By Isabella Valdez
Hi everybody! Welcome back to our final “Storytime with Circo”! This issue we will be discussing Mr. Circo’s college graduation. Let’s begin:
“May 2003. My little brother Ezra was just two months old, and my family had arrived for the Senior Awards Night. Most graduates had to share a table with two families, but since my brother Paul and I were both graduating this year, we got a whole table for our family of 10. Earlier in the day, we had done our rehearsal (double for me, as I was part of the Chorale, which each year sang during the graduation ceremony), and the campus dorms were almost empty. As we sat at the table for the awards dinner, the room buzzed with excitement. Many of my fellow graduates had already had jobs lined up, and there were more than a few who had weddings to plan.
I was not yet thinking about grad school; my application had been received, but I had no news yet. Nor was I thinking about a wedding-my girlfriend and I had not got to the point of talking about marriage. I was thinking mostly about the mission trip I was about to embark on. For the first time in my life, I felt called to go on a mission trip, and we would be leaving the Wednesday following graduation. I still had one class to finish (a challenging exam which I had been studying for the last three weeks), and my brother and I were moving into an apartment down Greenfield Dr., so there were some lingering thoughts, but mostly anticipation to see what God would do in my life through this trip.
The Mission trip was going to be our College Chorale group, singing in schools and churches across Hungary and Romania for three weeks. We had learned a couple of songs in each language and had some minor tutoring in the language to be able to have necessary conversations, but we had local guides in both countries, so we had built-in translators. I had always had trepidation in going to the mission field since most of my friends from the youth group who had taken a short-term trip came back with ‘a calling to missions’. I did not want that calling. So, I had been praying ever since October, when this trip was announced, that God would open my heart to what He had in store for me.
Awards dinner had been cleared from the tables, and I was holding my little brother Ezra in my lap as they started calling graduates up for the different disciplines. Each department had highest honors awards-I knew I didn’t have the highest grades, but I was well respected by my department, having served as an intern for the last semester for three of the professors. When they called the History graduates up to the front, I realized that Ezra’s diaper had leaked onto my shirt! I quickly grabbed napkins and wiped it off, and headed to the stage. No surprise, I didn’t win for my department, but each professor had some encouragement for us as graduates. After each department had presented their awards, we were surprised by a new award-not on the program! The college admin announced that they had an award for community involvement, and presented it to my brother Paul and myself. They said they were really going to miss all the things that we did around the campus-participation in Spirit Week events, intramural sports, community tutoring center, college tutoring center, computer lab, writing center, etc. What an honor! Later (several years later), we found out that this award was created specifically for the two of us. The night, after hugging my whole family and reminding them that they would be back in the morning, Paul and I went back to our dorm room-the same room we had been assigned freshman year-and looked around. Each year we had tried to improve the room from what we found, cleaning from previous occupants, adding missing doors and cabinets, bringing in new shelves, and our dorm fridge. We were packing everything up, like in previous summers, but different. The next year held lots of opportunity and uncertainty. We each had summer jobs, but no permanent positions. Up until this moment, we had always been certain that we could face life together, but now we weren’t sure anymore how long that would last.
The next morning was full of excitement. Eating breakfast in our room (the cafe had already closed for the summer), we knew grandparents would soon show up with the rest of the family to join in the celebration. I selected a bowtie to go with the cap and gown, got dressed, and headed to the LCC to gather with the rest of my graduating class. As we smilled about mingling with our professors, you could feel the finality of the event-we were graduating! At ten o’clock, they herded us together in the rehearsed order, and we marched into the Worship Center and proceeded into the pews. Some of the graduates had decorated their caps, others had garlands in addition to cords around their necks. As they called up the History grads, we lined up and started up the steps, one of my classmates remarked that it would be horrible to trip as we went up the steps. I heartily agreed, and then proceeded to trip on my gown as I went up to the platform. As I crossed the stage toward the school admin to get my diploma (not really, they just gave us the cases for them!), I glanced out into the audience where I knew my family was sitting. I was happy to be finishing my degree and ready for the ‘real world’ to begin.
After the ceremony, we headed out to the courtyard for cake and lemonade, and to take photos with family and friends. Some of my friends then are still my friends now, others have long since drifted away, whether they moved away or just didn’t have anything in common anymore. I had lots of competing emotions then, and even now as I think back, I miss those days-and yet don’t. The family celebrated us by taking us out to a fancy restaurant (my uncle was the manager/chef), we got some graduation presents (money was favored), and then we went back to moving out of the dorm. College was now just a shell-no people, just memories-memories that still haunt the campus that I now teach at, as I pass by some of the buildings and trees that remain almost two decades after I first set foot on the campus.
As you seniors get ready to graduate, some of you will remain fast friends, and others who were merely classmates/acquaintances will quickly fade from memory. All the things that you were on campus, you leave behind. Who you are, your character, your personality, those will remain embedded in the memories of those whose lives you have touched. A campus is still just a place for memories to exist, and Christian High will hold those memories for you until you are able to return to the campus, whether in May, November, or twenty years down the road.”