As the New Year rolled in and 2004 became 2005, Natalee began planning for her senior trip. The minute the swimsuits hit the shelves we hit the malls. I specifically remember how torn she was over a cute little polka-dot suit. Does it look okay? Does it fit right? She was partly excited and partly anxious. Either way, she could not wait for the big adventure with all her friends.

As spring blossoms started to peek out from the azaleas in our front yard, Natalee began working on her graduation plans. May would be here before we knew it, and there was a lot to do. As expected, Natalee handled all of the graduation requirements and arrangements herself. She ordered her invitations, her cap and gown. Family and friends of Mountain Brook graduates have to have tickets to attend the ceremony, and those are always hot commodities around here. Typically, each family receives only six tickets because of limited seating, but Natalee worked hard to acquire enough for her entire family to be present. It mattered to her that everyone be invited. She called around to other seniors to find out who didn't need all of their tickets and collected as many as she could. This was going to be her big night, and she wanted all of her loved ones around her.

Natalee was ranked twenty-fifth in her class of approximately three hundred, and that's with a 4.17 on a 4.0 scale. Even with all her good grades and advanced placement classes, the competition within the school meant there were still twenty-four students with grade point averages above her 4.17. And she never let anyone forget the ".17" part! For her academic achievements she received three honors cords to wear around her neck with her graduation robe: a gold one for the National Honor Society, a blue one for Mu Alpha Theta, which is the Math Honor Society, and a red one for the Spanish Honor Society.
From the book Loving Natalee: A Mother's Testament of Hope and Faith by Beth Holloway. Reprinted with permission from HarperOne.


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