Oh, Glorious Day

1943 Thompson, Marjorie  University grad


May is cooperating beautifully. The weather is warm and sunny. Family groups have been wandering around the campus everywhere. You can feel the excitement in the air. My parents are here and delighted to be sharing this great event. Sheldon is working for the seismic crew this summer, but his boss gave him time off so he could join us. My sister and I graduate tomorrow. Considering the rocky start I made of my first year, it’s amazing to be here. I’m on cloud nine!

Three years ago the two of us boarded a bus and headed for Edmonton. Doris was nineteen and I was eighteen, leaving home for the first time. We were entering a new environment with anticipation and no worries about handling it. After all we were “grown up”, and just going on with our education. What was there to worry about?  

Fast-forward three and a half months. They had been wonderful and then scary months. First came the fun. For the first time in my life I was popular – more dates than I could have imagined. Realizing that I was slipping behind in my assignments should have been enough to alarm me. Instead I carried on, thinking, “It will be easy to catch up.”

Suddenly I was facing important December exams. In addition, I was in the infirmary, very ill with the flu. The medical system kicked in, deeming that writing exams was impossible. I was sent home to recoup.

When Christmas holidays were over, it was back to classes – a much chastened student. Having the flu and being sent home saved me from flunking out of university. The message was learned. I must never get behind in studies again. Surely I could work in some social life as well.

I must remember this bad time, as well as the good times. Those memories should live on together. It should make me more realistic – and that will help. I got into trouble from overrating my ability. Don’t want to do that again.

The last two years of university have been a challenge and a joy, and will be part of my life forever. I am thrilled! In this last month I received letters from the University awarding me honours I did not know existed. One is the Classics Prize – The Monica Jones Aamodt Prize. It consists of a hundred dollars, to be spent on Books! There are no strings attached – the choice is all mine. I feel like a child in a candy store. I have never had such a huge amount to spend just on books!

Then another letter came, saying my name will be listed with the group of Third Year Arts students who have earned the First Class General Standing. I’m delighted, and think to myself, “Some better than that first year! How could I have been so immature?”

Today everyone is wandering around the campus. Tomorrow these crowds will be in the McDougall Auditorium and we students will file in for the graduation ceremony. Right now Doris is showing Dad her part of the campus, and Mom, Sheldon, and I are in the Arts building. One of my favourite professors has his office here. I want to thank him for all his help and support when I took his courses.

“Marjie, I’ll take your Mother over to see the Auditorium where we’ll all be tomorrow. It’s in this building. You see if Professor McDonald is in his office. Meet you back here.”

“Fine, I shouldn’t take long. He’ll be busy getting ready for tomorrow.”

A few minutes later I knock on his door.

“Professor McDonald, may I come in for a few minutes?”

“Miss Thompson, it’s nice to see you. It will be busy tomorrow and I’m glad to have the chance now to congratulate you on receiving that gold medal!”

“What medal? You must be thinking of someone else.”

“Miss Thompson, I met with the University Women’s Club and helped them choose to whom they would award their 1943 gold medal. There were several good candidates, but you were the winner. You haven’t heard? Sit here. I have some investigation to do.”

Off he charges, and after quite a while returns. He has a smug look on his face and says, “Well, that’s settled. You will indeed receive a gold medal. Someone dropped the ball, and we’ll find out who later, and deal with it. The important thing now is that you know, and the convocation committee knows. How fortunate that you dropped in to see me! Be at the auditorium early. The organizers have to line up the graduates for entrance into the hall. The medal winners lead the parade.”

Still dazed, I leave and go to meet Mom and Sheldon.

“Where have you been, Marjie? Sheldon and I were beginning to worry.”

I am so excited I can hardly talk, but manage to tell them my good news. They are amazed and delighted too. Mom is crying, and Sheldon hugs me and gives me a kiss.

“Tomorrow will be quite a day. Your parents and I will be in the audience and cheering. I know who you will walk in with. Our friend Bob Clarke told me this morning that he has won the Governor General’s Gold Medal.”

