” Congratulations Class of ’98!”
I stood up with the other graduates, tossing my red cap in the air and breathing a sigh of relief. High School was officially over, I was out of there for good. I didn’t have to deal with anyone anymore, I could go wherever I wanted and start fresh…..I could make all new friends. Life felt great.
I wasn’t the best in my class, nor was I popular or the most athletic. I was average. I had gotten an art scholarship to the University of South Florida in Tampa…..not far from home, but I wanted to get away from everything. A lot of my friends were going to the University of Central Florida or Florida State, so I didn’t have to worry about running into them.
It was time for a change.
Remember when you were a kid and times were tough, people would say that God was testing you? I felt like my whole life up to that point has been just one big test. I’ve done a lot on my own….with nobody’s help. I basically raised myself, with the exception of my uncle Kevin. He took me in after they passed away…..after I lost my family that night. Since then I put that behind me. I am ready to start my new life in Tampa.
Kevin’s not my real uncle….he’s a friend of the family. He’s the only one I’ve gotten support from for my artwork. My dream is to be an animator…..I’ve always wanted to work at Disney since I was a kid watching the cartoons. I know almost everything about the animation process, I’ve watched every single movie since I was a baby.
Not even gonna lie, my first word wasn’t momma or daddy. It was Mickey. Since my parents weren’t around, I would sit and watch the Disney channel all day long, I was mesmerized by it. I was told that if someone turned it off, I’d throw a fit. I needed my fix.
So here I am, packing up my things for college…..staring at a picture of me with Mickey at Disney World (might I add that was the highlight of my life).
“You okay, kiddo?”
Kevin is a sneaky bastard. Didn’t even realize he’d been standing there.
“Hey. Yeah, I’m fine. Just packing.”
“It’s finally here, isn’t it? You’re really leaving….aren’t you?” Kevin said, patting my back as I put the photo in the box and smiled at him.
“Yep. I start classes in about a week. I just gotta get moved in by the weekend. I will have a roommate and everything.”
“I’m real proud of you, Nick. You’ve come a long way since that kid in the picture.” he said. I blushed a little, he really knows how to embarrass me.
“I wonder if they’re proud of me too.” I said without thinking. I rarely mentioned them, but I was really thinking about my parents…..how my mom smelled like brown sugar and my dad played catch until it was dark.
“I think they are. Their son is going to college to be a great artist.” Kevin said with the worst french accent I’ve ever heard. I lapsed into a fit of giggles and he ruffled my hair.
“For real, Nick. Your parents would be proud of you for that art scholarship. Hell, I’m proud of you. You’re gonna do great, kiddo.” he said.
“That means a lot to me. You’ve been like a dad to me but better.”
“You better call me or write while you’re at school.” Kevin said, sitting on my bed and watching me pack. You’d think he’d help me knowing he has to help me drive these boxes down to school.
“I will send you a University of South Florida toilet seat.” I said in a serious tone, making him laugh.
I was really gonna miss it here. But don’t tell Kevin.