So then…I smile that “oh-I’m-so-happy-to-be-here-but-secretly-I’m-dying-inside” smile at my sister’s family as I settle down into the metal folding chair for my nephew Brian’s graduation ceremony from a large Florida university.
A four-hour graduation ceremony.
Four hours of the college admin officials reading off names of the 732 college seniors that I don’t know, just so we can witness the 16 seconds it takes for my nephew’s name to be called and for him to accept the diploma.
I’ve flown cross-country for the event and have truly enjoyed spending time with my Mom and my sister’s family all weekend – and I’m delighted to witness my nephew’s accomplishment – but now is the hot, sweaty, mind-numbingly boring ceremony that I have to suffer through in the name of being a good auntie, sister, and daughter.
I had actually toyed with the idea of bringing a book! I love to read — and had, in fact, been reading a great book on the plane over to Florida which I could easily bring into the auditorium with me today.
But I could just imagine the shocked, stern look from my mother if I dared pull out a book at such a special occasion. And I could just imagine the hurt look on my sister’s face as I casually perused my tome while her first-born achieved his highest academic accomplishment. Not to mention, I would be a horrible role model for my other two nephews who are high school-aged. And I worry I’d get that disappointed shake of the head from my sister’s husband.
So I settle in for the long road ahead, on my hard metal chair, in the balcony, peering over the rail at the 732 college seniors on the main floor with my nephew. Their caps and gowns are a bright blue, against the backdrop of the thousands of friends and families who came to witness the momentous event.
As the speeches drone on, I am so out of my mind with boredom, I want to stick hot pokers in my eyes.
Then I see my youngest nephew next to me open a paperback and start reading!
My head snaps down the row to my sister to see if she has noticed this affront! But she is busy digging in her purse for her book! She hands a running magazine to her husband and her other son mumbles, “Where’s mine?” My sister reaches into her purse and hands him his book!
What the what! Are you kidding me?
I whip my head around to my Mom, to see if she is as shocked as I am – and she is fumbling in her purse for her book.
I kid you not.
My own mother. My upstanding, respectful, always appropriate mother. Et tu, Brute’?
The entire frikkin’ family each brought their own book to cope with this four-hour dull-athon – and I’m the only moron who was polite enough and caring enough and sweet enough to think I was supposed to pay respectful attention to the whole damn ceremony!
And did any of them think to let ME know their plan? Noooo.
And did any of them think to bring ME some reading material? Noooo.
I should ask my sister just like her son asked: “Where’s mine?” In fact, I should shout it LOUD in front of all these students and their families! WHERE IS MINE??!!
MINE is sitting on the table back in my frikkity-frik hotel room!
Oh the injustice.
So instead, I channel all my righteous indignation and outrage into paying SUPER CLOSE attention to everything that happens in the speeches, the ceremony, the calling of the graduates’ names.
I send telepathic messages to my nephew Brian, “I’m here for you, buddy. The rest of your family doesn’t care about you – they’re all reading BOOKS and MAGAZINES. But I’M paying attention. I’ll be able to converse with you about all the details of your special day. I’m on HYPER ALERT for you, buddy!”
When the ceremony finally ends, my ass has fallen asleep, and I am bored out of my skull — but I have painstakingly gathered all sorts of witty tidbits and thoughtful reflections to share with my graduating nephew.
I smile a little smugly as we exit the auditorium – me and the readers.
When we reach Brian, we all hug and congratulate him. Just as I am about to impress him with my observations, my sister asks him, “What’d you think of the ceremony?” —
— to which he replies, “Oh, it was so long! Thank God I had my book!”
I am not frikkin’ kidding.
This is a completely true story.
And I am still bitter about it.
Always bring a book with you. Always. I don’t care if it’s a graduation, a recital, a wedding, or a frikkin’ funeral – BRING A FRIKKIN’ BOOK.
— Darcy Perdu
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Original Illustration for So Then Stories by Mary Chowdhury
(Tell me your tales of graduations, recitals, and ceremonies that made you want to gouge your eyes out. How did YOU pass the time? Did YOU bring books? And if so, why the hell didn’t you tell ME to bring a book to that Florida graduation?)