Columned hallway

My diploma came in the mail last night in a thickish envelope.

“Well, that certainly didn’t take long,” my dad said, but I wondered whether he meant the time it took me to graduate or the time the University took to mail it to me.

It’s purposefully antiquated looking, as though the Chancellor personally dabbed it with coffee and set it out in the sun, and bears a rather regal looking gold seal at the bottom.

“Seal of the University of California, 1868” it says in a ribbon that curves around an open book, surrounded by thin rays of light. And at the bottom, “Let there be light.”

“Shall we frame it?” my dad asked.

I shook my head, studying the words: “The Degree of Bachelor of Arts With a Major in English With All the Rights and Privileges Thereto Pertaining.”

“I’ll just slip it into one of those sheet protector things,” I said, “And uh, tack it up on my bulletin board.”

My father shrugged, “Suit yourself.”

I rummaged around in the cupboard where we keep all our old school and office supplies. In a binder I’d used in high school that still held my tab dividers for AP US History and Honors Chem, I found a slightly creased page protector, left over from a report or something. The plastic was scuffed, but the words and the seal of my diploma would shine through regardless. I stood before the cupboard a moment longer, opening and closing the rest of the binders, wondering what out-dated academic treasures could be found. The past twenty or so years of my intellectual life, reduced to a single shelf in what ought to be a linen closet. And now, a college degree, sitting snugly in my hand in an old plastic sheet protector. Maybe I should frame it, I thought. Holding it gingerly between thumb and forefinger, I walked into my room, examining the wall space.

My desk occupies nearly an entire wall, the closet another. Then there are two large windows, my bed, the dresser, a full-length mirror, and any remaining spare wall is occupied by five pictures, all gifts from friends and family. The only blank wall left is the one opposite the door. I imagined hanging the diploma there in an ornate gold frame (to match the seal) so that whomever walked into my room would know right away what my alma mater was. If they failed to see it, I’d steer them back to the doorway and point it out. “There.” I would say, “There is that paper that dodged me for six years. And there it is now. I have finally caught it. Caged it. Put it on display.”

It was tempting, but. I sat down at my desk and opened my bottom left drawer, the one reserved for important documents (health insurance claims, tax forms, bank statements) and located the file. “School Stuff,” it’s labeled in my high school hand. I spied old SAT score reports, transcripts and college rejections and acceptances (the former outnumbering the latter). Years of labor and anxiety also reduced to a single file. Into it, I slipped the sheet protector. It stuck out a little, but for the most part seemed to belong.

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