Saturday was graduation day at Harding, and this year was Micaleigh’s turn to graduate. Garrett and I hadn’t made a trip to Searcy for a while, certainly not since having the baby, so I was excited to return to what feels like my hometown, full of familiar faces. Every time I’m in Searcy I happily run into people I hadn’t expected to see, in addition to getting to see my sister and Garrett’s family.
Unfortunately, Garrett had to work a 12 hour shift, so I undertook the trip on my own. I already had established a hatred for the routes between Mountain Home and Searcy, but I hated them even more when I had to drive alone with the baby, especially since said baby had broken her month-long Excellence in Sleeping record to limit me to four broken hours of sleep the night before. It was a difficult 6 hour round trip, but a valuable learning experience, as all things are.
Micaleigh had been asked to sing at the 12 pm graduation ceremony prior to her own 3 pm ceremony. I joined her family in a delighted cheering section that slinked in the back of the auditorium to hear her sing. It meant I got to hear Dr. McLarty make the same speech, and jokes, twice, and I got to hear the seven-fold amen and the alma mater twice.
Despite my years at Harding, I never learned the alma mater. In fact, the idea of an alma mater was a source of amusement to me. It’s kind of silly, see. My first exposure to the concept of a “school song” was in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, wherein “the whole school bellowed” an absurd song about “hoggy, warty Hogwarts,” the tune of which is not specified so everyone sings with a different melody (the Weasley twins sing it as a slow funeral dirge, which Dumbledore conducts to a finish). So, yeah, school songs are silly, or in the least, British, which is nearly the same. As for Harding’s song, the dramatic description of the university’s excellence and romantic renderings of its campus create ungainly sentiment. But perhaps that is the purpose of an alma mater: to wax eloquent like a herald or fawning courtier. It wasn’t until I left Searcy but found myself returning for graduation ceremonies and the like that the melody and lyrics of the alma mater began to stick with me the way catchy songs sometimes do. Strangely, as I enjoy singing to Nenive and she enjoys listening to me (bless her heart*), the alma mater has been one that I’ve treated her to. I really only know a few lines, notably “from the foothills of the Ozarks,” and then, triumphantly, “Harding is her name!” Oh, and I can crow “sing the chorus! Sing it proudly! Echoing through the vale!” like Tolkien’s giddy elves.
This is to say, I enjoyed hearing the alma mater twice, and Nenive enjoyed hearing it sung properly for a change.
The seven-fold amen is a special Harding treat, sung at every opportunity. When George W. Bush spoke at Harding, he was the recipient of a seven-fold amen, as was the Duck Commander. It’s sung to send people, especially graduating seniors, on their way. When I say “seven-fold amen,” of course I refer to the song “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.” It is a beautiful song and fun to sing, particularly for its conclusion: a winding traipse through a field populated with seven strung out “amens.” It’s very affecting when done correctly, but often people get lost in the amens and kind of bumble through the last few. That’s okay; it’s fun no matter how it is sung–just like the Hogwarts anthem.
Nenive enjoyed our silly alma mater (“hail to thee, beloved Hhhhhhar-ding,”), the epic seven-fold amen, and Micaleigh’s song, “This is the Moment” from Jekyll & Hyde. I’ve had the latter stuck in my head since Saturday, so I imagine Nenive will be hearing me sing it soon–too bad, because all I know of it is the title line, including one (1) key change, and a line that goes “all of my dreaming, scheming and [something] has just begun” or something like that. What else rhymes with dreaming and scheming and fits the context? Keening? Preening?
note to self: ask Micaleigh what those lyrics are
During the ceremony, Ecclesiastes 12:13 was a key verse discussed:
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
I love this verse because it offers a simple approach to life, and also because it bears resemblance to one of Benedick’s lines from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing:
Serve God, love me, and mend.
It is delivered to Beatrice, giving her a suggestion for how to move forward after a serious heartbreak.
Between the ceremonies I was able to acquire a few souvenirs: a Harding onesie for the baby, a Bison tee shirt for her cousin Mabel, a HUCOP mug for Garrett and a two-year old catalpa tree. The tree had been grown from seeds from the infamous large tree on Harding’s campus, between the Benson and the art building. It’s a beautiful tree, fifty years old, with large heart-shaped leaves, twisty limbs and clusters of white flowers.
During the 3 pm graduation ceremony, a student was honored for perfect chapel attendance for four years. He had been inspired by a legend on the seat in front of him crediting a student of an earlier graduating class with “perfect chapel attendance, minus one.” The student being honored was given his own seat placard to announce that he had perfect chapel attendance, bar none. The auditorium was crazy with cheering for the guy, and Noah leaned over to inform me that it was his “lord knight.” I neither snorted nor rolled my eyes, because these types of ridiculous phrases are now commonplace from Noah.
I didn’t take many photos because I was typically holding the baby; I had to keep asking people to hold her so I could take a bathroom break. I really missed Garrett. Apart from needing his help, I thought of his ceremony two years previously when I saw this year’s College of Pharmacy graduates crossing the stage. Garrett’s parents, and Cassie, had been attending Noah’s high school graduation that day, but watched Garrett’s ceremony via livestream. They were able to watch Micaleigh sing and graduate the same way, from their computer in American Samoa.
The photos I did take were of a cute moment when Micaleigh’s two baby nieces, Nenive and Ada, gave each other a cursory pat-down; an unfocused shot of Micaleigh a mile away on stage; Noah holding a concerned looking Nenive (the audience’s cheering and applause constantly startled and disturbed her); and Delaney holding Nenive for a stirring rendition of “Doe, a Deer.” All taken during moments when someone else held the baby… and most featuring the baby.
Later, at home, I took pictures of the souvenirs listed above, plus the page of the commencement booklet with Micaleigh’s name and the macarons–oh, the macarons! I never knew I liked them before. In fact, I thought I disliked them. As it turns out, I must not have had any good macarons, because these, made by Micaleigh’s sister Hollie for the dinner party, were exquisite. For the first time in my experience, the French cookie tasted as good as it looked. There were dozens of them in different flavors, and I also learned why pistachio flavored treats is a thing.
It’s a good thing I was limited to four because I could have eaten, um… more than four.
*Note: this is the first time I have used the southern expression “bless her heart.”