As I mentioned before, I’m going to shake up chronological order for the next month or so. My Indonesia coverage is going to be heavily diving based, so I’m going to intersperse it with posts about my current trip home to keep readers of all interests happy!
Just a few hours after landing at JFK international airport, I was running up the steps of the subway to catch my sister walking across the stage to get her diploma. I arrived in New York one month ago from the day I’m writing this — my visit was timed precisely so that I would arrive home in time for the graduation and the week of festivities that would follow.
Olivia embraced her college experience at New York University more whole-heartedly than anyone I’ve ever known. She was elected president of the Inter Resident Hall Council, juggled prestigious internships with the likes of Nike and the Obama campaign, and was named one of the Top 15 Most Influential Students by the Washington Square News. I mean enough already, right? Stop making the rest of us look bad.
But truly, I was very proud of my little sis and would not have missed this. NYU is a massive school with more than 10,000 undergraduates, so the individual schools have private graduations in addition to the big university one. Olivia’s was at Lincoln Center, an iconic New York location for the most iconic New York school.
I was running a little late (thank you, twenty six hours of door to door travel time!), but did manage to catch some of the speeches and most importantly the old’ diploma handshake. I hadn’t seen my parents in five months so I’m sure we annoyed everyone with our incessant whispering. Post ceremony, we all headed outside for some champagne drinking and portrait taking before a lovely celebration dinner at Lincoln.
The shot with my Dad on the left is a pose we came up with at my own graduation, and I have my version of the photo framed in my room. I hate how posed I look in this photo — I never know what the heck to do with my arm in pictures so I revert to this bizarre America’s Next Top Model reject move.
My dad showing off his NYU accessory — the man has a tie for every occasion
Surprise! No diploma for you. Have this notepad instead.
The next day was the big shebang at Yankee Stadium. I’m not much of a sports fan so there’s a good chance this will be my only time sitting in these bleachers — and look how full they are! If you look closely in the photo below you can see there was a uniformed cop every ten feet or so around the perimeter of the field, a poignant reminder of increased security at public events post-Boston Marathon.
I wasn’t blown away by the commencement speakers but it was a fun experience nonetheless, with palpable excitement and pride in the air. I went to a pretty small school and this made my own graduation look pretty wimpy in comparison.
And we kept things real in our row with some classic Baackes-style group text chains. One of Olivia’s brilliant business ideas for once we both become famous is a set of memoirs entitled Baack to Baack followed by a coffee table book including photos, mementos, and text message screen shots entitled The Baack Story: Behind the Scenes.
Sure to be best sellers.
Later in the evening, one of Olivia’s college crew hosted a small cocktail party get together for the families. It was nice to get to meet the parents of Olivia’s friends who I’ve come to know over the years.
For the weekend, we headed up to Albany to host my extended family for a graduation celebration/family reunion. My relatives are spread out from Florida to Illinois so its a rare treat to get to see (most) everyone in one place. With my crazy schedule I don’t know when I’ll get to go see all of them next — so I’m so happy they all came to me on this visit home!
I didn’t take many pictures of the weekend. I was more focused on juggling the unpacking, the socializing, and fending off what I thought was jetlag but turned out to be strep throat.
We had a big party Saturday with family and friends, and thankfully at one point we thought to take a family photo. This is all of us minus my cousin Kirsten — we rewarded her for running to Target to buy a hot plate when the stove broke by taking the picture when she was gone.
Three of the four Baackes sisters
My dad and his sisters
On Sunday morning, we waved goodbye as my sister pulled out of the driveway to make her way down to teacher training in her new home in New Orleans. Talk about busy! She’ll be there for the next two years teaching first graders through the prestigious Teach for America program. I can’t wait to visit her.
Of course, if you follow me on Instagram you already had a major peek into all these festivities. But I wanted to recap them in full glory here. When I explained to some of my friends in Southeast Asia that I was flying all the way home for a graduation, a lot of them just did not get it. But I wouldn’t have traded this time with my family for anything. A life of travel means giving up a lot of moments like this — I’m glad I didn’t have to miss this one.
Congratulations to the Graduating Class of 2013!