Graduation Day: Memories, moving vans and a touch of gentle bribery

My wife and I recently had the opportunity to attend our oldest child’s university graduation in London, Ontario. The time just flew by; it seemed like only last month we were schlepping up there in the minivan loaded to the rafters with her stuff.

After her first year, our daughter moved from university residence to a house in the city she shared with five other girls, at which time more equipment and furnishings were required – a bedroom set, TV, entertainment systems, chairs and a couch. In my day you could stay in residence for all four years, and it wasn’t uncommon to see “seniors’ in residence… but more about that another time.

Having overcome the shock of realizing we had a Graduate in our midst, we insisted that we go to the ceremony. Initially our daughter wasn’t keen on this. Although I didn’t probe too deeply, I suspect that she may have felt that she was unworthy of all the pomp and circumstance of the full-blown, fourteen-point-antler (thank you Dr. Thain) 286th Convocation at the University of Western Ontario. I think she may have given that all away if the organizations she worke for – namely STAND (Students Taking Action Now: Darfur) , bringing recognition to the plight of those unfortunate people, and the Street Connection homeless shelter— had achieved greater recognition and support.

Holly and I, both graduates of our respective alma maters (she of York and Seneca, and me at U of T and Western), assured her that the 15 seconds of fame were well worth the four years of sweat and toil. You don’t get to don the gown and walk away with a bona fide diploma every day, right? That argument, plus the promise of her own room at the Hilton (not shared with her sibs as usual) won her over and away we went.

Now it just so happens that the day we arrived, the Hilton London had just announced their receipt of the CAA/AAA Four Diamond Award for 2005, the sixth time that the hotel has been recognized for its exceptional accommodations, upscale facilities, attentive service and a high standard of hospitality. A true London landmark, the hotel is literally at the centre of most activities in the city. We stayed in their new guest rooms, equipped with free high-speed Internet, updated beds, linens and equipment, and spa-quality hair and skincare products from Crabtree & Evelyn’s La Source line – very impressive. Of course, I was busy answering emails within 10 minutes of my arrival. (I admit it, I’m addicted.)

Our daughter accompanied us to some of her favourite cheap eateries in London, so we never sampled any of the restaurant offerings at the hotel (but we did manage to order up some wine and cheese for a late night snack.) Top local restaurants on her list were Prince Albert Diner (at the corner of Richmond and Albert streets), where the most expensive platters still returns change from a ten-spot, and the Paragon (at Wharncliffe and Oxford), a place I had frequented from time to time in my student days.

The graduation ceremony was everything we all expected it to be: Alumni Hall all decked out in brightly coloured banners, chamber music, and academics circling about in splendid robes. Even though this was not our “first rodeo”, having gone to numerous graduations, celebrations, and other academic rites and rituals in honour of our children, this indeed felt different, and marked bit of a passage in our lives too. The waves of emotions and reflections got to Holly a bit and the Kleenex made a brief appearance.

So what about all that accumulated stuff our graduate had to bring home? Clearly the minivan would not suffice – in fact we no longer own one, as the days of soccer, softball and school carpooling are over for us. It was simply a matter of calling another “CARP-Recommended” partner – Premiere Van Lines. The cost of hauling my daughter’s belongings back from London was very reasonable, and my back did not suffer a minute of discomfort in the process. Since our home already has more than enough furniture, her “student specials” are now safely in storage awaiting her next move, wherever that may be.

Canada’s Association for the Fifty-Plus (CARP) recently announced the addition of the Hilton Family of hotels and resorts to their already sizable list of travel partners. CARP members receive exclusive discounts at selected locations. For full details and participating hotels, go to

CARP members also receive a discount at Premiere Van Lines. You can go to or, or call 1-866-981-MOVE (6683) for more information on this deal. If you’re not a CARP member you can get a complimentary CARP membership when you book a move with Premiere.

Eric Vengroff is President of Fifty-Plus International.