Flying from Sydney to LA takes about 14 hours. If you count the return trip and time spent traveling to and waiting at the airport, the total travel hours involved in a round trip journey to LA numbers around 36. Last month, Mickey and I took a week off from work and made that 36 hour journey to LA and back to celebrate my brother Nic's graduation, an occasion which was truly worth the trip.
Eight years ago, Nic almost didn't graduate from high school. He moved among a crowd to whom academics weren't important. He's always been bright, but at that time had neither the motivation nor the confidence to succeed in school. In fact, Nic was mentioned by name in a friend's commencement address: "we'll remember the bad boy antics of Nic Rennie and..." My mom recalls hoping my grandmothers wouldn't be too embarrassed by this claim to fame.
Nic spent a couple of years at the community college, enrolling in and then dropping classes, but making steady scholarly progress. He met professors and encountered issues that inspired him to not only learn, but act. Three years ago he gathered the courage to apply to the University of California, Riverside (UCR), was accepted and thrived. He graduated cum laude with a BA in Philosophy.
My family and I had never been so proud of Nic and my mom decided to commemorate the event with a big family party. Her friend in the embroidery business customized about 25 ball caps that said either "friend of NIC" or "relative of NIC." Because the word 'Nic' was spelled out in all capital gold letters on official-looking navy blue hats, my cousin joked that we'd be mistaken for a government agency with the acronym 'N - I - C' like SWAT or FBI.
My mom decorated the house with flowers from her garden, but the food and beverage for the afternoon reflected the tastes of the man of the hour: imported microbrews and Reece's Peanut Butter Cups and Twix on every table. Buca di Beppo catered the main meal, an Italian feast featuring a tray of lasagna for 40 and a similar sized tray of meatballs the size of your fist. As you can imagine, we were eating leftovers for a week.
The weather was sunny and warm enough for games of croquet on the lawn. At one point, my cousin's three children were each playing with a set of mallets, balls and gates, but none of them were playing the same game. We'll call it creative croquet. Most guests were content to catch up with each other, wish Nic well and pose for pictures wearing the 'NIC' hats. I believe that a good time was had by all.
The commencement ceremony, honoring many social science graduates, was special despite our proximity to rude, low-class families. Someone needs to get a word about graduation ceremony etiquette out to the masses (perhaps via WalMart or truck ads). Though my humble blog resembles neither of these, I'll step up and be that someone. Proud families of graduates, please do not talk at normal conversation volume throughout the duration of the commencement. It's rude. Also, do not stand up for a half an hour waiting for your graduate's name to be called. It prevents those behind you from seeing their loved one. Thank you; I'll step down from my soap box now.
Anyway, even those bogans couldn't stop us from savoring Nic's shining moment. He deliberately kept his cum laude status a secret from us so it would be a surprise, the sneaky little smarty. Though his Lakers lost game 5 of the 2010 NBA finals (but eventually went on to win the title), I hope Nic was still feeling like a champion on June 13, 2010. You deserve it, Buddy. I love you.