I worked my way through college.
I had a full-time job with tuition reimbursement benefits. Each day, I would get to work at 7:30 in the morning, work until 5:00, drive about a half hour north to a satellite college campus and attend class from 5:30 to 10:30 four nights a week. All year-long. For three years. Then I did it again for grad school (though sometimes that was only two nights a week and it was like a vacation!). It was the only way I could afford to go, and I was lucky to have the opportunity (and the energy) to do it.
As a parent, you always want to give your kids a little bit more.
At Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, there is a tradition.
Two U.S. Vice presidents, One Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Two Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, 13 U.S. Senators, 43 U.S. Representatives, 11 Governors…. and that’s just government stuff. Graduates also include accomplished scientists and business people and researchers and doctors and performers. And you should see the talent that the guy who runs their glass-blowing program has. While they have been there, Mac and Jack have experienced many things beyond the classroom, including a Vice Presidential Debate, and the Vienna Philharmonic – which stopped only at two place on their U.S. tour: Carnegie Hall, and Centre’s Norton Center for the Arts.
It’s a magical place with pretty awesome people. One of those colleges that changes lives (it’s actually included in a book of the same title).
It was a perfect fit for Mac. And then for Jack.
Oh! And not only does Centre have a lot of talent, it has a lot of Talents.
One of the cool things Centre does at the beginning of everyone’s senior year, is that they give each talented student an actual ‘Talent’. It’s sort of coin, a little bigger than a silver dollar. And it comes to each senior in a little, felt drawstring bag.
President Roush (‘P. Roush’ to his peeps) explains that the students should keep their Talents and each of them should think, over the course of their entire senior year, about who has had the greatest impact on their Centre College career.
And then, in a moving ceremony the night before graduation, the students honor their person or people, by presenting their Talent to them. This happens over the bronze Centre Seal, which is laid into the bricks, outside of Centre’s very first (and very beautiful) building, Old Centre.
So, last Saturday, the Nearly Perfect Husband and I, along with Mac and Jack and Sam and Gabe, made our way over to Old Centre.
There were white folding chairs, hundreds of them, set up in perfect rows on the lawn.
The sun was hanging low in a blue Kentucky sky.
The students were instructed to sit in a specially designated area with their honorees.
I sat with Mac, and John sat with Jack.
I had received two separate envelopes in the mail the week before, each containing notice that we were being honored by students during the ceremony.
And I had to work to hold myself together while I sat next to Mac and we joked about baking in the late afternoon sun, and cooled ourselves with cardboard Centre fans.
John sat with Jack a few rows back. They were joking about John finally hugging Jack. Jack is a big hugger. John has held him off for years (Jack even gave John a book on hugs one Christmas, just to help him out).
Sam and Gabe were on the other side of the aisle. Probably telling fart jokes.
And as we were called, row by row, to walk around to the back of Old Centre, where we would file into the impressive hallway, and await our presentation to the audience, it hit me that it was so cool that she and Jack chose us.
It didn’t feel forced, or like an obligation.
It felt real.
A true appreciation that they had been supported on a great adventure, past the borders of a small town and a small school.
Over the Appalachian mountains and under the Mason Dixon Line.
To a school that opened their eyes and broadened their minds.
With Mac, I held it together. We joked and held hands as we entered the doorway of Old Centre (I threatened to yell ‘Boo Ya!” while we were being announced (she said no)).
We were introduced:
“June Mackenzie Dingle honors Lisa Dingle”
And we hugged over the seal and I said “Ya Baby!” (and then Mac had to remind me to take my Talent because I forgot.)
And then she sat down and readied the camera, and I circled back around and walked the same path with John and Jack.
And they announced, “John Brian Schafer honors John and Lisa Dingle”
And I made it all the way to the seal, but when that freakin’ kid turned to hug me, I lost it.
For him, for them, for us.
It was an explosion of happy.
At one point, as a young adult ready to take on the world, I said to John, “You know, all I really want is enough money to send my kids to go to college.”
Thanks for readin’.
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