Some days feel as if they belong to you. A special departmental lunch is being thrown in your honour, handshakes and congratulations are in abundant supply, and you’re the one whose name is read out as you walk across the stage. You worry about tripping in the new shoes you bought for the occasion. Perhaps you won an award, so the applause is even louder? Soak it up, they say.
Last monday, we filed a lesson in the exact opposite. Of course it was a special day, but it was never ours to lay claim to. It belonged to the friends who lived, learned and loved alongside us, it belonged to the parents, lovers and friends who have been generous with their time and affection. My sister rushed down from work, sam was waiting by the end with my favourite flowers, and when the valedictorian asked for a show of hands from parents whose love would not change regardless of their child’s qualifications or accomplishments, I looked up and saw my father’s hand shoot up high and proud. I had promised myself that I wouldn’t get weepy, but in that moment it could not be helped.
Other favourite moments: losing my friends in an ocean of blue robes and clumsy tasselled hats after leaving the auditorium, only to find that our parents had magically happened to cluster in the same area. We had split up to find them, but somehow that led us all back together again. Free-flow hugs. A dinner of margaritas, crab cakes and chocolate tortes. Realising two things — that I can finally have my boyfriend and family at the same table and no longer break a sweat (!), and that there are no clean ends and beginnings here. We are still ourselves, and holding that constant, have things not been set into motion already?