A Star in the Dark

This past May was a time of celebrating, remembering, and just a few tears–happy tears. My oldest graduated from my alma mater and now hers, Wesleyan College.  The graduating seniors voted for two parents to speak at the Baccalaureate service.  It was a great honor to be one of the two chosen.  As I told the seniors that night, the only thing better than being a Wesleyanne has been being a Wesleyanne’s mama.  

Tomorrow my oldest starts her newest journey–the first day of classes in law school.  My sisters at Wesleyan also begin the new school year, so I thought I’d share my dreams for them that I first shared on May 12th.  I wish them all the best–my daughter, my sisters, and all those beautiful young people starting a new year of learning.  I hope they all will remember the beauty of their light, freely share it, and often remind others of their beautiful light.  

We need each other y’all.  Now more than ever.  Love to all.  

 

Hello to all of our friends and family here tonight, and an especially warm welcome to my sisters in the Class of 2017. Thank you for the honor of being here to share with you this evening.
I’m going to start with a line from a song you’ve maybe heard a few times during your time at Wesleyan—
“…..a star in the dark is thy glorious past…..”

You. All of you. Did you know? From the moment you took your first breath, your light has been shining. This world is better and brighter because you are here. Each and every one of you.

I recently saw something on Facebook that one of your sisters shared. It had a picture of two pink sparkly eggs just like these, and it said,
“me vs. you bc we both cuties who don’t tear other women down.”
Yes. That. Each and every one of you is a pink sparkly egg, and your light is important.

Don’t let anyone let you feel like it isn’t either—whether you are graduating with a 4.0 or 2.7. Whether you’ve garnered many awards during your time at Wesleyan or none, whether you know exactly where you will be on Monday or in August or if you have no idea what is ahead for you—your light is still beautiful. As is yours and yours and yours. And it is so very needed. The most precious thing about light is that it doesn’t diminish when shared with others. And when we stand together, it shines even brighter. That’s what it means to be a Wesleyanne. That’s what the sisterhood is about. And it doesn’t end either, y’all. My sisters from the classes of 1987-1993 have continued to be a strong presence in my life, even more so in the past few years. We had a saying back when I was here, “Sisters in spirit stay sisters forever.” And after all these years, I’m adding another line, “Sisters in spirit stay stronger together.”

As you go forth from tonight and tomorrow, I want you to take three things with you.

Your light. Share it. Use it to shine in the darkest places, and become a safe place for others. And if you find yourself needing a safe place, look to your sisters. Even those you may not have met yet. Find me. Love on each other and lift each other up like the pink sparkly eggs you all are.

I want you to take with you gratitude. My first birthday after my Daddy died in 2011 was the last one I’d have with my Mama. And she gave me this gratitude journal. I didn’t get it. I was still very much grieving and I knew she wasn’t in the best of health. A gratitude journal? Really? It was while she was sick in the hospital that I found myself getting it—grasping a bit of this gratitude thing. I began to notice little things—a cup of coffee at just the right time, the gentle nature of a caring nurse, my phone that I could use to research things—things and people to be grateful for. And it was because of the light of those around me that I could see it. My friend Ashley, the Baddest Mother Ever, and a sister of yours as well, often uses the hashtag #saythankyouhere.  So number two, my sisters, is gratitude. Practice it often. Say thank you as much as you can. Let folks know when you appreciate them.

This past week I found myself out with my Auburn, my daughter who is my sister, just the two of us, and we were laughing our way through the Walmart. At one point, when we were giving each other a hard time, like we do, I said to her, “I don’t know why you do me like that, I’ve always been good to you.” She laughed and said, “Well, there was that one time…..”

Y’all, there will always be that one time. Or two or three. This is not a world of absolutes. Success is not a run of no failures or mistakes. There will always be that one time. Or two or ten. (I did pretty good in college but there was that one time…..we do not talk about Calculus II…..ahem) But neither is anything or anyone all bad. Someone might be grating on your last nerve, but as time passes, I’m betting you will wind up saying, “Well, except for that one time…..” Look for those times, okay? Look for every opportunity to find that one time when their light shines, even just a little.

