What We Wish For


When your children are born, all you want for them is…well, everything. You want to protect them from every possible bump, bruise, scratch, insult, injury, sorrow.

As they begin to grow, you realize as a parent that you can’t actually protect them from the world, from life.

But your initial hope remains true. When all is said and done, what you want for your children is happiness.

Every parent has thought it. Every one has said it, “I just want my children to be happy.”

What that means is something different from family to family, and it changes over time.

But in the end, if we can distill our deepest and truest wish for our children, it is this:

“I wish you a life that brings you pleasure. I wish you a job that makes you feel good about yourself. I wish you friends who laugh with you and share your best and worst times. And more than anything, I wish you love.”

We want our children to find their loves. To find someone who brings out the best in them. To find someone who is their own best with our child beside them.

Of course we may not realize it when the kids are small, and we may not say it out loud when they are older, but we also want them to find someone that we can love, too.

As parents, we wish for our children a life of equal parts adventure and predictability. We wish for them to grow and learn and get stronger every day.

When my three children were little, I imagined them eating good food around their own tables. All of them have achieved this. I desperately wanted them to find a community of like minded souls who would support them, challenge them and laugh with them. All three have that, too.

And I wish, most of all, that all of them would find a solid life partner, like mine, who would be there through all of the financial crises, the health issues, the emotional swings and the changing times. I wished each of them a partner who desired them, cared for them, missed them, stored up stories of the day to tell them.

All of mine have also, miraculously, found partners who bring out the best in them, who love them deeply, and who we love as well.

That’s a mother’s best wish. It’s any parent’s best wish.

“I just want my child to be happy.”

We all say it.

We all mean it.

Last weekend, my youngest child, my sweet baby, proposed to his own true love. We were there to share the excitement. She is the one who fills every one of our wishes for our boy.

Sometimes life give us exactly what we want, exactly what we desire.

This was one of those times.

Yay, Tim and Sweens!!!!! You guys make dreams come true, and not only for each other!!!!!

Before he proposed to Sweens, Tim came with me to see my 88 year old Mom. She was married to my Dad for 58 years. They had one of those magical  and loving marriages that you only read about. She said to Tim, upon hearing his news, “I wish for you the same kind of relationship that Grampa and I had. We were best friends and we always looked out for each other.”

To every parent out there, I hope you all have happy children. There’s nothing more important, and nothing more gratifying.

It doesn’t get much better than a moment like this one..

Don’t be fooled by the MOB.


Well, the wedding has come and gone.  Phew!

 

Don't mistake this look for serenity.

Don’t mistake this look for serenity.

This seems like a good time to give you an insightful glimpse into the mind of the MOB (which is what they call you for a about a year before the event in which you will be the “Mother of the Bride”.)

For some of you, it may be helpful to learn about what happens in the mind of the MOB as the big day approaches; after all, a lot of you will be a MOB yourself before too long!

For others, this post may help you to cope when your own wife/mother/sister/friend becomes a MOB.

And the rest of you will probably just laugh and think, “Thank God this will never happen to me because  a) I am a man; b) I am never ever ever planning to have a kid;   c) I am an old lady raising cats who now feels a lot better about my life choices.”

The pressures on the MOB before the wedding cannot possibly be overstated.  This is especially true if the bride is a mature, independent, capable young woman who doesn’t need or want you to do much.  At first this will seem like a blessing, but as the wedding day gets closer and closer, you will begin to wish that you had been included in every single tiny detail.

You see, the week before the wedding, people will start to ask you a lot of questions that you can’t answer, so you immediately go into a panic.  Kind of like this:

“What are the groomsmen wearing?”   “Um…..pants?”

“What time will the caterer arrive?”  “Not sure. In time to cook!”

“Where should we put all the wine?”  “Ah…I…um…just leave it with me.”

You’ll also start waking up in the middle of the night (as the day gets closer, the wake-ups happen more often.  By the night before the rehearsal, you’ll wake up every 14 seconds). You will be jolted out of sleep by burning questions like, “What if a sudden tornado blows through and everyone is lifted up and dropped over Kansas?”  and “What if I fall off the dance floor?!!”  In the brief periods where you do sleep, you will be overwhelmed by nightmares featuring giant black bears invading the wedding venue, drunken Uncles brawling on the porch, and suddenly realizing that you are on the dance floor stark naked.

What this all means, of course, is that by the time everyone you know and love appears in a giant throng to take endless pictures of you, will look like a refugee from a war zone. The bags under your eyes will be bigger than the big white wedding tent.  Your hands will shake, and the golden tan that you so carefully worked on last week will have faded to the color of pasty oatmeal.  This is the image that you will have of yourself:

The internal MOB.

The internal MOB.

