When I first graduated from college, I had a corporate job for a national retailer, Donaldson's. For those of you too young to remember "the Little D" (the "Big D" was Dayton's), the department store was headquartered right across the Nicollet Mall from its bigger, classier sister. I toiled in the basement, right next to the loss-prevention guys who acted furtive and tough like CIA agents. I, on the other hand, was a sales trainer and part-time employee publications editor for HR, one of a first wave of female corporate-support employees who weren't secretaries. On my $5 an hour salary, I could barely afford the clothes it took to work there.
When spring and summertime came to Nicollet Mall, it was as if something in the downtown stores and office buildings sprang a leak. People flooded onto the sidewalks and plazas on their lunch hours, lolling anywhere green after months of being trapped in the skyways or of scurrying quickly to their cars, hunching into their collars, chins to chests, against the winter winds. It felt a little like it did on campus in the spring, minus the Frisbees flying and the couples making out on the quad. The whole world cried, "ahhhh!" and breathed a collective sigh of relief.
That's how I feel today, the last day of the university's academic year. Commencement is tomorrow. The campus is lush with new grass and well-tended flowers. I love the sound of lawn mowers and the smell of freshly cut grass, and I enjoy watching students pick up their caps and gowns, giddy and terrified at the same time.
After tomorrow, there will be three whole months where I won't be racing to work to nab a last-available parking spot, when the phone won't ring incessantly, and when the deadlines relax a bit. It's a time when I have a nice little cushion in most days. Although I'm working, it's less frantic. Because most students are away during the summer months, news surrounding their escapades slows down, too. (That's good, because we've spent most of the year in media hot water for one reason or another.) I will get the flowers planted. I will spend most weekends at the lake.
Tomorrow, my oldest daughter will be awarded a master's degree in art history -- a pretty awesome achievement, considering her twins are just 3 years old. Last weekend, my future daughter-in-law graduated with her bachelor's in nursing. Next week, my son has some job interviews scheduled in the Twin Cities and is moving home until he and Sara get settled and employment becomes gainful. Last week, my dearest uncle died at 77. Wednesday is my mother's 80th birthday, which I can hardly fathom. And yesterday, my good friend told me that she was finally marrying the guy I set her up with 25 years ago. It's a time of transitions, of celebrating pasts and futures. Transitions used to scare me a bit, and now I welcome them. I've come to realize that the dips and turns of this roller coaster -- which sometimes raise my stomach to my throat -- are good for the soul and make me realize just how adaptable we are. Rather than growing more set in my ways with age, I aim to savor sponanaeity. What are we celebrating next? I'm in ... .