JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: It's been a while since my last week at the helm of JRW, so I know you're all wondering, "What's going on with Julia's kids?" Friends, I'll tell you. The Smithie (with strong encouragement from her loving mom and dad) is making plans to join her girlfriend down in Austin, TX, with an eye towards the far better job opportunities available in a city that has almost as many people as the entire state of Maine. If anyone knows of a career-level opening in a library, contact me! Otherwise, we'll keep an eye on her to see if 1) she buys herself cute cowgirl boots once she's in Texas and 2) if she succumbs to Austin's vibe and becomes a vegan, dulcimer-strumming hipster.
Youngest has 1) successfully completed drivers' ed and now has a permit 2) transferred to a new high school that we think will be the perfect fit for her and 3) converted to Islam.
Yeah, it was a surprise to Ross and me, too.
Our exciting family trip, however, was going to Chicago to see the Sailor graduate from Basic Training! He was an honors graduate - in the top three percent of his class - so we got to see him before most of the other parents could see their sons and daughters. He was standing as an honor guard at the division markings and he hardly cracked a smile as his Dad and Youngest and I waved frantically. Alas, no picture, since there were stern-faced NCOs watching the guards. I guess we know know qui custodiet exo custodes.
Graduation was not dissimilar to a lot of high school ceremonies, if your kid happened to march into a room the size of three airplane hangars. It was all very crisp and exciting, and the Sailor's division gave performances as a drill team (aka rifle twirling), a color guard marching in complex patterns that would have impressed Busby Berkley, a chorus, and of course, a band, featuring My Son the Drummer. You'll all be pleased to know I restrained myself from reenacting the final scene in The Music Man where the proud mother yells, "Play for me, son!"
Here's what I observed from the graduation of the most recent group of young Americans tasked with defending our shores:
1. A large group of people marching in step and standing in straight lines looks incredibly impressive.
2. A large group of people in white sailor suits and "Dixie cup" covers looks, even when standing stock still, as if they're about to bust out a tap dance number at any moment.
3. Up close, they are all so young. God bless them.
We cheered and clapped and finally got a chance to meet our boy face to face with lots of hugging and some happy tears. We were fortunate: his A School (technical training) and C School (advanced technical training) are in Great Lakes, so we got to spend time with him the whole weekend. (Some sailors were shipping out that same night for their A Schools, so their family reunions were brief.)
We stayed in Lake Forest, only eleven miles away from the naval station, at a wonderful hotel called the Deer Path Inn, which I can unreservedly recommend to all of you. I picked it for the location and because it looked super comfortable and had three restaurants; I figured the Sailor might want to spend some of his liberty catching up on sleep and that none of us would want to spend time sussing out places to eat.
As it turned out, he had to remain in uniform at all times and return to base each night by 2200 (ten o'clock), but it was still a very good choice - we were able to relax in the room and linger over our meals, talking and laughing and catching up. At the end of our first dinner together, we were surprised with a dessert buffet we hadn't ordered. "From the lady who had been seated over there," our waiter explained. "She said to tell you congratulations and thank you for your service." Unknown patron of the Deer Path Inn Garden Room, if you read this blog, thank you very much. My son was touched and humbled. He also really loved the chocolate mousse.
He has his computer and phone back now he's out of basic, so we get to hear from him more often. Ross and I are considering going back out for Thanksgiving, partly to see the Sailor and partly because the food at the Inn was really good. No, we find we long to see him, now he's a thousand miles away. Proving the old song is true: "How can I miss you if you won't go away?"
I'm glad he seems so happy and that this choice was clearly the right one for him. And I'm so grateful he's setting me up for a lifetime of sailor jokes. I'm working on one now: A lesbian, a sailor and a Muslim all walk into a bar together...