“I’m not surprised, Sheldon. But isn’t it nice that I can walk with a friend? I won’t be quite as nervous.”

“You’ll do fine, just enjoy everything. It’s a day to remember.”

The next morning seems to come early. All the graduating students gather at the Arts Building right after lunch. The officials line us up to their liking. Bob and I are at the head of the processions. When the word comes, off we go with the rest of the graduates in tow. As we enter the auditorium there is clapping, people calling out, and music playing. Together the graduating group sings the University song and says the pledge, and sits down.

It is all over now and things are a bit blurred in my mind. I remember going up to the platform for my graduation cap. I remember being called up for my medal. That stands out the clearest. The professor who handed me my box whispered, “Don’t open this until you sit down.” I nodded, and returned to my seat. When I peeked into the box, all it had was a note. It read, “Your medal will be mailed to you when it is ready!”

The long, wonderful day is over. I am happy and exhausted. Sheldon and I never stopped. We went to parties, saw friends, spent time with my parents. When evening came it was more parties, and more gathering with comrades from my favourite classes. The idea was to stay up all night and close the celebration by having breakfast together. Frankly, I think that’s a dumb idea. When Sheldon graduates in two years, maybe we can moderate this part. Breakfast is almost over, and I’m about to fall asleep.

Sheldon drives me to the hotel where my parents and Doris and I are staying. Early today he catches a train to return to the seismic crew. It is hard for both of us to say goodbye. Such a glorious day, but it is over.

“Marjie, I love you. This is a day we both will remember, forever.”

“Indeed it is, and so much better because we shared it. Just think, in two years we will do it again, when you graduate. My new job brings me back to Edmonton. When you return to classes, we’ll be together again. Love you, Sheldon – goodbye.”


Filed under Photographic memory

8 Responses to Oh, Glorious Day

  1. Dear Marjorie,
    You have given a vivid account of a gold-letter day. Your photo adds that you are as lovely as you are worthy of your prizes. I think you have given me some insights into my mother, who similarly scooped almost all the available prizes in her normal school graduating class, coming second only in Bible (won by a preacher’s daughter), and winning a special prize struck for her in French — she was bilingual. Such women give their children splendid models. I think you continue to reap those rewards!

    • Marjorie

      Thank you, Laurna, nice to hear from you. I am always pleased when something I have written sparks memories in a reader, especially of family members. The older we get, the more we realize what we owe to those who preceded us. So it is with me.

  2. Yvonne

    Oh Marjorie, I felt like I was there, sleepy head at breakfast and all. How wonderful. Yvonne

  3. Eveline Goodall

    Well Marjorie, what a lovely account of some great days and wonderful memories! I should shave guessed that your sharp intellect was worthy of a GOLD MEDAL! And I love the photo. What a beautiful woman you are inside and out!
    With love and admiration, Eveline

    • Marjorie

      Eveline, my sincere thanks. My experiences at U. of A. were enriching and maturing gifts. Most I could accept joyfully, some ruefully – but all life changing, to some degree. But then, one must grow up sometime!

  4. Alison

    Hello – What a pretty picture! I can see your kids in you. You have a MUCH clearer memory than I do of my University graduation! I’m not even sure if I went to convocation? maybe not? Good for you for reflecting back, I think it is something that we seldom do when we’re caught up with the busyness of life, but it’s true that we could learn from the past. I know I’d be more understanding of the challenges my kids face if I reflected back to how I truly thought when I was their age.

    • Marjorie

      Alison – Good to hear from you. That “reflecting back” is interesting. You start, remembering a few things, and bit by bit it comes back. Doesn’t the mind fascinate you? Then of course you are looking at what you did and felt, filtered by a lifetime of living. Two sides of the coin again. Not all fun, of course. Remembering how I felt when I made a mess of things was not pleasant, especially when put side by side with graduation day.
      One does learn. I find I am never too hard on someone who flunks out the first time. Second time is different, unless there is a better reason than I had!