Here I am with Lydia in a snack bar in the Seattle airport. As usual, the plane is forty minutes late. I’m having a snack of mild, Cajun sausage—now there’s an oxymoron—and some soupy, potato stuff that is too salty. She’s having something described as Stroganoff. I use a damp paper napkin to scrub a dried puddle of gravy off of the table.
Between bites of bad sausage, I’m writing my notes on the “grand processional” which introduced the new governor nominees and their partners to Rotary International. It’s a ceremony that is intended to give you a life long memory of a very special moment. NOTE: I’m sorry to say that in subsequent years this ceremony has been diluted and reduced.
The room is dark except for the stage at the far end of the Grand Ballroom. We wait for the signal from our escort to begin our walk down the long aisle. Suddenly the spot light nails us to the floor. We step forward on our walk to the stage. In the darkness around us, flashes flicker as people take pictures. Friendly laughter and cheers, and lots of “best wishes” and “good luck” come from all sides. We look at each other, smile and continue to walk slowly towards the stage. It is supposed to take us one minute to do this, and I’m pretty good at keeping the pace just right. On the screen behind the stage, pictures of us and a short biography is presented to the audience. I can hear the collective murmur of hundreds of people in friendly harmony with the processional music. God, please keep me from stepping on Lydia’s long gown.
Doesn’t she look resplendent in her silver gown and green silk blouse? She is wearing a heavy silk shawl from Indonesia draped from her shoulders. The red governor’s sash crosses over all of this, setting off her golden, Paul Harris medal on its chain. She’s ready for the crown jewels. I feel shabby in my tuxedo. I should have sprung for the expensive, silk tie.
Lydia climbs the stage steps carefully, assisted by a man so old that I think Lydia is actually holding him up. She extends her hand, graciously, and he totter after her. I climb the same steps; my shoes have grown be two feet long.
I clasp Zone Director Jerry’s hand and we exchange warm greetings; I clasp Diana’s hand—this is much more interesting—and then we hug each other and I’m sure I have a few tears in my eyes. She has tears in her eyes. Her tears are from bruised hands. She shook the hands of a thousand folks the day before.
And finally, Director Paul greets you with his hearty smile and good wishes. It’s a great send off from the stage. Lydia is just behind me. The spot lights turn down to the other end of the Great Hall highlighting the next couple and the ceremony begins again.
We’re out of the spot light, but not out of the limelight. We join our fellow governors and partners on another stage a few yards away, then watch as others take their grand promenade. Chuck and Marion pause, and Chuck dips Marion in a passionate embrace. The crowd cheers and claps. At his turn, Fred, who is a very tall chap in the contracting business, pulls his petite wife along so fast we were all afraid that she will trip. As it is, she comes flying after him, feet scarcely touching the floor. Well, Fred is a bit self-conscious.
After this, hundreds up people come up and take your pictures, flashes going off so fast that I am blinded. People you’ve barely met come up with tears in their eyes and give you a bear hug. These people have been there before you and they know how it feels. They remember that it was the best time in their life and they want you to know that you have their understanding and their support. It’s a very touching and exciting moment.