I wrote this back in the Spring of 2008, about the graduation weekend of my daughter. It was written for the basketball message board, so it is full of inside references.
The Boss and I actually get underway from Savannah a little early, which is unusual. The animals are all at the vet. The Boss told them they were going to a spa. If they are upset about that, they will forgive us, since we are bringing them back a surprise.
I’ve established communication links with Pink Hair and ’04. He’s flying down from Chicago for the event. This text messaging thing can be really handy.
We stop for gas and food at exit 48 north of Columbia. Standing in line, I hear a “Go Wildcats!” behind me. A Cornelius man has noticed my red Witness T-shirt, and we have a short conversation. I’m still not used to this kind of thing.
Thanks to modern technology we know ’04 is on time, and we call him from the airport lobby, and meet him at the proper baggage claim. One group hug, and we’re off to Exit 28 and the motel. Just as we get to the room, Pink Hair calls to complain about having to go to Baccalaureate, but gets no sympathy. We rest a while, change clothes, and head for the campus.
With typical Davidson hospitality, there are shuttle carts available at the Baker parking lot, but we’re in no hurry. We find a bench to sit on and wait until we see the black robes filing out of the church. We locate each other, and Pink Hair and ’04 head off to her dorm room to ditch the robe. The Boss and I head for the steps of Chambers, where we are meeting Michael Kruse.
After a while someone who looks like he could be a Michael Kruse shows up, and we introduce ourselves. He’s been curious to see what a 40 year prodigal looks like. We talk about the run and what things were like in Savannah. When Pink Hair and ’04 get back, we head for the President’s Dinner on the lawn.
Michael is still researching of course, and I enjoy watching him work. As Pink Hair said later, “He just asks a few questions, and then we start to perform”. She is certainly just talking about herself, because I am much too quiet, shy and reticent to say much. Tuba joins us at the table later on, and adds his comments.
We leave as the ever efficient staff are cleaning up and folding up the tables. I always enjoy watching the sheer competence and organization displayed at these events. Tomorrow all evidence of dinner will be gone and this same location will be ready for graduation. Michael has filled up enough pages in his notebook, so he heads out. I think Atlanta is next on his itinerary. Watch for him in your town!
Now it’s time for the departmental open houses. We go first to the English department. I expect the compliments paid to Pink Hair, since that is the nature of such events, and rightly so. However, one professor actually points out the flaws in the first section of Pink Hair’s last paper, and only says nice things about the second part. I’m impressed, and give more credence to the other comments.
There is lots of academic gobble-de-goop tossed around, and ’04 joins in with the big words. I keep waiting for a question about accounting software so I can contribute, but it never happens. And there is no beer.
Part of the discussion is about an academic conference coming up this summer in Chicago. Since Pink Hair’s last paper for one professor fits the subject of the event, he has asked her to update her work and submit it. If it is accepted, she may present it to the group. One area for the conference is the old Brit TV show “Dr. Who”. (I swear, I am not making this up!)
Then we’re off to the Anthropology event, so ’04 can catch up with his professors. I discover a cultural fact. The on-campus parent/graduate party later on is called “Beer Truck” for short. I consider announcing that this is a very Post-Modern name, but I fear the wrath of my highly educated and easily insulted children so I desist.
We head off to “Beer Truck”. (That’s such a good name for a party!) Pink Hair skips out for an hour to shoot more video for her YouTube series. Tuba is her cameraperson and she needs to get in a few more scenes. On the planet where I live, one does not delay a trip to “Beer Truck” for such an activity.
“Beer Truck” has all the feel of a DC event, lots of organization, efficiency and security. I get carded, for the first time in “several” years. I thank the staff for that. They even pretend to carefully examine my ID.
It’s really a fine party, but the Boss and I find our tolerance for loud music and crowds has diminished over the years. A short time after Pink Hair arrives from her video gig, we head back to the motel. I guess this is my last chance to say “Beer Truck”. I really need to find more conversations where I can say “Beer Truck”.
We’re up early for the 7:30 Legacy Breakfast, for graduates with alumni parents. Once again, and you may be getting bored with this, but it is impeccably organized and conducted. The food is also a lot better than my usual grocery store bagel.
The Boss asks Pink Hair, “Is this the room where you usually eat?”
“Yes. In fact, we eat at this table a lot.”
“Is the food always like this?”
Tom Ross (Tommy-Tom to the students) speaks, all the graduates introduce themselves and their families, and a graduating senior makes a short but compelling talk. The basketball run gets a brief mention, but it’s not the main focus today.
The graduates are expelled from the breakfast to get ready to march, and the rest of us wander off after a while. Graduates are streaming toward Chambers, with their robes open and showing a lot more individuality than the formal ceremony to come. We pick out seats in the shade, next to where we think the procession will pass. We’re wrong, of course.
Soon the faculty files out and forms their gauntlet, and the march begins. The Boss likes the fact that the graduates and faculty talk and wave and hug during the procession. This is a happy time.
The festivities go on, starting with the awards. I’m pleased that the non academic staff are recognized right along with the faculty, as they should be. I also am pleased the Davidson tradition of no outside speaker is still in force. Just a tiny bit of Neil Diamond sneaks into Tom Ross’ address.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, the main event commences. The names are a lot more varied than 1968. Average hair length has gone up a lot as well.
