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For my mom, on your birthday and my graduation day

My mom during her graduation from law school. Not on her birthday.

As we sat in the Singletary Center for the Arts, my mom leaned over and said, “I graduated in here.”

It was March 2016. I was a senior in high school, and I was at UK for Merit Weekend to register for the classes I would take that fall, when I started as a freshman at my mom’s alma mater.

Today should be my graduation— but in Rupp Arena, not in Singletary like the law school graduates.

Today is also my mother’s birthday.

Because it’s in early May, my mom’s birthday often overlaps with other important events.

My parents’ undergraduate graduation was on my mom’s birthday in 1993. Several of my mom’s sisters graduated on her birthday in different years. Some years, my mom has to have the two days that most celebrate her— her birthday and Mother’s Day— on the very same day.

My mom, graduating from UK Law, and her sister, graduating from UK Pharmacy. Not on her birthday.

It wouldn’t be surprising for my mom to be upset that my graduation would take over her day— and sometimes she does joke that things always seem to be on her birthday.

But she was actually excited for her oldest daughter to graduate on her birthday. I didn’t realize how excited until a couple of weeks ago, after commencement had already been postponed.

“Bailey’s graduation was going to be on my birthday!” she said, in a tone that implied that whatever delayed day my graduation is on won’t be as special as today would’ve been.

That sums up who my mom is. She doesn’t often ask for the attention to be on her, even though she’s always deserving of it.

After she graduated from UK Law School in 1996, my mom became a wonderful lawyer— even though her clients were always saying she looked too young to be a fully qualified lawyer. When I was a baby, she would take me to her office, and I would rock in my car seat while she worked.

As she had my younger siblings (three more, including a sister who is also now at UK), she cut back on working to take care of us. Eventually, she mostly quit completely, joking that she was already a retired lawyer. Being a retired lawyer allowed her to always be there for us— as a chaperone on field trips, as the mastermind behind an impulsive beach vacation, as a taxi service for all of our many activities.

At a UK basketball game during my sister's Merit Weekend.

But she never turned down someone who needed help— when someone at church needed a new will, for example. And that taxi service isn’t just for me and my siblings— she’s probably transported every teammate and friend any of us have ever had.

If all had gone according to plan, my mom would have watched her oldest daughter graduate and celebrated with me, then she would have left Lexington to go to one of my siblings’ sports tournaments. Or maybe they both had tournaments this weekend— I can never keep the schedule straight, but she can. She keeps a color-coded calendar on our fridge.

My mom loves chocolate chip cookies. She loves sleeping by the ocean and reading legal thriller novels and watching the Game Show Network while she folds clothes. She loves Kentucky sports (basketball and volleyball especially) and sudoku (she used to do the sudoku in the Kentucky Kernel every day when she was a student).

And she loves her kids, which is why I think she viewed her child’s college graduation as a good birthday present.

When I was younger, when something really deserved praise and excitement, my dad would do a cartwheel. I don’t remember how this started, but it stopped when my dad reached an age when he was no longer confident in his cartwheel abilities.

I think today deserves a cartwheel. I graduate college (virtually), and my mom turns [redacted].

Maybe my dad will virtually cartwheel for us.

My mom and I at my graduation that actually happened. Not on her birthday, 2016.


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