Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lane Has Twelve Mommies

Starr Ann just about couldn't stand the idea of Lane graduating from Basic Training without having any family of her own there to watch. Remember how, in her last letter, Lane said, "No one will be here for me, but my best basic buddy Charlotte has her whole family coming from Arkansas?" Well, that line put that one look on Starr Ann's face. The one that says, 'Get outta my way, I'm comin' through.'

By the time Starr Ann got done sending out her Secret Posse Call, each and every member of The Posse was ready to ride. Yep, and I have to say right here that Frannie and Wildwind fit in like they've been with us forever.

The audience attending Monday night's graduation ceremonies at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, wasn't exactly your normal gathering of parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. One lucky member of Charlie 1/34 had twelve (well, thirteen if you count Sandwriter for each of her blogs) proud visitors - all women, all dynamic, and none of them related by even a single drop of blood.

From the second we reached that Army post, we hit one obstacle after another. But guess what? Even though Lane had no idea we were going to be there, even though we had no invitation, we made it past every barrier with ease. Here's how Starr Ann explained the whole thing to me. Starr Ann said just like loving thoughts attract love and peaceful thoughts attract peace, thoughts of subversion attract posse members with extensive backgrounds in military intelligence. It's that simple and beautiful.

Like magic or something, whenever anybody looked at us real suspicious and asked for our paperwork, either Gina, Lori, or Starr Ann whipped out what was apparently just the thing, because all gates and doors simply opened before us. Excellent!

Praise the Goddess, we did make it to the hall in time, but without getting word to Lane we were there. Poor kid had to spiff herself up and jump through a million hoops all day thinking she'd be the only grad with nobody from home to see her.

The place was packed, and you'da thought we'd have to sit way in the back, but Cap'n Dyke just kinda nonchalantly strolled up front and had a little talk with this real robust looking family, and all of a sudden they were grabbing coats from chairbacks and gathering purses and cleaning up their tobacco spit cups so we could sit down. Real nice people. As they passed, I heard this one older lady asking what 'keelhaul' means. Heh. Anyway, we ended up sitting quite close to the stage.

Lane's Company was seated over to the side, a neatly arranged pool of green and bronze, where sweet young faces floated clean, proud and smiling.

Starr Ann leaned and whispered to me, "She's in the second row, fourth from the right."

Dang. There she was. Lane but not Lane. Lane's eyes set in a more angular face. Lane's body, but more strongly held. Then the girl next to her must have said something funny, and in a quick flash of laughter, it was Lane, just Lane.

Starr Ann turned to her left to whisper to Jodie, I leaned right and whispered to Cap'n, and in a few seconds the whole Posse had its sights on our girl.

According to this very innerestin woman at the microphone (who, incidentally, did to a uniform what Becky C does to short shorts), there were some awards to give out before the actual graduating part.

Lane's name got called for a bunch of certificates - expert markswoman and highest score on the PT test by any woman ever in the history of the Company are the two that stand out in my mind. Each time Lane went forward to claim an award, she looked directly at that nicely uniformed officer who was handing them out, and though we clapped along with the rest of the audience, Lane didn't spot us. She still thought she had no one.

Then they announced we were coming to the highest honor of the evening. The final award was for the graduate who'd shown the most exceptional soldiering skill, maturity, and good judgment throughout Basic Training. And the name they called was Lane's.

Well, that did it! Like our chairs were on fire, the whole Posse jumped up and cheered as Lane approached the podium. This time we were impossible to miss. As I glanced down the row at the likes of us - a Creatively Flowing artist, a nomadic poet, a recovering historian writing a book of truth about the Iraq War, a Meme Queen in a pink feather boa, a Wishful Writer, a horse-handicapping academic, a wild Texan political blogger extraordinaire, a gentle folk rock girl living under the clouds somewhere near the Mexican border, a Jill of All Trades from Colorado, a multi-tasking blogger-mom-marketer-humanitarian-gourmet crazy woman from California, a lesbian Pirate Queen, and two cowgirls - the idea crossed my mind that our presence could just possibly embarrass Lane in the midst of her new, straight-arrow, establishment friends.

Unfolding a piece of paper, Lane turned toward the people. Her composure wobbled for a second there when she spotted The Posse, still standing and clapping wildly, tears on most of our cheeks, and huge smiles all over our faces. Slowly, deliberately, Lane made eye contact with each of us. She glanced down at the prepared acceptance speech in her hand. She gently re-folded it and put it back in her pocket. Then she began.

"I want to thank all my friends in Charlie 1/34 for making Basic Training an unforgettable experience. And deepest regards to Sgt. Angel Moreno, Sgt. William Castor, and Lt. Amelia Jameson. You all have my deepest respect." Then Lane let out a small chuckle. "I had a short speech prepared for this. It was about why I entered the Army at this terrible time in our country's life, what I hope to do for the world, what I hope to make of life, given my rotten start." She came over to the edge of the stage nearest The Posse. "But that was before I saw my beautiful family here. It couldn't have been easy for these war protesters, Peace Bloggers, and fun lovers to come here tonight. Only explanation is they really love me." Lane winked right at Starr Ann and went back over to the podium. "So instead of making that big speech, I just want to wish all of you and your families even half the love I have in mine."

The Posse lost it. I doubt there's ever been that kind of chaos at a military graduation before, but nobody tried to stop us. Lane came down from the stage and it took us about ten minutes to get done hugging and kissing and crying.

We hung around as long as they'd let us after the ceremony, and caught up on Lane's plans. Amanda graduates on Thursday, and Lane says they're gonna meet up on leave. They'll be coming back to Happy Hands Ranch for 10 days between Basic and Advanced Individualized Training!

Temperatures were in the 20s for the ride home, but we all felt warm as could be.