Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | July 12, 2010

How Natalie and I Saved Graduation

Graduation Day, 1990.

My parents and maternal grandparents are in town to attend the ceremonies, to be held at University’s football stadium, but they are staying at a hotel and our plans are to meet up after the grand to-do. The plan for the morning is for me to meet up with my paramour at her apartment, and for us to walk to the staging area together.

University is very much a walking campus in a town that is very much a walking town. My apartment is just on this side of walkable — it is, in fact, closer to the College on South Hill than it is to University on East Hill. Natalie’s apartment is on one of the main roads in the main neighborhood that leads to our school’s campus. It’s only natural for me to stop by her place en route.

The day is warm and muggy, and the morning contains ominous portents of rain. The forecast says rain is likely, but the current weather is ambiguous. It could be rain is coming; it’s certainly muggy enough. But there are hints that the sky is starting to clear up.

Natalie has a brolly.

Natalie, you see, doesn’t go for bredth, she goes for depth. Some people have umbrellas, but Natalie is more of an Emily Dickinsonian J. Peterman — she has a brolly. This is not an umbrella, it’s an Umbrella. Designed and lovingly hand-crafted in Edinburgh (pronounced Ed-inn-bore-uh), Scotland, where Natalie had studied abroad, to withstand not just rain… but Rain. It could also be used to beat back a charging black bear, and an earlier model had been used to prop up the Leaning Tower of Pisa to keep it from leaning any further. Some umbrellas will scarcely keep your head and shoulders dry; this is a full-sized, two-man (er, person) Umbrella.

“You realize if we don’t take it, we’re in for a monsoon.”

“You realize that if we do take it, the skies will clear and we’ll be the only ones to walk into University Field holding the Most Obvious Umbrella In The World.”

A pause. “Yes, but then it will protect us from the sun, and we can wave at the crowds with our Queen Elizabeth wave, just-so.” The thought is just too delicious.

We take the brolly.

We march up the Hill together, hand in hand. Our hands fit so perfectly, fingers interlaced. Holding her hand is simply… right. We are comfortable with each other. Soon, I will be leaving the country for Europe, and she will be leaving our alma mater to return to her native City — a City that, at this point in my life, I have not yet come to embrace. What will become of us? It doesn’t matter now. We are okay. We are okay with each other and with our unknown fates. And between now and my departure, we still have plenty of time to enjoy each other’s company. Plenty of visits planned. I suspect that we are not going to grow old together, but for now… well, for now, we have all the time in the world.

True to plan, our very act of bringing this expertly-constructed rain repellent device causes the skies to clear. We are, as expected, the only soon-to-be-graduates with the foresight to be so armed. And what do we do to celebrate our brave decision to carry the only Umbrella in the entire procession?

We open it up to protect us from the relentless sun. We offer a regal wave to the stands as we enter the football stadium, displaying our most elegant Queen Elizabeth how-do-you-do. Oh, we have a jolly good time.

And although it wasn’t our original intention, carrying an open umbrella in the open-air procession has the added benefit of making us completely visable to anyone in the stands who has come to see us. Amongst the thousands of black robes, we are among the few who stand out for one reason or another.

In years to come, anyone who reviews their photos of our graduation day will inevitably have a photo of a young couple sharing a stroll under their Rather Large Umbrella. That’s Natalie and me.

Sure, it feels a little silly toting the only umbrella to be seen under the cloud-free sky of Graduation Day, 1990. But it feels good to have contributed something to the conversation, too. Sometimes, a little silliness is just what’s required. And if you believe that washing your car makes it rain, well then, why not also allow for the idea that by bringing an Umbrella, Natalie and I saved University Graduation from being rained out?


Now, it’s twenty years later. Twenty years and one month, give or take a week. I see Natalie has recently opened up a Facebook account. When I mentioned this to a good friend of mine from my home town, my friend said, “You should friend her!”

 If Natalie still holds enough of a grudge after all these years to refuse to connect, that says more about her than it does about me, my friend reasons. And if we do reconnect, that could only be good, right?

I don’t know. I just don’t know.

I do know that over time, I’ve tended to remember fondly those good moments, and allow the bad moments to fade. But we had our bad moments. Boy, did we ever.

Even so, the good moments… they were good. And they are worth remembering.

Do you remember, Natalie? And if so… what are the stories of us that stand out most for you?

The Umbrella that Saved Graduation



  1. That’s a great story and memory…and I vote friend her. I friended an ex and we’ve actually been chatting and emailing a bit here and there ever since, and it’s been great. Go for it!

  2. i vote for friending as well. i’m friends with all my exes, and even though we don’t talk much, it has been really nice to have an avenue to at least try to smooth over the rough spots and try to be adults about things.

  3. I vote “friend her”… if for no other reason than simply to find out if she accepts.

  4. ” If Natalie still holds enough of a grudge after all these years to refuse to connect, that says more about her than it does about me, my friend reasons. And if we do reconnect, that could only be good, right?”

    Careful there! This is not true.

    What it says is she has a reason that in her mind she considers legitimate for not talking/contacting you all these years. If you take the initiative to contact her first, you also assume the responsibility to put her at ease and try to dispel her fears or grudges.

    In that context sending a friend request to “just to see” and pretend not to care is being dishonest…with yourself.

    If you ended the relationship and hurt her be mindful of that and respect the fact that she still may harbor some residual bad feelings.

    I would Message her in facebook first, suggesting you’d like to renew contact, either email or talk (phone) and provide this info (but this is up to you, you can do that later). If she friends you great. She might decide to take alternatives means of contact and proceed cautiously; if she does then you’ll know what she prefers.

    I am friends with all my exes (well most of the ones with whom I had mature relationships anyway, which is late 20’s to now). The path to friendship was varied and different every time, not two have been the same. My most recent ex has insisted on being friends but her actions have proven she is not even close to being ready…for example.

    If you you are going to take the risk, make it count! 😉

  5. Oh that was beautifully written INRIS. Add her to facebook. It is amazing how those bad memories fade and the good ones can linger after so much time. I just know that she is your Bill and 20 years- yes, add her. As Jolene told me the other day- it is amazing what can happen when you broaden your horizons a bit more.

    • Aw, yay Shan, so glad something I said stuck with you – how touching 😉 But I obviously agree!

  6. Friend her. Friend her right now. Open a new tab and invite. Go on. Goooo oon! You can do it.

    Big bolstering hug.

  7. Friend her.

  8. I am for letting the sleeping past lie.

    Neither of you is who you were twenty years ago, and right now you don’t need another rejection. Put it on hold until your current relationship division has ended. Then you can consider making contact.

  9. I agree with Santaslil. Send her a message: “I was just remembering graduation, and that HUGE umbrella! Hope you are well-” That makes sure she knows you’re on there, gives her the opportunity say hello or say nothing, without the random “friending.” Also, gives you the chance to “clear the air” privately first, that reintroduction not just being wall posts.

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