In spite of all the stress, though, the big day will eventually come. You’ll carefully pack every single item that you or the bride could possibly want or need, and head off for the weekend.  You’ll arrive at the hotel that you chose months ago, only to find that there are no more “non-smoking rooms” available, and that you and your kids are booked into “rooms-so-filled-with-smoke-that-we-offer-free-asthma-inhalers”.  You’ll do your best to put a positive spin on the situation, telling yourself that it will be awesome to sound like Lauren Bacall at your daughter’s wedding, and ignoring the fact that you will smell like Humphrey Bogart at your daughter’s wedding.

You’ll go to the rehearsal with your family and the wedding party, where (if you are half as lucky as we were) the wonderful minister will manage to keep everyone under control long enough to do a run through of the event before they dive into the Irish Whiskey. You and the MOG (figure it out, people) will gulp your wine and compare notes on your respective neuroses.  You’ll try to figure out if its a good thing or a bad thing that you’re both having nightmares about black bears.  You’ll reassure each other a thousand times that “everything will be fine!”

And then the wedding day will dawn.  You’ll drink four gallons of water because your throat is so dry from nerves.  But you will immediately realize that you’ll have to pee 700 times before the ceremony. You are a middle aged woman.  This can be a problem. This fact will make you more nervous, meaning you’ll need more water. You will wonder when you can switch to wine.

You’ll take the kids out to breakfast at a cute little diner where everyone moves at roughly the speed of a melting glacier.  Your face will smile and chat with the family, but your brain will run a constant loop of reminders: “flowers, basket for flower girl, petals for basket, gift for the bride, make-up, computer for the music, deodorant, green tablecloth….flowers, basket for flower girl….”  

Even though you know that you have brought every single thing you could possibly need for the celebration, the bride will text you to ask you to stop for hairpins and cold cuts. You’ll be happy to have something constructive to do as the clock inexorably ticks down toward the ceremony, but you’ll have a mini-panic attack when you realize that you’re in a far off land where you don’t exactly how to find a grocery store or a CVS. Lucky for you, the young people at the table know how to use an iPhone, and you’ll plan out your route.

At last, at last, the time will come for you to rush frantically back to the hotel to get dressed and ready.  This is a day that you have dreamed of for years.  Your emotions are on high.  You and the FOB keep looking at each other with sappy grins.  The two of you share memories of the cute little girls who once played “brides” together on your lawn, and who will now fulfill the roles of Bridesmaids, Maid of Honor and (gulp) Bride.  Your nerves begin to settle, and you are filled with love and appreciation for the wonderful privilege of seeing your daughter married to a man who loves her to distraction.

You will step into the shower, humming the song that will always make you think of your baby girl and how intensely you will always love her.

Then you’ll step out of the shower and think to yourself, “What kind of freakin’ idiot thought it was a good idea to put a full size mirror opposite the shower?” 

Just remember, no one has ever said, “It was a great wedding, except for that scab on the MOB’s elbow.”  You and the MOG were right; everything will in fact be fine. Everyone will smile, and hug and wipe away tears as the truly happy couple exchanges vows. You’ll dance and sing together, you’ll toast each other, you’ll introduce your friends to your family.  It will be incredible.

And at the end of the night, your beautiful daughter will kiss you and thank you and say, “Mom, this was so perfect! Thank you!”

Oh, Shenandoah


800px-Shenandoah_National_Park_SHEN4850

A million or so years ago, my young husband and I took a drive down South.  We wanted to visit some college campuses, because we were looking for graduate schools.  We made some appointments, got into our old brown Toyota Corolla and headed South.

We stopped in New Jersey, on the very day of Bruce Springsteen’s 31st birthday.  We went on to Delaware, to Maryland, and then to Virginia.  We camped, in Shenandoah National Park, in a place called “Big Meadow”.

We were young, and open and ready for the world to show us what it had to offer.   Shenandoah showed us mountains, and fields and deer and music and a gentle beauty that we could not forget.

We went back there, of course.  We stayed in a cozy cottage for two, in the fall. We watched the sun set over those mountains. We walked at dawn in a dewy field filled with does and fawns.

And we returned, first with our little girl, showing her the rosy light of dawn in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We brought her hiking, taught her to pick blueberries and raspberries in the wide, wild field.  We fed her pancakes and bacon in the homey restaurant of the Big Meadow Lodge on Skyline Drive.

We came back again, with her brothers. Camping on the edge of the Appalachian Trail, singing with the guitarist in the lodge, walking the wide meadow at sunset, hiking the beautiful trails.

And every time we’ve been there, every memory that our family has made there, has had a soundtrack that has run beneath it all.  The songs have changed as we have grown and changed. But one song has been there through it all.

“Oh, Shenandoah, I long to see you

Away, you rolling river.”

In a few days, my daughter will be married.  That little girl who I held on my hip as we watched the sunset on the Shenandoah Valley will bind her hand and her life to her love, and will become a married woman.

