23 May 2009

Leaving North Park, Part 4: The Main Event

And then came Graduation.

The only other graduation I'd ever been involved in was, obviously, my high school graduation in 2005.  It might seem obvious, but I'd never graduated from college before, so I didn't know what to expect.  Here's what I figured out:  it was a lot more low-key.  Whereas the mood pre-graduation in high school was one of almost tense excitement, the graduates lined up in front of the library on May 9th were remarkably calm (with the exception of those of us who had just met our heroes, of course).  There was the obligatory squealing girl moments, of course, but generally it was a mood of....fatigue.  We were all exhausted from whatever exploits  we'd been up to the previous week---finishing papers, taking tests, moving out, partying too much, what have you.  The biggest source of drama were those damned hoods, with those who had it figured out rotating fellow graduates and pulling the swatches of blue and gold into their proper places.  We all lined up in our proper places, fixing our necklines and tassels, and when we started the walk across our pristinely manicured campus toward what felt like destiny, the fixing and the figiting and the nerves got worse. 

 Notice the people in the front of the line fixing things.  I tell no lies!

We eventually made our way into the gym, walking Noah's Ark-style (two by two).  I spied Becky and Scott in chairs on the floor of the room.  Ignoring all decorum and style, I hastily mouthed to them, "Did everyone get in?"  We had had a crisis in the Lambert-Hanson-soon to be Cheshire family; I only had four tickets to graduation, and there are now five and a half people in my immediate family--Mom, Dad, Becky (with child), Scott, and Kip.  Becky nodded and pointed behind me, where Mom, Dad, and Kip sat in the bleachers, all smiling.  I finally calmed down, found my seat, and took a breath while I tried to comprehend that this was all actually happening.

The beautiful and talented Lindsay Dudich (now Lindsay Bobbitt!!!!)

What is there to say about a graduation?  Anyone who's been through it knows what it's like to sit on a gym floor in polyester gowns, listening to speeches from people you probably don't know about things that you probably don't understand.  President Parkyn made some speeches, Phyllis Tickle was given her honorary doctorate and gave a splendid commencement address (which I smiled so hard through that my face hurt).  Then, the moment came--with surprising swiftness.  When Dean Peterson stood and faced President Parkyn, "Sir, as Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, I respectfully submit the following candidates for graduation...", the people in my row all looked around at each other, silently mouthing, "Already?"  We waited for the first four rows to stand and file out, applauding for our friends and feeling the growing anticipation.  And then it was our turn.  
We stood.  
We turned.  
We walked toward the stage entrance. 
As we walked toward the door, I saw Joe Lill, the professor who recruited me to North Park for the music department and who played a trumpet processional for about half an hour that day, bless his heart (or perhaps we should be blessing his poor lips).  He smiled, stood up, and walked right over to me, sweeping me up in a bear hug.  "Congratulations" he whispered.  I smiled and turned back into the line, absentmindedly fixing the hood of the guy in front of me as Joe huffed, "Oh for goodness' sake" and fixed mine.  Seriously, the hoods got more attention that day than the graduates did.

And then it happened.  I stood next to the stage curtain as Dean Peterson said, "Cynthia..." I took a breath..."Irene"....I started to walk..."Lambert".  

I had a grand plan to give Dr. Parkyn a hug instead of a handshake, but I chickened out in the end and settled on an arm pat with a "Thank you so much" (he was very polite and said "You're welcome") and then took my diploma.  We had a nice little moment.  Notice Phyllis Tickle smiling below my left elbow. :)

I would later be told by all of my friends that they had screamed while I walked across the stage, and by several people that my fiance had yelled something to the effect of "Cindy is my hero", but all I heard on the stage was a wash of sound and my heel clicks on the differing surfaces--hardwood, then carpet, then hardwood again.  We decided later that Kip should have yelled "Cindy, marry me!" for better effect...maybe at grad school.

After the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business and Non-Profit Management, the School of Education, the School of Music, and the School of Nursing had all received their diploma holders (actual diplomas will be sent in a month...lame), President Parkyn stood, looked at us as only an administrator can do and said, "Now, you've all received some praise, but it's time for you to show your thanks to those who deserve it as much as you.  Graduates, stand and applaud your those people behind y--"...he didn't even finish his sentence, for we had already all jumped up, turned around, and started applauding our parents and loved ones, mouthing silent "I love you"s and raising our diplomas in triumph.  
It was one of my favorite moments, standing and staring at Mom and Dad, clapping until my hands hurt and refusing to break eye contact despite the hundreds of people around me.  They deserved it.  I was glad to give it. 

There were few things I looked forward to/feared more than The Tunnel.  It's a North Park tradition for the professors to line the walkway to Anderson Chapel and applaud the graduates walking through after Graduation.  I looked forward to it because it's such a great tradition, but I feared it because I knew that as soon as I saw the Biblical and Theological Studies professors, I'd burst into tears.  Luckily (?) I was too dazed to cry and settled on just smiling at them a lot as Mary handed me a copy of "The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius" and Boaz gave me a CD of Hebrew chants, which was (appropriately) the only thing I wanted from him.  I'll cherish that thing forever.

We were all pretty dazed.  It was pandemonium.  

Me with three of my favorite and most influential people--Dr. Mary Veeneman, Dr. Joel Willitts, and Dr. Boaz Johnson.  

What else is there to say?  I hugged my way to the reception in Anderson Chapel, launched myself at the table of strawberries (I was so hungry!), and limped my way back to finish cleaning up the apartment (pretty shoes hurt!).  I took a nap on Kip's lap while we all drove out to the campground that my parents were staying at and had a barbeque.  The Dibleys came by with Lucia and Langsea, who took my hand and led me around, showing me interesting rocks and sticks and grass, and who gave me a kiss before she left.  My status on Twitter that afternoon read: "Recognized by Phyllis Tickle.  Kissed by Langsea.  Best day ever!"  

After they left, it was just my family and me.  We ate some cake from Coldstone Creamery and made a fire, eventually parting ways the next day after a Mother's Day brunch as Becky and Scott flew out of Midway, Kip and I flew out of O'Hare, and Mom and Dad hit the road for Maryland.

The eight of us:  Dad, Kip, Me, Becky, Steely McBeam (the as-yet unnamed baby!), Mom, Scott, and Sputnik, our faithful RV.

In the immortal words of Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."
I frantically finished papers.
I Baccalaureated.
I graduated.
Now onto real life....stay tuned.

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