Wedding Dance

I have long been convinced that the world is divided between people who enjoy being the center of attention and people who hate being the center of attention.  Both my son and I are in the second category, as are most members of my family.  Additionally, neither my son nor I like to dance and we most especially don’t like to dance if other people are watching.  Which means that we have a bit of a dilemma on our hands, since his wedding is just a little over a month away and that means we are going to be expected to do the traditional mother/son dance at the reception.

My son has already informed me he doesn’t want to do the mother/son dance, and I completely understand why he feels that way.  I know that the dances are a way of giving the parents of the couple who are getting married a special time with their son or daughter on this very important day, and I admit that I would like to have that moment with my son.  I just don’t see why the tradition has to be limited to dancing.  There are other options, in my opinion.

0467-2Personally, I like the idea of a mother/son cake eating.  At some point during the reception my son and I could sit down at a table together and enjoy a piece of wedding cake.  It would be that special “mother and son moment,” and I would even have a chance to pass on some valuable marriage advice, such as “the wife is always right.” (That one has served me well, lo these many years.)  I don’t think we’d even mind if others watched while we were enjoying our cake, as both of us are actually good at cake-eating.

Sadly, I doubt very much if I’ll be able to talk anyone into going along with my idea, so that brings me back to the question of whether or not we will be doing the mother/son dance.  For a long time, I agreed with my son and thought that I would really rather not do the dance at all, especially when I wasn’t sure if the bride and her father were going to be doing their traditional dance.  But they are doing the dance, and I know it will be a beautiful memory for both of them.  There’s something very special about the wedding of a son or daughter, and I think the tradition of the dance is meant to acknowledge that.

So while I am not a good dancer and I know I will be nervous with just my son and I out there on the dance floor, I have decided that I would like to do the mother/son dance at my son’s wedding.  I will search for a song that is very, very, easy to dance to and that is also (and more importantly) very, very, short.  I may even ask the DJ to dim the lights so that people sitting a few tables away won’t be able to see us.  But I will do the dance, because I do want to have that moment with my son and to publicly acknowledge how happy I am that he is getting married and that his fiancé is going to be an official part of our family.

Now I just have to figure out a way to break the news to my son……

Valentine Love

IMG_1130Since Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, my husband and I decided to go out for a nice dinner on Saturday night instead.  Sadly, it seemed as if everyone else had the same idea, because when we arrived at our favorite restaurant for our seven o’clock reservation, the place was packed.  The host asked if we minded waiting in the bar for a few minutes until our table was ready, which was fine with us.  But after a while, it became apparent that the “few minutes” was a very optimistic prediction, and as the hunger pangs set in, we started surveying the restaurant to see if we could spot an open table that the staff might have missed.

There weren’t any empty tables, but there were several tables occupied by young couples who had finished their meals and paid their bills, but were still lingering, gazing deeply into each other’s eyes, holding hands, and in general totally oblivious to the fact that there were hungry people waiting to be seated.  We tried giving a few of them the stink eye as a subtle hint that it was time to move on, but they were too wrapped up in each other to notice.  Eventually, we were seated at a nice corner table that gave us a good view of the dining room, and happily settled in, working our way steadily through the bread basket as we waited for our food to arrive.

Between bites, we studied the diners at the tables around us, especially the young couples who had obviously made a special effort for a romantic dinner.  They were quite dressed up, with the young men in ties and the young women in short dresses and high heels. They leaned in close to talk, smiled and flirted a lot, and stretched their meal out as long as possible by ordering appetizers, coffee and dessert.  Watching them brought back memories of how we used to celebrate Valentine’s Day, all those years ago when we were young.

At our table, the conversation was much less intimate, and contained phrases such as, “do you think the waitress will bring more bread?” and “we’d better hit the ATM on our way home,” none of which were uttered while holding hands or gazing deeply into each other’s eyes.   These days, if my husband is gazing deeply into my eyes at a restaurant, it’s because I’ve asked him to see if I’ve got an eyelash stuck in on of them.  And we don’t hold hands across the table, because that would mean we’d have to put our utensils down.

True, we had made the effort to look nice, but we were also mindful of the wind chill when we selected our outfits.  My husband had on three layers of shirts, but no tie.  I no longer wear a dress when the temperature is under 35, so I had on a nice pair of slacks and a turtleneck sweater.  My one concession to romance was to forgo my usual knee socks in favor of control-top panty hose, which I hoped would both look dressy and take five pounds off of my figure.

