"Sometimes grace manifests itself as synchronicity -- its energy brings together people or events in a soothing, helpful, or dramatic way when you most need it and least expect it. At other times grace is the energy that suddenly illuminates us with understanding, allowing us to see what we had not been able to grasp before. Grace can also lift us into an altered state of consciousness, suffused by an unfamiliar energy -- an indescribable combination of love, hope and fearlessness."
"When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable.
There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age." -- Victor Hugo
Every September, we celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday. Like Easter or Thanksgiving or Christmas, it's a required once a year family celebration...except that for the last few years it hasn't really happened with very much flair, if at all.
Before that, when our kids were younger, we'd go down and make a week-end out of it...swimming and sunning and being leisurely with grandbabies. We must have looked like a micro-version of the Kennedy's on Martha's Vineyard.
But like all good traditions, kids got bigger and school and sports and the busy-ness of life happened and before we knew it, late September blended into early October and the celebrations got smaller and smaller.
That is, until this year.
This year, Suzie would be 80 and a party was necessary.
I was informed that we would be hosting it at our house...
the week-end before Mary Kate left for college...and the party would not just be the tiny little family affair of days gone by.
Nope, this one was going to be a PARTY with a capital P,
well actually more like a real authentic Mexican Fiesta.
(Can you say: ai, yi,yi,yi??)
White table cloths
The Whole Shebang
Can you say: please, pretty please, no?
Can you say: don't wanna?
Can you say bad attitude?
That's me, over here.
It was bad timing.
It was a royal pain.
It filled me with dread.
And it was the exact opposite of how I wanted to spend my last week-end with Mary Kate,
it was awesome.
There were gobs of Ladies in their Eighties.
Plenty of gents too.
They had their children give them rides.
Virtually all of them needed some sort of help walking.
But they were dressed up and they were ready to party.
They showed up on time, early even.
Quite a departure from the events I host where being a half hour late is the norm.
The party started at 3pm.
The entire group was here by 2:50!
I was dying.
I had to wear a Mexican dress...
grumbling about hell freezing over I did...
turns out those things are comfy. :)
Mary Kate and I rocking that fiesta look -- olé!
The guest of honor arrived by limo -- I told you this was big time.
And the friends of old arrived soon after.
They were polite.
They were delighted.
They were tickled.
It was awesome.
Watching them catch up on forty or fifty years of history was crazy.
Hearing tiny snippets of their life stories stopped me cold.
There was Faye who was married only three months before she had to say good-bye to her husband who went to India for the war for two years.
After he came home, they moved from San Francisco to Butte City (talk about polar opposites!)
and proceeded to keep house for not just her husband and herself but for his two brothers too.
For FOUR years!!
Yep, Faye played surrogate mom to two eligible bachelors for four years
(can you imagine the reality show version?)
she just did it...cause that's how it was done.
Of course, she did get her own sweet reward:
she had a bit of an influence over who those brothers would marry.
Today, all three of the brothers have passed away.
But Faye came to the party with her sisters-in-law, Teresa and Maureen.
It was non-stop adorable.
There were couples there who were literal extensions of each other's limbs.
Together, they climbed the steps.
Together, they navigated the difficulties of the lawn turning into cement and chairs being too close together and the dexterity required to maneuver to visit someone in the distance.
These guests were gracious, interesting, charming and fun.
They were touched to be invited.
They were the kind of people who still enjoyed life at 80 or 85 or 90.
I want to be rocking a Mexican dress at my 80th birthday too!
And it made me ashamed at how few parties in their honor we have.
I celebrate my children's birthdays in a big way.
But this was my first big party for the generation above me --
well, except for an anniversary party or two.
That's just not right.
These people deserve to be celebrated.
We need to honor them and cherish them and bring them out into the sunshine.
They need a big ole fiesta.
They have a lot to celebrate.
And a whole lot to teach us...
if only we would take the time to listen.
I'm grateful that the universe forced my hand.
I'm grateful to the children who drove.
Grateful to my darling sister-in-law and brother-in-law who came to help early and stayed late to clean up...and brought Mexican dresses and Gerbera daisies and delicious cupcakes.
Mostly, I'm grateful to the ladies in their eighties who showed me how to live.
For me, it seems like it's going on a lot more than it used to.
Today was the topper.
I've heard of kids being anxious...but I sat with a student teacher as she went through her class and she revealed that four of her students struggled with anxiety...and they were in elementary school!
Four in a class of thirty.
What's going on in our world??
These kids aren't hungry or homeless.
Their basic needs are met.
They have involved parents...maybe even a bit too involved.
Maybe that's the problem.
The hovering has got to stop.
Some parents actually come to school every day and eat lunch with their child.
They lurk around at recess.
I'm sorry but that would give me anxiety and I'm an adult.
Our world is so upside down that the school hasn't stopped that madness.
The classroom teacher hasn't called an intervention a meeting and clarified the problem.
The parents keep eating lunch...and if they're eating lunch at school with their kids I don't want to think about what it's like to be at home together.
Suffocating is the word that comes to mind.
Let's chat about the message you send your kid every day you show up to school to eat lunch with him:
You can't do this without me.
You need me.
I'm crucial to your happiness.
I don't believe you can navigate this big, bad world on your own.
It's just a little too close to the mean mom in Rapunzel for my liking.
Why do we have this level of hovering??
Because the parents have lost their faith in our world.
Because of the horrendous living nightmare of 20 tiny first graders dying in their school in
Because of 9/11 and creepy bad things that happen in our world every day.
I get it.
Bad stuff goes down to kids on a regular basis.
But guess what???
A whole lot of good stuff goes down too.
And my gut tells me it's WAY more than the bad.
We have lunch ladies, crossing guards, bus drivers, school secretaries, guitar playing music teachers, ball bouncing PE teachers, school janitors, principals, teachers and teachers aides and after school specialists just waiting to do their part.
And they DO their part.
Every single day.
Schools are safe.
Schools are a real place that your child can learn to maneuver and ask questions and be curious and test the waters and grow in independence every day.
But we have to let them.
We have to tell our kids by our actions that we know they can do it.
We have to give them a chance to fail.
And point out the rising sun and and the world still spinning when the failure happens.
They need to know they are ok on their own.
They need to have a little faith and see it all work out.
Over and over.
School's the place where that happens.
So...can you parents just take a deep breath and get out of the way??
You are literally making your kids sick.
You are disabling them.
Besides, you are just sucking the fun out of the whole thing.
And you don't want to be a fun-sucker, do you??
Tonight I'm grateful for the safety net of schools.
I'm grateful for the many, many good people who make a school run smoothly.
I'm grateful for the welcoming smile, the hot lunches, the predictability of schedules and the comfort of belonging that comes with being in a school.
Let's grab the handle of faith and let tomorrow shine.