THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE?
Mandie sat in her seat as the familiar strain of the graduation march filled the auditorium. Willing herself not to break, Mandie recalled the old, self-composed battle tune she’d sung while raising teens:
“ I am mother, feel my guilt;
I don’t sew or knit or quilt;
And my children think that I’m an ATM.”
What a ride motherhood had been! She could still see herself vacuuming and dusting, singing the old Disney song, “I work and work and work and work in a mine the whole day through.” The kids had no respect for all she did.
She smiled as she recalled daughter, Amy, then a mouthy teen, imitating her one day: “I work and work and work and work without a mind, the whole day through.” Yep. Probably closer to the truth.
She sat, reflecting over that Magical Misery Tour: playing bells at church with six year old Amy wrapped around her legs under the skirted table…. Those years looking into her personal entertainment system that others called a refrigerator…
Mandie scoured the crowd for Jake, her rascal. There. So handsome…those big brown eyes, that disarming charm oozing out. Maybe he’ll give a speech. Sure, and maybe the President of the United States will ask you to be the ambassador to the Bahamas, Mandie.
“Lauritz Bainbridge will now come up and give the Valedictorian’s address.”
Okay, no surprise there.
“For the prestigious scholarship award, given to the student who best exemplifies….”
Jake Turner. Nope.
“And now, the Drama Scholarship…”
When he and Zach each claimed to be spending the night at the other’s house….that next day’s explanation was certainly an award winning performance. Too bad they didn’t recognize him here because all he got for it at home was the gulag: home arrest and forced labor, installing landscape railroad ties in the backyard….
“For the McDonald’s Award….”
Now, there it is. Jake isn’t a self-made man. He’s a McDonald’s chicken McNugget man. Who can beat him? Unbelievable. Someone else got that one. I can’t even BUY an award!
“…And now, for the Audio-Visual Award.”
Mandie sat up straighter. Surely, this is Jake! Without his help, I’d have even more hours of taped fishing shows. No? Is there no justice in this world? Why doesn’t Sony Playstation sponsor a scholarship? Jake’s nimble fingers, his hand and eye coordination...
Mandie let out a sigh. Award show’s over. Nothing to see here, folks. Go home.
At least Jake will be included in the march of the masses. Nightmares of a big hook pulling him back had faded after Jake straightened out a course problem with the guidance counselor.
They look like little penguins waddling up to the front. I knew I shouldn’t have watched March of the Penguins last night. One by one, they went up the steps and shook hands with the principal. What is that on Jake’s graduation cap? Oh, why did I forget my glasses? Mandie considered asking the man next to her but she wasn’t sure she wanted a stranger to read it…aloud.
Suddenly, there was a disturbance at the bottom steps of the stage. A tiny girl had fallen. Mandie recognized her. She was a “little person” who walked with much effort and a decided sideways sway. It was as if the entire auditorium let out a huge gasp. People seemed frozen in place for a second…except Jake. He ran up, black gown flowing, losing his graduation cap in the process. Taking the girl’s hand, he helped her to stand up, and then extended his arm to her. With great dignity, Jake was escorting her onto the stage! The crowd began clapping. Mandie clapped vigorously as tears streamed down her face. She felt a big knot in her throat and found herself stifling a cry that rose to the surface as if starved for oxygen.
She’d worked her way out of a job. No medals, no trophies, no scholarships… Making her way up the aisle to where Jake was, she stepped on something. His cap. Mandie picked it up, then turned it over and read the words taped on top. “Thanks, Mom.” There would be no parades, no trophies, no scholarships. None needed. It was time to deliver her own acceptance speech. “Thanks, Father,” she said, clasping the hat to her heart.
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