But don’t think I’m complaining.  We had a lovely evening out, just in our own, somewhat quiet, middle-aged way.  We don’t need to stare at each other while we’re eating dinner.  When you’ve been married for thirty five years, you know what your spouse looks like and there’s no need to keep checking.  We may not flirt in public any more, but we both knew we were sitting across the table from the one and only person we wanted to share in our Valentine’s dinner.

And when we were done with our meal, we promptly paid our bill and left, opening the table for the next couple who wanted to enjoy a nice Valentine’s dinner.  I’m thinking that next year, we should choose a restaurant that caters exclusively to people who are middle-aged and older.  The clientele may not look as good, but we won’t have to wait so long for a table, either.

 

 

The Season of Change

It may sound odd, but I’ve always found autumn to be just a little bit depressing.  I do love the crisp, cool air; the beautiful colors of the turning leaves, and the pumpkins and gourds that are used to decorate our houses and yards.  But even while I’m enjoying all the good things that autumn brings, I also feel an underlying sense of sadness and loss.  The days are getting shorter, those beautiful leaves are going to fall to the ground and leave the trees stark and bare, and I know that cool, crisp air is soon going to be replaced by cold, snow and ice.  I’m not a huge fan of winter (it should end the day after Christmas, as far as I am concerned), and so maybe the problem is that I’m just too aware that when autumn comes, winter is not far behind.

If I wanted to get really deep, I would point out that middle age is basically the early autumn of our life, but I try to keep this blog light and positive, so I won’t go there.  I will just say that I am at a period of my life when the losses are beginning to pile up, and as a blogger friend of mine so aptly put it, “there are more endings than there are beginnings.”

IMG_0878But this autumn has been an exceptionally good one for me and my family, and I can honestly say that for once, I’m not melancholy or sad.  Just last month, we celebrated the wedding of our daughter and our terrific new son-in-law, and that was a joyful, happy occasion for all of us.  Yesterday, my son proposed to his long-time girlfriend, which means that not only do we have another wedding to look forward to, but that our family is changing and growing in a very wonderful way.

Yes, being middle aged means that I am sometimes dealing with too many changes that are challenging and sad.  But other times, the changes that come to me and my family are very positive, exciting and hopeful, and knowing that both of my children have found a special person to love and share their life with is a change of the very best kind.  I know our family will never be the same, but in this case, that’s a good thing.

Last night we gathered at a local restaurant with a small group of friends and family to celebrate the engagement of my son and his new fiancé.  We were celebrating the beginning of their new life together, the joining of two families who will support them throughout their journey, and of all the possibilities that the future may bring them.  It’s a good, happy and hopeful change for us all. And for me, it’s a powerful reminder that there are still lots of good things in life to come, no matter what the season.

Happy Birthday

IMG_0823Today is my husband’s sixtieth birthday.  I can remember so clearly when I first met him in college and decided that he might be someone I would like to date, even though we seemed to have almost nothing in common.  He was a gifted athlete, and an active member of a fraternity.  He liked to spend time fishing and golfing, and had a special talent for playing pool.  I was a klutz who was completely uninterested in sports, and had lasted a mere three months in the sorority I joined my sophomore year. I played only miniature golf, was terrible at pool, and thought fishing was a bit cruel, to both the fish and the worms.  But still, something clicked, and we married shortly after I graduated.

It just doesn’t seem so long ago that we moved into our first apartment together, then later bought our first house and brought our first baby home from the hospital.  How can that baby now be a twenty-nine year old woman, and how can we possibly have lived in this, our third house, for twenty-one years?  How can my husband, the young man who searched so eagerly for his first accounting job, carefully typing out his resumes and letters on my electric typewriter, be just five years away from retirement?

Dave at typewriterWhen did we make the shift from the young, clueless couple trying to find our way in the world, to a couple that is fast approaching (if we aren’t there already) the years where we can’t even call ourselves middle aged anymore, and actually qualify for those “senior citizen discounts?”  Next year will actually be the fortieth reunion of my high school graduating class.  And I still believe someone added wrong to come up with that number, but I’m not sure who to speak to about it.

