Tradition, emotion, birthday cake and booty dancin

So yesterday I mentioned going to the Marine Corps ball this past weekend in Charlotte. I’ve been to a lot of these balls over the years, but it never ceases to amaze me how touching/meaningful/fun they are.

So, the ball always starts with the dress, as does any formal event. Colleen and I spent a lot of time talking about ways to do the ball cheaply this year. We tried raiding each other’s closets but that didn’t work. In the end, she ended up finding a dress for a really good deal, and I wore a dress that I had bought a few years ago. I got new shoes and jewelry, though! (Even better in my opinion, I will wear it more often.)

New accessories

The night before the ball we got pedicures. Likely pointless but still a lot of fun. I decided to make my toes match my jewelry, which was blue.

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My toes, left, and Colleen's, right

I did my own hair this year – too short to really do anything fun with it, so I just did it the regular way. We took some pics at Colleen’s before leaving. You saw the dresses yesterday, but I’ll show you again just in case.

I wore an "old" dress, Colleen got a great deal on hers.
I wore an "old" dress, Colleen got a great deal on hers.
It's no dress, but Jeff got to don a nice tux.
It's no dress, but Jeff got to don a nice tux.

The ball this year was at the Marriott in Uptown Charlotte. My father-in-law and mother-in-law were not only there, but my father-in-law, a Marine Major General, was the guest of honor. He invited Jeff and me, and Colleen, and Jeff’s aunt Peaches and uncle Jim, and Grandfather Gene and his wife Harriet. We took up an entire round table, which was fun! We got there late and missed the cocktails, which was a bummer, but we did get to chat for a few minutes before moving inside for the ceremony.

The ceremony is similar every year. I don’t know all the formal names for everything, but it always amazes me how beautiful it is to see these Marines, in perfect formation, putting on the sword ceremony. They somehow make walking with a sword look graceful and commanding all at once. I should not be surprised – these are Marines, after all.

There was an empty table for fallen Marines, the ones who gave their lives defending our country. The commandant’s message told of two Marines who threw themselves into harm’s way, and ultimately gave their lives, in order to save their brother Marines in Afghanistan.

There were three sets of parents in attendance whose sons were killed in battle, and the Corps presented them with yellow roses. I watched the Marine that handed them the roses, and he saluted them in very slow motion after he handed them the flower. It sent chills through me to watch. Such a beautiful and tragic moment. I’m sure those parents thought of their son when they saw that Marine in uniform. I’m sure the Marine was thinking of the son, too.

My favorite balls are the ones in which my father-in-law is the guest speaker. He is an amazing public speaker, and I’m so jealous of that, partially because I’m so terrible at it! He really knows how to engage an audience and keep the perfect mix of humor and sentiment, and how to leave the audience wanting more.

Major General Gray Payne, my father-in-law
Major General Gray Payne, my father-in-law. He's the tall guy in the foreground, wearing an important looking uniform.

Me, the General, and Colleen

The ball is actually called the “birthday ball” and Marines tell each other happy birthday on November 10, which is the anniversary of when the Corps was founded in 1775. A birthday ball wouldn’t be complete without a birthday cake, which they wheel out with great fanfare and cut with a sword. My father-in-law, as the guest of honor, got the first piece of cake. The second piece goes to the oldest Marine present that evening, and he shares the piece with the youngest Marine present (as a symbol of passing on the old to the new.)

Then it’s dinner (delicious salad, steak and chicken which I don’t eat much of so I gave Jeff my steak in exchange for his veggies, and really really good cheesecake and chocolate cake. I gave Jeff half my cheesecake for half his chocolate.)

Then the party starts. The lights go down, the dance floor gets crowded. Think wedding reception or sorority formal (at least, that’s what I think of!) Unfortunately, this is also when the crowd we were with decided it was time to call it a night, leaving Jeff and Colleen and me alone at this big table. We were going to stick around but then decided it might be more fun to head across the street to Tilt for a drink, thus ending our time at the ball.

I could go to 100 more of these and they would never get old.