I wish you all the best. I know most of you are probably ready to go. I was not. I had no clue what I was going to be doing, and life is turning out okay. (Well, there was that one time…..) As you finish packing up and saying goodbyes and heading out on your next adventure, remember to take your light and refuel it with laughter, good friends, and all the things that tan your soul. Offer grace every chance you can and offer the comfort and compassion to others that you learned here from each other. And finally, remind folks all around you that they too are pink sparkly eggs. And y’all—look in the mirror and tell her too. She might really need to hear that.

You are standing on the shoulders of giants. On the shoulders of the ones who stood at that same marker you just gathered around and the ones before who attended school there. You saw many of them Alumnae Weekend—all of us crazy old ladies. You are standing on the shoulders of your professors and the staff who supported, challenged, and encouraged you the past few years. Look around you—you are standing on the shoulders of the ones here—friends and family who love and cherish you—your biggest cheerleaders. And you are standing on the shoulders of the ones who aren’t here—the Caps and Maemaes and Papas and Ollies and Denises and Rev. Hurdles and grandfathers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, mothers, and fathers. Their light shines on through you.

My sisters, a star in the dark is your glorious past. But now you are all blazing comets, leaving a brilliant, beautiful trail behind you. Soar on and leave love and laughter and pink sparkles in your wake. Best wishes and happy everyday!

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Spread Your Wings and Soar

This past Saturday many young women walked across the stage I’ve walked across, and they received the piece of paper that is so much more than that–it’s the results of minutes and hours and days and years of listening and learning and writing and critiquing and speaking and sharing and thinking and challenging themselves to do more, do better, be stronger, think harder, and take one step more towards their goal.

And now. They’ve taken one very huge step.

They are college graduates.

One of those young women is my friend whom I had the privilege of sitting with about a month ago.  As we sat in the rocking chairs facing the green of the golf course on my visit “home” for Alumnae Weekend, I had the honor of hearing about her journey.  Some about where she’s been and more about where she hopes to go. What she hopes to do.  I heard her decisions and her questions in her stories and thoughts, and let me tell you this–

We are in good hands.

If.

If we don’t mess this up.

This beautiful soul has, as so many of us have, found out a lot about herself during her years at Wesleyan.  Some surprising, some not so much.  She has gained confidence in her abilities and her voice, as her professors and classmates challenged her to come up with ideas, defend her opinions, and put together words and thoughts in a way that others could learn from her.  And now–

Now she leaves this nest, this safe place, this place of incubation and growing.  It is time, and she is ready.

But–y’all.

I need to ask a favor.

For years, we have been telling this young woman and all the young people her age to “grow up.”  We’ve sighed when they’ve been silly, calling them out to “do better, be more mature, be responsible.”

And now that they are on their way to do this, it is our very important job not to muck it up for them.  It is up to us not to discourage them.  And it happens everyday, doesn’t it?  People groan about the millennials.  I’ve heard comments:  “Oh look at them, they think they are grown.  Who do they think they are?”  Or this:  “Ha.  Did you hear the ideas they’ve come up with to fix this or that?  Right.  Like some young upstart can fix this.  It’s been a mess for years.  Our generation tried, and we couldn’t do a thing about it.  What makes them think they can?”

This is WRONG in every sense of the word.  Because, in the words of the Grinder, “But what if they can?”

We’ve told them to grow up.  They’ve been watching us for years to see what THAT looks like.  Now that they’ve reached this pinnacle, this landmark of “being grown,” how can we be anything but positive and encouraging?

We need their dreams and their hearts.  They are fragile right now.  Fragile, strong, and prepared.  Like a baby bird who is a baby no more and whose wings are ready to take flight.  Instead of letting our words and eye rolls and patronizing tones take them down like a rock from a sling shot, let’s cheer them on.  Just as we did the little blue birds who finally take flight as spring turns into summer and the leaves sway in the breeze and the frogs sing their evening songs.  Let’s let them be who they have been becoming the past four or more years, and let’s watch them and listen to them and treat them with the same respect and love that we show those little birds.