I remember when we were young (a very long time ago, apparently), people kept telling us that the years would just fly by.  And like all young people, we didn’t really believe them.  We knew we were at the beginning stages of our lives, and our attention was focused on acquiring all the stuff we thought we needed, establishing our careers, and starting our family.  But now, with my husband turning sixty, there is no denying that we have many more years behind us that we do ahead of us.  And that we are no longer young anywhere except in our own minds.

Now our focus has changed.  We are certainly not wealthy, but we have most of what we want and all of what we truly need.  We treasure our time with family and friends more, because we now understand what a gift time spent with people we love really is.  We aren’t always happy with our aging bodies, but we accept them and do our best to stay healthy.  We may not have as many years left as we would like, but we do intend to spend those years wisely.

A friend once told me that the beauty of long-term marriage is that each partner knew the other one when they were still young, so that when they look at their spouse, they still see the young person they once were.  And that, I have found, is true.  My husband may be turning sixty today, but to me, he will always be that somewhat shy, sweet, college boy I thought I might like to date…..

Wedding Memories

IMG_0615When my daughter’s fiancé first told us he was going to propose, I was very happy and excited for her, right up to the moment I realized I was going to have to help plan and host the wedding, at which point the panic set in.  I just couldn’t imagine that we would be able to pull together all the little details of such a huge event (whatever happened to the days when a wedding meant a quick ceremony in the sanctuary, followed by cake and punch in the church basement?) even knowing that my daughter is a very organized person who would be doing most of the work herself.  Multi-tasking has never been my strong point, and in weddings, the devil is definitely in the details.  There were many times in the past year when I thought herding fifty cats would have been much easier.

But we did it.  My daughter got married last Saturday, and all the important things went according to plan.  The weather was perfect, everyone was where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be there, the ceremony was beautiful, and the reception was fun.  I had been told that, after all that planning and work, the day would just fly by, and that was so true.  I really don’t have a strong, clear memory of it that I can share when people ask, “How did the wedding go?”

IMG_0666What I do have are a series of mental pictures of the highlights of the day.  First, I remember how beautiful my daughter looked when she first put on her dress in the chapel of the church, and how proud I was when she walked down the aisle with her father.  After the ceremony, I remember watching everyone gather in the front of the church for family pictures, and I remember thinking how lucky the bride and groom were to have such a large, loving family to support them in their marriage.

I remember the slight panic I felt during the cocktail hour, as I stood on the edge of the crowded room and realized that I needed to circulate and greet the guests.  I much prefer to stay “behind the scenes” at large social gatherings, working quietly to make sure everything is going well, and I am never comfortable in large crowds.

Later, when we were seated in the ballroom and they introduced the wedding party as they came in, I remember the precious sight of my son (a groomsman) walking in with a bridesmaid on his left arm while holding the hand of the little Junior Bridesmaid on his right.  And then my daughter and her new husband came in, and I realized that all the planning, work and money had been worth it, just for that moment alone.

There are lots of other special memories:  the toasts, the first dance, seeing my eight-five year old mother dancing to some modern song with my nephew (as one of my friends told me later, “your mother still has the moves!”), and finally, everyone out on the dance floor for the final song, dancing and singing along to Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places.”  (I knew my daughter would work a country song in there somewhere.)

I firmly believe that every bride is beautiful on her wedding day, just as every groom is handsome.  I also firmly believe that true beauty comes from within, and what made my daughter and her new husband so pleasing to look at had nothing to do with their physical appearance, and everything to do with the way they kept looking at each other throughout the day.  The happiness and the love for each other I saw on their faces made them a very beautiful couple, and that’s a beauty that will, hopefully, stay with them for the rest of their lives ….

Forever Family

familyMy daughter got engaged last summer, and her wedding is coming up fast.  Even though we’ve spent the past few months booking a venue, reserving a church, selecting her wedding dress and making all the hundreds of other decisions that seem to be required for a wedding these days, it has only recently begun to sink in that she’s actually getting married.  And soon.

I still remember the first day I brought her home from the hospital, and how everything single thing in my world suddenly felt so different.  The house my husband and I had lived in happily for a couple of years had to be completely reconfigured to accommodate a baby, a good night’s sleep became nothing more than a distant memory, and even the shortest outing required careful planning as we either had to find and hire a reliable baby sitter or pack a diaper bag with more provisions than I normally packed for a week’s vacation back in my childless days.  My husband and I had shifted from being a couple to being a family, and life was never the same again.

