Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A Graduation Story


ay is a bittersweet time of the year for me. Like many of my students, I celebrate the end of the academic year, relieved that I have once again survived it--in spite of the fact that summer school starts up immediately following graduation. *sigh*

But, as elated as I am, I am also saddened by the thought that I will no longer see J majors who graduated. They all say that they'll keep in touch. They all say they'll drop by when they're in town. But rarely do they ever show up in my office again, and often when they do, it is usually for a letter of recommendation or some other similar request. But that's okay. Better that than nothing at all... I guess.

It is with this feeling that I go to the local burger and beer joint near school and drink a beer, toasting both the end of the year and the departure of the seniors. Some of my students know that I go there after the ceremony and so they drop by. This year hoymahal grom and fuafuahamu came by. One brought her parents and we had a nice chat. She asked me to tell her parents a graduation story and so I told them a true story--which I will tell here at Prudy's request--that occured a few years back.

Financial Freedom

After a hot graduation ceremony on the Ellipse of Washington's National Mall, I was sitting at the bar of the local burger joint sipping Foggy Bottom brew with M. Immediately to my right were three other patrons who had obviously just come from the ceremony as well--a Dad, a Mom, and a newly graduated young lady.

Well, M and I are chatting when I notice Dad ask the bartender for a pair of scissors. Now I've heard people ask for napkins, menus, a pen, but never a pair of scissors. Curious, I allow my attention to drift toward this guy sitting two seats over.

With a nod of appreciation, Dad takes the pair of scrissors and cuts the edges around a napkin. The daughter begins to pester Dad--What are you doing? Cut it out, Dad. Mom is oblivious. Dad then lifts his beer, takes the cardboard coaster that was beneath it, and now begins to cut the corners of the Newcastle Brown advertisement. The daughter seems to have given up, simply rolling her eyes and shaking her head.

Dad, seemingly satsified with the scissors edge, props up his elbow on the counter and sticks his hand out toward his daughter, palm up.

"What?" She asks quizzically.

"Hand it over," he sighs.

"What are you talking about, Dad. Hand over what?"

"You know what," he says, stiffly poking the air with his outstretched hand.

Horror wells up the daughter's eyes. It betrays a true and palpable fear. I can tell because her face is juxtaposed to Mom's face which is now manifesting mock horror--you know the look: eyes opened wide, mouth agape, hands held up in surprise.

"Today?" The daughter asks helplessly. But Dad says nothing. He shakes his open palm resolutely in front of her again. Shoulders slumped, the daughter opens her purse, takes out her wallet and produces a credit card.

"Really, Daddy? Today?"

Daddy--I can't help but chuckle--nods appreciatively as his daughter places the Visa card regretfully onto his open palm. He slowly grips it, wrapping it up with his fingers. He squeezes it lightly as if carressing it, confirming the name and account number with his thumb, then transfers it from his right hand to his left.

"Ah, freedom," he sighs, as he picks up the scissors.

The bartender, M and I roar with surprise, as the daughter sits there stunned at this public spectacle of Dad sending her off toward financial independence by cutting up her credit card--HIS credit card--into little bitty pieces.

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