Sunday, June 28, 2009

R-Day Eve

Our West Point Bound Son at His Going Away Party
One Year Later at Cadet Field Training

Today is R-Day Eve for the West Point New Cadets Class 2013, and many emotions are flooding my mind. It's been a full year since the family delivered our New Cadet to the land of all things gray, and the adrenaline of that 24 hours has become a part of our family history.

An entire auditorium of people gave my son a standing 'O' as he received the certificate stating he had received a West Point appointment. There were several going away parties with cakes, speeches , tributes, toasts, and flag waving. He was a regular hometown hero...
but all that would quickly change.

On R-Day, my son morphed from Hometown Hero to New Cadet and it is was made crystal-clear that New Cadet is the lowest form of life in the strange new world he had entered.

It was a tearful, emotional good-bye, as delivering any child to college would be..
multiplied by a thousand.

And we morphed quickly as well. We changed from tearful parents to...
New Cadet stalkers.

They (the New Cadets) were everywhere, being herded in small groups from one station to the next. We planted ourselves at a strategic crossroad and, with binoculars and video camera in hand...
the stalking began.

Our New Cadet loaded with gear and sporting his new BCGs (BCG = Birth Control Glasses) was
herded by our vantage point into the barber shop and out again. The transformation was...

Mom's voice can be heard on the family video saying,
Moms everywhere could be seen crying...
especially after seeing the haircuts and glasses.

Soon we were lined along the street waiting for a glimpse of our New Cadet at the R-Day Parade and Oath Ceremony.
Dad spotted him as he was marching away and was so overcome with pride that he gave a "Go, Kinley!" shout-out.
I saw Clayton's trademark 'smirk' as he continued to stare straight ahead. It was the last time I would see him for a long time, and I lived off that smirk for the rest of the summer.

Next, they herded the Class of 2012 into the Mess Hall. The doors were closed with a ceremonial bang....
West Point's way of saying, "Show's over folks. Nothing more to see. They are 'our' New Cadets now."

The summer was full of silence. I wrote him every day, but received little back. Only the fill-in-the blank letters I had composed were returned. Meanwhile, he spent the summer chewing 5 times a bite, doing push-ups for every conceivable offense, and trying to be as invisible as possible. We lived for the three 10 minute phone calls.
And, in the end, purchased two plane tickets to New York in August for his Acceptance Day weekend to witness firsthand his upgrade from New Cadet to Cadet and Plebe.

Once he got settled into the barracks with his own landline, and we could talk to him, a lot of the anxiety began to fade. He didn't fly home for Thanksgiving, so Christmas leave was a joyous homecoming full of friends and non-stop activity.

We flew up again in March for Plebe Parent Weekend, he spent Spring Leave in Colorado skiing with a friend, we prayed all spring for him to pass Calculus, and, the next time we see him...
Dad is pinning his Airborne Wings on his uniform!

This has been a year full of growth both for our Cadet and for us as parents letting go of our first child. He has grown from a boy to a man, independent from us and thriving in an incredible environment.

Tomorrow when a thousand families will be living their R-Day, my Cadet will be shooting from tanks at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He has already had a summer full of jumping out of airplanes, being in the field for days at a time, blowing open buildings, shooting all kinds of guns, and
preparing to be an Army Officer.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Family Vacation

These are some crazy times for Hillcrest Cottage. We seem to be flying past new mileposts every day at an alarmingly fast pace. Two weeks ago, on a single day I had one son jumping out of airplanes, another was driving the little black Volvo solo on a six hour road trip, and the last seems to grow an inch daily.

Airborne School
Last week we were road tripping toward Georgia to attend Clayton's Airborne School Graduation. Airborne was a three week opportunity for Clayton to experience military life with the regular enlisted 'Joes' outside the West Point bubble. We were able to add him to the Expedition and head north toward Atlanta. The Varsity was our initial destination... a Kinley family tradition which Clayton enjoyed immensely.

Uncle Danny's Farm
We were able to spend Clayton's 5 day leave on Uncle Danny's farm. There was a lot of good food cooked by Granny Kinley (Granny's deluxe family meal includes macaroni and cheese cooked in a crock pot, the saltiest green beans on the planet, creamed corn that melts in your mouth, sweet tea that keeps you up all night because you drink too much, and banana pudding which is the recipe straight off the Nilla Wafers box, but doesn't taste the same if it's made by anyone other than her. Once they took that recipe off the Nilla Wafer box. Granny promptly wrote them a letter of complaint. The recipe soon appeared back... and to this day she claims it was because of her!)

Good Times on the Veranda
There was also lots of cigar smokin' under the veranda... an awesome spot with a cool concrete floor, fans blowing, an outdoor fireplace for chilly nights (just not this trip), a huge dining table for family gatherings and a kitchen. Uncle Danny's farm is our boys' favorite destination. It was Mac the Labradoodle's first vacation, and she had a fun time running around with no restrictions.

A New Hat
Clayton was able to shoot his new rifle, which we had brought with us. He picked out an awesome new 'Clayton' hat at the Mast Country Store in Greenville.
We told stories, reflected on the past year, and laughed... a lot.
It was a great five day vacation for Clayton and an unexpected surprise for our family to have been able to take him to South Carolina. Last year when the family gave Clayton his farewell party, we didn't know when he would be able to be back...if ever.
We will never be able to predict where his military travels will take him.

Three Brothers Together
One of my favorite parts of this family time was seeing all three guys in Danny's attic bedroom on blow-up mattresses laughing, talking, and just being brothers

The Varsity is one of our favorite family road trip traditions, what's yours?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Road Trip!

Mac the Labradoodle and family left Hillcrest Cottage on a road trip to Georgia and South Carolina. In Georgia we saw Clayton graduate from Airborne School.

A very proud moment for all.

Soon the whole family, Mac included, was packed into the Expedition heading toward South Carolina for a visit with extended family and much needed R and R for Clayton.
These are some of the Kinley guys. The MIAs are a brother, two nephews, and two great nephews. There are relatives of the female persuasion, too, but I think it is fun to see pictures of all the guys together.

Grandad comes from a family that included 9 boys...

so guys are kinda a family tradition.

Here is Clayton in a rare 'silly' pose while enjoying some cigar time with the guys. I think he thought,

If I give Mom some good pictures, maybe she will quit with the camera...

but that was not to be.

Not when the whole family has not been together since Christmas.

The trek back to West Point begins at 5:30 a.m. (5:30 comes twice a day?) tomorrow when we point the Expedition toward Atlanta. Clayton will fly back to New York, and we will drive home to Hillcrest Cottage.

We will anticipate seeing Clayton again mid-July for his 23 day leave.

Here's to a really great day!!!

What's the last bittersweet time you had that you wished you could hold onto longer?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009



What a great pic, even though he had already taken off his robe...

(Me, Mom, Bev) I am in the picture!!!

Refer to 'Film' to understand the significance of this momentous occasion...


and graduation was great,too.