Copyright 2023 by Kelsey Hoevel
Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash
expect to be crying on my graduation day, and I certainly didn’t
expect my mom to tell me she wouldn’t show up to the ceremony
just an hour beforehand, but here I am, crying on the floor of my
pink bedroom. My back is to my mirror, which is begging to be
cleaned. I’m in eighth grade – for today, anyway. I’m
nowhere near ready to go, on account of that I couldn’t fit in
my beauty routine between the screaming match with my mom at five and
bawling my eyes out at six. Tears are streaming down my cakey face.
My mascara isn’t running – I used the waterproof kind
because I like to be prepared for anything. But I wasn’t
prepared for this.
mom and I have
always had a rocky relationship. She loves to brag about my
accomplishments and takes great pride in everything I’ve
achieved. However, my parents are divorced, and she hates when I side
with my dad in their disputes. They’ve been arguing all day
about whose house my brother Spencer and I should sleep at tonight.
According to the schedule my lawyer father drew up eight years ago,
we’re supposed to sleep at our mom’s house. Still, since
we’re going to be nearer to his house for the graduation
ceremony, my dad thinks we should stay with him. I made the mistake
of agreeing with him, and now my mom is refusing to attend, in
look at the clock.
It’s half past six. I’m supposed to be at the ceremony by
seven o’clock, ready to go. It’s hopeless, I
think, there’s no way I’m going to make it. But I
have to make it; I’m giving the commencement speech. My hands
shaking, I frantically smear a fresh layer of foundation on my face,
and – worried about how blotchy my face has become – add
another, and then another. I throw on my gown and I think I might
actually be okay, until I remember my cap needs to be bobby-pinned to
my head in order for it to stay on. I press pin after pin into my
frizzy, bleach-blonde hair until I manage to get the cap to stick.
It’s giving me a massive headache, and it's crooked, but at
this point that’s the least of my concerns. I scream at my dad
to pull the car out of the driveway. Spencer is sitting in the car,
all ready to go, which never happens. I suppose I should be glad he’s
not going to increase our odds of being late, yet this infuriates me.
I’m supposed to be the one who has her life together.
We arrive about ten
minutes late. I’m still fighting back tears. Fortunately, one
of my teachers, Mrs. Joyner, has my back as usual. She’s one of
those sweet English teachers who always wear cardigans and smell like
cinnamon. She’s like a second mother to me, who’s there
for me when my biological one isn’t. The woman rushes my
brother and me to a random classroom, where our entire class is
waiting for us. We’re at Niles North High School. Purple and
white stripes fill the walls, and a poster that reads, “Go
Vikings!” hangs above the teacher’s desk.
adjusts my cap, she asks me what the matter is. I tell her that my
mom said she won’t be coming tonight.
not?” she asks, flabbergasted.
thing is…I can’t even remember.”
really crappy of her. But don’t let it get to you when you’re
speaking. And you know what else? One day, you can write a book about
this. That’s what I always tell myself when something crappy
happens to me. Come on, let me show you to the podium.”
walk to the
stage and Mrs. Joyner instructs me to test out the stool she put out
for me, to make sure I could actually read the print-out of my
speech. I can, but the microphone is a little out of reach. I point
this out to her, but she assures me the sound will carry. I’m
doubtful, but I only nod, not wanting to worry her any more than I
strikes eight, and the eighth grade class of 2019 – all
fifty-six of us – are ushered onto the stage. We listen to an
incredibly long sentiment from the principal–some metaphor
about gardening and how we’ve all grown up, or something. For
reasons I do not know, we are forced to sing the national anthem in
its entirety. Mrs. Joyner instructed us to learn the lyrics ahead of
time, but no one did. Finally, after endless speeches and songs and
an embarrassing slideshow of all the students’ baby pictures,
Joyner takes the microphone. She announces that it is time for me,
Kelsey Hoevel, to give the commencement speech. I wipe my tears and
stride to the podium with every bit of false confidence I can muster.
I begin to speak and, to my surprise, the words flow out of my mouth
like a waterfall. I talk about the different clubs and teams students
took part in, and how we were united by the common goal to succeed in
the areas we’re passionate about. I connected this to how we
all just want to belong to a family of some kind, even if that family
is unconventional. Being a part of a group, I say, is our main source
of security in ourselves. “And Golf Middle School, with only
200 kids total, gave us that feeling,” I conclude.
the time I’m
finished, I’ve forgotten all about the fight with my mom. I
feel proud, capable. Independent.
I spend twenty minutes searching for my father in a sea of parents.
When I find him, my mom is by his side. She doesn’t apologize
but hugs me and tells me I did a great job. I can’t say I
expected anything different, I think. Her lack of an apology
stings, but I’m just glad she’s here. She jokes she’s
surprised my brother graduated, and we all pile into the car and
drive to the Cheesecake Factory for a celebratory dinner. She
refuses to order off the menu and makes up her own dish to order. We
Hoevel is an eighteen-year-old college student who resides in Morton
Grove, Illinois. Though she has never before published her work,
Kelsey has spent most of her free time writing creatively all
throughout her life. When she’s not writing, she enjoys
teaching children’s performance art classes, cooking, and
dancing. After college, she hopes to go into the marketing field.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher