A tradition at my school for all sixth graders is called convocation. I remember my first day of sixth grade, they paired me up with a senior the first day of school and we walked up the long brick pathway at our school up to the gym. It’s a way of initiating the entering sixth graders into the school, and kind of a way of saying farewell to the seniors since it will be their last year. After we went to the gym, we took our seats to listen to a convocation speech.
Context: The informant K, my brother, is a high school student living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He attends the same middle/high school that I attended, and we were talking about all the interesting and unique traditions that our school has while I was home for spring break. I was reminiscing about different events that I was able to take part in while I was a student at the school, while listening to my brother’s perspective and take on these different traditions. We both agreed that we feel like our school is very unique, and that we don’t believe a lot of schools have the traditions that ours does. Although folklore is often considered to be something that larger groups of people can relate to, I believe that folklore and tradition surrounding schools and small local areas are sometimes some of the most interesting to hear about. It gives insight into how the individuals in these areas live and gives valuable insight into what their values might be. Because of this, I asked my brother to tell me more about his experience with these traditions to tell in my folklore collection.
I have an interesting perspective on this tradition because I was both the sixth grader and the senior. Although it is one event that the whole school takes part of, there are several different perspectives individuals can have on the event. Since my brother is only a junior in high school right now, he has not yet gotten to walk a 6th grader up the path and has only been the 6th grader walked by a senior. I was both the 6th grader, feeling nervous and excited on the first day of school, and the senior, feeling sentimental on the last first day at the school. I was also able to be the spectator from grade 7 to 11, and still felt excited watching the seniors and new sixth graders walk into the gym after their walk up the path. This traditional ceremony at the school is something that a lot of people look forward to every year, and I believe it serves as an excellent first entrance to the school for 6th graders. The school has so many unique and powerful traditions and ceremonies that happen year after year, and the new students are able to get a small taste of what is in store for them throughout their time at this school.
(In an Irish accent) “You’re my best friend and I don’t care what they say about ya.”
Papa always used to say that. He said it to me the most, I think. The best part is there was not context. As he was leaving our house, he just gave me a kiss and hug goodbye and always said it.
I guess he used it as a greeting, sometimes, but usually as a farewell.
The informant told this little snippet as we were discussing what our family members say frequently one on one. She had a particularly close relationship with her grandfather, “Papa”, who passed away a few months ago.
It’s a great backhanded compliment and very funny, especially with how frequently he seemed to use it. It also is interesting that the informant felt compelled to indicated that he said it most frequently to her, perhaps because she wanted to prove she was his closest “best friend” or grandchild, especially after his passing.
Me: “Do people look for their specific lip marks when they come back?”
Informant: “Oh god no, it would be impossible to find them.”
In the informant’s ballet company, when a member was doing their last performance of a show (as in, your last ever Nutcracker performance), it was tradition to put on bright red lipstick and kiss a specific wall, leaving a mark. The mark not only signified you were a part of the show, but was symbolic of a part of you always being tied to the company. People would come back years after graduating to visit the wall they had kissed previously.
The informant was involved in ballet through most of her life and knows a lot about the secrets and traditions carried with being a part of a ballet company. She takes them all very seriously and indicates that most all of the other dancers did as well. According to the informant, everyone kissed the wall at some point as long as they were in the company for a full run of a show. The informant wasn’t clear about exactly when you kissed the wall — it was after the show, but not necessarily directly after completion. Additionally, the go-to action didn’t used to be kissing the wall. The tradition used to be signing it, but it got too messy, so the lip marks were the evolved method.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this piece of folklore is that the tradition changed from signing the wall to kissing it, for reason of “the signing got too messy,” according to the informant. It’s perhaps telling of how significant or deeply rooted a tradition is when the reason for completely changing it is one of rather minor inconvenience.