The day dawned bright, sunny, and free of the incessant rain that had plagued the skies for days. Today was the day, the day filled with happiness, the special day that I had been waiting for, for a long time.
Ever since I was younger, I had wanted to study further and obtain a degree in physiotherapy. I had worked hard at school but due to a lack of funds (there were very few bursaries available at that time) I wasn’t able to. Instead, I joined the working world at the tender age of eighteen, started my
first job and had to fend for myself. I hadn’t even gone back to study, there was always some excuse, too much work or not enough money. It did affect me throughout my life as I didn’t have that piece of paper, making jobs harder to come by as the years went by but I ended up putting all my efforts
into numerous projects and passions that came my way that ended up a success and continued thrive.
As my daughters grew, I was determined that they would have the chance to go to university. I wasn’t concerned with what they wanted to study, as long as they obtained a degree in it. Thankfully both my children entered the realm of tertiary education and proceeded through their many years
of studying, successfully. Which brings me to this day, this amazing day when one of my daughters was set to graduate. It had been a long, few years, it wasn’t’ easy being a single mum and it had taken a village to get her here. I was so grateful for all the help, the words of encouragement, the
bursaries and for the hard work she had put in to get to this point. It was no easy feat as the course was difficult and there many tears shed in this 3-year process. She had wanted to move to another city to study and each year had been marred by painful situations, a difficult roommate, loneliness, boyfriend troubles, money troubles and then an absent roommate. All had added to the actual stress of studying.
Getting ready that morning evoked a true sense of joy, and our smiles were as radiant as they were bright. A quick trip to the salon to do her nails was followed by make-up and hair, which was done by her talented sister. We had collected her dress, a beautiful black knee length one with the most
exquisite sleeves, the previous evening as well as her cap and gown.
We arrived at the university relatively early, to get the professional pictures taken. There was a hive of activity around the campus, a buzz of excited happy voices echoing in the corridors and projecting into the open areas. What a day for all these parents who had made this journey possible
for their children. It was an amazing atmosphere and I contemplated on each one’s path to get to this place.
After the photographs we waited in the main courtyard until the entire group of friends had arrived. Giggles and shrieks filled the air as hugs ensued and choruses of “Wow, you look amazing” rang out. I soaked this atmosphere in, smiled and chatted when I needed to and was amused at the open displays of glee. Mostly I sat and absorbed, this particular moment would never come again, and I was determined to store it in my memory bank, to be visited on many occasions.
All too soon it was time to make our way to the grand hall for the ceremony. The soon to be graduates filed in managing to contain their chatter and brimming excitement. There were murmurs between them until the Vice Chancellor took charge and gave them a demonstration on how to receive you cap and sash and where to smile at the strategically placed cameras. The hush that followed this was of nervousness and contained joy. The impending walk to the front of the hall seemed quite daunting and many of the students were seen glancing at it nervously.
The speeches that preceded the awards were enthralling and I was totally captivated. They were of the struggles young people went through to get where they were and what would face them out in the world. The seriousness led to laughter and smiles as the speeches became lighter and this was needed to set the tone for the celebrations to follow.
The number of graduates in this field seemed endless and the happiness at seeing each one capped by the Chancellor, receive their sash and degree was spectacular. My hands were sore from clapping, and we weren’t even a quarter way through. For most of these students they were the first to graduate in their family so the pride exuded on the faces of the family and happiness that radiated was an incredible sight to see. It was one of achievement, of accomplishment and the dances and songs that took place exhibited the jubilation felt throughout the room. Many of the families comprised of a single parent accompanied by extended family members that had also come to share in this joy. These parents, mainly mothers, had raised these incredible adults single-handedly. I associated with these mothers and just thinking about this journey made my tears well
up. How blessed was I to be in this this position? I had so my gifts that I couldn’t even put a price on them.
Finally, it was my daughters turn, they called her name and her degree, and she walked up to be capped with a huge smile on her face. I stood up, clapping the hardest I could and shouting her name followed by a few “Well done sweetie” and “Whoohoo’s”. I captured the moment on my phone until she collected her degree, then the tears trickled over and my vision blurred. I felt like I would burst with the pride I felt for her, her accomplishments, and the person she was. I knew the struggle it had taken to get her here and I was so appreciative of it all.
As the ceremony ended with rings of “being the best possible person you can be” and “what you do with your degree matters”, everyone filed out into the brilliant sunshine and whoops of delight from the graduates. I couldn’t wait to hug my child and tell her how proud of her I was. I exited to a sea of faces, how was I going to find her in this crowd?
After fifteen minutes of searching, she called me, and I made my way down to the waving arms. I hugged her and whispered my congratulations in her ear, she smiled up at me and mouthed her thanks. It was time for photos to be taken and I was delighted to be able to meet not only the friends I had heard so much about but their parents as well. I waited patiently through all the poses and different groups of photos, through the laughter and chatter and the introductions and pleasantries. This was her day, and I was just the on looker but still immersed in all these happenings.
As the crowd thinned and another faculty made their way up for their ceremony, we turned and took one last look at steps leading up to the grand hall, not wanting the moments to end and wanting to etch it in our memories forever.
A celebration supper followed with family and friends, a fitting end to an exceptional day. I walked outside to an amazing sunset; its beautiful hues astounded me, and I reveled in. What magnificent day it had been. I was so grateful for all the people in my life, so grateful for all the gifts I had been given and so thankful for the journey thus far.
I closed my eyes and prayed for the success of my eldest daughter in her last year of her degree and for the newly graduate’s last year of honors. If everything went to plan, I would be celebrating twice next year. I smiled and, looked at the last rays as they dipped into the sea and headed back to the chatter and noise of the celebrations.