May 2013 turned into a series of one-time family events—two high school graduations and the wedding of our great-niece. We traveled first in our motorhome to Northwest Arkansas to witness the graduation of our great-niece Skyler Warren from Gravette (Arkansas) High School. On a weather-perfect May morning, Skyler and 101 of her friends marched onto the field at Lion Stadium. The students took charge of the ceremony, different ones offering the invocation, leading the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag, dedicating the podium flowers, and closing with the benediction. Three academically-distinguished graduate candidates spoke of their early and middle years of schooling, leading up to the climatic moment—receiving of their diplomas. Skyler was among the speakers. A Barbie-doll-sized young woman, she stood on tippy toes to reach the microphone. The newly graduated young adults clustered in the middle of the stadium field to toss their hats high in the air in a display of victory.
The following weekend, we packed our motorhome and traveled to Jackson, Tennessee, for the wedding of Lee’s great-niece Reagan Pennel to Evan Kucera. We found a quiet and pleasant mobile home park less than eight miles from The Wildflower Farm, the designated site of a pre-wedding barbecue on Saturday evening, and the wedding on Sunday afternoon. The old farmhouse circa 1891, shaded by oaks with thick green canopies, welcomed us to the property. Swings with thick board seats hung from trees next to the house. White rockers and a porch swing accented the wrap-around porch. A large white tent, set up in the adjoining field created the perfect dining room for both the Saturday night barbeque and the wedding reception and dinner on Sunday evening.
The bride and her bridesmaids walked on a narrow brick path to the farm house porch steps. The bride’s brother, Joseph Pennel, provided soft guitar music to accompany a special song. Given in marriage by her dad, Reagan and Evan stepped onto the porch to repeat their vows. When they were pronounced man and wife, Reagan’s 11-year-old niece, Katie, played the traditional wedding recessional on a keyboard with versatile sounds. Strains of organ music drifted over the pastoral landscape. Following drinks, hor d’euroves, and the traditional Southern dinner of fried chicken, the bride served cakes she had baked herself. The tiered wedding cake centered the dessert table, iced in white and topped with two chocolate dogs to represent their pets, Bosco and Baxter. Strawberry, chocolate, Italian cream, and carrot cakes flanked the wedding cake. A plate inscribed with Reagan and Evan and Chapter 13 of First Corinthians marked the special table. For the second weekend, we experienced perfect spring weather.
The saying …the third time is the charm…did not hold true for our granddaughter Sara Daily and her graduation day. Storm clouds gathered and the school officials vacillated between moving the ceremony from the football field to the high school gym. They changed the time from 7:00 to 5:00, counting on the storm holding off. However before 5:00, thunder rolled and fat raindrops fell on the long line of cars slowly moving into the parking lot of Lebanon (Tennessee) High School. By the time we parked, a driving rain dumped water into puddles too big to step over. We were drenched trying to get into the gymnasium. Faculty and students carried armloads of chairs from the football field into the gym. Twice the acceptable number of people crowded into the bleachers and spilled over into hallways. The graduation was delayed by more than an hour while teachers and parents scurried around to set up the chairs and wipe them dry. The processional could not begin until crowds cleared the hallway entrances. No one budged. Sara’s grandfather (her dad’s father) and I moved to the cafeteria to give our seats to other parents. We were supposed to watch the ceremony on screens, but the feed was spotty and there was no sound. We did manage to see Sara walk with her diploma, but we could not hear her name called.
Our extended family and numerous friends had gathered at the Daily home at noon for a party to honor Sara. Some of them, turned back by the intense storm, did not try to go into the gymnasium. Following the ceremony, the other grandparents joined us back at their home for cake and the opening of Sara’s graduation presents. The important thing: Sara graduated with distinction. And those who are important to her were present.