I am so proud of my awesomely wonderful Younger Daughter, who graduated summa cum laude today from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with honors in English. In addition, she was chosen to carry the School of Arts and Humanities banner — she was a banner-arian! And she did a fantastic job, too. We all got great reserved seats because she was a special honored graduate, which meant we were up close and personal and didn’t have to wait in line in the cold and the rain, for which we thanked her very much. And I only cried just a little, little bit. As of this moment right now, after more than 20 years, I have no children in any kind of school whatsoever. Sort of strange, you know? Wasn’t it just yesterday my daughters were doing Christmas pageants in preschool? But, bonus: No more checks to UAB. I asked Dear Husband if he felt rich now that we were no longer paying tuition, and he just sighed so I’m guessing that’s probably a “no.” Anyway, my parents and my brother and his family, all from Tennessee, came down, along with Younger Daughter’s dad and step-mother and we all went out to eat afterwards and had a marvelous time. Younger Daughter said afterwards that when she got back to her apartment, her roommate had a surprise “congratulations” party waiting for her. Sweet! I noticed something, though: There are very few “Happy Graduation” cards in December. I had to search all over for some, and then the selection was sparse. So if you’ve got a December graduate in your future, stock up on cards and decorations in May. I’m just saying. Also: Congratulations, Younger Daughter! I am so proud to be your mom.
Do you see that huge guffaw of laughter coming out of my mouth in this photo? Trust me, it’s there. And do you also see that strange look on my husband’s face, almost as if he were embarrassed about something? Trust me, he is. We were at the annual — or whenever we can get everybody together — Wild Drunken Brawl that our friend on the left organizes. And don’t worry: It’s not wild, the drunkenness is overstated and no brawling is allowed. Instead, we all gather at a beautifully peaceful farm near Manchester, Tennessee — which most of us claim as our hometown — and spend the evening reminiscing around a campfire. We lucked out this past weekend with unusually cool and clear August weather and had a fantastic time. Since most of the crowd also graduated in communications from nearby Middle Tennessee State University, our trips down memory lane include our shared college days. One of my friends who was attending her first WDB brought with her a copy of Collage, the MTSU literary magazine that most of us worked with at one time or another. For this particular issue, my husband John Pitts (he wasn’t my husband then, although we were friends and did date sort of off and on) had done an interview with Steve Martin, who performed at MTSU just when he was on the verge of greatness — an interview which still reads well today, decades later. However, also in this Collage was a poem my husband John Pitts had written, and that’s what we’re looking at in this photo. It did not read well decades later. I can’t really describe this poem. There was a lot of angst and beer-drinking and something about some woman and lonely nights and even though we called for the author to give us a reading around the campfire, he quickly declined. I can’t imagine why. And of course this gave me an idea for a book: A collection of bad college poetry. It’s gotta be a bestseller.
If you’ve got a college student, you immediately recognize this scene: Moving out of the dorm room. Seems as if this weekend everybody’s doing it. Including us. My younger daughter had lived in this room on campus for two years — and I think she’ll admit that she’s not the most organized of housekeepers. This is the girl to whom the floor is merely another place to store clothes. (Plus, her room inspections are the only tests in college she’s ever failed — but you didn’t hear that from me.) Luckily she didn’t wait for the last minute to get started. Her advance efforts plus helpful friends turned a monumental job into a doable project. It only took four carloads to empty the room — plus three bags of trash, five bags of recyclables and several items donated to charity — and only one day and a few aspirin for me to recover. And the cool part? She moved into an off-campus apartment in an older house that is so cute and in a fun and funky part of town. Well, it really is more like a studio apartment with a tiny kitchen and bathroom attached, but we love with the fireplace, the hardwood floor and the black-and-white tiles. And I promise that this photo was taken immediately after moving in and it will never ever look this way again.
My younger daughter, a college senior, recently realized she had a bunch of money on her dining card — minimum meal-plan fees she’s had to pay the school although she never ate on campus. And since she’s going from full-time status to part-time status this summer and moving off campus, she had to use the money or lose it. Fast. Before, when she’s wanted to get the balance down, she would load up on fruit and non-perishables in the campus cafe and then try to distribute the bounty to friends, random strangers and anybody she came across who was hungry. However, the balance this time was rather more substantial and would take a ton of bananas and little boxes of cereal to erase. But in an unbelievable stroke of luck, a Starbucks recently opened in the main campus library. And — students could use their meal cards there! Jackpot!!! Can you imagine going in to a Starbucks with practically an unlimited budget? Of course, if it were me, I’d zero in on one of those huge and expensive espresso machines and buy out all those adorably cute mugs. And I could see where someone with an entrepreneurial bent would try to parlay the windfall into bigger profits. But my daughter had a better idea: She said she’s had so much fun buying drinks for everybody in line (“A round of lattes for everybody!”) and French presses and other goodies for the baristas who work there. “It made me wish I were really rich so I could go around buying stuff for people all the time and making them feel good,” she said. “The definite highlight of my week.” If she’s learning the value of giving rather than receiving, then I think her college education is going to pay off.