Let me tell you about the good old days. The days of pulling a cotton sack until your shoulders ached. Collecting pop bottles, to pay for a bottle of milk to give my child to drink, yeah those were the good old days. Mending the holes in Betsy’s coat one more time, I did not own enough scraps to make her a coat of many colors. Pulling Betsy on my lap and telling her a bedtime story, smelling the sweet smell of my little girl warmed my heart and at those moments, I knew it was all worth it. I whispered a prayer, asking God to watch over and protect my precious child.
Time moves swift and sure, it was not long until my Betsy went to school. I made her three cute little dresses out of flour sacks. She was so adorable with her little ringlets of golden red hair. The biggest, brightest blues eyes and they danced with tiny lights when she talked. Talked up a storm, that one did. I could have listened to her stories for hours, she lived in a world of make believe. How I loved to join her there, it was a refreshing reprieve.
How did graduation time draw near? I read and write well enough to post a letter, but not much more. Now my Betsy, she is a wiz at reading and writing, beats me how she can keep all that knowledge inside her pretty head. I thought my heart would burst with pride when she came in from school the other day. “Mom, mom, guess what?” Betsy danced around in excitement.
“Slow down child and tell me what.”
“I was chosen as the class valedictorian, that’s what,” Betsy beamed.
I hugged her and my tears fell on her shoulder. I ran my hand through her silky hair and wanted this moment to last forever. It was all too real that my Betsy was growing up and would be making her own way in this world. “I have to go and help Mrs. Fletcher with a dinner party tonight. I will probably be on the late side.”
“I hate it when you have to work in the evening after working all day. I will be glad when I can help out financially.” Betsy picked up her book bag and began sorting out her books on the table.
“You don’t worry your pretty head about things like that, and just keep concentrating on your studies.” I put my coat on and searched through my pocket book for my keys.
Betsy, in her cap and gown looked sophisticated and proper. I watched her take her place with the other graduates. I dabbed my eyes, not wanting to allow the tears, but it was a loss cause when I heard her name. She walked up to the podium and I hung on to her every word.
“Dr. Manning, staff and fellow classmates. Thank you for this honor. I look around at my classmates and I become filled with mixed emotions. Most of us have gone to school together since kindergarten. I look forward to college, but I am sad at the thought of leaving my friends. I will miss Mountain View High, my classmates as well as the teachers. I wonder if all schools have a staff of teachers who teach because they care and love their kids. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication. Without your support, we would not be prepared to step out into the world.
I look forward to our class reunions. Sharing details of the path, we chose. Some will have business accruements to share, and others will glow with pride, showing us picture albums filled with the smiles of children.
Standing here this morning, and looking out on the beaming faces of our parents, makes me feel thankful. Many of our parents have struggled and worked hard to help us get to where we are today. Mom, thank you. You worked hard, even denied yourself things, so that I could have what I needed. I look at the pride on your face today, and I feel blessed.
It seems like a big world out there. However, as I look at my classmates, all I can say is watch out world here we come, class of “1958.”
I whispered a prayer thanking God for giving me the strength to make it and for allowing me to see a glimpse of Heaven today in my Betsy’s eyes.
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