And to my little birds who have flown the nest.  It and all of your sisters will always be there for you.  Years from now, when you most need to feel the safety of the nest, they will take you under their wings and you will be held tightly in their safe embrace, protected, if only for a moment, from life’s greatest storms.  You are going to do small things greatly and great things well.  Your dreams you have right now might not come to fruition, but never stop dreaming.  Never forget the hope you had as you packed up your things to move on to the next part of your journey.  Oh I know, there was trepidation too.  I remember that.  I hate to tell you this, but it never completely goes away.  There’s the next step and the next step and the one after that.  Over twenty-five years since I left the nest, and at times I still feel the uncertainty of what to do next.  But hold on to the woman you have become.  She and all the encouragement and advice you have gotten and all of the things you have learned both in the classroom and outside of it will guide you if you will let it.  Hold on to your dreams and keep growing.

Because that never stops either.  The growing and changing.  You are the beautiful butterfly and metamorphosizing caterpillar all at the same time.  Ever-changing.

And, to be honest, that’s been surprising and pretty cool too.

Here’s to our new graduates.  May we have the wisdom to listen and to encourage them and give them space to try out all the things without fear of what failure would look like.  And may they have the energy and resources and support to envision, create, attempt, dream, and change this world for the better.

Because I’ve met them.  And I know they can.

Love and pomp and circumstance to all.

Soong_Ching-ling_diploma

By Wesleyan College [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Best Advice for Graduates…..and everyone else

I’ve listened to a lot of graduation addresses.  I’ve even given one once many moons ago.  Last year I contemplated how different that would have been if I were to write it now.

But now, now I have heard very possibly the best advice ever given in one of these speeches.  For graduates.  For all of us.

And it was offered by the salutatorian, Divine Francis, of Veterans High School, one of the local schools here in our county.

First Divine said that he didn’t know the secret of success.  He said if he did, he’d have already written the book and made a million dollars and retired to the Bahamas…..basically, not be HERE.  Then he described a movie.

“What if I told you there was a new movie coming out, two hours long, of watching paint dry?  And that if you paid the admission price, you could sit there and watch paint dry for two hours, up there on the big screen?”  He paused.  “You’d probably shake your head at me and ask, ‘Divine, why would I want to do that? Why would I want to waste two hours of my life doing that?  That’s dumb!'”

“But what if it’s the night before finals and you decide to go to a party instead of studying.  That’s just as dumb. I say, ‘Why would you want to do that?'”

“And I think that’s the best thing we can do as we go forth.  Don’t do dumb things.  That’s it.  Don’t do dumb things.”

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Y’all I’ve never been crazy about that word.  But I have to tell you this.  I clapped.  As did so many who heard the words of this still seventeen year old–“I have a late birthday.”  That pretty much wraps it up, doesn’t it?

In whatever you’re about to do, don’t waste your time on poor choices–instead make the effort to do the smart thing, the right thing.

Truth.  From a graduate about to set out on a new path.

I think he’s going places.

Y’all too?

Tonight I’m thankful for a young man who stepped outside the box and didn’t give the traditional speech filled with sentimentality and inspirational quotes and challenges to make every moment count–I’m thankful for his keeping it real and sharing simple wisdom and truth.

Love and an overabundance of wise choices to all.

 

 

For the Seniors, and those who will be

Sunday night when I sat and listened to conversations among those about to graduate from my Alma Mater, I heard the stress and excitement and anxiety in their voices, in their days, in their plans.  As I listen to so many who are about to graduate, so many who are wrapping up their school year, I hear the frenzy and the panic and the trying to figure out how to get it all done before the year is over.  As they talked, the memory came back to me of one particular evening and a sandwich I made and took with me.  And what followed. 

