17 September 2008
Here Comes the Rest of our Lives
Although we arrive in separate cars, underneath each of the blue or white gowns, the anxious excitement is constant. Each car and each parent equipped with cameras, tissues, and pride, each of us ready with nervousness, anticipation, and happiness. We open the car doors, see each other, and immediately smile; knowing that today is the day that we’ve been waiting for. We hug one another, reinforcing that May 24th is the correct calendar date. Cameras flash like lightning right and left, trying to capture the once in a lifetime balance between relief and nervousness.
I look to my mother, and wonder how long she’s waited for this moment. A slideshow starts to play in my mind, beginning with a younger woman and a little blonde toddler, learning her colors from the nail polish bottles. Then comes a school bus, and a petite child wearing a sunflower dress and boots, ready with her power rangers backpack, quickly kisses her mother goodbye. Next I see a middle-aged woman, face pressed to the fence, yelling “Go number twenty-five, let’s go!” and the crack of a bat initiates the “woohoo”s and “good hit”s. The flash of a camera transforms the scene to a school gymnasium where I hear the National Honor Society pledge being repeated, and a teenage, blue-eyed blonde walks up to sign a book and receive a certificate. She looks into the crowd and sees one tear fall from the blue eyes identical to her own. Once again the background changes, to the sidewalk outside my high school. I see the building behind my mother now, rather than a crowd in a gymnasium, but the one tear still exists on her face.
I see a dark-skinned girl running towards me, trying to keep her feet in her red and black plaid pumps. The Brazilian accent I hear has become so familiar and comforts me. She smiles, I smile back, but we both know that those won’t last, tears will soon replace them. We certainly are a picture, she and I. Her long, brown curly hair is certainly a distinction from my short and platinum blonde style, and her deep brown eyes contrast my grayish blue ones. Her caramel colored skin definitely varies from mine, which is closer to that of a porcelain doll. But as we walk up to the building for the last time as students, I realize that we’re not that different. Our clothing consists of the same white gown, the same blue and white tassel, heck, even our dresses look alike. The most alike thing of all, however, is our need for friendship, and that’s the common ground on which we met.
We walk hand in hand through the doors of the school, our classmates following a step behind us. Walking leisurely down the hallway, I try to make the most of this experience, advancing as slowly as I can, and remembering all the memories made here. I can tell by the split emotions on their faces, that everyone about to enter the gymnasium with me is doing the same. We line up from “Baxter” to “Zapata” just like we practiced the day before. I hear the processional coming through the trumpets and clarinets and I know only seconds remain until we’ll be the focus of everyone’s gaze. The seconds pass and my feet begin to move. I feel like I’m walking in sand, each step taking twice as long as it normally does. Entering the full gymnasium, each of us looks around for those familiar faces that raised us, but I soon realize that every face is a familiar one. These people have all raised me.
I see the curly, redheaded, spanish teacher that taught me the language and also about how to love myself. I see the family-man softball coach that taught me the game and also how to trust people. And then I look to the crowd and see my crazy, untraditional, incomparable family. I see my little brother, his ash blonde hair, a mess as always, and his army green eyes scanning the sea of blue and white looking for me. I see my father beside him. He has the most proud look on his face that I’ve ever seen. Dad’s rough hands, from years of hard work, fumble with the small buttons on his new digital camera. My grandma and aunt sit, staring, critically analyzing our entry method, and then they wave to me. I wave back and I know their thoughts are already on to another questioning, but in my heart I know they admire my accomplishments. And then I see her, she’s not photographing me, but everyone and everything else, so that I can look back on these pictures and remember everything about it, but I’ll remember her the most. How pretty she looks in that black and white dress she’s wearing, with the white cardigan overtop she added to make herself look more mother-like. She’s had that camera glued to her hand all night. I see her look down at the program and tell the rest of my family what’s next to come.
Arriving at my seat, I turn my attention toward the stage. The document I’ve worked so hard for sits in one of those sixty-seven white envelopes stacked up on the table, and I’m a mere hour away from reading my name on that certificate. Three close friends speak to us and I remember how hard they too have worked for this day and their right to make their speeches. All three are girls, one with red hair, one with brown, and the last, a blonde. They read their thoughts to us, each speech as unique as each of their personalities.
Looking down the row, I see the difference in all of us. Just by glancing at the shoes on our feet you can tell, white thongs, pink heels, white tennis shoes, black dress shoes, and those red and black plaid pumps. Some of us have served on student council, some have played basketball, football or softball, and yet still others have sung in the choir. Then of course there are those of us who have done it all, National Honor Society, show choir, student council, softball, color guard, etc. We are a soup of vegetables, fruits, spices, and broths. Despite the path each of us has taken, we all sit here today, wearing the same white gown and getting ready to receive the same credential. It’s because of this I wonder if it has all been worth all the extra hard work I’ve done writing six pages when only five was required, completing extra-credit assignments when I already had an “A” in the class, was it really worth it?
I rise in time with the person beside me and we begin to file out of our row, preparing to accept handshakes and congratulations, and especially that white envelope sitting up there for each of us. The superintendent calls my name; I walk up the one, two, three stairs, take four more steps across the stage and I’m there! It’s in my hands! I turn, smile, say thank you and walk down the three stairs on the other side. The five most important people in my school shake my hand, I receive a blue long-stemmed flower, and I return to my seat. Yes, it was worth it. It was worth this sensation I’m feeling right now.
So many times over the past four years I’ve wondered and pondered what this would feel like. The sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that I feel right now, feels nothing like I thought it would. I knew it would be a wonderful sensation, but now the bitter-sweetness starts to set in.
The song we chose for us, the class of 2008 to claim as our own plays in my mind, but I soon recognize that in reality it’s playing over the loudspeakers of the gym. The lyrics say “the best days” are yet to come, but I have had the time of my life in high school, so how could life get any better? In my head I know it will, and I can’t wait to start college and not have class every day, then pick out a dress and veil and have my best friend beside me as I start my life, and then have little blue-eyed blonde mini-me’s running around my house. But right now, my heart is saying that these people walking out these doors with me, the times I’ve spent with them in this place, and the memories we’ve made together in these hallways, these are the things I will to remember. I hug my best friend; we throw our caps into the air. The music plays (in my head this time), “here comes the rest of our lives”.