The Commencement

Kelsey Hoevel

© Copyright 2023 by Kelsey Hoevel

Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash
Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash
I didnít expect to be crying on my graduation day, and I certainly didnít expect my mom to tell me she wouldnít 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. Iím in eighth grade Ė for today, anyway. Iím nowhere near ready to go, on account of that I couldnít 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 isnít running Ė I used the waterproof kind because I like to be prepared for anything. But I wasnít prepared for this.

My mom and I have always had a rocky relationship. She loves to brag about my accomplishments and takes great pride in everything Iíve achieved. However, my parents are divorced, and she hates when I side with my dad in their disputes. Theyíve 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, weíre supposed to sleep at our momís house. Still, since weíre 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 protest.

I look at the clock. Itís half past six. Iím supposed to be at the ceremony by seven oíclock, ready to go. Itís hopeless, I think, thereís no way Iím going to make it. But I have to make it; Iím giving the commencement speech. My hands shaking, I frantically smear a fresh layer of foundation on my face, and Ė worried about how blotchy my face has become Ė 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. Itís giving me a massive headache, and it's crooked, but at this point thatís 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 heís not going to increase our odds of being late, yet this infuriates me. Iím supposed to be the one who has her life together.

We arrive about ten minutes late. Iím still fighting back tears. Fortunately, one of my teachers, Mrs. Joyner, has my back as usual. Sheís one of those sweet English teachers who always wear cardigans and smell like cinnamon. Sheís like a second mother to me, whoís there for me when my biological one isnít. The woman rushes my brother and me to a random classroom, where our entire class is waiting for us. Weíre at Niles North High School. Purple and white stripes fill the walls, and a poster that reads, ďGo Vikings!Ē hangs above the teacherís desk.

As Mrs. Joyner adjusts my cap, she asks me what the matter is. I tell her that my mom said she wonít be coming tonight.

ďWhy not?Ē she asks, flabbergasted.
ďThe funny thing isÖI canít even remember.Ē
ďThatís really crappy of her. But donít let it get to you when youíre speaking. And you know what else? One day, you can write a book about this. Thatís what I always tell myself when something crappy happens to me. Come on, let me show you to the podium.Ē

We 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. Iím doubtful, but I only nod, not wanting to worry her any more than I already have.

The clock strikes eight, and the eighth grade class of 2019 Ė all fifty-six of us Ė are ushered onto the stage. We listen to an incredibly long sentiment from the principalĖsome metaphor about gardening and how weíve 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 studentsí 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 weíre 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. ďAnd Golf Middle School, with only 200 kids total, gave us that feeling,Ē I conclude.

By the time Iím finished, Iíve forgotten all about the fight with my mom. I feel proud, capable. Independent.

After the ceremony, I spend twenty minutes searching for my father in a sea of parents. When I find him, my mom is by his side. She doesnít apologize but hugs me and tells me I did a great job. I canít say I expected anything different, I think. Her lack of an apology stings, but Iím just glad sheís here. She jokes sheís 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 all groan.

Everything is perfect.

Kelsey 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 sheís not writing, she enjoys teaching childrenís performance art classes, cooking, and dancing. After college, she hopes to go into the marketing field.

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