Saturday, June 02, 2012

Graduation: the longer version.

Graduation already seems so far away; it was more than a week ago, and so much has happened since then. We have been looking forward to graduation for so long that it needs to be documented here. I think on the sidebar, May 24 was noted as "the end of the world as we know it" for a few months (I finally took that down today). Yes, the world of student life has ended for us. We have been students for all of our married life and, while it has its advantages (tax breaks, theoretically more flexible time than the average corporate job, most holidays off, serious character building, etc.) I am happy to move on. We are ready for a new beginning.

Back to Commencement...

Scott's parents and brother as well as my parents came to celebrate the day with us. It started early for me: I ran to Harvard Yard to scope out the scene at 5:30 a.m. I only saw a handful of people lined up, so I didn't think any drastic measures like camping out were necessary. I ran my last run with Anna, my running partner of at least a year who I've run thousands of miles with. She is spending the summer in Japan and I'm not looking forward to the silent miles for the next few months.

Scott's dad and mom and brother, my parents, Bruce and Phoebe, and Scott and I headed to Harvard Yard around 6:30. By then, the handful of people had turned into a crazy mob. The morning commencement was a ticketed event and each grad was only allowed two tickets, so Scott's mom Valerie and I attended while the rest of the party took the kids to the park and library.

Valerie and I got through the gate of Harvard Yard and found that the only available seats were in the back where we couldn't see anything. I held two seats while Valerie went in search of something better. She came back successful: she found enough space on the Widener Library stairs. They weren't seats and it wouldn't be comfortable, but at least we could see the graduates march in and see the speakers if we squinted.

The graduates marched in and every proud parent clustered into a mosh pit, elbowing for space to stand and take pictures while security officers nudged people to move on rather than stand in the walkways. Our perch on the stairs was great for people-watching. It was a racially diverse crowd, but it was overwhelmingly affluent: people wore big jewelry and fancy shoes, carried designer handbags, and flaunted perfectly coiffed hair. It reminded me of the red carpet at the Academy Awards - only everyone was packed together and the poor ladies in spiked heels were having more trouble on the soft grass of the Yard.

Valerie and I spotted Scott fairly easily when the medical school graduates marched in. There were about a dozen MD/PhD graduates with red robes and black cushy hats, and Scott is among the tallest. All the other med grads wore black robes and flat black caps. We snapped some great shots of Scott's ear as he marched by...

We sat through the speeches, the conferring of the degrees, and the music. Harvard's commencement has its own traditions: the county sheriff starts and adjourns the meeting wearing a top hat and stomping a tall cane three times (it must be the funnest thing he does all year long), one of the speeches is given entirely in Latin (with translation on the Jumbotron), and every speaker bows to the university president and board of directors before addressing the audience. I thought commencement would be pretty boring, but it was actually quite lively.

After the morning session, we met up with our party for lunch at Q'doba. We opted to skip the med school's luncheon to avoid having the kids make a scene, and showed up at the med school graduation in time to find two seats behind a camera guy's legs, and another cluster of seats near the back of the tent set up on the Harvard Medical School campus.

Once again, we split up but played musical chairs with our seats. I always sat near the front, but had several companions including my dad, Bruce, and Phoebe after she woke up from a nap. The medical school commencement was long. It had the obligatory speeches, but the longest part was the naming and hooding of every individual there. A few of the graduates had kids, and we were told the kids could walk across the stage with their parent. We weren't sure if our kids would make it since Scott was near the end; Bruce was grouchy since the iPod ran out of battery power, and Phoebe told me she needed to poop about five minutes before Scott was supposed to walk across the stage. I opted not to inform Scott of the latter detail until afterward; I suspected she was just bored and wanted an excuse to get out of there.

It could have been a complete disaster: Bruce rolling his eyes and dragging his feet, Phoebe losing her bowels on the stage. But it wasn't. Bruce was happy to be in the spotlight and even stuck out his hand for a few handshakes with important guys. Phoebe held it together and was thrilled to get a present. She and Bruce were given teddy bears with Harvard Medical School tee-shirts. Whew, we made it.

We gathered our group afterward for a few pictures, then headed to dinner at The Friendly Toast. We chatted over good food and reminisced. We finished the day with ice cream cake...

...and then packing bags. My parents came for just one day; I'm sad I didn't get to sit next to them during commencement, but I was so happy to have their support with me not only that day, but throughout the last few years (30 of them, actually). They left the next morning, as did Scott's dad and brother, who were also there for too short a time. Scott's brother needed to get home for his own high school graduation.

Scott and I left the next morning too, leaving Bruce and Phoebe for a week with Grandma Raymond. This epic adventure deserves at least a few posts, so stay tuned.

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Blogger Erica said...

No kidding about the crazy mobs at commencement. Why don't they put screens in the back, instead of only in the front where people don't need them as much? Grrr. But a huge congratulations to Scott and to you as well!

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