When I was a child, I looked forward to visits with family. I was always asking to go next door to visit Grandma and Grandpa Mahar or walk over to Aunt Sharon’s house. I loved it when the family would visit from out of town. Everyone together, talking and laughing, catching up-all felt right with the world.
As an adult, I cherish family time even more. Through the years I have experienced the many reasons families come together. Births, deaths, graduations, weddings, funerals-No matter the situation, there is strength in being together. Whether it brings celebration or grief, each event is part of this life.
Yesterday, our family celebrated one of those happy times together-a wedding shower for our son, Robert and his fiancé, Erin. Our home was filled with family and friends, young and old, life-long and new. It was a great day!
We ate food together and played games. We smiled while watching Rob and Erin open gifts, thankful for all the expressions of love. We enjoyed each other’s company.
Yet, even in the celebration, there were also tears. Tears for those family members no longer with us. Thoughts of how much they would have loved the day. Thoughts of how much they are missed.
Our lives continue on, though we have no guarantee of our length of time. And we honor the memories of those who came before when we come together.
As I have said before, I enjoy celebrating birthdays. Whether observing my own (which happens to be tomorrow) or those of friends and family, a birthday represents so many different things.
From the moment we enter this world, that date serves to remind us of important milestones. From the one-year-old birthday party all the way to a sweet sixteen, each shows us how far we’ve come.
The celebration itself doesn’t have to be elaborate. A favorite meal and cake of your choice are nice. A simple way of saying, “Today is your day. You get to choose.” This was often the practice for me as a child. And it continued for my own children.
Singing is also a must. Hearing friends and family crooning in unison, “Happy birthday to you,” never gets old. Followed by making a wish and blowing out the candles, of course.
Celebrating my own birthday also reminds me that I am getting older. I have some new aches and pains. I see new wrinkles when looking in the mirror. But that reflection shows so much more.
Hopefully, it is a reflection that shows growth. A growth that encourages me to push through the aches and pains and look past the wrinkles.
My birthday is rapidly approaching. It falls on the Monday after Thanksgiving this year. My oldest son, Robert, was born on my 27th birthday. This year, he turns 25 and I turn 52. I am always happy when we can celebrate together.
Robert called yesterday about last-minute Thanksgiving plans. He also asked what I wanted for my birthday. I really could not think of anything. “Since we will be together for Thanksgiving, I thought we could celebrate,” he said.
Later in the evening, I told my husband about our chat. He quickly responded, “Did you tell him his and Erin’s presence here for Thanksgiving was enough?” No, I had not thought to say that.
Reflecting on those conversations caused me to consider the idea of presents. My thoughts quickly turned to presence. The older I get, the more I realize the preciousness of someone’s presence in my life.
The occasions when all my kids and soon-to-be daughter-n-law are together, sharing the same space and time? Those are the times I am truly filled with joy and contentment. Instances when I share space and time with my parents? Feelings are the same.
I could go on and on. The presence of aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends remind me how quickly time passes. And time spent with them, even when brief, is a gift.
Just this morning, my daughter was reviewing our plans for the next few days. Thanksgiving dinner, birthday lunch with a friend for me, a movie outing for her. Then she smiled and said, “Don’t make any plans for Sunday.” I don’t know what she has planned, but I know it involves her presence.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. Our home will be filled with good food and laughter. But more importantly, it will be filled with presents. Not ones which require unwrapping, ones which allow embraces.
Embraces which say:
I love you I've missed you I'm so glad you're here Your presence is the best present I could ever receive ❤
I’ve had many experiences, too many to count, with front-yard goodbyes. A close friend or family member prepare to move away or go home after a visit. I walk them to the door. Hugs given and received, well-wishes spoken, but it doesn’t end at the front door.
We walk outside together, down the sidewalk. One more hug, one last “be careful,” conversation continuing until the car door closes. As they drive away, I stand firm in the yard. We wave, and I watch until they are out of sight.
These memories range from my childhood all the way up to this very day. Each filled with images of people I love. People I hope to see again soon. People who are difficult to watch drive away.
An emotional reaction from me is pretty much a guarantee. Sometimes it is immediate. Uncontrolled tears flow for all to see. Attempts to dry them to no avail.
Other times, my reaction is delayed. Although I feel sad as they drive away, there are no tears. And just when I think, “Wow! I didn’t cry” they are mentioned later in the day, and I’m suddenly fighting back tears.
Whether the emotions are instantaneous or deferred really does not matter. What matters is time. Taking the time to say goodbye not only once, but two or three times. Taking the time to follow, stand firm, wave, and watch.
Showing them how much they are loved through a simple front-yard goodbye.
When our oldest son, Robert, graduated from high school it was easy to choose a theme for his graduation party. Music! Music had been his life for all of junior high and high school. And he was going to the University of Arkansas to study music education. I ordered a cake and found this simple music note tree centerpiece. Silver and black, covered in music notes, it was the perfect addition to the table.
After the party, I put the decorations away in the closet. No thought was given to them for the next two years until Rachel graduated. Even though Rachel would study special education in college, music had been a crucial part of her secondary education as well. At first, I kind of joked, “Hey. Wonder if I still have that music decoration from Robert’s party?” Once I found it, there was no question it would once again grace the table.
