Graduating from Manchester University was a rather bitter-sweet experience, since I can no longer be approached by strangers about my wild night out with my Mum. Even though in Dorset, echoes of that crazy time still follow me around, graduation marked the end of a three year chapter of my life, and with ups and downs all over the place I was sad to say goodbye.
My friend Tommy and I shared the stress of working out how to get our parents to the ceremony on time. We both laughed, ironically, that our roles had been reversed, and the parents had now become our children. The responsibility of trying to keep them happy at the same time as looking for a safe place to leave them, (so they wouldn’t get confused) was extremely exhausting. After lots of left, right and sometimes wrong turns, we finally told them where to stand. They actually managed to remain in the same position we left them, whilst we agitatedly queued for our gowns, mumbling that we hoped they hadn’t got themselves lost.
After countless generic graduation snaps, Dad decided it was a good idea to lift the back of my gown over my head as a hood. When I told him to stop, he simply said “why not? It’s raining!”. People were looking at this idiotic display with furrowed brows as if we were mad. We bustled them into the line for the ceremony, only to bump into them on the stairs 5 minutes later. Our little conversation beforehand, hugging and saying we would see them after, now seemed pointless.
As I sat down, I looked over to my right and saw that they were still nearby. Both sets of parents were sitting opposite me, looking eagerly over. Dad was doing his usual big eyes, raised eyebrows expression with his long arm waving, almost hitting the top of the man’s head next to him in his eagerness. Mum, on the other hand, had sparked up what looked like a rather interesting conversation with the woman next to her, having not noticed Dad’s extravagant gestures.
The ceremony itself wasn’t particularly interesting, with a lot of clapping leaving us with slightly reddened hands by the end. There was some entertainment however, provided by the hilariously old-fashioned robes and caps the professor’s wore- it looked like they were in Harry Potter, or a choir walking down the aisle of a cathedral. In particular, the head of Classics was doing very well not to be distracted by his cap’s tassel constantly brushing against his eye during his speech.
What followed- a brief hello and a free glass of Prosecco with my friends- resulted in a long, slightly fuzzy-headed 4 hour journey with my parents.
The highlight, as sad as it sounds, had to be the very up-market Gloucester services. As we were waiting for Mum to pretty much do her weekly shop, Dad and I had a riveting conversation about his 20p apple and why it’s always a good idea to eat the pips. The last stretch of the journey presented us with some obstacles: wobbly encounters with ‘incompetent drivers’, and some exhausting incidents of road rage. It was lucky that, after swapping drivers about 3 times, we made it home in one piece.
So it was, after 3 years, we made the final drive back to Dorset. In many ways, I thought I would be relieved to be rid of the squalor of student living, but as I reflect, it was worth it for the amazing friendships I kindled. Through the good times and the bad, I will always be appreciative that Mum and Dad had only ever been a phone call away. In Manchester I would’ve probably called Dad just when he was be hobbling over a wall in Greece, or ring Mum when she was half way through realizing that she’d locked the car in the car park in Mallorca… but perhaps next time I ring them from afar it will be to tell them I’ve made it as a big time writer.
It is farewell to Manchester and my parents as wonderful subjects, and on to new, exciting things.