It all started at 4 p.m. with a clothes hanger. It was February 20, the day before Rally Day, and I suddenly realized I needed to create something, anything, to put on my head for the celebration—and I had to do it fast.
Some might define Rally Day as a day when classes are canceled, a day for sleeping in or catching up on homework. Others may recognize its origin as a celebration of George Washington’s birthday. I’ve heard it called everything from “Senior Day” to “the day seniors wear hats.”
While I realize it means something different to each person, it wasn’t until this year—my senior year—that I discovered what Rally Day represents to me.
After staying up late the night before Rally Day, bending that wire clothes hanger into the shape of a wreath, sewing ribbons and flowers to it, and stitching down frayed corners, I opened my eyes to February 21 in eager anticipation of the day’s events. I ran into the Jordan House hallway knocking on my friends’ doors. Everyone was awake, excited, nervous, and hungry.
After throwing on our clothes and rummaging for graduation gowns, we Jordan seniors clumsily carted armfuls of champagne bottles and orange juice cartons into the dining room. We enjoyed bagels and fruit as we filled mugs and mason jars with mimosas and toasted the next stage of our lives. I saw all around me dear friends—some that I’ve known since orientation week my first year—and felt a growing sense of warmth and comfort.
One friend stood and gave an impassioned speech filled with pride and hope. “We did it,” she exclaimed, “we made it through college—we are going to graduate and, in theory, we will get jobs!” We cheered and laughed because it was Rally Day and the sun was shining and we were all together in a place we have called home for the past four years.
It was time to leave for the day’s events. We poured out of Jordan House, spurning the February winds by chanting our house cheer, the taste of mimosas still lingering. But there is a limit to the heat provided by mimosas, and by the time we reached the Campus Center, we were stiff from the cold. We warmed up by waving our “Smith Seniors 2013” pennants over our carefully adorned heads, me with my small, handmade crown among billowing sun hats, headbands housing buoyant antennae and other creative headwear.
We moved on to John M. Greene Hall and listened to President Christ’s final Rally Day speech, cheering upon learning that Arianna Huffington would be our commencement speaker.
As President Christ spoke, responsibility pressed on my shoulders, and a sense of duty planted itself in my conscience. She reminded me that I can make a difference in my lifetime no matter what career I choose.
As we shuffled out of the auditorium toward the reception in the Campus Center, I didn’t notice the cold winds that rustled my gown and left my hair disheveled. I felt as though I was living each moment as a memory. Perhaps it was because I knew I would never forget this momentous day—or maybe it was just the left over glow of mimosas. Either way, the images of my senior Rally Day are securely rooted in my mind.
I spent the rest of the day with my fellow Jordan seniors. We braved the winds for a trip downtown, where we continued to reminisce over chips and salsa. As the familiar comfort settled in, I became aware that these days were waning. My throat swelled as I squeezed the hand of my best friend, whom I met the first day of orientation. She looked at me and gave a smile that showed she understood. No words were needed.
A silence fell over the table as we all shared the feeling.
Before Rally Day 2013, I never experienced this type of sadness—one that grows from deep appreciation for this remarkable institution, from having the opportunity to build friendships that will never weaken, and from spending four years of my life surrounded by inspirational and intelligent beings that make me proud to be a Smithie.