‘The Tassel’ by Gary Margolis

It’s the last thing I look for this graduation morning, as I rush to get out the door and drive to campus. Those gold threads, to loop around the button on my mortar board. But it’s not there. I spread out my robe last night, to let a chair iron the wrinkles. I thought I left it on the window seat, where our cat sleeps, where she plays with any dangling thing. I look everywhere it might be, where it might have folded into my satin colors, or fallen underneath.

I’m known for losing things. Ask my cat, who has my keys, my wallet and anything I need.

I can’t wait. I have to be in line by Old Chapel in back of my new Emeriti sign. What difference will it make to anyone, if I don’t have that earned pendulum, swinging from my hat, if I’m wearing a flat, undecorated cap?

I’m driving down Route 30 and see the out-of-state license plates, the symphonic tent, and a sea of white, folding chairs. I’m thinking there might be an extra tassel there. I’m remembering where I am. Middlebury has been the middle of my earth.

I have an hour before marching to my seat. There’s food services handing out breakfast treats. A team of first responders are folding a blanket on their stretcher. The deans stand on the side of the path like flowers. Facilities are their facile selves. A stack of large print programs blooms on a table. Nothing has been left out, forgotten.

I must have known this when I put my tassel down somewhere at home. Probably my cat is sleeping on it, graduating, I could say, to another four years of chasing field mice.

I must have known this is Middlebury and there’s Georgia Best, my last minute savior, from the College Bookstore, with something gold in her hand, as if she knew I’d be here, as if she knew what I could forget. What I still have time, now, to tie onto my table of a hat. As the line begins to move, step, I should say, almost in unison, to that branch of leafy trumpets, a leaving song beneath my breath.

~Gary Margolis Ph.D., ’67