After Pink Hair makes her trip across the stage, we have time for a pit stop. This is a major advantage to an outdoor ceremony. At the risk of repeating myself, I note there are signs and attendants to make this important function run smoothly.
Walking along behind the crowd, The Boss says, “Look, there’s Steph. Do you want to go touch him?” That actually doesn’t sound like such a bad idea, but I keep walking. I also see Coach McKillop standing in the back. Somebody is introducing himself with some lame pretext. Coach seems to be well dressed, and his hair looks pretty good too.
Since “Me” comes right after “Mc” we hear a few chants of “Boris, Boris” on our way, but the lines are long enough that we miss the “Ri” and “Sa” sections.
Back in our seats, we hear the last of the names and watch the hats fly into the air. Chambers lawn turns into a freshly kicked ant hill, with creatures in black swarming all around. Lots of hugging ensues, and billions of pixels are sacrificed in a multitude of cameras.
I pass behind two girls making their goodbyes, and overhear. “Have fun in Vietnam!” I don’t think I heard that in 1968.
As our little group finds some breathing room, I hear, “Look, it’s Pink Hair!” Two sisters come up to greet us. They are both message board fans (“I read, but I don’t write.”) Despite never having met her, they are somehow able to pick our celebrity daughter out of the crowd. They are here for their own graduate, but spend some time with us.
Pink Hair has a photo op with her friends, and heads off to change clothes. The Boss and I head for the book store, which is now open in true capitalistic fashion. She looks for trinkets to take back to her fifth grade class, and I wander the aisles. On one shelf I see a nice red coffee mug. It shouts “It’s a great day to be a Wildcat!” and commits sellicide by leaping into my shopping basket.
We collect a few friends and all head off for a festive lunch, complete with multiple shared desserts. After the morning’s early start, lots of excitement and more food than usual, naps seem to be in order, so the old folks (including ’04) head off for the motel.
Later on in the afternoon, a random thunderstorm douses the area. This one is more polite than its cousin in 1968, which arrived in the middle of the ceremony. My diploma still shows the water spots.
Throughout the last few days of celebration, Pink Hair has neglected to make any progress in packing up, so we head back to her room in the early evening. I carefully refrain from making any references to the Aegean stables. After we make enough progress that tomorrow’s task seems doable, we head out for supper at Bon-Sai.
The fortune cookies are all optimistic.
Hanging out in the breakfast room at the motel, we see several other sets of parents and naturally get into conversations. One asks me my graduate’s name, but that gets no recognition. Then I say, “Otherwise known as Pink Hair.” “Oh, we saw her!”
’04 has a 9:00 appointment with his professor at the coffee shop. He claims he’s getting career advice, but I think he’s avoiding more packing and loading. When we get to the traffic light to turn right on Main, we look off to the left at the Admissions office. A couple with their high school kid are starting the tour, escorted by one of the staff. They’re all carrying bright red folders. The cycle never stops.
Over the past year, Pink Hair has developed an intense emotional bond with her $30 Goodwill sofa. That, and the fact that we have more human beings than usual along on this trip, requires me to rent a truck for this retrieval. This means she will now have a $400 sofa, so I guess she’s moving up in the world.
One slight glitch arises, as the truck has not yet been returned by the previous renter. We have to wait a bit, but when he does arrive he apologizes and gives me a nice new NASCAR hat as compensation.
I discover that loading up after year 4 is not much more pleasant than loading up after 1, 2 or 3. Also, knowing we have the truck means that less culling has been done. I’m glad we didn’t try to do this on Sunday. We have to work around the Physical Plant folks who, naturally, are already hard at work on summer projects.
’04 redeems himself and actually does show up in time to help load. I slice my finger on a nail on the stupid sofa and almost strain my back. I begin to worry that it may become a $1000 sofa due to medical bills, but finally it’s on the truck and I have survived. I definitely appreciate the elevator in Belk, although I’m surprised it doesn’t have a donor name engraved on it.
’04 has to catch his plane, so he and The Boss head for the airport in the car. Pink Hair goes to turn in her Post Office key. There is one box left in her room, so I head up to get it. As the elevator door opens, two girls start tossing their stuff out of it into the hall. I wait, since they are going to ride back up.
As fellow passengers, we get to talking. “Congratulations!” I tell them.
“That’s right, we’re alumni now!”
“I’m going to go to the bookstore and get an alumni sticker!”
This is a bit too much for me. “Well, I wouldn’t go THAT far.”
“Oh, I guess you’re right.”
We reach the fourth floor, and they start singing as they go down the hall. I grab the last box, and as I head back down I hear, “So good! So good! So good!”
Pink Hair and I meet at the back of the truck, and I pull down the big door.
Rumble Rumble Ratchety Rack – Click. We’re done.
I turn to Pink Hair. “Welcome to the Alumni Association.”
“Not ‘til we’re off campus.”
We make it to the airport, and Pink Hair shifts to the car. Time has gotten a bit short and they need to ransom the animals, so they go on ahead. I’m left in the big slow truck.
Driving those familiar 200 miles, I realize that my 8 years worth of accumulated knowledge of on and off ramps, fast food populations and bathroom availability will no longer be particularly valuable. But I’m happy.
It was a great weekend to be a Wildcat.