 

The day was in spring

many moons ago

and the cherry blossoms covered the trees in rich abundance

creating a sanctuary for one who might seek it

like me

The sun was setting

dusk

the dark was settling upon the earth

but it was already in my heart

Fear, worry, concern, anxiety

trepidation

and maybe excitement and anticipation

Only a month left of classes

and finals

and graduation

That spring night felt like the beginning of the end

saying goodbye to my home for four years

the place that had birthed in me

a new person

stronger, wiser, smaller, with eyes more open

and more questions than answers

and a heart that was breaking for the things

I’d learned

and seen

and heard

and wanted to change

Wesleyan

As I sat on the cold concrete bench, tucked away

from the world

hidden by my tent of blossoms

it felt as though about the time

I’d learned the way of the syllabus

there would be no more

Life

doesn’t come with directions or syllabi

or a professor to advise

If you’re lucky

you have family and friends

to listen and share wisdom

but in the end

It’s all You

and Only You

I sat and slowly ate my pb and j

on wheat

that I’d prepared for my trek across campus

looking for answers

and peace

When I had spied the bench peeking

I sat and thought and was filled with the angst of the moment

I was about halfway through with my sandwich

when I looked down and realized

the bread

was

moldy

Tears

In that moment

I felt more lost than ever before

Moldy bread

I was hidden in the blossoms

in the world

I didn’t know what path to take

back to peace

back to the place I was meant to go

away from the tears and angst and moldy bread

The thing is–

the moldy bread didn’t kill me

It wasn’t pleasant, more in the mind than in the stomach

but it didn’t give me more than a moment’s pause

really

In life, those moments when it’s all bearing down on you

When the tears are at the surface

and the bread is moldy

and there are no directions

Time will pass

Friends will come alongside you

and it will

be

okay

again

and

moldy bread

it won’t kill you

 

 

What I’d Say

pic of class of 1986It was twenty-seven years ago today that I graduated from high school. Wow. I graduated from the same high school that my Daddy graduated from, and we even had a couple of the same teachers. He graduated before segregation and before the new campus was built–his school combined with two other schools to form the one I attended. The administration let me wear his honor cords in addition to mine, and that meant so much to me. Twenty-five years after him, I walked down the aisle and had the honor of speaking at graduation.

My uncle called a few days ago to ask if Aub had ever read “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran. It touched my heart that he cared enough to call and ask. And it reminded me of Daddy–because he often suggested books that she should read (or that I needed to read), and because Daddy liked Khalil Gibran too. I was pleased to be able to tell my Uncle that I had given Aub a copy of the book for Christmas, to remember and honor Daddy and to enlighten her. She read it right away.

All this got me to thinking about my own graduation so many years ago. I had just found Khalil Gibran myself, and my seventeen year old self was very enamored with the thoughts and words he wrote. I even started my speech with a quote from him: “Only once have I been made mute. It was when a man asked me, ‘Who are you?'”  And went on from there.

Yeah, I was quite the great thinker back then. Ahem.

And so, I’ve thought a little more today about something that came to me when I attended my daughter’s graduation two weeks ago. What would I say today, if I were asked to speak at a graduation.

First I would tell them they won’t remember a thing I’m going to say. Because that is probably the way it will be.

Then I’d keep talking anyway. There’s some irony in that, I guess. Like the person who buys what they would want as a gift for someone else.

But I digress.  I would continue–

pic of khalil gibran truth quote

Seek truth.  Not the truth.  Just truth.  Seek and then act.  For justice.  For love.  For widsom.

The adults in your life will disappoint. As you grow older, they will, at some point, let you down. They are not perfect. They are human.  We all are.  Don’t let the disappointment change who you are.

At some point, you will make a choice and you will disappoint yourself. It’s going to happen. More than once, most likely.  Give yourself grace. Learn from that choice. Admit mistakes.  Ask forgiveness.  Move on.

It’s easy to waste time on things that don’t matter. Just make sure you don’t waste time or energy on things that can hurt people.   Like judging those different from you. Or hating the person rather than the action.

Or letting your frustration with one part of a person or church or  job or situation make you blind to the good in it or them.

Don’t waste time not letting your authentic self shine.

