This past Friday, busting with admiration and filled with thanksgiving, I watched my husband, Steve, graduate with his Master of Art degree in Conflict Resolution. Do you ever feel like you need to be pinched in order to double-check reality? The need for pinching really began when Steve slipped on his black commencement regalia with the folds draping to mid-calf and then added his colorful academic collar, its crimson and gold satins representing the University of Denver and the soft white fabric edge designating the Josef Korbel School of International Studies.
From our rented bungalow last Friday, we walked to campus hand-in-hand together down Asbury as we have done countless times over the past 22 months. This time I was plodding along in uncomfortable shoes and at a much slower pace than usual, feeling the need to be pinched back to reality. Dressed in a long-sleeve shirt and dress slacks, Steve was baking in the abundant sunshine with perspiration beading on his forehead, carrying his regalia draped over one arm. Our conversation was hit and miss, likely because we were both focused on this moment, which always seemed to be embedded in the future, but was now 60 minutes away. For me, my tears of pride and relief seemed to hide just behind my eyelids, though could easily streak down my face with very little prompting.
Once on campus and in the shade of a young tree, Steve donned his regalia, posed for the requisite photo from this endearing fan, gave me a quick kiss, and walked toward the graduates’ entrance. Walking alone to nab seven seats for our family, I saw other excited graduates heading for their entrance. Along with me were parents, grandparents, and likely other spouses and children filing into Magness Arena hoping to find prime seating. Feeling overwhelmed by the number of people already in seats, my quick reaction was to simply stop and ask a kind usher where I would find a good spot for myself and six others to watch my husband graduate. He pointed to a section that seemed to repel people for very few guests were seated there. Most people were packing into the auditorium directly behind where the graduates would be seated. I slipped through the crowd, walked to the sixth row of the sparsely populated section, and easily grabbed enough seats for our family.
Through the wonders of texting, the rest of the family joined me as if on cue. The usual pomp and circumstance filled the arena that was thick with black robes, colorful academic collars, and great anticipation. The graduate candidates filed into the arena while families shouted and cheered from the surrounding sides of the arena. Those of us with cameras behaved more like the paparazzi as flashes flickered repeatedly. Amazingly, Steve’s college was seated in front of our section, so we could not have planned our seating arrangements better. The big screens that hung from the arena’s ceiling were a perfect way to see the graduates who one by one stepped forward to be congratulated with handshakes. When the name “Steven Felt” was called out, our entourage of seven gave a shout out to him. His smile reached from ear to ear as he moved the 2012 tassel from one side of his black mortarboard to the other, signifying the rite of passage from Master’s Candidate to Master’s Graduate. In a blink of the eye, he was off the stage, back at his seat, and waving to us.
Celebrations go hand-in-hand with graduations. We attended a recognition reception last Thursday and a morning breakfast on Friday. The open house that we hosted on Friday evening directly following graduation was a fantastic time to say thank you to family and friends who gathered to help us rejoice with Steve on his wonderful accomplishment. We are especially grateful for our family for their support: our son, Jeremy; daughter-in-law, Michelle; daughter, Stephanie; son-in-law, Shane; and, Steve’s Mom, Lois.
Now, with great joy and gratitude, Steve and I find the corner of the final page of this chapter of our book, carefully bringing it to the left to join the preceding pages. Time to pause, reflect, and begin our next chapter.