Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dang it, where's my walker?

The thing about my little habit of moving around the country is that I keep leaving people I love behind, hundreds of miles away.  Which is inconvenient and expensive, to say the least.  My tour of the eastern United States continued this weekend, this time in good ol' MD to see my little baby sister graduate high school.  Seriously, this little minion...

turned in to this stunning woman-child...

... and is going to college.  So what does that make me?  Staking out retirement homes, I guess.

My stinginess doesn't stop at buying Great Value toilet paper at Walmart; I'm also pretty stingy with vacation days, so I didn't take any time off from work to fly home for the ceremony.  That left me a pretty narrow window for travel, starting with my flight out of Chicago at 8 PM Friday.  The day was long, tiring, filled with crying babies, the questionable Orange Line train crowd, and overpriced airport sandwiches.  Luckily, all this was forgotten when I saw my mom at BWI accompanied by my grandfather from Colorado.

From there, I tried to stop another whirlwind weekend from going by too fast.  Saturday morning, I became designated "Grandparent Chauffeur," delegated the task of driving Nana and Pop (from Baltimore) and my grandfather (from CO) in our old, red minivan to the graduation ceremony.  There's nothing like spending your morning listening in on another generation's small talk, as they pondered among themselves things like how Uncle Dennis sends his email messages with red text (Nana's suggestion, that "maybe he has a red cartridge in his computer," was my personal favorite).

I didn't realize that the drive would be the most comfortable I'd be for the next 3 hours.  Don't get my wrong - Sam's graduation was lovely.  Sam herself, being the luckily recipient of superior DNA, was of course beautiful.

And because I'm not the only one with a little minion, I got to chat for a little with a few fellow JC pals.

And the ceremony itself was pretty.

But it was hot.  I mean, rivaling Florida miserable, the sort of days that led to the development of extra strength deodorant.  This evidently posed no problem for the introductory speaker, though, as she decided that the afternoon's weather was ideal for reading out loud Dr. Suess's "Oh the Places You'll Go."  In its entirety.  I was clever enough to plan out a few strategic trips into the air-conditioned school, but there's only so many times you can "go to the bathroom" before people start thinking you're pregnant.

My grandfathers, on the other hand, saw no problem with completely abandoning any pretenses of toughing out the weather to see my sister walk the stage; we found them two hours later having a grand old time under a shade tree near the water station.  To be totally honest, they had the right idea.

At least it didn't rain, though, which would have caused major problems for the family BBQ we had after the ceremony.  Among other graduation gifts, my grandmother brought 60 Polish sausages to the party... and even my dad, GrillMaster Extraordinaire, would have a hard time grilling sixty brats inside.  But the sunshine did hold up, and the party was great.  It involved a lot of delicious food, which included (as does every important Clarke event) the most important development after extra strength deodorant:

It seemed like the house was even more packed than usual seeing as (in addition to the Baltimore based Clarke's), some of my mom's side was there, including Grandpa from Denver and my mom's sister and her family from New Jersey.  The whole event teetered dangerously on the border of chaos (I'd be lying if I denied that, at one point, we broke out in a debate on gay marriage that was quite unnecessarily heated, seeing as no one involved nor anyone present was gay or getting married).  But that's what makes family events fun... or at least entertaining.

(We have a better, less candid picture of the whole crew, but I think this one captures the family spirit a little more accurately.)

I was even lucky enough to see my "BFF from back in the day" Hannah, who stopped by for a while.  Maybe she just came for the cupcakes, but beggars can't be choosers.

Saturday turned out to be just as long as Friday, but I much prefer ending long days in my living room watching the NFL network with my dad, reassuring each other that Joe Flacco is indeed a gift from God, than trying to squeeze past Mrs. Puff in seat 26D to get to the airplane bathroom.  By the time I finally ended up on the train home to Chicago, though, I felt a little bit like Jazz here...

... who also had an exhausting weekend, scurrying purposefully from room to room, keeping a worried eye on the alarming number of new ankles to sniff.

I am so incredibly lucky to have such amazing people in my life to fly across the country for.  But even though spending these last two weekends with the wonderful people I love has been grand, it's definitely taken a toll on my energy (and my bank account).  So as of now, I'm looking forward to getting my backside a little better acquainted with my little, red Craig's List couch in Chicago.  After all, she's earned it - anyone who's been shoved into economy class seating two weekends in a row deserves a little R&R.

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