At some point during the celebration, she will stand and walk to her father, who will take her hand in his.  They will smile, and embrace, and dance together as they both think back on the history of all that they have shared.  The song will be “Shenandoah”, by Van Morrison.

Perfect.

Listen to this, and think of us: Shenandoah

‘Round and Round


I know that I keep writing about this, but I am so often struck by the ways in which my life keeps showing me all of its connections.

I find myself reminded, over and over again, of how every relationship, every person we love, creates a connection to other people and other loves and other actions.

I’m sorry if this is repetitive.

Actually, no I’m not.   This theme is repetitive because it just keeps on happening to me.  Life is a series of synchronous connections. We are all enmeshed in a web of love.

Today I had yet another reminder of the circular nature of life.  It was…….

I can’t describe it.  It was lightning striking.

Two years ago, my young colleague was planning her wedding.  Our good friend, Lesley,  was the seamstress who was making her dress.  Two years ago, nearly to the day, my friend tried on her homemade dress in the bathroom at our school. We all peeked in, we oohed and aaahed and told her that she was beautiful.  Because she was!  I wiped a tear as I looked at her, remembering my own wedding so many years before.

Two summers ago, my young colleague got married, in her home stitched dress. Paul and I were there to celebrate with her. Our daughter Kate was there, too, with her new boyfriend. It was a magical night and all four of us had a wonderful time.

Today my daughter tried on her wedding dress. She is marrying the “new boyfriend” in a few weeks.

The dress is being sewn by our good friend, Lesley, who made the one two years ago.  In fact, the pattern that Lesley is using is the very same one that she used to make my colleague’s dress.

One dress was palest pink, one is vibrant green; both are beautiful and both fit the bride who chose it.

Today, almost two years to the day after watching my friend try on her dress, I stood in the same school bathroom, smiling at my radiant daughter in her lovely green gown.  I wiped away a tear as I looked at her.

And today, two years after her wedding, my friend is in labor, working to give birth to her first child.  I’ve spent all day worrying, thinking of her, sending her support and love and deep, cleansing breaths.

Around and around and around.  Life goes on and passes its magic and flows from one dream to another.

Tonight I am so filled with hope; waiting for my daughter to be married in her sylvan gown; waiting to hear that my friend is holding her son in her arms at last.

The Beauty of A Beautiful Ceremony


This the summer of weddings for Paul and I.  We have reached the age where the children of our friends are beginning to marry, but we are also colleagues and friends with young people who are taking the big step. Between June and October, we will be attending six different weddings.  Six!

While all of this nuptial joy can be expensive (think new dress, new shoes, shower gift, travel costs, wedding gift…..!) and a little tiring, it is also the most incredible reaffirmation of the power of human love.  Next to the welcoming  of new life (which I suspect will be happening in droves in a year or so…!), participating in a wedding is the most touching of social rituals.  I love the whole thing!

Every wedding is unique, which is part of the fun.  Our weddings this summer will include an outdoor Orthodox Jewish ceremony on a farm, a backyard secular ceremony in the Maine countryside, a formal Catholic ceremony at a grand hotel, a semi formal morning wedding at a country club and two more traditional church and reception weddings.  They are all different in tone, style, menu, music and guest lists.  One was even in another language, requiring us to read the translations in the books.

But they all share a common core, a common heart, a common purpose.

And this commonality is what I love.

It is not the chance to dress up fancy that makes weddings so special to me. It’s not the flow of cold crisp wine, the delicious foods or the gorgeous settings.  It isn’t even the chance to dance as if I was still 25, making a happy fool of myself and usually wrenching my back for a good cause.  None of that is what I find so exciting when I open up those wedding invitations.

I am humbled when I am asked to attend the wedding of a friend, or a cousin, or the child of my childhood buddy. I feel pride, and joy and usually some surprise when the brides and grooms reach out to ask me (me!) to be a wedding guest.  I always feel as if the cool kids have invited me to the party!

See, when you go to a wedding, you are participating in an ancient ritual that has existed in every society in the world, since probably about the time when humans emerged from our caves.

When you listen to the service, (even if you don’t know the language!), you are asked to say ritual words, or to sing, or to raise your hands up high, holding them out to form a canopy over the heads of the lovers, blessing them and wishing them joy and prosperity and fertility.

Through these rituals, these words, we are welcoming a new family into the greater family of our community. By raising a glass and shouting  “mazeltov” or “cheers” or “salut” or “slainte”, we are saying, “We are all here to help you, to support you, to get you on the road to a happy future.” By allowing us to participate, the couple is telling us that they are happy and willing to join the community of families, the community of our churches, our towns, our country. Every new family unit strengthens the family of humanity, it seems to me.

I am so happy and proud to have been included in the six weddings of this summer.  Weddings mean hope and love and sharing, and they reinforce my faith in the future.

Why would anyone want to deny these beautiful ceremonies to couples who happen to be of the same gender?