This post comes from a weekly memoir writing prompt provided by The Red Dress Club. This week’s RemembeRED asked us to write about Graduation.
“I am not walking the stage,” I said sternly. “I’ll just get my diploma in the mail.”
My mom was in tears, fumbling for words.
“If you don’t walk the stage, then your grandfather is not going to give you a graduation present,” she finally answered, “and right now you need all the help you can get.”
“Besides,” my dad interjected, “You’ll look back and wish you had. You can’t get this moment back.”
I didn’t want this moment in the first place, so why would I want it back? My whole life’s plan had fallen apart. This moment was a single mom hurriedly finishing college with any degree she had enough hours for, just to get a decent job that would provide health care. This moment was supposed to have happened five years earlier, before my credit was ruined, before my bank account was drained, before a doomed first marriage, before a child, when there were still possibilities. This moment was too late. Bitterness was all I felt, not relief. I didn’t see a strong, independent graduate in the mirror. I saw a lost, tired little girl pretending to be a grownup.The years were built on sand, sinking day by day, until the castle had been swept back to sea.
I cried crossing the stage, fear and disappointment overwhelming me. A diploma wasn’t going to pay the bills. It wasn’t going to help co-parent or keep me company late at night. This diploma wasn’t going to keep my daughter out of daycare for 10 hours a day, or comfort her when she missed me. It wasn’t going to figure out big decisions or turn back time. It was just a piece of paper.
But the longer I sat there, looking at all the bright faces filled with pride, holding tightly to their futures, I began to think less about myself and more about my daughter. I started to picture us in our first apartment, taking walks to the park, visiting the local ice-cream shop, pictured Kraft Macaroni and Cheese dinners on layers of quilts as we picnicked in our living room. I pictured teaching her to swim and snuggling in my bed when it thunders and rains. I heard her voice singing Edelweiss from a bath full of bubbles. I savored the moments that had yet to become. Most of all, I pictured myself being able to say to her, “If Mommy could do it, then so can you.”