Southern graduations are big events, more festive than funerals and with fewer drunks than weddings. My eighth-grader and several of her friends reached a significant milestone this week; high heels. They also graduated to high school, but they seemed more excited about dressing up.
Fast maturing girls, who the rest of the year are barely taller than an Emperor penguin, towered and tottered to the podium on DSW stilts. Grandparents beamed, mothers wiped tears from their eyes, and fathers contemplated the merits various shot sizes and patterns.
Protecting daughters, livestock, and hunting dogs are all given the highest of legal presumptions for righteousness around these parts.
Some with an old school bent performed complex mental computations for the amount of gunpowder necessary to propel a payload of rock-salt. The boys, none of whom were overly impressed by either the pageantry or the promotion, tucked in their shirttails and donned their going-to-church Cabela’s caps for their first formal function.
Despite the “too cool for school” shuffle across the basketball court parquet, each of them understood half the audience was taking bets on who would stumble. That’s probably why they strode so deliberately. Where I live, it’s an even money bet any of these kids will be a graduate again, so nobody wants to be remembered as the dumbass who face planted in the gym as the final act of grades K through eight.
I understand being proud of your child who graduates the eighth grade, especially on the first attempt, but I would have preferred to have held applause until all the diplomas had been distributed. Row by row the students stood in unison and queued up for their name to be called in alphabetical order.
Once they called my kid, I was out of reasons to be there. And by the time they got to “P,” I had completely lost interest.
My hands tingled by the end of the second row and were completely numb by the fifth. With the loss of feeling, all I could do to show support for the last couple dozen kids was slap my flippers together like a circus seal.
As the Zimmerman twins collected their sheepskins, all I could think was, “Thank the sweet baby Jesus laying swaddled in a feed trough that this torture is over.” The hard wooden bench of the hide-a-bleacher pulled away from the gymnasium wall for the occasion had numbed my ass as thoroughly as the continual clapping hand numbed my hands. I hadn’t ridden that much pine since I played basketball in middle school.
I was beginning to get the feeling back in my legs when the first of five Homeroom teachers took the podium with a thick stack award folders, which the crowd quickly learned contained certificates suitable for framing.
Now might be an appropriate time for some mathematical computations. The gym had seven rows of fifteen graduates fidgeting on folding metal chairs. By my math, that’s 105 teenagers who managed to not touch their cell phones for an hour and a half. I suspected they might have been confiscated, but I clearly saw several outlines in pants pockets. What surprised me even more was approximately fifty teenage boys went an hour and a half without noticeably scratching their nuts.
What I’d like to know is when did it become possible to make the Honor Roll with B grades?
This “A/B Honor Roll” phenomenon confuses me. It really seems like standards are slipping with awards like “Highest Score in Week Twelve of Fourth Period Spelling Re-Test” are passed out. It felt like an attempt to give every graduate an award. I figured the diploma was the award, but since everyone was getting one, it wasn’t sufficiently unique. The plan might have worked out had it not been for a half dozen overachievers who hogged up multiple awards. One of those high-aiming turds cost my little girl “Best Essay Comparing and Contrasting the Series Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices.”
Don’t get too high-and-mighty, Olivia Wilson. Big boobs and Daddy’s money will only get you so far in life. I’m sure you will have a successful career at Little Rosie’s Mexican Taqueria after your second or third unplanned, teenage pregnancy.
There were also awards for a bunch of things I had never heard of, which I suspect are pushed by the federal government in exchange for money from Uncle Sugar.
The one award I recognized, perfect attendance, was ironically enough awarded to a kid who wasn’t able to make the ceremony.
As part of the graduation weekend festivities, we all piled into the War Wagon and headed to Fayetteville for some antiquing. The Fayetteville town square is home of the Lincoln County Courthouse, Probation Office, and by my count, six thousand or so antique shops, each housing booths for several dozen junk vendors…uh, I mean purveyors of finely crafted masterpieces.
I blame those Frank and Mike guys from The History Channel for convincing everyone with a pickup truck and access to their Grandmother’s attic that they are high-end antique dealers. For the most part, I came away believing “antique” is a fancy word for “garage sale.”
One of the shops was a standout with a couple of furniture pieces I gave serious consideration to purchasing, if I wasn’t anticipating one last move in the next year or so. My wife bought a bone china tea service that while pretty is more or less lost on me.
For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, I nearly bought a scythe. I have two electric and one gas string trimmer in my garage which probably do a much better job, but the scythe seems like something I should have for no better reason than the macabre imagery. It would be a hell of a conversation piece over my fireplace.
Instead of the scythe, I bought a draw knife that I want to experiment with.
At seven bucks, I won’t feel bad if I ruin it. I don’t believe in owning things I can’t or won’t use.
I use my Grandfather’s handsaw. I use my other Grandfather’s felling ax. My wife and I use my Grandmother’s silver tea service. My favorite hunting rifles are literally over a century old, and if I do my part, will shoot circles around the kids toting the latest Plastic Fantastic.
Disappointment weighed more and more on my shoulders as I shuffled from store to store asking in vain for Meerschaum pipes. I’ve smoked a pipe since my mid-twenties and have what I would call a functional supply of briar pipes. Believe it or not, you have to let wooden pipes dry out because they absorb condensation from the combustion of the tobacco. You can actually hear the pipes gurgle from the accumulation of moisture.
Meerschaum pipes aren’t prefect. They gurgle, too. The joy of a Meerschaum is that it is smoking a work of art. Each of the stone pipes is hand carved by an artisan, and if you seek out the old ones like I do, you can get the additional enjoyment of making people nervous because the carved images are often risqué, politically incorrect, or both.
A ribbon of smoke curling from the top of an African Hottentot’s head is one of life’s litmus tests to screen out Liberals.
There was no joy to be had in Fayetteville. Of the handful of shops with pipes, every single one was what pipe aficionados divisively call “drug store pipes.” Literally, the types mass produced on automated lathes. They are the Yugo of the pipe world.
Luckily, I was able to indulge another of my offensive vices; Confederophilia. The Fayetteville Courthouse boasts a memorial to the three thousand sons of Tennessee from Lincoln County who fought in the War of Northern Aggression. There was no mention of how many didn’t come marching home to suffer the subjugation of Reconstruction.
Let’s not forget to remember these men this Memorial Day.