Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Soon to be an Esquire

So I've graduated law school. What a trip!

On Sunday, May 19, 2013, I woke up bright and early to misting rain and headed off to Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. Although the ceremony was slated to start at 10, the graduands had to be there for 8:30. There were 500+ of us, so I guess that made sense.

My sweet Samia met me at 8:30, happily willing to wait by herself until the doors opened for guests at 9:30. John and I discussed him going with me, but not only can I get ready faster than either he or Derek, I had already asked Samia and felt it would just be too overwhelming for me to take everything and them too.

Samia came early so she could take my bag. I could not leave anything in the waiting area of Avery Fisher, so someone had to take it. I arrived there in my sexy pants and raincoat and a bag with other stuff. Samia took my handbag and the bag where I stuffed my raincoat, umbrella, Kindle, flip-flops (which I was so glad I brought, but more about that later). I brought my gown in a long bag, so she helped me stuff the empty bag in there and she went away to get coffee and meet up with John. I got in line.

While waiting for her, I got to see lots of people arrive. It was so nice to see everyone looking excited, trying to pretend that they weren't, because, pish tosh, we're only graduating from fucking law school, right?

I met up with Kayla inside and Emery met us just a few minutes later. Alex, coming from maybe two whole blocks away, arrived far later than we did. Then, we waited.

There was place to sit, so we stood around, just chatting, taking silly photos, and helping other people with their group shots. It was kinda fun. The four of us decided we wanted to be together for the ceremony. We've been friends since first semester. Em and I were in Law Preview together and, although we didn't speak then, we recognized each other right away and became study buddies. Kayla joined the love triangle later in the semester when we got into a group project for Civil Procedure. Alex and I were in every single 1L class together, even our small and writing sections. It was important to us that we finish together what we started together.

By the time we got to enter the hall, I was dying to sit down. And hot. Petal and polyester don't mix and I began to congratulate myself that I didn't wear the long-sleeved shirt I planned to. I couldn't even take off the gown because the sash was pinned to it to prevent it from falling off my shoulders, so I would have cooked to a turn if I wore long-sleeves. I don't know how the men did it.

I did, however, wear the most amazing bra known to mankind! Like the Indian beti I am, I managed to tuck my phone, lipstick, and glasses cleaning cloth in there without a worry. Or an iota of discomfort! I didn't want to take a bag, and an alum suggested the phone-in-the-bra trick. Made sense to me!

As we walked in, I tried desperately to find John, Derek, Samia, my brother and his wife. Anne, my sister-in-law, wound up not showing up because she was ill. Whatev. I was very disappointed to find that out and, thankfully, I didn't find out till well after the whole thing was over. I kinda wish a tiny bit that I did know before so I could have given her ticket away, but nothing I could do about that now. I told my brother she owes me presents. Nuff said.

I couldn't find them anywhere, so I just walked forward to my seat. The usher directed me to a single aisle seat and guided Alex, Em, and Kay to the row behind me. I froze. I couldn't sit by myself! It was my dumb idea to sit together. Well, Ms. Emery wasn't having any of that nonsense. No sirree, Bub. She reached over, took my forearm and declared, "She has to sit with us." The usher decided not to fight the 5ft. 2in, sunkissed-blonde who might weigh 110lbs soaking wet. I, Stone Pet, allowed myself to be hauled into Em's row. Bless her!

So we sat mid-fourth row from the stage. A great seat to see everything happening without having to look up at the screen. I craned around looking for John and Derek, and managed to text to them where I was. They saw me but I couldn't see them and it was really distracted to the people behind me when I kept turning around, so I had to stop it.

Then came the actual stuff that happened on stage. The man who sang the National Anthem was awesome. I confess: when he opened his mouth I was confused why the words "Forged from the love of liberty..." were not coming out! For the non-Trinidadians, that is the first line of the Trinidad and Tobago National Anthem. I guess I was experiencing a complex set of emotions in that 2-second period. I did not attend grad ceremonies from UWI, so it was a weird moment for me.

The Dean said some funny stuff. I love that guy. Then some Faculty Awards. One of them was voted on by the students and the Prof who got picked? Never saw her in my life. Then a bunch of students got called up to receive prizes for high grades and excellent writing. Never saw any of them in my life. Then the student speakers: one for day and evening. I never saw that day speaker in my life. Funnily enough, the evening speaker I did know and know well. The day chick didn't really do it for me. The evening dude spoke well and thanked his mummy at the end. That was sweet.

