[Got a little story for ya, Ags.]
There are no pictures of my college graduation. That year, 1999… fourteen years ago this week, was the dawn of the digital camera for my family, and my graduation was the maiden voyage. We should have thought that through a little better.
Let’s say a “delete all” command was accidentally imposed. Surely, that doesn’t mean ALL the photos are ACTUALLY GONE. Actually, that’s exactly what it means. Hence no photos. Picture me, in a gown, with a very Texas-humid frizz halo under a graduation mortar and you have a pretty good idea.
There are three things I remember most about my graduation. The first I have already shared. The second is the mental picture of my family in the brand new Reed Arena, high up in the mezzanine seats behind me and to the right. We students were threatened with our lives if we snuck out early, but that didn’t stop the A through Ms from taking a “bathroom break” during the ceremony- with their diploma- and never returning. Their parents’ seats, oddly enough, began to empty out at the same time. Soon, more than a quarter of the seats in the house were empty as families began to jet across town to dinner resevations and beat the rush out of the parking lot.
But I was an ‘S’, you see. Nowhere for me- or my parents- to go until the very end. So I sat. I read the book I’d brought along, and in time, shuffled down the aisle, up the steps, and across the stage. And, glory be, if I didn’t hear my parents yelling for me as I came down the other side of the stage with diploma in-hand and freedom in the other. Oh, I heard them loud and clear.
Had they moved down to be closer? To get the good shot over the railing? Had they come down from the rafters and claimed a recently-vacated seat to see the gleam in my eyes?
The Sebeck family was still high and comfortable in the mezzanine… a vast ocean of empty seats all around and below them, smiling and cheering to beat the band.
That’s the second memory, though I have no proof. (The camera, remember? Memory 1? Yes.)
The third memory I have of my graduation is actually the one I most wanted to share with you today. I’d forgotten about the second one until I sat down to write and now I can’t stop laughing. Give me a second.
In December of 1999, I returned home from my California internship ready to walk the Aggie stage. Arguably more popular than a diploma from A&M is the Aggie Ring. Students not on probation and with 90 hours are eligible to receive their class ring and instantly join the ranks of Aggie former students around the world. It’s an incredible day. I have been across the ocean and across town and found Aggie family instantly all because of the tell-tale gold glimmer on their right ring finger and a tentative, “I’m class of 1999… do you know what that means?” It’s a family. A huge, crazy, old-fashioned family, and that ring is the glue.
When I returned home for my graduation I found myself looking at my hard-earned ring and realizing it was a little worse-for-wear thanks to my work in the chaparral of the San Bernadino mountains. It deserved a good cleaning before walking with me through gradation, but I had no clue how to take care of gold.
On my home from a dentist appointment (like ya do when you’re back home), I stopped in a down-home jeweler off the beaten path and rang the bell near the cash register. A silent but definitely grumpy and bearded man emerged from the back room and came up to the counter.
“Hi!” I said cautiously. “I’m back home and getting ready to graduate… and I’d really like to shine my ring before the ceremony… it’s kind of special, I know a lot of people don’t do gold rings right now… but I went to A&M and it’s kind of a big deal there and anyway I’m just wondering if you can show me how to clean it? What to use? I don’t have any idea and I don’t want to ruin it. OH MY WORD if I ruined it I would cry.”
Pretty sure I lost him after my enthusiastic “Hi!” Without speaking, he motioned to my ring. I placed it in his bear paw of a hand. And then he left… like, turned around and went back to the cave he came out of… with my ring.
I just stood there… maybe possibly about to cry because it had taken everything in me to simply stop and walk in and ask for help like a normal person… and that man scared me.
I stood my ground and waited. After about 10 minutes, or 10 hours, he returned. There was no sample bottle of cleaner, no polishing rag… just a white box. He walked to counter and, again without a word, opened the box to show me a ring. MY ring, but barely recognizable. he’d shined and polished and buffed it to its original glory. And he’d put it in a box, and he put that box in my hand, and he waved me toward the door.
Now I was maybe definitely crying. “Thank you so much! What do I owe you?”
He was already in the doorway of his back room, but he turned and finally spoke. “Nothing,” he said. “Class of ’72. Nice to meet you and congratulations.”
It takes all kinds.
By my brother’s graduation in 2002, we had worked out (most of) the kinks with technology. I can’t convince my folks to raise the resolution on their camera for fear of RUNNING OUT OF SPACE on their 8G memory card, so the jpg is only about 42k, but there we are. Baby steps, people.
Do I know what your major was in college?
Mine was Outdoor Education (specifically, ropes courses).
Curt picked #13
for the book giveaway!
(Don’t count my comment.)
It’s in the mail!