You might notice that Build Me Up Buttercup recently got a new subtitle. Where it used to say “Middle-Aged Mom in Construction School,” now it just says “Middle-Aged Mom in Construction.” That’s because I finished Building Construction Technology classes in December and went to work for The Wills Company, a design-build firm in Nashville, down the road from the Tennessee College of Applied Technology.
Three months after my last school day, I got to walk across the stage at the Grand Ole Opry as part of the Grand TCATN Class of 2018.
The older I get the more unabashedly sentimental I get, so let me tell you graduating sparked some peak emotion for me. Because I completely loved being in construction college. And I loved how much my family loved my being in construction college. And over the course of a sometimes-rocky 16 months in a woodshop, I came to love the zany guys and girl who graduated with me, not to mention the heroic instructor who managed to pull us all through the course. Those new friends are dotted throughout this blog, and I hope we will continue to weave in and out of each other’s lives. We’ll always have Chicken Day.
So, with all that tenderness floating around before the graduation ceremony, I stopped by school to visit Miss Charlene in the TCATN administrative office, before I went next-door to Nashville State Community College to speak at the meeting of Tennessee Board of Regents. That’s when Miss Charlene, the first person I met when I went to enroll in construction school in September 2016, gave me the most thoughtful and perfect graduation gift.
Anyone who has ever tried to capture a decent photograph of a five-person family knows how precious a gift a good one of those is. Miss Charlene caught a moment at SillsUSA in Chattanooga when all five Foxes were smiling, my middle son didn’t have his usual photogenic demon eyes, and I appeared to have only one major chin. Then Miss Charlene framed it, wrapped it up and gave it to me right as I was already feeling about as grateful as a person ever gets.
I burst into sobs and started blubbering. I hugged Miss Charlene, as tears of gratitude — for that photograph and for the 16-month adventure of a lifetime — streamed down my face.
Then I said something like “How could you do this to me? Now I have to walk next-door and talk to the Board of Regents, and my face is all swollen and I can’t speak. How am I going to give a speech in this condition?”
That’s when Miss Charlene, who ranks among the kindest, most gentle and encouraging people I have ever known, told me flatly, “Suck it up, Buttercup.”