I had a busy week this week doing a lot of socializing and catching up. Once upon a time, a long time ago I was involved in High School theater. We had a foreign exchange student from Amsterdam who joined us backstage.
The theater bunch in high school was pretty tight. We all spent whatever spare time we had hiding out in the theater shop. We were also, many of us, involved with band and/or choir – which meant pep rallies and marching band. There were days when I would get to school before 6am and not leave again until after midnight.
Many of us have stayed in the area and stayed in touch. This week we had the honor of being visited by our dear Dutch friend! The opportunity for a reunion was enough to get a few of our out of state friends to fly in as well.
I didn’t participate in all of the activities, but we did have a lovely get together and reminiscence on Monday evening. Many of us also got dolled up to go swing dancing at the Wabasha Caves on Thursday.
In addition to all of the walking down memory lane I managed to acquire the grandpuppy for the weekend. She needed some walking as well!
Another friend (this one more recent) remembered she’d bought tickets to a water lantern festival. She was going to be out of town and offered the tickets up. Different group this time, but still connecting with friends and being out and about.
I’m really grateful for the opportunities this week. Besides the public transitions of John McCain and Neil Simon there are also several others happening both in my family circle and for other close friends and their families. It’s nice to have a distraction, and to be able to share memories.
One of the hardest things with loss is that the person who dies takes your shared memories with them. That’s true with divorce, with breaking up a friendship, and especially true when a good friend or close relative dies. Getting together with my high school bunch helped me to remember, and also made me appreciate how we share those memories.
The water lantern festival (in it’s non-culturally appropriated form) is also an opportunity for remembrances. Both of the friends I attended with took the opportunity to acknowledge the people they have lost on their lanterns. I am grateful as well for the opportunity to make new memories and cultivate new friends.
We went to a family wedding this weekend. I’m at that age where I really appreciate “weddings and funerals” as an opportunity to get together with the extended family, the relatives I don’t see very often. Even at these events people tend to cluster with their “immediate” families. Still, it’s nice to see how everyone is doing, aging, and whose kids (the names I can’t keep track of) are now grown.
This wedding was particularly special. On my Mom’s side of the family I’m the oldest of the girl cousins, and Becci is the youngest. Additionally our families have been close. We used to camp together growing up. My Mom and my Aunt would plot to sneak the leftover marshmallows into the other one’s camp kitchen to take home. S’more’s are essential camp food with kids, but neither family had any real use for marshmallows in their day-to-day lives.
My Mom is the oldest girl in her family and my Uncle the youngest. Their age difference is about the same as mine to my Uncle. That’s about the same difference as between me and my cousin. That’s about the same difference as between my cousin and my daughter. Becci is getting married in her 30’s. She’s breaking the chain. But waiting for “Mr. Right” seems to have held her in good stead.
The wedding was particularly well attended. Both the bride and groom come with large extended families. Both of them also have a presence in their small town communities. People have watched them grow up, build careers, and wished them well throughout their lives. It was a nearly impossible task to keep the guest list numbers down.
Those of us who’ve had weddings know there are a certain number of invitations that get sent out with the expectation that those people will never come. They are invitations that are necessary to send, as announcements or because of an obligation of manners. People spread out in our society and traveling 3 hours, 6 hours, 9 hours, 12 hours, days “just for a wedding” gets expensive. However, for Becci and Caleb people were willing to do just that. There were so many responses they had to change the wedding venue. Instead of getting married in the church where her Uncle preaches, Becci got married in the Auditorium of the High School where her brother teaches music. They filled the seats!
It was a beautiful event. They did a lovely job decorating the space. The service was personal and joyful. The caterers served good food to nearly 500 people and everyone ate in less than 1 ½ hours. (We tended to have meals in town at the restaurant that catered the event.) The DJ’s did a good job with the music and Orion got to dance with the bride. I even danced a little!
Being in Wisconsin, we even had time between the wedding and the reception to sneak over to the bar. There is nothing like fresh fried cheese curds for an afternoon snack! Wisconsin beer, however, is off my menu post the bariatric surgery.
As Orion so eloquently told everyone the next morning, “I have nothing but love in my heart for the newlyweds!”
I grew up hearing “We only seem to get together at weddings and funerals.” Now I’m at an age where I truly appreciate how weddings, funerals and this last weekend christenings do provide an opportunity to bring people together.
The grandparents of one of my daughters best friends from childhood died in a fire Thanksgiving weekend. They were also neighbors and the kids spent many summers playing in their pool. The funeral provided many glimpses into they dynamics of “old friends.”
The girls are at an age where they are just starting to move away from the people they’ve grown up with. They are off at school or starting their careers. They’re no longer spending the day together and then rushing to text or talk again on the phone as soon as they are apart. They make a point to check in over holiday weekends, “When are you coming home for winter break?”
Several of their close childhood friends took different roads. They’ve already lost touch or “stopped speaking” to each other, which often means unfriending on Facebook. It’s not that the gossip ring isn’t still active. We still hear that this girl has gotten engaged or that one has a new college boyfriend.
The Mom of one of the girls my daughter is “no longer speaking to” said, “I miss having the girls over. At my new apartment I have never found rock hard marshmallows under the cushions.” My daughter said it was really nice to see her friend’s Mom and that she would have been happy to just smile and wave at the friend. But she also noted that having her friend come over and chat was almost like when they were kids. “She was nice to me again. (Probably because her boyfriend wasn’t there.)”
The grandparents who died had lived in the neighborhood over 50 years. So has my neighbor across the street. She was very sad. For her this is the end of an era. They weren’t necessarily close friends but they lived in a time when everyone knew their neighbors and counted on them. They have been old friends. I suppose I am too. I’ve lived across the street for 20 years. We talk at the mailbox. Maybe I should stop in and invite her to go for a walk.
The christening was for the son of one of the boys I used to babysit for when I was a teen. I did ‘summer in-home day care’ along with almost every other Friday night. My sister would sub for me when I was busy. The Mom was one of my mother’s best friends. They grew up and I went off to college but would occasionally find an excuse to spend the day together. Lost track of them when I started having kids and they went away for college.
I’ve kept in touch with the older brother over the years, although it’s definitely a long distance relationship. I’ve reconnected fairly recently with the younger brother and his wife. Picking up right where we left off. Haven’t seen the Mom and her new husband in at least 20 years.
With the new baby my Mom and their Mom had an excuse to reconnect. A congratulatory phone call was made. Photos were sent with a letter in the mail. There’s a lot of water under the bridge, but they’re still old friends. Me too. I sat with the family at the christening. Grandma handing me her camera to take a picture introduced me as an old friend of the family and a newly published author. We’re old friends.
The boys embrace me into the family as well. Their partners treat me like the favorite auntie. They all brag on our old friendship and tell me they are ever so grateful that I could attend. I’m the one who’s grateful. I’m lucky to have so many old friends. I just wish I’d get to see them more often than at weddings and funerals and christenings and reunions. 🙂