Be authentic. Be you. But don’t make it about you.   If you are a crocheter in the midst of knitters, crochet away, but love those knitters.  If you are a yellow in a sea of green, shine on so we can see their green too.  If you are a singer surrounded by dancers, belt it out and smile while you’re doing it, singing a tune the others can dance to.  Don’t go against who you are. Life is too short to pretend you are what or who you are not.  Or to pretend that you are not who you really are.

But on that same note, don’t take yourself so seriously.  You’re going to do great things, but you’re also going to mess up.  Truth.  And the only way you can do great things is to try.  So when you mess up, try again.  The great will come.  As my parents used to say, “Keep on keepin’ on.”

Take lots of pictures of you WITH the people you love.  Not just OF the people you love.  One day you will be very glad you did.

Surround yourself with people who get things done.  People who laugh.  Laugh a lot.  People who celebrate the small things as much as the great things in life.  People who find reasons to be joyful.  People who can encourage without knocking you down because they are insecure.  People who love like the stuff grows on trees.  Yeah, those folks.  Hard times are not an IF scenario, but a WHEN.  These folks are the ones who will help you through.  Just as you will help them as you sit with them in their darkness.

You can never say “I love you” or “I appreciate you” too much.  Make time to find something to be thankful for and give thanks.  Learn to see beauty when you look in the mirror.  And in things and people around you.  Be a good listener.  Share your stories, but not your drama.  Take walks and breathe deeply.

Read great books.  And fluff.  Try new foods.  You never know what you might like.  Put the cell phone down and talk with those around you.  Look them in the eyes. Say hello and learn the names of the people whom you see–the mail carrier, the parking deck cashier, the person who makes your coffee, the people who live on your street.  They matter.  You matter.  In the end, that’s what we all want–to have sought truth, found some, to love and be loved, and to have mattered.

###########

Today I’m thankful for an Uncle who cares what my girl reads.  I am thankful for the memory of my own graduation, the most precious part being the connection I felt to Daddy throughout the whole thing.  I appreciate those who have the courage to speak at these ceremonies and to share their thoughts, especially those who tell it like it is.  And I’m thankful for my Daddy who introduced seventeen year old me to Khalil Gibran, who had some great things to say, and I’m thankful for my seventeen year old, who has found her own love for the words written so long ago.

Picture from Gibran Monument by Julie Flygare

Picture from Gibran Monument by Julie Flygare

“You are my brother and I love you. I love you worshipping in your church, kneeling in your temple, and praying in your mosque. You and I and all are children of one religion, for the varied paths of religion are but the fingers of the loving hand of the Supreme Being, extended to all, offering completeness of spirit to all, anxious to receive all.”–Khalil Gibran

Hey Girl

I originally wrote this when my Aub was away for a few days on 7/21/2008. I can only imagine how precious the Hey Girl will be in a few months, when she goes off to college.  As we prepare for her graduation tomorrow night, I am waxing reminiscent.   I realize that since I’ve written this, “Hey Girl” has been made popular by the Ryan Gosling meme, but for me, it will always make me think of Granny.  And my girls.

