Monday, May 12, 2008

Excuse Me While I Turn up the Britney Spears so I Can Shake My Ass

On Friday night at 4:45 PM I zipped myself into a graduation gown. I tucked my hair under a mortar board and realized--for the first time--that there is an interesting advantage to having a horse face: I don't need bobby-pins to help secure my mortar board. Those things sit on my head like it's no big deal, no big shake. A few minutes later, after we arrived at the arena for graduation, I would watch dozens of female faculty members beg for bobby pins, but my horse head scoffed at the idea.


Anyway, once we arrived at graduation, we were ushered into a room to wait for the students to get organized into lines that would then be marched in front of us--all the faculty and staff--so we could appropriately rile them up. Some faculty members had pom-poms. Some had memorized chants. We were behaving badly. There was a loose excitement in the air. It was giddiness. It was electric. It was based on several things--first, we'd been promised cookies at the reception after the ceremony; second, we were going out for margaritas; third, we were free, free, free.

Faculty members were bouncing from foot to foot while the staff was trying over and over and over to get an accurate count of us, trying over and over and over to get us organized into our own neat, evenly-spaced lines. Many of us were famished and dreaming of cookie trays. I was looking longingly at the pictures of hot dogs and popcorn that dangled from the ceiling of our waiting room, which, during hockey games, serves as the snack bar. When one of my department-mates dug into his dangling gown sleeves to fish out a bag of trail mix, I was angry at myself for never thinking about hiding my own snack--Fritos, maybe?--in the long, boxy sleeves of my gown.

But then there was no time to covet the sleeve-snacks because suddenly everything was happening: we were actually in neat lines, and we were clapping. Two side-by-side lines of students were being led into the room. Everyone looked so cute. All the students were smiling and blushing and laughing. Pom-poms zipped into the air and teachers started calling out to their students as they passed.

I'd missed my own college graduation, so I had no idea of how a non-master's ceremony would go. In my wildest dreams, I would never have imagined something as sweet and festive as those first few moments when we all screamed and stomped and clapped until it felt like our hands were going to fall off. It was a graduation ceremony of the type I'd expect to see in an episode of Saved by the Bell--you know, with Mr. Belding high-fiving Zack and Slater, with Screech falling into the podium, with Jesse and Lisa and Kelly weeping into each others' gowns.

It felt pretty good. And this nice moment for the students was actually a nice moment for me, too. After all, it was the first time I stood as a full-time faculty member who was watching students she'd taught walk toward a stage to get their diplomas. There was a swell of happiness in my chest, and it stayed there until the last tassled head moved by.

Graduation--which, because it was masterfully planned, lasted only slightly over an hour, despite the fact that we had to walk 350 students--was the last real school obligation any of us had to deal with before we could walk away with brains that were already scheming things to do during our beautiful, lazy summer months.

And today I finished the very last of my grading. I snapped my gradebook shut, pleased with the rows and rows of numbers and letters and grades I had spent the better part of a week working up. And you can bet everything that the very next thing I did involved turning up my brand new Britney Spears CD and shaking my body all over this big, big room--a room that is filled with piles of clothes ready to be packed for Buffalo, for Mexico, for my first steps away from this semester and toward a summer filled with mojitos, blue skies, and weeks where I can write and slowly, slowly come back down to myself again.

1 comment:

JohnCub said...

Horse heads aren't so bad. My family sports the "melon-head" syndrome. Luckily I skirted any bobby pin issues. ;)