25 May 2008


My niece Angela graduated from Radford University this month. And because we are a very modern family, here is the list of her cheering section:

me (her maternal aunt)

Daddy (maternal grandfather)
Audrey (maternal step-grandmother)

Bruce (step-father)
Jennifer (step-father's girlfriend)

Cheryl (sister)
Brian (sister's boyfriend)
Brie (sister's boyfriend's daughter, about 10)
Emmie (sister's boyfriend's daughter, about 6)

Travis (step-brother)
Heather (step-brother's girlfriend)

Samantha (step-sister)
Amaya (step-niece, about 4)
Shania (step-niece, about 2)

Valerie (step-aunt)
Taylor (step-cousin)

Jean (step-grandmother)
Les (step-grandfather)

Christina (father's ex-wife, so former step-mother)
Joshua (half-brother, about 7)

The sharp-eyed reader will notice a couple of things:

1. That her mother and father weren't present. My sister, Sara, passed away unexpectedly a few months before Angela graduated from high school. But she was there in spirit. Angela's father couldn't be there, although I don't know why, but not for so unhappy a reason.

2. That of the 20 of us, only four are related to her by blood which was one of my favorite things about the whole affair. We don't normally spend too much effort remembering exactly how people are or aren't related unless I'm playing Southern Chess* and my thought for the day was that we just make that vague circle-waved-at-shoulder-height gesture and lump us all as family if anybody asked. The only ticket for admission was loving Angela and wanting to celebrate this milestone with her.

It was a lovely day and the University made some very good decisions:

The graduation started with a plenary session on the lawn, so when there weren't enough seats, the late comers (or the just before the Pomp and Circumstance comers, like us) could just plop down on the grass in the sunshine. Or the shade. Which also meant that during the speeches, the little kids could run around on the lawn every so often without bothering anybody.

Of course, it also meant that when Travis was near to fainting from hunger, he and few others (including some of the smaller children) could sneak off to IHOP for breakfast. This only became a problem when Angela found out about it, although she was somewhat mollified to learn that they didn't bug out until after she marched and the speeches (please contribute to the alumni fund, please don't forget the alumni fund) began.

Then there was a recess which allowed everyone to meet back at Angela's apartment - right across the street from campus! - before we headed over for her college's graduation.

There was a reception before her college's graduation with sandwiches, chips, a veggie & dip platter, and a cake. The cake had a picture of Angela and her class mates on the top and enough sugar in the frosting to keep the children jazzed through the end of the day. We got to meet several of Angela's friends and their families and we got to sit in chairs at tables which are much better for juggling plates and drinks than a big, open room.

Angela pointed out her favorite professor, who, she said, totally changed her attitude about school. "How?" she was asked. "Well, she was really hard on me which I hated at first but then I got to like it." It seems she liked having expectations to meet and sometimes exceed. Good on her!

She officially graduated from the theater, so I felt right at home. And she graduated with two of the other small colleges, so there were only about 140 or 150 names to go through, rather than everyone's.

Her degree, by the way, is in Recreation, Parks and Tourism,** so I'm assuming that the National Park Service looms large in her career goals. And her favorite professor is also the favorite professor of most of her college so the ovation when she was introduced was long and enthusiastic.

And every single ceremony was Mamet-ianly short and to the point. That was the best choice of all.

Congratulations, Angela!!

* Southern Chess is when you sit around figuring how people are related and I'm actually pretty good at the generations and the removeds.

**I would have punctuated that with the terminal comma so that Parks and Tourism doesn't look quite so much like a subtitle, but they didn't ask me.


Liza said...

Ok, here's my southern chess question for you:

Many of my first cousins have children close in age to Noah. Who are they to each other, and who are my cousins to Noah?

Of course everyone in the generations older than Noah gets the courtesy title of Aunt or Uncle, but for my intellectual edification, I'm curious.

Leta said...

Ahhh - easy.

Your cousin's child (let's call her Magnolia) is your first cousin once removed and Noah's second cousin. Magnolia's daughter, Jasmine, will be Noah's second cousin once removed and your first cousin twice removed.

Let's pretend that your cousin is your mother's sister's child. Let us further pretend that her daughter, Magnolia has a cousin on her father's side, Jose, who would be Noah's third cousin.

1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc indicate degrees of horizontal distance and removeds indicate degrees of vertical distance in the family tree.

See how easy? No wonder Southerners like to nurse generations-long grudges and not speak to entire branches of the family.