The parking lot at Lincolnwood High School at Raymond, IL, was almost full when Gerald dropped me off closer to the door and he went looking for a vacant spot. Obviously graduation is a big deal in this community. As I entered the packed gymnasium, I remembered the heat associated with such programs in my distant past and realized I perhaps should have worn a cool summer dress.
I wondered how in the world we would find seats since bleachers on both sides seemed full and many people were milling around yet. However, Mary Ellen was standing and waving at us and had reserved seats waiting for us. Gerald, Brian, his mother, and I settled into the chairs on the gym floor marked “Taylor,” and I was quite comfortable for the evening. (Some things had come up for Sam, and he had not been able to go with us after all much to his disappointment.) I appreciated the school’s thoughtfulness with making such advance preparation for us.
Brian’s brother Steve and wife Salena and their three daughters—Jasmine, Kaitlin, and Larissa—had come downstate from Sycamore, Brian’s home town, and they had gotten there early enough to find seats on the bleachers. So Trent had a nice size cheering section for him.
Brianna was up front playing in the band. When the familiar “Pomp and Circumstance” started, I thought for a few moments that I might cry. Soon I was eagerly straining my head backwards to catch the first glimpse of Trent as he solemnly marched in but with a smile on his face. From then on, I was mostly happy, but the many tears I saw around us when graduates came to hand their parents a beautiful rose did make me cautious that I did not let them be contagious. Again Trent’s big smile as he gave up his rose to his parents and then hugged all of us one at a time made the joy replace the tears.
It had been so long since I had been to a graduation ceremony that I did not know kids now decorate their mortarboards, and many of these seniors did--including the three top students who gave short speeches. Although the traditionalist in me preferred the solid black caps, it was interesting to see the various designs on the top of their heads, which were most often symbols of colleges they intend to go to or a career they aspire to. One girl’s cap, which I was seeing through the crack of heads in front of me, was a dolphin. Is she heading to Florida? I thought one guy had a miniature football sewed on his cap and I assume he had been on the team. Unquestionably the most interesting and certainly them most noticeable was Trent’s friend Tim Marten, who had lights outlining the edge of his square.
Finally the formalities were over, the kids had received their fake diplomas, tassels had been pulled to the other side, and then the Class of 2011 had their way with hats high in the air and silly string flying everywhere. Trent was really smiling now and that smile lasted as he marched with his class back out of the gym.
It was still daylight outside after the service. Groups clustered around their particular graduate. An adorable red haired toddler had kicked off his shoes and was sunning barefoot in the grass. In the cool of the evening, I was glad I had not worn a summer dress because we took time there for a lot of picture taking of Trent with various groupings of his family members. The large grassy lawn was quite magnificent with many huge trees towering over us, and I commented that I bet not another school in Illinois had such an abundance of enormous trees.
No one had had time to eat before the ceremony. In fact, Brian and his mother had arrived up from Southern Illinois even later than we did because he was in the field down here planting until the last possible moment. I think we were all glad when Mary Ellen said the plan was for us all to drive to nearby Litchfield, where she and Brian treated the dozen of us to supper at Denny’s.When we headed for their house five miles in the country from Waggoner, Trent and Brianna went onto yet another one of the many graduation parties being held.
It was late enough that we all settled down quickly back at their house, which with its finished basement, can hold a large house party. Unfortunately, as life often typically slings at us, company in the house makes things break or causes plumbing to cease working properly. I am speaking from experience. So several were downstairs solving that problem while Gerald and I fell into our bed upstairs and were quickly asleep.
The next morning I slept in and hoped Mary and Brian had, but Brian was on the tractor mowing and May Ellen was already thawing out the many veggie dishes she had prepared for the day’s crowd. While some of the cousins were quickly into the swim pool outside the breakfast nook door, Gerald and I went with Mary Ellen to Litchfield to pick up ice, the special congratulatory cake and other supplies for the afternoon.
Later Brian and Steve were in Litchfield for some farm purpose, so Mary Ellen had them go by for the fried chicken she had ordered. The store told them that Mary’s order was for Sunday, not Saturday, and they came home empty handed. Mary Ellen said that by then with the previous night’s plumbing problems keeping them up to all hours, she simply decided to simply stay calm and not let it bother her although she knew she had ordered correctly.
She thought we’d just have a vegetarian meal. (Frankly, she had so many veggie dishes available that we would have eaten well without chicken.) But then the store called that another family named Taylor had ordered chicken for Sunday, and that her order was ready after all. So Brianna made yet another trip to Litchfield and carried in two huge boxes of wonderful smelling chicken. The feasting began, and other families and kids’ friends kept arriving. Trent was still smiling.
Everyone was eager for Tara and Bryan and their three boys to arrive from Aurora. Aidan, of course, was immediately in the pool with the teens. This was the first family gathering since Easter, and it was somewhat disconcerting to see how much baby Payton had grown up in that short amount of time. He was immediately attracted to Salena’s dog Alex and the Taylors’ Fifi. He was so gentle petting them over and over, and both shitzus were just as gentle with him in return. He still wants to be close to his mother, but he was ready to socialize and soon after arrival held his little arms up to Gerald. Before the day was over, he had so favored others of us, and he even let Gerald take him on a tractor ride in the plot behind the swimming pool although he kept his eyes on his mother watching him.
Maddux, our shy charmer who almost makes people swoon with his shy cutting of his eyes, had a big boy haircut and seemed a year older instead of four weeks older. His latest cuteness is keeping both hands on his hips probably in imitation of Woody or some cartoon character he watches. He still liked riding as much as always though anything with four wheels (all called “tractor”), and he had several men and teens ready and willing to provide him with rides.
Jeannie and Rick’s family arrived from Freeport, and Elijah and Cecelie joined the teen crowd. However, when our natural entertainer Leslie arrived from her long drive up from Nashville, TN, her siblings were eager to come in the living room to hear about her latest adventures including two new summer jobs—one decorating cakes at Kroger and the other as a health care performer who is going to lead children at various gatherings and parties. Evidently she auditioned at a regular event, and the two-year-olds stormed the stage trying to reach her, so she instantly got the job. She and Trent had to do a long standing tradition of some dance moves they perfected long ago at Vacation Bible School together and which Leslie dubbed “The Trent.” Les is always a happy addition to any crowd, and we all liked her excited anticipation of her senior year at Belmont living in her first apartment.
While the kids were mostly in the pool, we relaxed in the beautiful high ceiling living room and watched NCAA women’s softball regional tourneys, which Tara’s knowing comments made more interesting. (She has coached so many of the girls on Southern Force before their college days, so she had memories and anecdotes to share.) University of Georgia games weren’t televised, but Tara had kept up with them for us, and we knew before Trent’s graduation ceremony that they had won their first game. And by the time we were eating lunch yesterday afternoon, we knew they had won their second game, and that one more win today would give them a regional championship allowing them to host the super regional this coming weekend at Athens. (They did win today.)
The teens eventually piled into a car to head to a movie, and some of the men were busy with the plot behind the house. Others were swimming, while adults sat around the pool visiting. It was darkening, and Gerald and I realized it was past time we should be starting the long trek back to Southern Illinois. So we grabbed another piece of chicken to eat for our supper and shared with Fifi who had joined us on the concrete steps going down to poolside.
Reluctantly we made our goodbyes and were grateful when we back home safely to Woodsong in our own bed once more.
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