Later, as we were raising both my daughter and her younger brother, I couldn’t even imagine what life would be like when they grew up and moved out to start their own lives.  The four of us were a complete and happy family unit, and the thought of us not living together anymore was almost frightening.  At the time, I had a friend whose youngest daughter had recently moved out and I asked her how she could possibly cope with that loss.  She told me that in her opinion, the teenage years were God’s little way of making it a bit less painful to see them go.  And as the years went by, I understood that she was right.

When our turn came to have an empty nest, it wasn’t the horrible adjustment I thought it would be, because I realized that I hadn’t really lost my kids at all.  They had grown up, but we were still a family and our relationship was simply different than it was when they were children.  Now I could see the young woman and the young man they had become, and I liked what I saw.  And the little bonuses of having an empty nest, such as the extra closet space, much smaller grocery bills and not having to listen to either country or rap music in my house helped, too.

MarthaIn a few short weeks, our family is going to change again, and in a big way.  My daughter will be married, which means her first priority will be her new husband, and not us.  She’ll even have a new last name.  But, once again, this is just a change that means our family will be different, and that’s not a bad thing.  We’re gaining a terrific son-in-law who already feels like a member of our family.  It’s reassuring to see my daughter in love with someone who makes her happy and to know that they are choosing to spend their lives together.  And I know she is marrying into a wonderful family whose love and support will only enrich her life.

I have come to believe that family is something that is both constant and constantly changing.  And that change isn’t always a bad thing.  In the case of this particular change that is coming to our family, I believe it’s a very good thing indeed.

What Did You Say?

DSC00076Right after we bought our house, my husband and I discussed the remodeling that needed to be done first:  paint the magenta bedroom a nicer color, replace the leaky windows, install new kitchen counters and a deeper sink, etc.  And I distinctly remember hearing him say that he planned to take down the doorway and wall that enclosed the stairs to the second story. We didn’t want to have to open a door to go upstairs, and thought that an open staircase would look very nice.  The next day, my parents and I were trying to carry our mattresses upstairs, and we couldn’t fit the box springs through the doorway.  I said, “No problem, we’re going to take this wall out anyway,” and got a crowbar and knocked a big hole above the doorway so that the box springs fit through.  Honestly, I was proud of myself for fixing the problem on my own, without my husband’s help.

But it turns out that while I thought he meant “We’re going to take that doorway out right away,” what he actually meant was, “Someday we’re going to take that doorway out.”  So he was more than a little surprised to come home from work that night and find a huge, gaping hole above the doorway.  Not happy, but definitely surprised.

I also remember when my son was in kindergarten and had to get to school especially early one morning.  In an effort to save time, I asked him to lay out his clothes the night before, so we wouldn’t have to go through the ritual of deciding what he was going to wear (he had strong opinions about that when he was young) in the morning.  When I went in his room that night, I saw that he did indeed have his clothes “laid out.”  His t-shirt was spread carefully on the floor, and his jeans were placed just below them, with the shirt overlapping about an inch or so.  Sticking out from the bottom of each jean leg was a single sock, and when I looked underneath the top of the jeans, sure enough, there was a pair of underwear.  I thought I had told him simply to select his outfit for the next morning, he thought I wanted him to arrange his clothes exactly as if he was wearing them.

The older I get, the more I realize that there is often a big difference between what one person means to say and what another person actually hears.  It might be because different people assign different meanings to words, or it might be because we all tend to filter what we hear through our own, unique perspective.  I really don’t know.  But I strongly suspect that a lot of the hurt feelings and conflict we experience in our life stems from simple misunderstandings about what exactly we mean when we communicate with each other.

For my part, I’m trying to remember to make more of an effort to make myself as clear as I possibly can when I speak to others, and to take the extra time to make sure I truly understand what others mean when they speak to me, even by asking silly-sounding questions when necessary.  It isn’t always easy, and I’m certainly not always successful, but I do think it’s worth the time and effort.  I know my husband wishes I had done that all those years ago, before I started swinging away with my trusty crowbar.  Because we didn’t open up that staircase for another ten years, and plaster walls are a real hassle to patch.