When I was a kid, there was an older couple in our church who had money. For the sake of this odd but true story, I’ll call them Merle and Hattie Clanderman. They owned several businesses in town, and although they weren’t flashy about their wealth, everyone in the congregation knew the Clandermans “had money.”
When you’re 10 years old, this stuff is pretty intriguing. Where did all their money come from? What did they do with all that green stuff I imagined they had stacked around in dusty piles?
They bought shrubs.
That’s the conclusion I came to one Sunday when our minister announced that there would be a shrub planting after church in honor of Merle. Now, keep in mind that Merle hadn’t died – he was sitting, right as rain, in the front pew, nodding slightly at the news. People often plant trees or shrubs to honor a deceased loved one, but I guess Merle was getting a jump on things.
Not only would the shrub be planted right after church, but there would also be a placard stuck next to it, declaring for all the world that this was, indeed, the Official Merle Clanderman Shrub, planted on a sunny Sunday in 1975 or so.
It seemed so official, so Queenly, and as the years passed, I realized it was an investiture of sorts. A Royal Shrubbing, if you will. It made me think of that word – investiture – which really has a royal ring to it if you say it with your nose tilted up just slightly.
But what is an investiture??
It’s a ceremony or official installation of someone – it can be to a government post or office, but even the Boy Scouts get in on the act, holding investitures when a scout moves from one rank to another.
In a royal sense, an investiture installs a new monarch, and the reigning King or Queen holds investitures to honor people for specific accomplishments. According to one source, about 25 of them are held each year, most of them at Buckingham Palace in London, England.
It’s quite the affair – the Queen’s Body Guard of the Yeoman of the Guard, created by Henry VII in 1485, are on guard, and music is played. If you’re lucky enough to receive a knighthood, you’ll have to kneel on an official stool and Queen Elizabeth will use her father’s sword to dub you “knight,” after which you’re entitled to use the term “Sir” before your name. If you’re female, you use “Dame.”
I don’t recall that people in church started addressing Merle as “Sir Merle” or his wife as “Dame Hattie,” but Merle might have walked a bit taller after the big day.
Having a shrub planted in your honor will do that to you…