by Julia Buckley
Since I am the party planner in our family (and since my husband and sons CLAIM to have no ability in this area), I made the decision to throw myself a party in recognition of my earning--FINALLY--a Master of Arts in English Studies.
Of course my family helped with some getting-ready chores (although they also tried to claim they weren't good at those. You know that excuse? You're so much better at cleaning, Mom. We just wouldn't do a good job. Blah blah), and they helped with hosting duties during the party, which included such eccentric things as keeping our warlike cat IN the house when he tried to slip out with each new arrival; keeping our super-hyper beagle OFF of people's legs as he tried to greet them in his own amorous style; and occasionally trying to lure my brother's soccer-loving family AWAY from the World Cup coverage and over to the buffet table for conversation. :)
The party invitation had specified no gifts: my diploma was truly enough in that department. But well-meaning visitors still handed me generous acknowledgments of my accomplishment. A bottle of wine, a bottle of Bailey's, cards with clever poems and heartfelt congratulations. A cute statue of a graduate with a cat at her feet (from my mom and dad, who know me well).
Two members of my writer's group stopped by, and one of them, in a hastily scrawled card that heralded my educational victory, had written me a check. I found this particularly sweet, as though she saw me on the same footing as the youngsters graduating from high school and college. And our family friend Ivan, a young filmmaker who writes and directs his own feature-length movies, brought me a DVD of his latest thriller, a vampire tale that is very much a philosophical treatise on the choice between right and wrong.
Best of all, though, was the fact that so many people accepted the invitation and came over to celebrate with me. Friends from my undergraduate days drove an hour to join the gathering, bringing their own teen-aged daughters (we spent much of the soiree trying to figure out how our children got so tall and we got so much older). Our neighbors, always supportive, attended, as did all of my family in the immediate vicinity.
My writer's group friends and I stole into a corner to talk about writing and publishing for a while; my friend Martha had received what she called "a flattering rejection letter" from an agent who loved her writing but not her genre. Martha is in fact a terrific writer, and I hope to be writing about her first publication here some day. My friend Cynthia, who is writing a mystery but also trying to turn one of her brilliant short stories into a young adult novel, was glad to report that she had left the writing doldrums, where she had been trapped for a couple of months, and was now in a productive period. This is typical of writers at parties: they like to talk about writing.
At one point in our chat, we writers cornered the two teenaged girls from out of town. They're very cute, blonde and blue-eyed, and they claimed to love reading in their school libraries.
"What makes you choose a book?" asked Martha.
Sarah, the older sister, didn't hesitate. "The color of the spine," she said. "There are so many books. I'm always drawn to the ones with bright colors."
She added that the covers were very important, as well. "If the cover's not interesting, then I probably won't look at the book," she said. Her sister agreed.
Armed with this knowledge, I moved to the sweet table, sampled a couple of cookies, and eavesdropped on more conversations, which ranged from discussions of the weather (rainy) to predictions about the Cubs' season (not optimistic) to what movies people should and shouldn't see.
On a side table, my diploma sat proudly for public viewing; I had meant to put out a copy of my 44-page thesis, as well, but I had forgotten to print it out. :)
Some people actually asked me to send it to them via e-mail, since it is a scholarly examination of the suspense novels of Mary Stewart, and many people remembered liking Stewart's novels back in the '70s.
After a few hours, people began to drift away, mentioning other obligations they had to keep before taking their Sunday rest. My college friends lingered a bit longer, agreeing to share some pizza with us before they headed back to the south suburbs.
I sit here now, reflecting on the importance of marking milestones. They come so seldom, really, and it's so much nicer to share them with friends and family than to let them pass by unnoticed. Included in those friends, by the way, are all of my Deadly Sisters here on the blog, who sent me nice e-mails of congratulation in honor of my educational advancement. Thanks, blogmates!
And happy milestones to you all.