Then came the conferring of the Honorary Degree on NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who gave a funny speech. I zoned out at the political stuff, not because he was boring, but because I wanted to see my husband and son and was getting antsy. John got a gray suit and white shirt with gray pinstripes made for my graduation and I had not seen him before I left. Derek was wearing a matching gray waist coat (vest) and trousers, with a white shirt and green tie and I was dying to see his cuteness.

Then there was another conferral: The NYLS President's Medal to Arthur Abbey, and alum and chairman of the school's board. He's a great guy and I was happy for him and was able to congratulate him when I was on stage. But now I was getting antsier. It was my time, dammit. Let's get this show on the road!

More waiting for C.P. Maharaj's little girl Petal, I'm afraid. The four of us pressed to the front of the line while we were waiting, anticipating that the students from the front would get called first. WRONG! They started at the back, and if we were thinking straight, we would have realized that would make the most sense. Plus, the very last graduate was a blind young woman, who needed to be seated in the very first row and be the last to cross the stage with her seeing eye dog. She got a well-deserved standing ovation, by the way. That was just wonderful.

Finally, my row got to stand up. I lost all sense of time and space after that. I had planned to look up and see my name on the screen, and shake the Mayor's hand before going to the Dean. Yeah. So that didn't happen, not even a little. It was like my wedding day. Just a blur.

I remember being told to stop at the foot of the stage for a photo. I remember Dean Eastus hugging me and telling she was doing that because I was leaving and she needed to slow the line down. LOL! I have no recollection of actually walking across the stage to the Dean. I remember looking at him and seeing his face and giving him the biggest hug. John told me after that he held on to me for a long time, and pulled me aside to say stuff. I remember telling him to take care and him saying something like I don't have to tell him that, he is going to take care of me and the school is going to make sure I get through this summer. I don't know what the person behind me must have been thinking, but I didn't care. Derek got this great shot of me hugging Dean Crowell and I was thrilled.

By the time I got back to my seat, I was a mess. I asked Kayla what happened! It was like a dream I have to piece together.

Then Arthur Abbey conferred the degree of Juris Doctorate on us and there it was. I was a J.D., a law school graduate. Didn't I just start? Didn't we just meet?

I know I left the hall just kinda going with the flow. I found John, Derek, and Samia pretty easily, but my brother, who arrived later than they did and had to sit separately, clearly had plans of his own. We wound up agreeing to meet at the restaurant I made reservations at way back in January or something! The four of us tried to get a cab, but that was a hot mess in the rain. So we took the train and then cabbed it across town to the restaurant.

I actually didn't choose this place; it kinda chose me. I had decided on another called The Leopard des Artistes, which was just a block away from Lincoln Center. However, a few days after I made the reservation, they rang me to say they have a private event on that day and could I try their sister restaurant, Il Gattopardo, located at 54th Street, a few blocks away? I told them it was my law school graduation and I was so looking forward to celebrating at The Leopard. They offered me a bottle of wine and I said my party doesn't drink wine. So they promised to make it special for me. I said ok. How bad could it be?

How bad? Like, nonce bad! It was amazing. The food was fantastic, and we got dessert free. And they treated us very well. I was so happy to be there with my family (Samia is practically my baby sister and it was so right that she be there) sharing my glorious day with me.

By the time we were ready to leave, I realized that standing for almost 2 hours before the ceremony was beginning to take its toll on my ankles. We walked Steve and Samia to the train station but I begged John to take the bus because I couldn't walk anymore. We were right at an M7 stop outside the subway so we just stood there. We were lucky; a bus came about 2 mins later and as soon as I sat down, I pulled out my comfy flip-flops and put away the sexy shoes. My feet were never more grateful. Both John and Derek fell asleep on the ride home!

When we got home, I sank into a hot bath and John went to take a nap. We were all just wiped. It was only then I realized we did not take any photos together and I have nothing to show all of us being there. We had to rush to the restaurant right after the ceremony to make our reservation time and pictures flew out of my head. I'm not too disappointed. I was so happy John and Derek got to see me cross the stage, and that my brother was there, too. It was a happy day and I slept like a dead stone that night.

And, now, one adventure ends and another begins. What a trip!

Monday, May 13, 2013

this is the end. hold your breath and count to 10

Wow. Three years just gone, like that. I can barely remember my life without law school in it. Like I can barely remember my life without Chris, Derek, John in it. But, somehow, it feels like yesterday when those things weren't in it.

