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Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Graduation (08/30/04)

TITLE: Watch for the Nod, Y'all!
By Jennifer Deibel


I shaded my eyes with my hand as I strained to see the platform. Whose idea was it to put 366 high school seniors outside, in the searing, unforgiving southern Arizona sun, anyway? Mr. Price, a man the size of New Jersey who instilled about as much respect as a large, purple dinosaur, was standing at the podium. He thought he was intimidating; he was wrong.

“Ok, let’s try this one more time. Row One, when I nod that’s the time for you to stand up. You will all stand together and follow each other towards the center aisle. Once you receive your diploma and return to your row, remain standing.” The monotony in his voice was like the dull buzzing of the florescent lights in our classrooms. “Do not sit down until everyone has returned to their seats and I have given you the nod. Does everyone understand?” A collective groan rippled throughout the group of sweaty teens as they realized that Mr. Price had stopped talking and was awaiting a response…from them.

Two hours later, Row One had finally gotten the concept of the nod. It had taken Row One the entire day to understand the entire nod-stand concept. The rest of us were operating on faith that we’d know what to do when the time came. At long last, we were released to begin the festivities that are Graduation.

The Arizona sun sank low beyond the horizon, turning the sky into brilliant shades of copper, red, and orange. The glow of the sky made everything look as if it was made of gold and glass. What was the scorching heat of a June afternoon gave way to a soft warmth that kissed my face as I left the cold comfort of air conditioning and headed to the car. It was time.

The processional has ended and we were all in our seats. The electricity in the air was palpable. The low hum of voices in the stands finally quieted down to silence as the first speaker began his homage. I don’t recall much of the ceremony. I remember sitting in my blue plastic seat in the middle of the football field reliving my entire high school career. Reveling in the joys, and mourning over regrets and past heartache. Finally, the moment arrived: time to make it all official. As Mr. Price toddled to the podium, I noticed a young man sitting in front of me. I’m not sure how I had missed, but there he was, sitting one row in front of me and two seats over; his dark, African America skin glistening beneath the brilliant stadium lights. Perched carefully atop his head was not the traditional mortar board, but a large, yellow sombrero with pink and green fringe.

Mr. Price stood silently for what seemed to be eternity. Suddenly, Mr. Sombrero turned around and yelled, “Watch for the nod, y’all!” Just then, Mr. Price gave what we all assumed to be “the nod”. What earlier in the day had been a small movement involving just the muscles of the neck had evolved into a full on, bend at the waist bow. Up popped Row One. On and on it went; Mr. Price would “nod” and the next row would pop. After each row, we would hear in a sing-song voice, “Watch for the nod, y’all!”

Watch for the nod. No one asked Mr. Sombrero to be the voice of reason and pneumonic devices. No one knew the motive for his actions. When I look back on my high school graduation, the most vivid memory is of that phrase being uttered over and over. And I can’t help but wonder: how many times do we do what the graduating class did? How many times do we know what we are to do yet look to someone who is in no place to direct us, for direction? How many times do I know what God has commanded me to do, yet I must look to my friends or colleagues for approval or reminding?

How many holy nods do we miss in a day? How many times does the Lord of all Creation look down at one of His created and nod as if to say, “Now, my child. Now is your time to stand” ? And how many times do His created groan and grumble and wait for a human to give them the nudge. How many nods?

Member Comments
Member Date
darlene hight09/07/04
Good point! Nice entry!
L.M. Lee09/08/04
good descriptions!
Linda Germain 09/08/04
This was very good! You could almost write a whole short story.If you ever run into the Sombrero guy at a reunion...well, YOU know what to ask. :0)
John Hunt09/08/04
This was very good. A very poignant message that made me think...and very well written.
Margaret Reed09/10/04
Good writing.