Saturday, August 29, 2009

Class of 1979

My 30th high school reunion is this weekend (am I really that old?)  A few classmates have contacted me on facebook, the event is being held at one of my favorite restaurants, and it sounds like fun - but there is no way I will go to this or any high school reunion! High school was not a happy time for me - in fact, it was horrible!  This is not a reflection on my school or classmates - it was a small town school (my graduating class was about 75), the kids were nice enough, and a few of them really tried to be friendly and include me. The problem was definitely and exclusively me. 

I know I am not the only person who has bad memories of high school - it's so common it's cliche, and we all have different reasons for this.  My problem was culture shock. Up until 10th grade I had lived most of my life in Liberia, West Africa, as a missionaries' kid. My schooling consisted of a mixture of homeschooling, Liberian school, boarding school with other missionaries' kids, and an American school with embassy kids, "army brats", wealthy Liberians, and a variety of kids from other cultures. None of this in any way prepared me for high school in a small New England community - I was a fish out of  water! I often wonder if it would have been easier if I had been a different color or had an accent. On the outside I looked and sounded like everyone else, but really I was clueless - I had no idea how to relate to the people around me. I didn't know how to dress and I could barely have a conversation with the other kids - not only was I painfully shy, but I had no frame of reference to draw from for conversation. I just didn't know what to say or how to say it. Everything I said sounded awkward, inappropriate, irrelevant, or just plain stupid to me, and I often felt like people were looking at me like I had two heads (in actuality they probably weren't paying much attention - we're all pretty self-involved in high school). 

I've come a long way since high school; I had a great college experience where I made good friends and met my future husband. I have spent the last 30 years raising a wonderful family and gaining confidence in my career as a reference librarian. I love my family, I love my career, I love my church, and I'm very happy with the person that I have become. So why would I have a problem with going to my high school reunion? Because for some reason whenever I encounter anyone from my high school days I immediately revert to the tongue-tied colorless person that I saw myself as back then. I haven't actually seen very many of my former classmates over the years, but the few times that I have I invariably say something idiotic - in other words, everything comes out in "moron"! What's up with that? What on earth makes me instantly regress to 30 years ago? I don't know and I can't seem to stop it from happening. It would be interesting to see everyone and hear about how their lives turned out - I would love to be a "fly on the wall" and watch and listen. But there is no way that I will be there - I'm just not strong enough to get beyond my high school hang-ups. I hope they have a great time catching up and celebrating together, and I hope they take lots of pictures and post them on their facebook pages, but as for me I will keep a safe distance!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Slipping Through My Fingers

We watch her walk away, laughing and chatting with her travel companions, and her father and I marvel at our beautiful daughter's relaxed confidence as she approaches the airport security area. She is setting off on a European adventure, spending the fall semester at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands. We have been planning and preparing for months - dealing with all of the confusing aspects of going to a foreign country.   Tensions were high during the last week as we shopped for last minute items (a good umbrella, neck pillow, toiletries etc.),  and packed and repacked her two suitcases and two carry-ons. Does she have the right converters and adapters? How many Euros will she need to start with? How can she get minutes for her international phone? (This turned out to be much more complicated than we thought it would be.) In the end we just had to take our best educated guesses, zip up the suitcases, drive her to the airport, send her off, and leave the airport feeling very empty and helpless. It's hard to let go.

But isn't that what parenting is all about? We have to start the process of letting go as soon as our children are born. Remember how hard it was to even let someone else hold our first child? This is quickly followed by leaving them with a babysitter for the first time, the church nursery, preschool, and then the school years.  Each year they gain more and more independence, and we have to back off and let them develop their own personalities while keeping a careful watch for problems.  In middle school, suddenly they are embarrassed to be seen with us and constantly frustrated by our lack of understanding.  In high school their busy lives leave us far behind and we have less and less knowledge and control of their activities. But through it all we have to be available to them for sympathy and advice (whether or not they take it).

 As they venture out into a sometimes unsympathetic world we must be the pillar they can hold on to, the sanctuary they can return to.  They are our most important purpose in life, but they are not ours to keep.  God gave them to us for a little while to nurture and care for, but most importantly to let them go to find their place in this world. In the end they belong to God, and they have to find out what his purpose is for them, regardless of what we want.

We know that Megan will have a great experience, meeting new types of people, seeing a different way of life, and visiting wonderful places.  There will be difficulties but she is so capable and determined that we know she will figure it all out, and will be stronger because she did it herself.  And a different person will come back to us four months later - a little more mature, a little more independent, and with a different view of the world, but when we look at her we will still see our little girl.


Thursday, August 6, 2009


“Standing calmly at the crossroads, no desire to run. There’s no hurry anymore when all is said and done.”  I’m an ABBA geek, I can’t help it.  I loved them in the 1970‘s when they were moderately popular in the U.S. and phenomenally popular in Europe. I bought  as many of their albums as I could get my hands on and knew all of their songs; when our turntable died I bought a greatest hits CD and for many years had to be satisfied with the few songs (20?) on this one disc.  Imagine how thrilled I was when Mamma Mia became a musical - finally this wonderful music was getting the appreciation that it deserved!  I loved both the broadway show and the movie (although I did question some of the casting decisions for the movie - Pierce Brosnan singing?) I was reintroduced to ABBA songs that I hadn’t heard for years, but the one that resonated the most with me came near the end of the movie - “When All Is Said and Done”.  

Our family is at a crossroads in our lives.  Ed has a new and challenging church with different needs and expectations, I am searching for a way to continue in my career after having left what I thought was the perfect job, and the kids all have adjustments to make as well.  But after 25 years of marriage Ed and I can find the strength to meet these new challenges together.  When we started dating our friends were incredulous - it didn’t make sense to them, we just didn’t fit together! I was quiet and studious with a little bit of feminist spunk thrown in, and Ed was a country boy (and proud of it) and a reluctant student marking time until he could get into an art school.  We met through Christian organizations that we both participated in, and I was initially attracted to his laid back nature and his sense of fun, but as I got to know him better it was his strong integrity that impressed me the most. We dated though most of college and married as soon as Ed graduated.  

Together we have weathered graduate school for me, seminary then a doctoral program for him, three children (I was pregnant on our first anniversary), a miscarriage, illnesses, estrangement, and death within our extended family, and serious health issues within our immediate family, career changes, and always strained finances. We haven’t always been very patient with each other through all of this, but when one of us really needs the other the strength of our love for each other kicks in.  I will never forget how well Ed took care of me when I was so sick with an endlessly long and terrifying bout with vertigo. He shouldered all of my responsibilities as well as his own, and tirelessly took me to every doctor’s appointment while confidently reassuring me that I would get better. He was my rock then, and when I struggle with the residual effects of this illness I can still draw strength from him.

"Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls" Jeremiah 6:16  We are standing at a crossroads together, but we have the God-given strength of more than 28 love-filled years together to stand on, and holding tightly to each other and to our God, we can go into an unknown future unafraid.