pic of coconut cake

My Granny holds a special place in my heart and memory. I still bake “her” coconut cake on her birthday every year that I have been able to. I think of her often and when I realize that she’s been gone over ten years, it takes my breath away. She was just as tough on us as she was loving, but that didn’t matter. Granny was Granny and always will be. I love my childhood memories of visiting her, but my most favorite ones are when I visited as a young adult, just the two of us, sitting and whiling away the time. We had serious talks, like when we both got rather vehement about the town’s Christmas decorations being put up before Thanksgiving could even be celebrated. Boy, that got her dander up. And mine too—so much so that I wrote a letter to the editor (at her goading, if memory serves). I think it tickled her. At least it got a smile out of her .
When I’d go to her door off the carport at her house in town—that’s what it will always be for me—her house “in town,” because, as we all know, Granny’s house is the one in the country—out on the farm at the end of that long dirt road I learned to ride my bike on. No matter whose name is on the title—it’s hers. But I digress. When I’d go to the door and knock—doorbells are for company (don’t knock on my door if you don’t know me)—I’d peek in and see her ambling over. In the beginning on her own, and later with her walker. She’d smile and I would too. I don’t know if she was always glad to see me—a new bride who just was seeking company in one of the places she considered home—but she never made me feel less than special on those visits. The first words that came from her were, “Hey girl.” I’m telling you it warmed the cockles of my heart. (Cockles? Really? Yep, look it up—it’s the fourth of fifth definition of the word.) I can still hear her voice, “Hey girl.” And the smile that accompanied the heartwarming melody went all the way up to her beautiful brown eyes. In that moment, I was home. We’d sit and talk and solve the world’s troubles in those times. I often would make her tell me over and over who so and so took after or how we were related to so and so. Later when she was bedridden and not doing too good, I’d knock and go in. When she’d see me, she’d still smile and so would I—“Hey girl.”
Now I know I’m not the only one she’d say that to, but the important thing is that when she said it, you were the only one. A term of endearment. That’s what it became for me, and I’m just starting to appreciate it.
Today I was on the road and missed a call from my treasured friend who was volunteering out in the heat for her son’s ball team. I quickly called her from my cell when I got her message. When she answered, obviously after glancing at caller ID, she answered, “Hey girl.” It took me back. Yes, it’s a term of endearment. I’ve said it myself without even realizing it. But only to my truest of true, “bosom” friends as they were once called. I say it in love and respect. It’s not something I say unless I know you and really care about you. You have to earn your “hey girl” with me.  I know that my precious friend had no way of knowing how much those two words touched me, but in that moment I was home, safe, and comforted in the warmth of our friendship.
My soon to be teenager has been gone for three days now for a wonderful mini-vacation with great friends from our overseas tour. I’ve called two nights in a row and she’s been out having the time of her life. We’ve all missed her. Her little one year old brother has been more vocal than he’s ever been, walking around tonight, hollering his nickname for her “Baba! BA-BA!!!!!” I thought when she left, Well, maybe she’ll come home and appreciate me a little more. I think the opposite may happen. She has a gift that she shares with us, her family, and that is missed. I’m thrilled that she is where she is, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if, when I pick her up at the end of the week, the first words out of my mouth are, “Hey girl.”

That's my girl--ain't she a mess?

That’s my girl–ain’t she a mess?

The Memory of Yesterday, The Legacy of Tomorrow

This weekend marks 23 years since I graduated from college.  I don’t think of it every year, but for many reasons, this year it’s been on my mind.

It was four years before that I spent a week choosing between Wesleyan and Georgia Southern.  Yeah, you don’t get much more polar opposites that those two, do you?  Coed vs. all women, small vs. large, close to home vs. a few hours away, and so on.  I had a leaning towards Wesleyan because it was closer (seriously, that long drive with Daddy for Scholarship Interviews at Southern was very possibly a deal breaker–there was nothing on I-16!), and because Mama had graduated from there four years earlier.

Mama only had two quarters left in college as a Chemistry major at Valdosta State when, as a first year bride and newly pregnant,  she was told by doctors it was either the degree or me.  She chose me.  With only two quarters left.  I am humbled and thankful.  So in 1980, she transferred her credits to Wesleyan and changed to a Psychology major.  I remember her music class with Dr. Herrington.  She came up with neat mnemonic devices to remember the composers–“Mozart’s in the closet! Let him out! Let him out! Let him out!”  My brother went to the little preschool at the edge of campus while she was in class, and when we were out of school, we would go and sit in an empty classroom across the hall from hers.  I remember sitting in the brown desks, dreaming of the day I would go to college.  It seemed so far away then.

Because Mama was on campus regularly, she learned of things like the children’s plays and the Naiads–the synchronized swimming team.  We went to the theater for the plays and for concerts.  We watched the swimmers in their beautiful suits dancing in the water.  I suppose it was only inevitable that Wesleyan won in the choice of college; she had already won my heart.  I was home.

