May 19, 2001, was the only sunny Saturday of the month, thank God. Had we not been able to spread out on the rolling lawn in front of LeMans for the commencement ceremonies, had the rain poured down, forcing us to pack into Moreau or Angela Athletic, it would have been miserable. It would have been sticky and humid and I was already mildly hungover, so it just would not have been a pleasant way to end my college career. But thankfully it was sunny, and quite warm. Most of the other girls wore skirts or nice dresses underneath their black robes; I wore a tank top and gym shorts. The gym shorts did say “Saint Mary’s College” on them, though, which I thought was appropriate for the day. I still have the shorts. I still sleep in them now, just like I did then.
Compared to other schools, we were miniscule, a little over 300 of us graduating that year, all women of course. They called each of us up on stage individually, and we shook hands with the president and posed for a photo op as we received our diplomas. Currently, my diploma is tucked away in the catch-all shelf of my wine bar. It seems an appropriate place – wine stoppers, serving trays, and my college diploma.
When I say “eight years” to myself it sounds like a very long time ago. It was a very long time ago. But it doesn’t feel like a very long time ago. It feels more like…hmm…more like recently. Not like yesterday – I am too much of a different person than my 22 year old self for it to feel like yesterday – but maybe just like a few years ago. I like thinking about college, and remembering the memories. I laugh at myself at how absolutely heartbroken I was when I graduated, my security blanket being ripped away from me. My parents may have rejoiced at signing that last tuition check, but I bawled my eyes out for days those last few weeks of school, and the few weeks after school, at leaving. It wasn’t just me. My gal pals, the ridiculous, silly, lovely, loving, amazing, adventuresome, smart, thoughtful, bitchy, sassy women who had been my inner circle for four years, we all simply fell over ourselves wailing and carrying on at the injustice of it all. If only there was more time! If only my parents hadn’t said they would only pay for four years of college! If only we could live in LeMans forever! Vive La South Bend!
Thankfully, blessedly, gorgeously, we’re still stuck together in that circle, despite being flung to the various coasts and corners of the country. And there are newer additions to my circle, friends who became better friends after graduation, for various and sundry reasons, but every single one pointing back to the tree-lined Avenue. So eight years later, Happy Anniversary, ladies. Happy 8th Graduation Anniversary to all of the SMC 2001 Belles.