The Graduate

Mike Nichols directed one of my all-time favorites, The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman, Ann Bancroft and Katharine Ross.  It was written by the incomparable Buck Henry who penned the one liner that advised Dustin’s character (Benjamin) to get into this new field:  “Plastics.”

And do I even have to mention the music by Simon and Garfunkel?  I didn’t think so.

Freshman at Alcatraz on Mom's Day

The Freshman at Alcatraz with Mom…

The graduate in my life that year was my youngest son, Stevie.  Ironically,  he graduated  from San Francisco State University with a degree in Environmental Studies with aspirations to rid the world of plastics.   The entire family headed north to commemorate the monumental day.

Final score: four college graduates.   As the endless summer was starting, our tuition payments were ending.    And we have empty wallets to prove it.

My friend, Rose and I hit the road first.  I warned Rose,  aka Stevie’s Godmother, that I had watched Thelma and Louise the night before – a Ridley Scott film based on Cali Khouri’s Oscar winning script  starring Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis.  With a breakout role by some new talent named Brad.  Does Brad Pitt ring a bell?

Yes, a great film but a lousy choice  if you’re setting out on a seven hour drive through two of the busiest freeways in the world.  We had plenty of coffee so what could possibly go wrong?

Rose  let me drive her car which was a good idea as Rose was voted Worst Mom Driver  – by any kid that got in her car. That’s almost an honor.  A Lifetime Achievement Award.  Isn’t it?   Think about it.   No carpool nominations.  No frantic calls from  neurotic Moms on overdrive to pick up their mini Einstein from Physics for First Graders course.   Brilliant, Rose.

The next morning, I warned Rose that I watched the chic  flick of all time.  From here on out, she was Thelma and I was Louise.  She laughed lightly to which I replied rather abruptly ala Louise: I mean it!   ‘No Grey matter ’til we hit the open highways, north of LA.’  As it was, my hair turned one ugly shade of gray as we crawled through the worst LA traffic I’ve seen in a decade.  So I  suggested  my designated Thelma start reading  after our first pit stop.

My husband called as we passed by Magic Mountain:   So, what page are you on?

The ‘we need more coffee, it took two hours to get through LA and this Louise isn’t in the mood right now’ page.

One quick pit stop and two coffee refills later, we were armed and dangerous.  We  whipped by the Madonna Inn, San Luis wineries and Stanford without even a mention of the book.  Instead, we swapped horror stories and cherished moments about parenting, sibling rivalry, report cards, team Moms and overbearing coaching Dads; all while juggling our respective careers.  This Thelma and Louise had survived.  We were still in the game of this thing called life.   One day we  would have time to take long, lazy vacations to read the entire Grey Trilogy in one week.

But first, we had to navigate the Bay Bridge in the thickest fog I’ve ever seen in San Francisco.  So glad I packed my retro purple leather bomber jacket.

The rest of the family arrived the next morning.  For the next four days, we celebrated with the graduate. We dropped into Stevie’s day  job at Doc Martens on Haight Street. We visited a Napa Valley winery. We even rode across the Golden Gate Bridge on the open roof top seats of a 3-story bus.

Later, this Thelma and Louise loaded up on every kind of  Trader Joe’s gourmet goody to go with our six bottle value pack of Chardonnay as the newest members of a wine club.  But, we learned that we could have got the exclusive wine a whole lot cheaper.  Later on, Uncle Paul would join us for the celebratory feast on Saturday night to toast our losses and our gains.

But first:  the big day.  By Saturday, the fog had lifted and the sun made a special appearance on the foggiest point in San Francisco.   Hence, we spent four hours on the field of SFSU on  the hottest day that I can ever remember in San Francisco.  Ever.  The purple leather bomber jacket stayed back at the condo. Four sons and four graduates later….

It all  flashed before my eyes as I sweat in those bleachers.Stevie Pirate!

 Suddenly, it was all over.

Stevie was now Steven. Was it worth it?

Preschool jitters; little league, middle school angst; high school pranks?

Homework wars, SAT scores?

Drivers training,  prom night,  broken hearts? College tuition, Top Ramen.

Blood, sweat and tears. And more tears?

Worth every last shade of gray.