I knew it would be four more years before our last high school graduation. So, as I put things away after Rachel’s party, I was determined to hold on to that centerpiece. I placed it back in the closet, in the same box.
I would sometimes see it during closet clean-outs but was careful not to throw it away. Yes, I probably could have bought another one. But it would not be the same. A new one would not have been present at the other two graduation parties.
I chuckled this morning as the music-note centerpiece was pulled from the closet. It decorated the table for its third party. This one to celebrate the high school graduation of our youngest, Ryan (also a musician) and the college graduation of our daughter, Rachel. It was a beautiful day filled with family and friends, yummy snack food, and two delicious cakes.
After the party ended, I began to think about that centerpiece. I’ll readily admit that I am often sentimental over things which others might find simple or unimportant. This particular item could easily fall under one of those categories. So, why was I so determined to save it? What did it represent?
For me, a sappy mom whose kids are growing up way too fast here’s what I came up with:
Importance of music in our family
Commitment to education
Love of family and friends
Support of siblings
None of those things are simple or unimportant. On the contrary, they are part of what makes this life so beautiful.
Our music note centerpiece may have reached its end, but memories of the celebrations it graced will continue to make me smile. Memories of my children’s accomplishments. Memories of family and friends who love us and took time to celebrate with us. ❤
Pink is such a beautiful color. Small amounts of reds blended with white to create a calm, reflective palette. One which reminds me of springtime and flowers blooming. Maybe a lovely dogwood tree or cherry blossoms.
If you’ve had any experiences related to breast cancer, you recognize this color as a symbol. A symbol of awareness, support, solidarity in the pink ribbon. I’ve worn this ribbon on my clothing with a simple safety pin. My mom wears it around her neck daily, a reminder of her survival. I have a wooden pink ribbon in my front yard to honor my mom and remind me of my sweet friend Shannon. https://pianogirlthoughts.com/2018/09/04/instant-friends/
Pink also serves as a guide at the facility where I have my mammograms. Lovely pink signs direct me to my parking space. Simple reassurance that I am in the right place. A reminder the people here always take good care of me.
This beautiful color provides calm during sometimes stressful times. Over the past sixteen years, I’ve faced quite a few of these times. Physical changes which required additional mammograms, ultrasounds, a lumpectomy, biopsies, MRIs. Thankfully, none of these tests resulted in cancer.
This past week I faced that MRI machine once again. And although cancer had not been mentioned, my thoughts drifted in that direction. After so many positive results, for which I am grateful, I began to think, “This may be my time.”
I know this thought process may not be logical. But it was my way of preparing myself, not that that kind of preparation is even possible. Nonetheless, such was my state of mind.
My follow-up with the doctor to go over the MRI results was scheduled for one week later. I was not expecting to hear anything before then. Simply feeling relieved to have made it through the MRI process, my worry began to subside a little.
That brings me to Friday afternoon, three days after the MRI. The first one home from work/school, I let the dogs outside and walked to the mailbox. There was only one piece of mail waiting-a pink letter. Pink. I knew where it was from before I even read the return address.
You might think I ripped it open, standing there in the driveway. But no. I walked back inside, confirmed the return address, and calmly opened the pink envelope. The letter inside was the same shade of pink. I read the beginning words, “We are pleased to inform you…no signs of cancer.”
A flood of relief and excitement, I relayed the happy message to my husband, kids, parents, friends…and prayed a whispered, “Thank you.”
This particular shade of pink will continue to play an important role. It will remind me of friends and family who are survivors. It will remind me of those who are currently fighting. It will remind me of those who have died. It will remind me of the importance of early detection, and the need to continue being proactive where my health is concerned.
And it will remind me of one particular Friday afternoon. A Friday afternoon when I received a pink letter in the mail.
A gray mist hung in the air all day today. More than simple fog, it appeared like a sheer curtain. As if you walked through it, you would come out on the other side soaking wet.
No individual clouds. No glimpses of blue. Not even a hint of sunshine. And believe me, I peeked outside between classes all day long…just in case.
Leaving school for the day, I noticed a light, wet film on my car windshield. One swish from the windshield wipers and it was gone. Wiper blades are an interesting invention. At first glance, they might seem insignificant in comparison with the entire car. But get caught in the rain without a working one, and you realize its power.
This one little swish of a wiper blade caused me to reflect on the day. Despite the feeling of heaviness due to the conditions outside, had there been other “wiper blade swishes” which helped make the day clearer? Of course!
Early morning Starbucks run with the Dream Team
5th graders engaging over Beethoven and musical motifs
Kindergarteners playing Under the Sea & Just Keep Swimming with the parachute
Singing There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea with 2nd grade
After school nap
My husband coming home early to cook dinner
So, where/how am I now? I’m sitting in the orchestra pit. 30 minutes until opening night of Newsies! Energized and ready to go. It’s going to be a great show, no doubt. I will crash when it’s done. Then do it all over again tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that…twice.
Maybe the skies won’t be so gray-maybe they will. Either way, I’ll be watching for the little “wiper blade swishes” to help clear my path and get me through this incredibly exhausting and rewarding week.