Celebrated Trinidadian writer Sam Selvon wrote “All these words that I hope to write, I have written them already many times in my mind. I have had many beginnings, each as good or bad as the other.” If that doesn’t describe a woman who has had my life, I cannot imagine what will.

There is no question in my mind that the biggest beginning I have had is moving to New York City. Mr. Selvon wrote those words in his short story “My Girl and the City,” a love letter to London. Law school made me realize I have been writing my own love letter to New York for the past seven years.

I never had a vision of the American dream. I came to the US to marry the man I fell in love with. He could have been anywhere in the world. I made the decision to follow. I now thank him for being here and not at any end of the world. I’d have gone there, sure. But I’m very happy he chose to be here.

My beginnings here were difficult. It’s hard to live somewhere for 32 years, get used to its ins and outs, and then pick up and move to a sprawling metropolis that manages to fit eight million-plus people in a 302 square mile island. I lived on an island. I’ve had to rethink the definition after I moved here.

That island is thought of as laid-back, easy-breezy, drink-all-the-rum-all-the-time. This island is thought of as quick, rude, isolating, don’t-talk-to-me-I’m-walking-here. Both are true and really untrue. For me, they are more untrue. I was part of the rat race on that island. On this island, my life was so much more relaxed, at least until the man I came to marry told me I need to find something to do because he was tired of coming home to clean laundry and hot food every day!

A little exaggeration, but after five years of being a stay at home parent, it was time to get back out into the world – to find something new to begin. With the support of that amazing man I came here to marry, I began what would become the most fulfilling three years of my life to date. Even better than that, I grew to appreciate this island in a way that surpassed anything I could have thought of.

Perhaps the best example I can give of how grateful I am to have followed that man here comes from the wake of Sandy. This island’s response to unbelievable devastation made me so proud to be able to say and mean that here is my home too. Twenty years ago, pregnant with my first son, I nearly died in a flood that swept through the area where I lived. Every year, every single year, floods would destroy crops, homes, lives, and nothing got done about it. Twenty years later, things seem to be getting worse.

One year before Sandy, Irene wreaked her own havoc and those in a position to protect took a beating. Here, in a turnaround of one year, the same City and State administrations were able to correct many mistakes to save lives. And the post-storm efforts were nothing short of Herculean to get our beloved island back to normal. Never could I have imagined living in a place where a government would fix its mistakes because its people needed it to.

Like Selvon, I want to say everything to you, the way he wanted to communicate everything in his heart to his girl and his city. “I say them because I want you to know, I don’t ever want to regret afterwards that I didn’t say enough, I would rather say too much.”

But I am not Selvon, gifted in his way to write that ode to the people who need to hear all the words I need to say. Where would I be without my John? What he gave up is immeasurable and not something that most would understand. In all of my absence from his life, he still made me laugh, gave me advice, didn't brook my nonsense, and made fantastic eye candy at every event I dragged him to. 

My children. Chris is more removed from me to have been terribly impacted, but what he doesn't know is that this entire experience made me appreciate him so much more. He is so focused on his schoolwork and knows his own ins and outs so much better than I could have ever hoped for. When I should have been inspiring him, his work ethic inspired me.

My little DerBerries. When I started, he hadn't even turned 7. Kudos to John for turning our baby into a young man. But he missed his Mama, more than I ever thought he would. He also got used to it, even teasing me about coming home "early," before his bedtime! It's when we, just the 2 of us, do something together that I realize how much he misses me and how much I miss him. Yesterday, after we played in his room together, he said, "That was fun, Mama. We should do that again tomorrow."  I reminded him he would be on an overnight school trip, but I understood how he felt. 

All the people who stood by me, giving me support and encouragement: Anu, Bellie, Kimmy, Michele, Kir, Janelle, Samia, all my old high school friends who knew me when I was a little girl. What do I say? Thank you just seems so lame. Maybe if you could read my heart, you'd know.

Today is my last exam. It ends at 9 p.m and after that,  I would have a J.D. Whoda thunk it? Well, lots of people, me included, but it does not mean that there isn't some disbelief in me that this is where I am today. Maybe Alex, Christina, Emery, Kayla, Rob, and Sondah might have an idea of what I'm talking about. They must be going through something very similar.

So, this is the end. Tomorrow begins anew.