Friday, May 21, 2010

Memory Lane Friday - A Ceremony

I was seriously considering writing about my wedding, but since Andrew and I had both a justice of the peace ceremony (so we could get orders for a joint-spouse assignment in the Air Force) AND a church wedding, I don't want to pick one because they're both important.

So I think for this one, I'll go to my high school graduation 21 years ago on June 4, 1989. Plus, that whole time was so magical, and I'd like to recall it, because it is so fun to think about.

I went to Culver Girls Academy (or "CGA," part of the Culver Academies, including Culver Military Academy for the boys), in Culver, Indiana. It's on Lake Maxinkuckee, a lake formed by glaciers long, long ago. It's in NW Indiana, just over a 2-hour drive to Chicago, and not far south from South Bend, home of Notre Dame.

Anyway, the week of graduation was filled with so many activities, that it was almost hard to just stop and think of the importance of what was about to happen at the end of the week. And because all these activities kind of blurred together as the week sped by, I'm going to talk about a few of them.

I was a member of the Culver Equestriennes, an honor organization for the girls in the Equitation Program at Culver. The Equestriennes perform mounted drills to music; it is precision riding as a team (think of the Canadian Mounties' Musical Ride). We had to wait until our second semester at school before we could even try out for the team!

Not only did we have to maintain a high level of horsemanship ability, we also had to maintain a certain GPA if we were to ride on the team.

Anyway, we were getting ready for our final Graduation Ride, with dress rehearsals, making sure our boots were polished, our white breeches were spotless, as were our hunt coats.

And on the day of the final ride (the same day that the other Honor Organizations performed), we had to make sure our mounts were spectacularly groomed, with manes braided and finished off with spiffy looking white tape (like dressage braids) - it really stands out on black horses. Plus, the horses' hooves got a coat of hoof black (I won't say what it really was) so their hooves were shiny and black. And the graduating seniors got to stencil an 89 on our horses' rumps, instead of the usual checkerboard pattern. It's basically getting the hair wet, and combing it in a different direction so that it shows a pattern.Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of that.

Here are 4 of us from the Equestriennes. The 3 of us on the left side of the photo were also on the Varsity Jumping team. This photo was taken shortly before graduation week. I'm obviously the second one from the right.
Here's an example of our entrance in an inverted V formation. I'm in the line closest to the camera, 3rd one from the right. This is not a photo of the graduation ride, but one from my 3.5 years on the team.

Anyway, it was a spectacular, fun, bittersweet performance. It was such a great memory, because it was something so fun, rewarding, and all of us teammates really worked well together. Bittersweet, because it would be our final ride, our final opportunity to do a musical ride as a team, to live music.

Not only did we have the Honor Organization performances, we had end-of-year awards ceremonies. Okay, so you know I was an avid equestrian. At this end-of-year awards ceremony, I was awarded the Outstanding Horsewoman trophy for my accomplishments.

Here's the trophy as it's displayed in the BHT (Black Horse Troop) Lounge in the Riding Hall. My name is engraved on the pedestal.

Then there was Final Ball (not "prom" or whatever other schools call it). If I remember correctly, it was the night before graduation. I don't really remember. Not only did we get dressed up for this very important dance, we had a special ceremony the night before our very important graduation ceremony.

We had the ring ceremony. Typically in our junior year, we'd have a senior chosen to "ring" us. We'd get to wear that person's senior class ring that year, with the Culver "C" facing in (because we were still "in" school). Then on the night of Final Ball, we'd put our senior's ring back on her finger, with the "C" facing out. Well, I wasn't going to be doing this ceremony with a junior, putting my ring on me with the "C" facing out. I was having Wendy (who was my roommate for two years, and who later became my maid of honor at my church wedding), ring me. She graduated in 1988, the year before. So just before midnight, we lined up, and as soon as the 1989 flashed, she took my ring off my finger and put it on with the "C" facing out.

 Here's my class ring. All CGA class rings are standardized and look like this. However, you had the choice of what kind of gold you wanted, or silver, if you so desired. The CGA Crest is in the middle, with the Culver logo on one side and year of graduation on the other.

Finally, after plenty of activities during graduation week (and there were PLENTY of others in addition to Honor Organization performances, awards ceremonies, Final Ball), it was time for graduation.

I remember how bittersweet it felt. I would definitely miss all the opportunities I had become involved with, all the friendships I had made - and yes, after 20+ years, these are the people I am still friends with, and many of us still keep in touch. As a matter of fact, every year Culver hosts Alumni Weekend, which, this year,  happens to be starting NOW. It lasts the whole weekend, with plenty of activities for Alumni/ae - you just go on the year that corresponds with your 5th, 10th, so on. Last year was my 20th. Okay, I'm off track (I may talk about Alumni Weekends another time) . . . so back to graduation.

All the seniors of CGA wear white dresses for the day of graduation. It's traditional to get a photo of the graduating class in front of the Culver Memorial Chapel. But, for some reason, the photographer on our graduation day had camera issues! And we didn't get an official photo. But plenty of parents were on hand with cameras, so we at least got some photos of that moment.

I'm not sure whose parent took this photo. I'm in the front row, all the way to the left.
Oh, and we all had arm bouquets. I had cream-colored roses with maroon edges. I loved 'em.

So when we graduated, we walked through the CGA gate. Our name would be announced, I think we signed the graduation book (?) got a hand shake (or hug) from the Dean of Girls (Dean Trudy Hall, at the time of my graduation), and a hand shake from the Superintendent (Dean Manuel, at the time) and walked through the gate. And then we'd sit down, and wait for the remainder of the ceremony. CGA went first, and then CMA went through their own gate. I remember Dean Hall giving me a big hug, saying "Take care of those horses, okay?"

And within a couple hours, it was over. Just like that. Four years at Culver were over. And a new adventure was beginning. Wow! Exciting and bittersweet.

Katy (class of 1990) and I are bawling our eyes out. This is the bittersweet part.
The fun side of the coin: our dorm mother, Ms. Mack, had let me "sign Katy out" on leave, so she and I could hang out for a while after graduation. Shhh! She wasn't really supposed to do that. 

One of my good friends, Rosann, and her family had rented a cottage on the lake. We had a party there, celebrating our graduation. Here's the cake:
Of course, I just noticed they misspelled "Congratulations" and Rosann's name, but oh, well. It was fun. The whole experience. Everything leading up to graduation, and while it was bittersweet, to move away from friends, I'm glad most of us still keep in touch. And besides, we get to see each other every 5 years!

Please click on the box for this week's other Memory Lane Friday posts.


varunner said...

Okay, in my opinion, you had the coolest graduation EVER. What's not to love? I thought about writing on my graduation, but I'm glad I didn't because it would've been soooo boring comparatively.
I wonder if they still do those butt stencils? I had the checkerboard pattern myself, but since Chico was a flea bitten gray it never stood out on him very well.

Sonya Heilmann said...

Thanks! It was definitely fun to remember.

They still do the checkerboard pattern - I was at Alumni Weekend last year for my 20th, and they had it. But as far as the seniors stenciling the two-digit graduating year for the grad ride? I'm not sure, but they probably do.

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