Now you might ask why I am about to write about my son taking a ring out of a box and slipping it on his finger. But wait...this is a West Point class ring and there is so much more to it than that. Let's start with the fact that each year, West Point graduates or their families donate their old rings to the "Ring Melt". It's part of the Ring Memorial Program and what it means is that each new ring that goes on a Firstie's finger contains a bit of gold from his or her brothers and sisters of past graduating years. So my son and his classmates are able to "grips hands" with those that went before them into The Long Grey Line. This year the 36 class rings donated range in class years from 1976 all the way back to 1914. Those rings were melted down along with a sample from all the years of ring melts and mixed into the gold used to make the Class of 2014 rings.
|The Ring Ceremony at Trophy Point|
The rings are handed out on what this year turned out to be a gorgeous Hudson Valley evening. I absolutely cannot describe to you what I felt as the Firsties marched in, shining in their India White uniforms, to the Ring Ceremony. (Really, I can't..rarely do words fail me, but this time, they did. Let's just say I was glad I wore waterproof mascara and leave it there.) The ceremony is held at Trophy Point, overlooking the Hudson River (and one of my all time favorite views, anywhere). Hundreds of family and friends looked on as the rings were handed out to each Firstie. And then it was class dismissed and let the fun begin!!
|Some random, yeah, "random" Firsties march in|
"Oh my god, sir! What a beautiful ring! What a crass mass of brass and glass!
What a bold mold of rolled gold! What a cool jewel
you got from your school! See how it sparkles and shines?
It must have cost you a fortune!
May I touch it, may I touch it please sir?
|The RING and the pendant|
The weekend culminates the next evening at the Ring Banquet. Full dress, black tie. It's held in Washington Hall, aka The Cadet Mess Hall. Washington Hall is anything but a mess though. It is a stunning cathedral of wood and flags and murals (think Hogwarts dining room, but without the pointy hats and magic). It feeds the entire Corps of Cadets (about 4,000) on a daily basis all at once, so we're talking HUGE here. But this night was all the Firsties and their guests!
|We got wine glasses too!|
There was a similar formal dinner held back when our Cadets were Plebes. You only get one Parent Weekend at West Point, and it's held Plebe year, right before spring break. It too, is formal but there is one big difference. Now that they are Firsties (and all 21 or older)...there is WINE at the Ring Banquet!!!!
Took a while to get to the wine, didn't it? Sorry about that, but I had to give you all the lead in as to why this is such a momentous occasion on which to sip!
The wine that was chosen to serve that night was, very appropriately, a New York Finger Lakes wine.
It comes from Bully Hill Vineyards and is called Goat White (NV, 11%, New York). For those of you who are familiar with West Point, I'll pause here for you to chuckle. For those of you who aren't, allow me to explain: At West Point The Goat is the Cadet who graduates with the absolute lowest class rank. Bottom of the barrel er, wine bottle, I guess. I can hear you now: "They announce this? How mean, how horrible." Ah, but wait: every member of a graduating class gives one dollar to The Goat, making that graduate about $1,000 richer at the end of the day. (I might add that being The Goat has no bearing on your career prospects after graduation: General George A. Custer was the Class of 1861 Goat, and he turned out okay.) Hence the giggles over the choice of Goat White. Each bottle was also labelled with a commemorative Ring Weekend label featuring the class crest. You bet I've got a few of them in the house right now!
This is a great all around wine. Perfect for your next banquet for 3,000 people because it balanced perfectly between the "we like 'em dry" and "we like 'em sweet" wine camps. Oh wait, you're not going to have a banquet for 3,000 anytime soon? Buy it anyway. It really is a lovely, flavorful wine to drink alone or with a meal. Or with your Firstie as you realize that the little boy that stole your heart the minute he was born is now a leader at the finest military academy in the world. (BEAT NAVY!) In 9 short months he will be commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army and move on to the next phase of his life.
But that night at West Point, he was still my baby.
Cheers to the West Point Class of 2014!