If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ve read the saga of my youngest daughter Brianna. She had a tumultuous adolescence and found herself on the wrong path too many times to count. Sadly, the police were involved a few times and more than once I escorted her to court. And one time—thank God it wasn’t more than once—I watched her get handcuffed and taken away after she had assaulted me.
None of my memories of those days are pleasant. In fact, when I walk through those memories I remember gray skies and everything in black and white. No color. No sunshine. I cannot begin to imagine how it feels for Brianna when she remembers.
About eighteen months ago, I started to see a change in Brianna. She had finally agreed to throw her abusive boyfriend out of her life. She started paying more attention to how she looked. She started eating healthy foods and started putting on some weight. (At age 18 she had weighed only 85 pounds.) And she made a plan to put closure on high school by taking the GED exam.
Of course, I did everything I could to encourage Brianna to take that exam. She bought a study book with practice tests and I promised to pay her back when she passed the tests. Our family tradition is to have a big open house to celebrate high school graduations, and Brianna asked if she could have a party to celebrate passing the GED. Yes! Of course! Two of Brianna’s uncles even chimed in and said they would come to her party with “bells on their toes.”
Shortly after that Brianna started seeing a new guy and I thought that would be the end of all the positive change. But to my surprise, the guy turned out to be a good guy and a positive influence. Brianna took the initiative and contacted the testing center. She set up a plan to take each of the five parts of the exam. And she studied.
Last August, she scheduled the first test date. When the day arrived, she was a wreck. She vomited several times and finally, sobbing, she called and canceled the appointment. I wrapped my arms around her and told her it would be okay. She was so disappointed in herself and so without hope. We talked several times in the following days and together we came up with some things she could do to keep her nerves from toppling her again. She scheduled another test date.
The day came and she was nervous, but in control. She took one of the tests and made an appointment to go back in two weeks to take two more of the tests. I could see the relief on her face that one test was behind her, but she couldn’t feel good about any of it until the phone call came about ten days later telling her she had passed the first test. She smiled. And color came back into our lives.
From September through to the middle of November, Brianna found the courage to take each of the tests. She dreaded math and science and saved those for last. She was so nervous that last day, but she did what she needed to do. In early December, the letter came in the mail. She had passed all of the tests. In fact, based on her test scores she was ranked in the top two percent in the nation. Who would have guessed that outcome?
The day she took the last test, I made a special dinner and bought a decorated cake to celebrate. Brianna reminded me that she wanted a party. I assured her we could do that, but we’d have to wait for the holidays to be over. It was just too hectic to plan that kind of party at that time of year.
Christmas came and went, and the new year dawned, followed by the long, cold, dark days of winter. Brianna never mentioned the party again and I thought perhaps she had changed her mind. Not so. This week the snow is gone and Brianna sees new life. She has plans to go to college in the fall and she wants her party. Okay, I promised a party and a party we’ll have.
But who will we invite? Or rather, who’s going to come? Brianna is going to be 21 in the fall. She hasn’t been part of a regular school setting since she was 16. All of the friends she had are long gone, and good riddance. But she has a vision in her mind of a big graduation party, just like the ones her sisters had. I’ll plan the party and it will be grand, but I’m scared that only five or six people will come.
I asked Brianna to write down a list of the people we can invite. She looked at me like a deer caught in headlights. “I don’t have any friends, Mom. You have to get your family to come!” Now I’m the nervous one. I thought about sending out a short letter with the invitations explaining how important this event is even though it’s well past the age to be having such a party. But that would be so humiliating and embarrassing for Brianna and probably not proper etiquette. Will my family understand how important this is, even though I can’t explain that to them? Will my two brothers remember the promise they made? Will it just be my husband and I and Brianna’s sisters?
I’m planning a party and praying for a miracle. I need a full house!