Hi, y’all! This foreign correspondent isn’t feeling all that foreign anymore…

It has been almost 11 months since I first stepped out of the Houston airport and into the sticky, oppressive summer heat, since I slept on an air mattress on the floor of our completely empty house while waiting for the movers to arrive, since I pulled into my assigned parking space in The John Cooper School parking lot for the first time, a terrified new kid driving a decidedly uncool 14-year-old minivan.

And now it’s graduation and I’ve just watched the seniors walk across the Cooper stage.

Sitting up high in the bleachers with my classmates, I couldn’t keep my thoughts from Sacramento, couldn’t help but compare the proceedings before me to those I’ve seen grace the Edwards Plaza year after year.

Not surprisingly, the John Cooper graduation was nothing like Country Day’s—Mr. Wells didn’t play his guitar; there was no Dr. Baird Cookie Monster; Fels didn’t wield her blistering sarcasm. There’s no replacing a Country Day skit. What senior doesn’t want their every high school gaffe immortalized in song, dance and laughter at their graduation?

And yet, as I listened to the valedictorian and commencement speaker and watched the steady stream of green gowns and tasseled caps process out of the gym for the last time, it felt right. I was proud, proud of these seniors—my seniors—whom I love and know will go far, and of the school that has given them that chance.

I know that in about a week my other seniors will ascend the risers one final time some 1500 miles from me. I’ll be absent that cool California evening; I’ll miss the last vestiges of heat from the setting summer sun, the welcome relief of the Delta breeze, the laughter, love and tears that will be shared. But I will be there in spirit—or some part of me will…the part that knows how important Country Day was in getting me here.

However, I am eternally grateful for this move, as it has forced me out of the comfortable little boxes that seem to fill our lives when we’re not looking; they compartmentalize our worlds, neatly packaging them into safe, manageable pieces that can slip by unexamined, unevaluated. Moving here was like ripping open all of those boxes at once and dumping their contents in a jumbled heap.

I’ve spent most of these past months sorting through it all, reevaluating myself. Honestly, I didn’t like all I found, but in the process I also discovered aspects to my character that I love. In short, I feel I now have a better handle on who I am.

So, where am I?

This move may have stolen two years at Country Day from me, but it has given me two at Cooper. My time in Texas does not negate my many years in California, nor does it erase the way my childhood at Country Day shaped me. I am an amalgamation, the accumulation of the influence of the many students and teachers I’m honored to call friends.

So, am I a Texan?

Superficially, I haven’t taken up horseback riding, joined the NRA or the GOP. My closet also remains both boot and hat free. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against the state. I’m simply not at the point where I really understand that special blend of patriotism and state pride imbued in the bones of so many born and bred here.

But for the people I’ve met here—the friends who welcomed me, who found a place in their lives so that my transplanted one could flourish anew—I am glad to call Texas my home.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” When I picture myself crossing my stage for my diploma, the culmination of 14 years of schooling, I won’t care which school officially issues it. I don’t think a single sheet of paper can ever encompass the many disparate forces that shape a graduate.

That said, I can’t help but wonder what zingers Fels would have thrown my way given the chance to roast Margaret Whitney!

 

 

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