My daughter parked in front of Georgetown Law Center, and said "I'll be right back". (The radio was on WTOP. For the last several days, a deluge of snow has been forecast, and so far it has been a no- show. Actually, as I look out today, it's melting. Perhaps the groundhog's record is as accurate as they say.)
A guy was pacing back and forth near the car, then he walked to a meter. He was digging for change, and he didn't look happy. I let down the window and asked him if he needed a quarter. He seemed annoyed by my offer. "Naw. I'm good". The expired meter said otherwise, but I didn't insist, and let the window back up.
About 15 minutes passed before my daughter came back to the car. She got in, smiled, and handed me a large white envelope. Through the cellophane opening, I could see her name in Old English font. Her whole name was surrounded by script in Latin, and peeking from the bottom of the opening was the top of a shiny, gold, embossed seal. She just sat there and smiled. We stared at each other. For a minute I couldn't speak. I took the diploma from the envelope and handled it as if it were fine diamonds. Tears welled up in my eyes as I said over and over to her how proud I was. I don't know how many times I looked at it, then looked at her. I saw people walking on the sidewalk and wanted to open the car door, jump out, and show the strangers my baby's accomplishment. I could hear myself saying, "Look! She did it! She graduated Law school! Isn't that great?" I could see myself telling the guy who was pacing, "I don't care what you say! I'm going to feed your meter! I'm going to feed everybody's meter!" I could see myself with all of the strangers holding hands, jumping, shouting, and dancing on the street. Of course they would all be happy and proud, too; going to the car one by one to shake Lisa's hand through the window. In my mind I could see thousands of balloons flying through the air. I told her how I felt, and she laughed, and said "Mommy, please don't do that."
I didn't embarrass her, but I couldn't stop crying and laughing. We high-fived each other. I thought about the late hours of study, how tired she would be after working all day, then going to school in the evenings. I thought back to the day she told me she was going to attend Law school. "I realized I'm doing the work of an attorney. I may as well go and make it official." I asked her what she needed me to do. She said, "What you always do. You're my biggest cheerleader". I thought about how proud Mommy and Mom Locke would be of the granddaughter they both loved so much.
Lisa asked, "Where to?" I was so choked up, I didn't care. She asked me if I was hungry. Suddenly I was full. She started driving and said, "Let's go to the house". I knew it would make my Dad feel good to know he was among the first to see Lisa's diploma. When we got to his house, he opened the door and she handed it to him. He said, "Wait a minute, let me see what this says." She handed him the English translation that the University provided. Daddy read every word like it was the Declaration of Independence. He was impressed by the wording. "You know, this just puts you right where you're supposed to be", he said. He looked up at Lisa and told her how proud he was. When they hugged, he told her she should be proud of herself as well. "So what's next", he asked. "The Bar", she said.
My younger sister was even more enthused when she saw it. "Can I touch it?" It was such a great day for my little family. God, I wish Mommy had been there. I could almost see her clapping and cheering, and crying. Education was so important to her. Not just ours, or her grandchildren's, but her students' as well. Daddy always said "Get that piece of paper! It says you have potential." He would always tell us of his disgust with being someone's subordinate, of knowing and doing the job more efficiently, but having to train, cover for, and assist incompetent supervisors--who just happened to have college degrees. He never liked the idea of someone inept earning more money simply because they'd finished college, so he drilled: "Be smart, do the job well, AND have a degree. Be able to function in any situation. Make yourself valuable."
Lisa and I stayed at the house for a few hours, and then decided to do the comfort food run, just in case one of the forecasters was actually right. Pizza Hut kept her on hold while I ran into 7-Eleven for milk, butter and eggs...okay...and M&M's... and Utz potato chips. We opted for a few Angus burgers instead of pizza, then headed home. When we got there, I told her I'd get the bags. I just wanted her to carry her purse and her diploma. There would be no wrinkles on my account.
I'd bought a frame from Michael's, and a few from Kirkland's, but none of them were suitable for the odd sized paper. I put the diploma under glass in the 16x20 frame anyway. It's destined for The B Spot Gallery on Pennsylvania Avenue. Barry Lester is an amazing artist when it comes to framing, and I know he'll do it the justice it deserves.
I'm a very, very proud and happy Mom. I was so delighted by the responses of my facebook friends. It's nice when people can celebrate with you because they have an idea how you feel.
I still tear up when I pass the diploma. Just seeing my baby's name, and thinking back over her life lets me know that God has always held her in his hands. The day she was born, I knew she was going to college. I thought about my little girl, who would rather read, or be read to, than play. I couldn't afford private school, so I was always on a mission to find the best public schools DC had to offer--and I found them. There are good, talented, creative, conscientious, caring and daring teachers everywhere, and Lisa had some of the best at Silesia Early Learning Center, P.R Harris Educational Center, Abram Simon Elementary, Jefferson Junior High, and Banneker High School.
Before we took the drive to Drexel University, I prayed over my baby as she slept. She came back taller, stronger, wiser, (and singing). She quickly secured a job, quickly mastered it, and after a few years, decided on a career path in Law. "Mom, I think I'm going to Law School". It seems like yesterday, but I know it has been a journey every time I look at her beautiful diploma. She shuns pronouncements of "attorney", "counselor", "esquire". She quickly tells anyone who says any of that, "No. Not yet. I have one more step--The Bar."
Lord, you've done it before...