Coming up for Air

Ian told us, repeatedly, over a long period of time, that graduation ceremonies were at 11am. So, Saturday morning I got up, leisurely wrote a blog and sort of mapped out my too-busy weekend in my head. Graduation, celebration lunch, moving, graduation party 30miles away, sleep, retrieve Ian from party 30miles away, move some more, writers’ group…

I sipped coffee.

At some point, with everyone else still sleeping, I thought, hmm, maybe I should look at the tickets. You know, count them and insure we had everything we needed.

Graduation 10:00 AM.

Not good. I bustled about waking people up. Shower! Let’s go! Let’s go!

I felt like a drill sergeant.

Ian had to be there at 9am. And I knew that already. We left on time with hurried folks scampering around the house making ready.

At 8:50 there was already a line of parents and grandparents at the school. I stood, cell phone in hand, worrying that people would forget their tickets, not be able to find me, be late. As the line began to move into the building, I called Jamie, Where are you? John, The line is moving come on!

I managed to get us front row seats. And hold them until everyone else arrived.

The graduates filed in. The speeches were short. I was making mental checklists for the move (did I lock the file cabinets? Buy enough shrink wrap for the book cases?) Recognition was paid to those retiring, for having fought the good fight. The salutatorian spoke. She was eloquent. The valedictorian spoke—in front of a crowd of several hundred. Not only did he not reference notes; he didn’t have any notes. He was impressive. Intimidating. I think he should go into politics.

The first row of graduates stood up. Formed a line.

A doctor! We need a doctor! Is there a doctor in the house?

Everyone froze. For a brief instant we all thought, bad joke. But the people on the other side of the gym continued to cry for help. The valedictorian ran from the stage (maybe he plans to be a doctor?).

The graduates sat back down.

The gym fell silent.

Until the shrill defibrillator echoed all around us.

The Principal called a name over the microphone. Please come down to the stage, he said. We looked around.

We waited.

A young woman in a cap and gown joined the concerned group across the room. Teachers had their arms around her. I thought, oh God, someone needs to dig that child’s diploma out.

The Emergency Response Team was slow to arrive. Much slower than any of us expected. They got a round of applause.

Apparently stabilized, the patient was ready to be moved.

And at that moment, a crisp official voice from the stage announced a woman’s name.

With a teacher, she left the milling crowd. She walked across the stage and took her diploma before her family member was out of the room. She walked the length of the gym, a graduate, with another teacher by her side, supporting her.

Teachers are amazing people.

Her entire class stood up and cheered for her. I hope her family member is recovered.

The rest of the graduation was uneventful. Of course, Ian’s walk across the stage was the most important part of all it…

I watched several of my former students walk too. That was a good feeling. Two young women, in particular, who could barely read when I met them as eighth graders. I was honored to see their success.

We got the center moved, thanks to an amazing group of employees, friends, and family. We closed after students, Saturday at 1, and reopened, every book in place, for students Monday at 10. Unfortunately, Mother Nature slowed us down on Saturday night, and I had to cancel my writer’s group for a second time.

But, we’re done! And it’s onward from here.


I will spend the next several weeks trying to catch up on sleep.