Thursday, July 28, 2011

A lesson from a friend

I've "facebooked" my friend Kathy recently. It got me thinking about how much my friends have brought to my life and how much I have learned from them.  I don't see Kathy much anymore but she is no less important to me. She would be surprised to know how much she has taught me.

When we met over 25 years ago Kathy and I were the only adult wait staff at the Spaghetti Works restaurant. In another world we wouldn’t have given each other the time of day.We are quite different women. But motherhood worked its bonding magic.  She and I were the only mothers amoung a staff of college students. We both had newborns AND we pregnant with our second children. Yikes!

 Kathy was tall, blond, funny, bright and hardworking. She looked like a teenager.  In fact she was only nineteen.  ( I was merely blond and hardworking) .We ate spaghetti together after work and soon had play dates with our kids ( although we didn’t think to call them that then)  and dates with our husbands. She has been one of my dearest friends for 25 years.
I still carry with me her nuggets of wisdom about budgeting  and making a good life out of a little income. But mostly I've learned about marriage.

In another world she would have been a CEO or CFO of corporate America.  Between her pregnancies she went back to school to get her bachelors degree. She got cancer instead.  She taught me paper towels are cheaper than napkins, the difference between thrifty and cheap and how to afford the  very fun things of life like the final four tickets they always seemed to get.  Kathy and Jeff started out young and poor. Two babies came before the first cancer two more after .Before she was forty she dealt with cancer a second time and her son was in  car accident that left him paralized. Life hasn’t turned out like they planned. 

 Kathy and Jeff are still married to each other. They have a good life. They are  one of the most handsome couples I know.  I still see that nineteen year old girl underneath the scars of life.  I still see that young carefree couple full of optimism and joy.  Most importantly I think they still see that in each other.  They teach me why it is good to have a partner to journey though this life with. When Kathy and Jeff were at their altar nearly thirty years ago they had no idea what they were signing up for. Life can be hard. Marriage can be hard.  Life usually turns out differently than we expect.  I think this is why we cry at weddings.  In the optimism and naivite, of love of the young say their "I do's". They have no idea they are signing up for. Jeff and Kathy didn't.  We sure didn't. But I'm glad we signed up.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Music in My Head

The silence in Toadstool park in remote western Nebraska was deafening. Aside from the gentle sounds of the height of summer there was perfect stillness. I remember it well although it was probably 15 years ago....How many places like this are left? How fortunate I am to find it. And remember it.

I love peace and beauty. The sounds and sights of nature and classical music are my usual source. The best way to set my spirit for the day is to slide a Bach or Mozart or St. Olaf Choir CD into the player. But I've noticed recently that I haven't been doing this for quite a while. I wondered why. Was it just laziness or hurried-ness?

 I crave silence. Whether on my mat at the end of yoga class, or on my deck on a summer day where the dappled sunlight reaches through the vines to my legs, or in my bed waking up on a slate blue winter morning as I watch the sky for the promise of dawn, ...and on and on. 

 As one who has been on one to many diets I remember how the taste of sweet is so very, very... well, sweet after doing without. I roll it over on my tongue. My palate notices and savors. And I think thats it. I have been privy to so much beauty that I need time to absorb it, to experience it, to roll it over in my soul so to speak. The Music is already there. The silence allows the hearing. And the savoring.

"Beautiful Nebraska, peaceful prairieland,
laced with many rivers, and the hills of sand,
dark green valleys cradled in the earth,
rain and sunshine bring abundant birth
Beautiful Nebraska, as you look around,
you will find a rainbow reaching to the ground.
all these wonders by the Master's hand,
Beautiful Nebraskaland.

We are so proud of this state where we live.
There is no place that has so much to give.

 Beautiful Nebraska, as you look around,
you will find a rainbow reaching to the ground.
all these wonders by the Master's hand,
Beautiful Nebraskaland"

by Jim Fras

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Weight of Love

I'm missing my "big kids". That would be my 26 and 27 year olds. My  "little girls" are with me. Little as in 23 and 24 years. But thats what we used to called them. The big kids and the little girls. Older of course is a relative term when a mere four and a half years seperates the first and last born.

We just had our first, very own, family reunion. Not a big crew mind you, just our little crew of the four core, two sons in law, and us old-ish folks. Nor was this a typical head back to the hometown or family farm type or assembly over the holiday table sort of thing. None of the typical gathering reasons or places.  This was Dallas. In July. And our reason was love.

Kate first floated the idea a few months back. Where and when evolved around the usual things like schedules and committments of all sorts. "Reply All" emails revealed one weekend this summer that would work. And we would meet in Dallas where the fewest airline tickets were need and we had willing hosts (  who just moved into a two bedroom home...can you say guest room?). What Kate kicked off, Anna and JohnMarshall ( the hospitable hosts) ran with. We booked our nearby hotel with a great swimming pool ( remember Dallas in July ).

And we gathered. Kate arrived first from Memphis, we Lincoln four arrived next, and by evenings end Christians flight made it in and we were together.
Someone who loves words like I do recently said that their ought to be a unique word in the english language to describe what a mother feels when her children are all gathered together. That that experience is like no other I can attest to.

What we did  (eat, talk, lay by the pool, eat, talk, decide where to eat, talk, play charades, talk) was not what I will remember. ( Well maybe charades). It was the  being.  Being comfortable flopped together on the giant bed/chairs by the pool, being in the room next to my sleeping daughter, being in Anna and John Marshalls house and having their presence seep in, being together as twos, and fives, and three as we went to starbucks, or back to the room, or to Mass. It was simple  presence, the being,  whether just sharing space or snuggling, or overhearing giggling or discussions about jobs ( especially those lawyer kids billing 200 hours a month), future plans and dreams.
And now I'm lonesome for all that.

Departure day as we waited for our rides Kate landed briefly on my lap  ( with a little encouragment from me). It was such a lovely and rare thing, an adult child on my lap. Although she doesn't weigh much, she was heavy!  But the weight of love is willingly born.

My mind is still stewing on that stil un-named word but my heart knows it well.  And part of that mother love is the price of love. And the price of love is the weight of love on our hearts. Or our laps. I'm game for it all.