In high school I was ostracized by my classmates due to my own stupidity. As an only child, I was used to spending a lot of time alone so it didn’t bother me too much. I avoided all of the social activities that most high schoolers engage in, like dances and football games. I never told my parents about my social isolation at school, so they just assumed everything was fine. In my senior year of high school, there was a special awards program, where college scholarships and such were being handed out. I was “strongly encouraged” to attend by my academic advisor. I dreaded it with every fiber of my being. My mom found out about the presentation and wanted to go. Dad had to take the night off from his security guard job to take us to the event, which was being held in the auditorium of a local hotel. I felt trapped. Dad had gone out of his way to get the night off, now I would be forced to go.
As it turned out, Mom wasn’t feeling well that day. I can’t remember if it was menopause-related or just some kind of flu. Suddenly, I was the concerned and sympathetic teenage daughter, assuring Mom I would not be upset if she didn’t attend. She mercifully backed out of the event. I convinced Dad to just drop me off at the hotel. We were in the distant stage of our relationship and I’m guessing he was more than relieved not to have to sit through some boring school function. I’m not sure what he did during the event, as it was a couple of hours long, but I’m sure he went through plenty of cigarettes!
I remember feeling very alone and very awkward. Luckily, I was past that stage where Mom could force me to wear a dress, but I was still in dressier clothes and shoes than I was accustomed to. I remember standing in a corner, near a tall plant, trying to hide myself from everyone else. I remember staring out the window, which looked out upon the valet and front entrance. I watched my classmates arriving with their parents, some happy, some annoyed, some indifferent. I remember feeling very far removed from it all.
I don’t know why I didn’t consider ditching the event altogether. I guess I was a pretty honest kid, and if my mom found out I had not attended, she would be mad.
Finally, the ceremony began. I don’t remember the details, except being mortified at hearing my name called as a scholarship winner. It wasn’t any full-tuition thing, I think it was $500 or a $1000, but I was the only recipient. I focused on making it up the steps to the stage, and being polite to the administrator who handed me the certificate. I couldn’t wait to escape the stage and slink back to my seat.
Then it was over. This was before cellphones, so I guess I had told Dad to meet me at a certain time. I found him lingering outside, finishing up a cigarette. Normally, I hated being seen with my parents, just like most teenagers. But that night I was glad Dad was there. I told Dad about my scholarship and he was genuinely proud, saying how he had always wanted to continue his schooling but never had the opportunity. It was a nice father-daughter moment, one I didn’t appreciate at the time but now treasure as a loving memory.