Our DIY graduation ceremony – Texas Monthly
Last weekend I was supposed to be in Boston to see my cousin Meha graduating from Tufts University. I had been looking forward to this trip for a while. Because I love my cousin, of course, but also because I love everything about college graduations: the uplifting speeches, the special school traditions, the big graduation dinner, the feeling of optimistic uncertainty in the air. My own college degree went by so quickly. I barely had the chance to take a moment and appreciate what was going on. When someone else graduates, I’m much better at absorbing it all.
Like so many other schools, the Tufts opening ceremony and in-person classes were canceled in March. So Meha spent her spring term in Dallas and lives here at the moment. She took her UX design course on Zoom. She received a DIY cocktail kit in the mail so she could attend a virtual beverage-making class during what was supposed to be Seniors’ Week. I couldn’t stop thinking about that powerful blend of joy, sadness, and longing that permeated the final months of my senior year. Meha wouldn’t experience it. So, along with my cousins Hirsh and Isha, who also live in Dallas at the moment, I started plotting. How could we have an epic and above all safe graduation ceremony for Meha?
We decided to hold the ceremony in my backyard, where there is luckily enough space for social distancing. We split the dietary responsibilities – the plan was fish tacos, grilled veggies, guacamole, cilantro-lime rice, and black beans, plus a flourless chocolate cake for dessert. We were all responsible for dividing the food between different containers, so that no one would eat nearby. We set up the chairs at a safe distance. I was obsessed with planning every detail of this graduation ceremony because I wanted Meha to have her special day. Granted, it was also a nice mental break from thinking about the pandemic all the time.
Meha borrowed Hirsh’s old graduation gown and Isha’s cap. I blew up a hip-hop version of “Pomp and Circumstance” from our outdoor speakers as Meha walked around the pool in procession. We all wore masks. My dad, who loves speeches, gave the opening speech. Isha made a fake diploma that said “Bachelor o Farts” instead of “Bachelor of Arts”, because we are very mature. I even printed programs with the Tufts seal on them, for an added touch.
It was not the graduation ceremony that none of us expected to attend. But there was something very charming about our highly DIY production and the dinner that followed, with black beans spread out in quart containers and pieces of flourless chocolate cake handed out while wearing masks from a distance. . It reminded me of all the other pandemic-inspired innovations that have brought me joy over the past few months – the father who turned his house into a hibachi restaurant for the birthday of his son, the elegant wedding which took place on a decorated front porch in Brooklyn. When the days start to mix, these are the times I live for. The ones that make you forget the mask you’re wearing or the fact that, in my case, I haven’t been home for months. And at the very least, while my graduation day will always be blurry, I don’t think Meha is going to forget hers anytime soon.