June 5, 1925
The notes of Pomp and Circumstance rang in the air as John walked onto the stage with the other graduates. It was here at last, a day he had been working toward for four years, the day that he graduated from college. In just a short time, he would receive his Bachelor's degree in Business.
The past few years had flown by. John had begun attending Coe College in the fall of 1921, quickly rising to the top of his class. Just as he had thought, he often knew more than the professors, and more than one person had wondered at the fact that the head of Anders Cedar Rapids was taking college courses in business. On more than one occasion, he had been called upon to be a guest lecturer, sometimes for the very classes he was enrolled in. It had been strange, being both a prominent businessman and a business student, but he had succeeded.
As he received his diploma, he could hear Mary and Nadia cheering loudly from the auditorium. In only a few years, the two girls would be ready for college themselves. John was the first member of the Calvert family to graduate from college, and his parents, who had come all the way from England for the occasion, were immensely proud. They had dreamed, but never dared to believe, that one of their children would go so far.
Elizabeth Anders also sat in the auditorium, watching her son-in-law with shining eyes. Her investment had paid off; John was one of the best managers Anders had ever known, and his education would only make him better. She smiled as her granddaughters cheered, garnering laughter from some of the people sitting nearby.
Anders Cedar Rapids had prospered in the four years since it had been established. The company had grown by leaps and bounds, and now had two mills in town, employing some two thousand people. John had allowed unionization from the start, allowing the mill workers to organize for their own protection. Some of the other managers resented this, but they hadn't dared to go up against the son-in-law of Anders' president, who had long ago proven herself a force to be reckoned with. John worked hand-in-hand with the union leaders, assuring a fair but affordable wage for the employees, as well as mediating any problems that cropped up. The company's reputation as a good workplace preceded it, and those in charge had their choice of the best workers in the region.
The Calverts had lived in Cedar Rapids for the past four years, taking only occasional trips to New York or California. The year before, they had visited Rose and Christopher in Los Angeles, marveling at Rose's rise to stardom. Rose and Christopher had been invited to attend the graduation, but she had been shooting on location in Scotland, and had been unable to come.
Mary and Nadia had adapted to their new home, though Mary often complained that there was nothing to do in Cedar Rapids. Nadia liked it well enough, but she had never had the craving for excitement that Mary had. Mary still intended to join Rose in California after she turned eighteen and try to make it as an actress, a career that she thought would be much more exciting and glamorous than anything she could find in Cedar Rapids.
It wouldn't be long until the girls were grown. Mary and Nadia were both fifteen now, growing rapidly out of the awkwardness of adolescence and into young ladies. Nadia was a good student, near the top of her class, and already planned to attend Coe College as her father had. Mary pursued her acting dream with a sometimes surprising single-mindedness, appearing in every school play she could and in local theatrical productions.
After the graduation ceremony was over, John found his family amongst the crowd. His mother rushed up, embracing him joyfully, while his more reserved father shook his hand, pride shining in his eyes. Mary and Nadia ran up and hugged him, trying to out shout each other with their congratulations. Elizabeth walked up more sedately, shaking his hand as befitted his employer, then hugging him in congratulations as befitted a close relative.
The elder Calverts looked at John's diploma, smiling widely with pride as they read their son's name on it. John watched them, suddenly wondering what Miriam would have thought of where he'd ended up in life. Would she have approved of the way things had turned out, of the direction his life had taken since her death?
As though reading his thoughts, Elizabeth turned to look at him. "Miriam would have been proud," she told him. "You've done a lot of good for a lot of people, and you'll continue to do so in the future. Anders Cedar Rapids provides jobs for many people, and it isn't stained with blood, as it often was under her father's control. She would be proud of what you've done, of what you've accomplished, just as much as I'm proud to have you for a son-in-law."
John smiled, acknowledging the truth of her words. Her glanced up at the brilliant blue sky, the color of Miriam's eyes, and felt her looking down, watching him with love and approval. He glanced at the diploma in his father's hands, and knew somehow that Miriam, too, could see it. She had been watching over him all these years, smiling upon his work and his accomplishments.
As Mary and Nadia linked arms with him, chattering about the surprise luncheon that they and Elizabeth had planned at the best restaurant in town, it seemed to him that he could hear Miriam whispering her congratulations as well, and he smiled, walking on with his daughters into a bright future.