The Beach Pail List

Imagine, if you will, all the milestone moments in a child’s life as a parent ushers that child from birth to adulthood, maybe even to parenthood. If you wrote down on a slip of paper every “normal” milestone, and a few extras thrown in for a heartier life experience, those pieces of paper would fill a child’s beach pail. Think of it as the reverse of an adult’s “Bucket List.” This Beach Pail List involves the events a parent will likely witness, all the rites of passage that will take place, from a first smile to a first step, from a first day of school to a first dance, all those moments up until that ultimate defining moment when a parent can cut loose the last apron string and hand over that beach pail to a son (or daughter), who is now himself (or herself) a parent.

I’ve been going through quite a few of those slips of paper in recent weeks. My youngest daughter will turn twenty-one in less than two months. This week she had her wisdom teeth removed, one of the last rites of passage of adolescence. I was talking with the dental nurse before the procedure, telling her that Brianna has three older sisters who have gone through this. Each sister had previously shared her story with Brianna, so much so that Brianna had fretted about this moment for several years. After the procedure, Brianna was relieved to find out it wasn’t as horrible as her sisters had made it out to be. And I was relieved to have one more “last time I do this” moment.

Having four daughters doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve done the same thing exactly the same way four different times. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that most of my Beach Pail List items were done four different ways. For example, each of my daughters learned to crawl and then walk. One crawled early and was walking at nine months. One crawled early but didn’t want to walk until much later. One crawled late, but walked soon after. One crawled late and then took a long time to walk. Each completed the two growth measurements, but each in her own way. And yet, I witnessed my four daughters crawl and walk.

Keeping with the metaphor, it’s been interesting watching that Beach Pail become less and less full, to the point now where there are just a few slips of paper left, just a few “normal” milestones left for Brianna to accomplish before society will consider her truly an adult. I thought I might be melancholy as the pail began to empty out, but that hasn’t been the case. I’ve actually been quite relieved. Perhaps it is the circuitous route that Brianna took to get to this point that brings such strong feelings of relief. Or maybe it’s that I’ve “been there done that” four times. No matter the why, with each slip of paper that is removed from the Beach Pail, I find a lessening of my parental obligations, a lifting of weight from my shoulders, my own “parental graduation” moment. It’s so liberating! So rewarding!

As I write this, I’m thinking of writing down all those milestone moments and putting them in a Beach Pail for my oldest daughter, the mother of two. If I do, I’m certain she will look at me suspiciously. “Trust me,” I will tell her. “You will feel so good when it’s empty.”

 

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Festering Thoughts

I learned a long time ago to write when I’m called to write. Some writers think I’m crazy and that I should write every single day no matter what. But I don’t prescribe to that belief. I don’t fret about a writer’s block and I’m not a “known” author with deadlines, so it’s a luxury that I write only when called. Some days I write for so long that someone has to remind me to stop and eat. And other times it might be days or weeks before I feel called to write.

 

I haven’t written many blog posts lately as I’ve been working on getting an eBook formatted and published and writing a second book. Life has been unusually busy too since about the beginning of May. We’ve had a lot going on. Those are the things that have been calling to me, so that’s where my focus has been. So I guess this is my attempt at an apology for not posting to this blog more often, and an explanation as to why I am posting now.

 

You see, for the last couple of days, something’s been gnawing at my mind and now it’s taken on a loud voice and I can’t ignore it. It doesn’t make sense, so I need to process through it and try to get rid of the nonsense.

 

It all started on Saturday evening when I attended my thirty-fifth high school class reunion. Yes, thirty-five years. How is that even possible? I have a daughter who will celebrate her twenty-ninth birthday in September. I look at her as a measurement of nearly thirty years and everything makes sense. But when I look back at the person I was in high school and the person I think I am today, it seems as though just a few short years have passed, not thirty-five.

 

I don’t want to be old—and for the record, I really don’t think I’m “old”—but I don’t want to be of high school age either. I’d gladly settle for early forties and just stay there for a while.

 

Attending my high school reunion was an exercise in feeling both old and young at the same time. It was interesting to catch up with people and find out what they are doing today, having known what their dreams were all those years ago. Some have gone in a completely different direction than they ever thought possible. Some are doing exactly what they set out to do. I loved hearing the stories of personal triumph and accomplishments. I admire those who are still married to their first spouse, and those who have found a second chance at love just recently. Being a writer, I am always fascinated by the personal stories of others. I enjoy hearing their stories and I enjoy sharing mine.

 

Yet, it was a bit frustrating to find some people at the class reunion gathering up into the same cliques that they traveled in during high school. One of the “in” crowd told me he felt pushed out by the others and wasn’t too happy about it. He said some things he is probably regretting now, along the lines of “It’s my ball and I’m taking it and going home.” I thought we had grown beyond that. I also thought we had left jealousy behind. I’m having trouble understanding how someone could congratulate me for recently publishing a book but then turn around and think poorly of me for talking about it. Just as that person is proud of what her children have accomplished and wanted to tell me about it, I am proud of having written a couple of books and wanted to talk about that. It was disheartening to realize the person thought I was bragging when I answered her questions about what I’m doing with my life. I was sharing my story and I wanted to hear her story. I wasn’t “bragging.” It is true that I just published an eBook, but also true is that I’ll be lucky to sell ten copies (and those will be purchased by my siblings and my daughters). It doesn’t make me any “more” than her, it’s just part of my life story. But perception is reality, right? If she thought I was bragging, then I was bragging even though I didn’t intend to do it and wasn’t aware that I was.

 

I am grateful that I reconnected with a few people who were sincere, who seemed to have moved on from their lives of seventeen and eighteen. Even so, I left the reunion feeling just as I had so many days in high school—not knowing where I belonged, not knowing where I fit in, questioning every thought in my head and every dream or goal I want to achieve. In many ways, I am still that lost young girl trying to find my way in the big, dark, scary world. “Don’t trust anyone older than forty,” we used to say. Well, everyone at the reunion was older than that.

 

All day yesterday and today I kept asking myself, why does this matter? Why am I spending time and energy thinking about what someone may or may not think of me, someone whom I haven’t seen in many years and may never see again? In the big scheme of things, why does it matter? So my thoughts are festering. I wonder where they will lead me.