out of my seat, and I actually had to run to get into position for my triumphant march toward hoodiehood. In fact, I stumbed on my triumpant march. I didn't fall, but I was considerably less graceful than I had planned.
And as I was recovering from my stumble, and had a sinking feeling about how my whole hooding myself thing wasn't going to look so cool after all, Kate Coles stepped forward to hood me.
I had had one class with her and adored her. I hadn't met her when I had to put my committee together, but after I did meet her I regretted not having her on it. She is the sweetest person. And there she was, stepping forward automatically, a big smile on her face, to hood me and give me a big hug. And just after that this picture was taken.
I got lots of crap from my grandparents about not inviting them to what turned out to be such a Big Deal. And I got lots of crap from my parents for downplaying the whole thing so they didn't bring their camera.
And I swore that I would make certain that all my other MFA friends would know that graduation was a Big Deal and they need to have their Committee Chair there. And I swore that if I am ever a professor and I ever sit on some person's committee, that I will find out the specifics of that University's graduation procedure, and let them know what is going on. And I will always make certain to attend the ceremonies of my students.
You all know that I didn't graduate in May, and so even though I had paid for these pictures, they never arrived. And they didn't arrive when I didn't graduate in August either. But I didn't care about pictures by then, so I wrote them off.
And then, just last week, they arrived. Out of the blue.
I guess they weren't allowed to send them to me until I had really graduated.
Because, Lord knows, a picture is proof of a diploma.