There was deep gratitude in our garden Sunday night. All the people who love her were there to celebrate. Never quite sure who was coming, each time the front door opened, a new face of someone who played an enormous role in one aspect of her life entered into our space of celebration. There were spirits who helped her through her education, her athletics, or just those who helped her grow into a fabulous young woman. The common thread? Smiles. There were smiles everywhere, and with each I felt a shudder of deep gratitude run down my spine. I realized how the creation of a life of meaning takes so many of us, so many spirits contributing to molding, nurturing, and forming the young woman we are celebrating.
There was deep gratitude as I remembered the hours of planning and preparation by my family to celebrate her graduation. The menu was thought out well in advance, created to please her with all her favorite flavors. The house was cleaned, the decorations purchased, and the garden tidied. The young boys strung twinkle lights, raked leaves, and scrubbed garden chairs. My sister arranged patio furniture and hung hand made balloon masterpieces. My niece and her boyfriend clipped endless snapshots to jute string to decorate a blank wall. Her best friend gracefully decorated vanilla cupcakes with the precision of a trained baker. My mom, in command of it all, moved from garden to kitchen without forgetting the smallest of details.
I was there, too, scanning my memories, fighting back tears of joy and sadness. Maps of important places were juxtaposed amidst adventure quotes to decorate the tables. I thought about all the journeys we’ve taken together since her birth, and the adventures she will have without us. Deep gratitude rose up as her girlfriends asked for Sharpies to calculate the miles that would separate them in college, their scribbles of loyalty became manifestation of the changes soon to come.
As darkness fell and the kids gathered around the fire pit, there was deep gratitude, again, for friendships. Children I’ve watched for a dozen years are now ready to take their life lessons to task. Friendships of women who have helped me navigate the challenges of motherhood. Families who have enveloped her with love and shown her that it isn’t only blood that ties us together. Friendships of those last to leave, relaxed into their chairs, faces lit by candlelight, and recalling the deep gratitude for girls who survived the crises of adolescence together as we sipped champagne and cherished the last moments, knowing it could be years before we all gather again.
My dear friend Dawn Wink writes of her life’s journey as searching for a ‘rainbow between storms‘, and as I think about my own travels through motherhood, I find solace in her metaphor. Graduation, growing up, and going away to college are the rainbows all parents hope for, but they don’t come without a bit of struggle. But it is the deep, deep gratitude that I feel now more than anything – gratitude for her life, for friends and family, for achievements, and for possibilities yet to come.