Wednesday, February 3, 2010
from Paul's Commissioning Ceremony
There will always be the pictures to look at and the bars on Paul's collar to remind us of Saturday's ceremony, such a pivotal one in the life of our first-born son -- but it's so easy with the passage of time and the buzz of all the million day-to-day details to lose those little things that made up the day...
...like how Nicole and I met Paul for a few minutes between his PFTs (Physical Fitness Tests) and his ceremony rehearsal. Military men practice everything within an inch of its life; precision is life to a Marine. But because he was running late, Paul barely had time to shower and change into his camis before he had to leave again. He had to wear his camis instead of dress blues because his ceremony was moved up and he couldn't get the 'blues' ordered in time. Nicole, knowing he had to be starving since he hadn't eaten for several hours, picked up a bouncing baby burrito for him at Chipolte's, so our last sight of him before the pinning ceremony was as he walked out the door, hat on, shoulders squared, swinging his burrito bag.
...like how everyone met in the lobby of the building in Fort Collins where the ceremony was taking place: my mom and dad, my sisters Nina and Donna, several of Paul and Nicole's longtime friends -- and then Dan, who brought the children up alone (since I'd gone on ahead of the family to hang out with Nicole earlier that morning, while Paul was otherwise occupied doing Marine stuff.). The children were dressed in the clothes I'd left for them, but Anna's shirt was on backwards and she'd fixed her own hair... Remember how Anna fixes her own hair? It wasn't that bad, though; it was a doubled-under ponytail, only slightly sideways and dissheveled...Theresa was wearing a skirt that was two sizes too big (a recent charitable hand-me-down from Michelle that I said she could only wear if it fit), and Gabe's collar was stuck down in his sweater in such a way that he looked like a hunchback. Makes a Mom sure feel needed. But I got them all straightened out pretty quick...
...except for the cut which had suddenly turned up on William's nose. I asked him where that came from since it hadn't been there in the morning when I left the house and he pointed up toward the ceiling and said, "I was climbing around on the roof and fell off." I guess he gets points for creativity, but I still don't know how he got that booboo.
... and like how Gabe and William sat in awe watching all the Marines in their uniforms milling about the building. We don't run into uniformed military very often in our normal day-to-day out on the prairie, donchaknow... Gabey, processing things in his gentle way, quietly wanted to know why they were "bringing the war here," but William, in his customarily loud. little-boy voice was thrilled to find out: "So, when are they going to start fighting?" A little general in the making, the little dear. When I explained to the little boys about how Paul was becoming a soldier and what that meant, Gabe listened carefully and asked if that meant Paul would be going away soon -- and we explained that he wouldn't be leaving until the summer and then it was just to go to school -- and not to worry his tender little heart. All William wanted to know was whether Paul was going to be a good guy or a bad guy. I said that of course he was going to be a good guy! But then William wanted to know if that meant he was going to grow taller. (snickersnicker) Little boys, little boys... Little minds all tangled up with plastic army guys and silly putty.
...and then, when the ceremony began, the national anthem was supposed to be played, but something was fouled up, so someone suggested we sing it, but the stern, unamused expressions on the Captain's and Paul's faces nixed that idea without any more discussion -- and the anthem was skipped.
...and then,when we were standing there just after pinning Paul (Dad did one bar, Dan the other), there was a moment of decorous silence -- but just a moment -- before we started hearing strange noises from the gathering of friends and family behind us -- first a titter, than a giggle, followed by a poorly-suppressed burst of laughter. What the heck? We didn't know what was going on; Those of us "on deck" with Paul weren't aware of having done anything funny. Go figure this group to turn a formal affair into a comedy. ..We found out later that someone had given William a mint to suck on to keep him occupied and quiet -- and in that moment of quiet formality (though we didn't hear it up there where we were), William decided to bit down on his mint in what we are told was a roof-shaking, jaw breaking, reverberating CRUNCH! Apparently, just the noise made my sisters and children giggle, but Kevvy looked over at William, who, realizing he was the center of attention, took advantage of the opportunity and startled his big brother with a self-satisfied, maniacal grin. The absurdity, I am told, trumped any idea of composure. I wish I'd seen that face -- but maybe it's good that I didn't.
... then, after everything was over, and Paul had signed signed on the dotted line -- and after the young people and Dan took a while to throw a football around in a nearby football field -- we all met at a nice Italian restaurant called Bisetti's for dinner. My Mom and Dad and Paul and Nicole sat at the "Grown-ups Table" with my sis, Donna, and Cathy and Theresa. Dan and I sat with my sis, Nina, at the "Kids Table" with the three Littles, Gabe, William, and Anna. And the rest of the young people, including Kevvy and Michelle sat at what they called the "Cool Table" -- the table where you are free to act either like a two-year old or an adult, as the mood strikes you, I guess. We ate and we talked and talked and ate and laughed and ate and talked. Then Paul presented my Dad with a commemorative silver dollar in the year of his birth (Paul's birth) to thank him for his part in his Commissioning Ceremony. And then Dan and I gifted Paul and Nicole with a bottle of wine from a winery they visited on their honeymoon (Holy Cross Abbey Winery, in Canon City, Colo). And we laughed and talked as we packed up our doggie bags. Then the old folks and the children went home, scattered amongst four different cars -- and there were a couple of cell phone calls to make absolutely sure everyone was accounted for. And they were, thank goodness. The Littles fell asleep almost as soon as they got into their car seats and us grown-up types were looking forward to getting home and konking out -- but, for the young people (the twenty and up crowd), the evening had just begun; they stayed in Fort Collins to celebrate a little while longer.
...but they all showed up to Mass the next morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. And Paul looked a little taller.