I’m afraid the rain and chill followed us from Chicago, so all of the events leading up to and around graduation are cold and rain soaked. Umbrellas, puddles, and mud supplant the desired photo backgrounds. Visions of sun dresses and sandals are replaced by sweaters, jackets, and ponchos. Our daughter is wearing an extra layer for warmth, and sensible boots with her cap and gown.
While not ideal weather for an outdoor graduation, it won’t stop the proceedings. A tent worthy of Ringling Brothers gleams in the center of campus, and we navigate the waterlogged, muddy path to find our seats. Body heat from 2,000 parents and family members keep us pretty comfy under the tent. I’ve been to a few graduations before and while they all have roughly the same structure, each one has unique elements. The music, the colors, the speaker, the size of the class, and of course, the one person in the crowd you’ve come to cheer for.
No matter how engaging the speaker, every family there is just biding their time till they see their graduate approach the stage. Five or six people at a time leap up shouting a name as their special person shakes a hand and clutches a scroll.
The day we moved our daughter onto campus to start her freshman year, it rained. After ferrying multiple boxes, suitcases, and supplies from the nearest parking lot to the dorm, we looked like drowned rats. In the pictures that day my hair was oddly wavy, but we were smiling. Happy that our daughter was happy. Excited for the adventure she was embarking on. And maybe the rain hid our tears. No matter how ready you think you are, when they take that big step, you pause and gulp a little.
Now four years later, the rain is back, ushering her out as it ushered her in. But she’s grown. Independent, thoroughly capable, and brimming with ideas, she has packed everything up herself and will drive home, while we fly. We never doubted her ability, or determination, but it’s one of those moments when you have to stop and take notice.
We hear her name, she’s crossing the stage, and it’s official! Not too long afterward, students and faculty began their recessional. She passes close enough to our seats for us to wave and get a picture. The emotion catches me off guard. Our girl, launching into her life! We clap as she sails past in her sensible boots, off to conquer the world!