Judy’s youngest was about to graduate from college. Her last of four, who marched to a slightly different beat, had taken five years to accomplish this milestone. But accomplish it she did. There were smashed relationships, difficult roommates, changes in majors, demanding professors, and family crisis to contend with but somehow she made it … toughed it out, finished her academics and learned to solve her problems.
Now Judy’s question was: “Will you walk?” Meaning, in the terminology of soon-to-be college graduates, will you go through the ceremony, marching up on the stage with your mortar board tassel slung casually or placed with reverence to the proper side of the traditional graduate’s headgear? Or will you leave the campus hurrying on to the next stage with little sentiment, little regard for the ceremonial, just glad to have it over?
The question hovered over the final weeks until her youngest decided that she wanted this ceremony. She wanted the flowers and photo ops and congratulations that would be denied her if she left the years on the lovely grounds with all its many life lessons in haste. She not only wanted this, she needed this to seal her accomplishment.
The bagpipers led the procession with their haunting ceremonial piping … marching in under the big white tent on the best of sunny May days. Two hours later, the same pipers led the 300-plus newly graduated out, full of pride and barely heard sage wisdom delivered by inspirational speakers.
Judy was not much given to tears, speculation, or to sentimental reflections and thus kept her head down to mask her emotions as these hopeful young souls filed out into the best of sunny May days. What she saw with her eyes lowered was the most amazing array of footwear. Neon green sneakers, flip-flops worn plain or with colorful mismatched socks, snowboard boots, fancy sandals studded with faux jewels, clumpy school marm pumps, Manolo Blahnik heels, scrunchy knee-high boots, polished wingtips, hard-toed work boots, ballet skimmers, and yes, even bare feet showing off tattoos on the arches above the ruby red pedicured toes.
Not only did her daughter march to a slightly different beat, it seemed that this whole group was defying being sheep, not even being like each other. Where would these shoes, these feet, take them? Would some lose their ability to walk due to war or accident or incurable disease? Would a pair of these feet walk through the doors of a medical institution and find a cure for a formerly hopeless disease, or travel into the halls of government and rid it of “gotcha” politics, or travel to Carnegie Hall and impact the world with music?
Judy lifted her eyes from the grassy green aisle trod by the exiting graduates and returned from her reverie to her practical self. She took the photos, gave the spray of roses to her youngest and spread a sumptuous picnic for her family on the lush lawn of the little campus on the best of sunny May days.
It was a time to be in the moment.