1. when my sister graduates, the whole family does. my father brings the DSLR. we line up, immigrants against a backdrop, ‘you made it.’

2. when I graduate, I tell my mother I will not attend my convocation. I have failed too many classes. I have not earned a celebration, simply a diploma. She says, I did not leave my sisters behind only to skip your convocation. I don the gown. I see my mother in the audience, her eyes glistening. my father holds the DSLR, shouts my name and snaps a photo.

3. when my sister graduates, I wear a pink dress shirt and my nicest grey pants. I smile in all the photos. we sit together for dinner. my mom makes yebr’ for dinner, my sister’s favorite. a picture of us is framed, two immigrants, two diplomas. 

4. in first-year, I fail more classes than I pass. when my mother calls in the mornings, I am still in bed. I say I am attending a later lecture, the professor is better, anyway. during the later lecture, I am texting a woman from Lattakia, she smiles like home, and longingly remembers how blue the water got at Ras Albaseet. 

5. in third-year, I am in class every morning. rings & fields office hours in the afternoon. when my mother calls, I say perhaps I will make the dean’s honors list this term. I do not. yet my father congratulates me. he says it was close.

6. when I graduate, I tell my sister that perhaps I do not deserve this degree. she says that — perhaps — it does not matter how I feel. the joy in mama’s tears, it is enough