Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Pomping Out The Circumstances

Sunday afternoon, The Pony ended his illustrious high school career by giving the valedictory speech at Newmentia High School. I was allowed to forego the march from my classroom hallway, through the cafeteria, down the gym steps, and past the band and audience to the area in front of the stage wearing a long black academic robe. Which meant I could watch my son from a middle aisle seat, like a regular parent.

Farmer H was nervous about getting good seats. He decided we should leave home at 12:15 to get to Newmentia in time to stake out our territory for the 2:00 ceremony. It’s usually standing room only, with limited parking. We were the first people there, except for the principal and his wife, and the secretary. Which meant we got to pick our seats. Heh, heh. You know what I said.

We chose the folding chairs on the floor reserved for graduates’ families, first row, aisle seats, on the right. We might have taken the ones on the left, but they had purple nametags taped to the seats! When I further investigated this seat-saving phenomenon, The Pony said, “Oh. We each got two of those in the packet they gave us for graduation.” Funny how Friday morning, when he got that stuff at practice, and carried it all the way to my room for ME to bring home when he was dismissed before lunch…he did not see fit to mention the seat tags. Even though he heard Farmer H and me obsessing over getting good seats for three days!

I left Farmer H holding the seats, and went to sit on the first bleacher at the other end of our row. I figured I could save it for my sister the ex-mayor’s wife. My mom used to ride with us, you know, and save seats for her. Sadly, Mom missed The Pony graduating. But I feel like she was there, even though her seat-saving capabilities were as weak as those of Elaine Benes at the Paradise Twin. Sis texted that they had just left home at 1:00 (it takes them five minute to get here), and had a party of six. The #1 son showed up then, and we saved the bleacher behind us, too. #1 brought his fancy camera.

HOS, the oldest son of Farmer H, brought his wife and two daughters and son, but they sat up top. Of course they left their kids holding the seats, and came down to visit. We hobnobbed with the salutatorian’s grandma and mother. We used to sit with them at all the Top Ten academic banquets. I saw a new side of the graduation ceremony while I was not constrained to a classroom in the upper level, stuffing tissues and hard candy into the wings of the sleeves of my Master’s robe.

With about 20 minutes to go, I left the bleachers to Sis and the ex-mayor and Neph and Neicey and Mr. Neicey and Babe, and went to my seat with Farmer H. Then I took the back hallway to use the women’s restroom across from the choir room. I looked out the back door, and saw that there was still room to park along the pond, still on the blacktop, albeit unmarked with lines! That’s unusual. Or maybe the best-kept secret of Newmentia graduation ceremonies.

When I returned to my seat, I discovered that CUS was sitting behind me! CUS was a teary mess, what with Little Gal Cus graduating in The Pony’s class. We called a peaceful truce (as opposed to one of those violent truces) for the sake of the graduates.

When the band started playing Pomp and Circumstance, the tears gathered at the corners of my eyes. When we stood for the graduates to enter, they started to overflow my lower lids. I watched the first graduate walk in. Alone, because his pair partner was not with us, having passed away over Christmas break. He carried a framed photo of his partner’s senior drape picture. That really tugged at the heartstrings. The photo was placed on a chair at the end of the first row of graduates, a chair decked out with his purple graduation gown, his cap, and a red/white/blue cord signifying his plans to join the armed services. The other graduates all carried a long-stemmed carnation, and as they walked past on the way to receive their diplomas, they placed it in a large vase for the fallen grad's parents.

My heart was near to bursting when The Pony pranced past. Then came my cronies, two by two, and finally three by three, since I made the number uneven. Sweet Alabama Beige gave me a fist-bump. My little foreign neighbor teared up right along with me. For someone who had wanted so desperately to sit out the Pomp walk, I felt strangely left out. You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

Opening remarks were heard. The band played a selection. Choir sang. The pictures of the graduates/baby pictures flashed on the wall. That was the high tide of my tears. Oh, The Pony! So very sweet. Such a good senior drape photo. And the two-year-old Pony sitting in a tiny student desk, holding a pencil, taken by a photographer at his daycare cottage. It was so precious I could hardly stand it! The valedictorian at two! Looking studious! Let the record show that I always cried at those photos. How far some of our graduates have come. This being one of the major high points in their future lives. Congrats to all who made it!

The National Honor Society members were recognized by their sponsor. Then scholarships were read off for the recipients. THEN the student council president, Good Golly, the daughter of a previous long-ago student of Mrs. Hillbilly Mom and Mabel, introduced the salutatorian. He used to match math wits with The Pony, the two of them tying or swapping 1st/2nd Places at the yearly math contest, racing each other to the podium on tie years to grab that gold medal, not wanting to wait 6 weeks for one in the mail. Salutatorian gave a nice speech recognizing the #3 and #4 students in the class, having them stand, allowing how they were breathing down his neck all year for the title.

Then Good Golly introduced The Pony. He was quivering during the salutatorian speech. A bundle of nerves. He strode to the podium, found his printed speech, and began like a champ. Even pausing! Even making eye contact! He had the audience eating our of the frog of his hoof! They chuckled at the funny parts. AND he even gave a message that included ALL members of his class. Not just the college bound. I swear! It was as if, for that three minutes in time, The Pony actually cared about people! I was bursting with pride. And so was Hick. And so was HOS. And probably even Sis and the ex-mayor.

The diplomas were awarded next. A new tear flowed when the #4 student received his diploma, shook hands with the school board president who presented it, then hugged him in a dad/son embrace. The Pony had chosen Mr. Principal to hand him his diploma, his scholar bowl team coach for four years. After diplomas, Good Golly and the student body president both performed the turning of the tassels.

Mr. Principal presented us with the Newmentia graduating class of 2016, and all mayhem broke loose. The Pony was webbed with Silly String like a giant Australian bird-eating spider fancied him for a future snack. Silly String rained down. Silly String shot like a torpedo. Very little surface of the gym floor escaped without Silly String.

The #1 son and HOS came to the floor for pictures. The Pony ran off to find where his prom date was hiding, because after totally ignoring him since prom night, she said she wanted a picture with him. We retreated to my classroom to meet with Sis and family.

And then it was over.

The Pony earned a high school diploma. And so much more.


Sioux said...

What a sweet, poignant ending for your school career. The Pony has so much to look forward to. Please give him my congratulations.

fishducky said...

Congratulations to The Pony & the whole Hillbilly family!!

Hillbilly Mom said...

I was not at all emotional today, my last student-day of teaching. Ever. I think I got it all out at graduation, and the Friday before. I will relay your congrats to The Pony.

Thank you. I will pass it on. It's the closing of one door, and the opening of another!

Kathy's Klothesline said...

You made me tear up as I read! My baby's graduation was in a HUGE auditorium and I was sitting on high, so high up that the graduates looked miniature. But she still heard me holler "ADRIENNE" just like Rocky!

Hillbilly Mom said...

Tonight the #1 son called. He had sent me a link to the pictures he took. Yep. Crying again as I type this.

You had to holler! That's your baby!