I made great friends during my years at Wesleyan, and I figured out what I believed.  I loved the classes and assignments that made me stretch myself and explain what I believed and why, especially the papers for Dr. Ledbetter’s classes (my favorite may have been on the spirituality of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer”).  Because I attended only four years after Mama, I had Dr. Curry for Psychology just as she had.  My freshman roommate helped me bind my children’s book  for Miss Munck the night before it was due.  (I still have it.) We had a gummy bear throwing “thing” going on with our across the hall neighbor.  (Some things you don’t ask about, people.)  I may or may not know something about a vehicle driving across the sidewalk to get its occupants to Physical Science on time, because they had been watching the last few minutes of Y and the R.  As a Resident Assistant, I found great friends in the classes behind ours.  And I collected a great deal of purple paraphernalia over the years, as I was a Purple Knight.  Wesleyan was where I learned to accept others, no matter our differences, and to accept myself.  This is also where I fell in love with the theater, and I was thrilled when Sir cast me as the lead in the children’s play my junior year.  I was going to be on stage performing for excited children, just as those actresses had when I was younger.  What a blast I had!

I learned that time management was important (we don’t talk about Calculus II–EVER), and that laughter truly is the best medicine.  I was thrown in the fountain for my birthday each year, and twelve years after graduation, I was married around the fountain which has the words “We Live For One Other” etched in the marble.

The fountain at Wesleyan--so many memories.

The fountain at Wesleyan–so many memories.

This year I suppose the memories of my years–was it only four?–at Wesleyan are especially poignant, as this is the year of the passing of the torch.  As I sat with my older daughter on Scholarship Day, I wondered if she would choose my alma mater.  I only wanted it for her if she felt like I had–that it was home.

I had my answer very soon.  Scholarship Day was Saturday, February 9th.  It was the evening of the 10th that my dear friend, minister, and sister Wesleyanne brought Aub to the hospital to say goodbye to Mama.  Aub walked in, went straight to her bedside, and said, in a voice that was somewhat tremulous and strong at the same time, “Maemae, I decided about college.  I’m going to Wesleyan.”  I was in tears (and yet I thought–wait–we haven’t heard about the scholarship yet!).  It was the day after Mama’s funeral that Auburn’s Admissions Rep, also a Wesleyanne and a fabulous woman, called her and gave her the good news.  Auburn is the newest recipient of the Mary Knox McNeill Faith and Service Scholarship, and a member of the Pirate Class of 2017.

My Pirate, Class of 2017!

My Pirate, Class of 2017!

My girl has embraced her choice and never looked back.  (As she was born on National Talk Like a Pirate Day, I suppose it was inevitable.)  She is a strong woman, that one.  I give thanks for that.  She joined every Wesleyan related Facebook page she could.  She has friended former and current Wesleyannes.  She talked me into going back for STUNT–the awesome production that took up much of my life my junior and senior years.   She even participated in a contest to design the t-shirt for the incoming freshman–and her design was chosen. Not too shabby for our future Graphic Design/Psychology major.

So as I remember my graduation, I wonder where we all will be four years from today, watching as this young woman sets out on the next step in her journey (which WILL be graduate school…..ahem).  I am thankful for the strong women, some of whom are Wesleyannes, who strengthened her through their love and guidance and laughter.  I am thankful for the men who encouraged her to speak her mind and taught her she can be anything she sets her mind to.  And I’m thankful for her spirit–she has weathered many a storm, but like the Pirate she is, she has stayed afloat and is sailing afar, up for a new adventure at her new home, my alma mater and my Mama’s–

Hail Wesleyan, thou emblem of all that is grand;

The noblest, the greatest, in all this fair land.

Thine ideals are honored, thy name always blest;

A fountain of knowledge, the oldest and best.

A star in the dark is thy glorious past,

Forever and ever thy glory shall last.

Upholding thine ideals, thy daughters shall be

True, faithful, and loyal, dear Wesleyan to thee.

As she stands around the fountain under a star-filled sky, arms joined with her Pirate sisters, the sound of their voices raised in song filling the night air–for just a moment, I hope she will look up and think of those who have gone before, and all that lies ahead of her.  And I hope, in that moment, she will smile.  And dream big dreams.  Like I did 23 years ago.  Go get ’em girl.  Pirates, all the way!