Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On Passages of Life

Tonight I was talking to a friend who has a daughter getting married in "100 days"...which is nearly impossible to believe.  I remember her daughter in high school...and there's a part of me that still believes that every child who passed through the halls of Trinity Presbyterian School is still there.  I'm often amazed to realize that some of the kids I remember passing through are nearly thirty now.

I have hit that place in the life of the Southern female where I am hearing about a new engagement every week on average, and all of the brides-to-be are sweet girls that are eerily close to the age of my daughter.  In fact, last May, Jill was a bridesmaid for the first time.  One of her best friends in high school is married now. 


This means that I'm bumping the ceiling of another season of life.  I know this because sometimes there seems to be no air in the room.  Perhaps it is the denial.

Southern women go through numerous seasons...and the kids that go through the same school here locally become a closely banded group of about seventy-five that travel from kindergarten through 12th grade on the same school campus.  We have all sat together on the bleachers, have served on various committees, and a lot of us attend the same churches.  We've been friends...or we at least have numerous friends in common...and we know the children that are several years ahead of ours...and many that are in between if we have more than one child.  Our children have played on the same ball teams, attended JH Ranch together, ran around in the same neighborhoods, and have attended mission trips together. 

In other is a village.  And you know what has been takes a village to raise a child.  So, when you hear news that one of the children has just received a is big news.

If you count those seasons we have gone through together from high school graduation to now, they include:

Being a bridesmaid in numerous weddings and/or attending untold numbers of bridal showers.  I even threw several for various friends.  Some of us joined the church as newlyweds and were in the same Sunday School class.  That means that we are pretty much friends for life.

Pregnancy and attending many, many baby showers.  I don't know about everyone else...but I think I must have attended a baby shower every month for about three years in the early 1990s.  Sometimes more than once a month.

Kids' birthday parties...including haunting Chuck-E-Cheese, Discovery Zone, Looney's Skating Rink, and several at home involving dress up, art, inflatables, limousines (I know...) or overnight guests.  Some weekends we would have three birthday parties to attend and we would have to actually leave early from one to show up late to another one.  A friend and I have daughters a day each year we would have to decide whose birthday party was going to be on what day to minimize the confusion.

School parties that were all theme based and seemed to come around every four weeks.  Add to that the projects that involved making models of tabernacles, finding native dress for people living in Paraguay, making tea stained handkerchiefs into Christmas ornaments, and dressing up like a pilgrim.  Throw in some book reports, memorization of entire chapters of the bible., parties that were so precious and over the top that Southern Living would have been impressed every holiday, and three tests on one day every single week...and that was the Cliff's Notes on elementary school.  At least they didn't have to wear shoes to school until the 4th that was one less hassle.

Chaperoning 5th quarters and monitoring online communication marked junior high...along with begging for a cell phone, and serious eye rolling.  I've tried to erase much of this point in time from my memory.

Driving and dating.  Living through broken hearts, girls who weren't really mean at heart...but you'd never know it by looking, and the normal drama that accompanies that separation that is inevitable between the sheep and the goats.  By the way, the goats think that the sheep are absolutely no fun, and the sheep think that the goats are on the express train to Hell.  Both are right...and both are wrong. 

Surviving senioritis.  College visits.   Drama over college admission and roommates.  Graduation.  The realization that you actually have to rent an apartment three months into the Fall Semester...for the NEXT Fall Semester.  Wanting to let go...and wanting to hold them close simultaneously.

Empty nest...moving them into their first dorm room/apartment...and leaving them there.  Realizing that they have to figure out what they want to major in...and that they will actually survive awful things like statistics and economics.

Sorority Rush.  Stress on steroids.  Or the other side...first semester as a fraternity pledge.  Going onto campus and being proud that your kids are among all of the wonderful traditions on the campus...and being scared to death by some of what you see.

Then it is four, five, six, or more years of college followed by graduate school or...

A wedding. 

Right now, my daughter is in her senior year at University of Alabama and my son is beginning his freshman year of college.  We won't be empty nesters this year because Brian has elected to go to college locally.  But all around me are those who have moved on to the next stage.  They have married children...or even grandchildren.

Gee, it really seems like I was just 27 years old.  And I was...21 years ago.  Now I am seeing my nephews and niece heading toward that age...all with a son and another with one on the way.  Time flies.

I think that sometimes we are so busy moving from Monday to Sunday from vacation to Christmas...that we don't realize how fast it all goes.  We know it in our heads...but our hearts don't want to believe it.

One day we have our grandparents...and another day...they are gone. 

One day our house is noisy, we live in a perpetual state of exhaustion, and we have more on our plate than we can say grace over...and the next is quiet and we realize that we actually have time to pursue our own interests.

One day we are worried if she will get into private school for kindergarten...and the next day we are hoping that she will marry someone that we know God created especially for her and not someone who isn't worthy of her.

One day we are driving everybody everywhere...and the next day we realize that the McDonald's french fries are no longer under the seats and no one's cleats are stinking up the car.

In other goes on.  And the older we get...the faster it seems to move.

I hope that if I am blessed with a long life...I'll follow my friends into weddings and baby showers and grandchildren.  Maybe I'll finish out my days on Alabama soil...or maybe I'll find my way back to Georgia or somewhere I've never even considered before.  Perhaps I'll write that book that is just itching to get from my brain to my fingers, or maybe I'll be content to just breathe in and out...simply grateful for all that I have already been blessed with in this life.

I honestly don't know.  I'm having to trust God for all that.

What I do know is that in 100 days...a friend will watch her baby girl become a beautiful bride.  She will remember the day she brought her home from the hospital and all of those days in between that she watched her grow into the wonderful young woman she is today.  

Someday, Lord willing, it will be my turn to tell someone that it will be 100 days before the wedding...unless, of course, she elopes to Las Vegas to be married by an Elvis impersonator.  She might, you know.  Life is always full of surprises.

In the meantime...I'm holding on to each of the little milestones that remain.  I'm sharing the joy of my friends who have already traveled ahead.  I've often found that their intelligence about the pitfalls of that next phase has saved me more times than I can even count.  In turn, I've looked around and helped those that are a step or two behind me on the path and tried to return the favor by showing them the way.

I hope that the next 100 days will be a wonderful time for my friend and her daughter.  I've watched one friend go through it recently...and the precision that it takes to pull off everything is an amazing lesson in productivity and creativity.  The end result was a beautiful wedding on a perfect day. 

Another friend is also planning her youngest daughter's wedding to take place early next year.  She will make the third of her three children to get married this year.  Three weddings in one year.  One of them was out of the country. 

Nerves of steel, I tell you.  Nerves of steel. 

But you know what?  She'll pull it off.  And it will be phenomenal.  After all...she's made those tabernacle models.  A wedding?  Piece of cake.

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