The plans are falling into place for Herself's 25th high school reunion. There are events at the school itself, as well as dinner and post-dinner festivities at various locations throughout the metropolitan area of the school's city. Overall, I think she is looking forward to the trip, although making her way to the appointed locations in unfamiliar territory, at night using a rental car, will be a bit daunting.
I noticed a rather large upswing in Herself's anxiety regarding the reunion today when she learned of certain gatherings that will be available - in particular, two get-togethers that encompass the reunion class from the brother school to her all-girls school. She confesses that she is of very mixed emotions about attending those particular events. While she might like to attend, she will be need to step fairly outside of her comfort zone to do so.
Seeing her old classmates will be enjoyable, she thinks, for despite the difficulties she usually has with small talk, there are multiple standard questions available regarding children and careers, and reminiscences to be had about common experiences from years ago. She truly is interested in learning about the divergent paths that many of her classmates have taken over the years.
Eliciting conversation with the men that have grown from the boys she barely knew twenty-five years ago, however, is an entirely different matter. Never having particularly enjoyed dating or the "bar scene," and well aware of the significant difficulties she encountered in her limited experience in the high school dating arena, she imagines these functions will be much like the wretched high school dances - she will make her very best effort, and yet, no one will want to speak with her. The hardest part will be that she will be there by herself, without the security of her Beloved or her local friends, upon whom she can always rely to keep her company.
So why go? It's difficult to express. She says that in one small way she is looking for some of the validation that she never really received in high school. In other, bigger ways, though, it is a challenge for her. Can she do this? Does she have the confidence and the ability to go? Twenty-five years ago, the answer would have been a firm NO. Now, things are different. She is different, and she is glad for the changes.
She will have her safety net with her. It is woven out of the comfort she has in, and the love she has for, the people in her life now. Her Beloved, her Offspring, her taekwondo friends. They will be in her heart, and she knows that whatever happens at the reunions -- no matter how many or how few people talk with her, no matter how often or how rarely she sits alone -- she will be able to come home to them. Their invisible presence will make all the difference for her. And she is grateful.
Two weeks from today, Herself and I will be stepping onto a plane to make a pilgrimage north for her 25th high school reunion. I am eager to see Herself's old 'stomping grounds' and to learn a bit more about the places, and the people, of her formative years. For her part, she is a bit apprehensive.
High school - she has such mixed sentiments about it. The academics were outstanding, to be sure, and she is quite grateful for the knowledge she gained during those years. The social aspects, on the other hand, were fraught with the myriad complexities and difficulties that so many experience growing up.
She wonders, will she feel the same way she did back then when she sees her old classmates now? Will the passage of time have enabled her to view them more objectively? Will she realize, she should have been kinder? Less judgemental? More helpful? Less passive? More involved? Less worried about what others think of her?
Will she be able to put some of her old insecurities to rest for good? Or will she realize that she was, in fact, not a particularly good person or a particularly good friend, and have to come face to face with regrets?
It is that time of year again, when the air warms, the desert blooms, and Herself schedules her annual mammogram.
She knows that several of her life choices (exercising, watching her weight, avoiding alcohol, having her first child before the age of 30, and having nursed all of the Offspring as infants for significant lengths of time) have reduced her overall risk of breast cancer. All the same, she has that tiny fear that lurks in the back of every woman's mind in the interval between the mammogram itself and the receipt of the results. The concern is compounded in Herself's case by the recollection of the three (mercifully benign) breast lumps that she had removed many years ago. While the incidence of those benign lumps does not increase her risk of cancer, the memory of the surgeries is still enough to make her just a tiny bit more apprehensive.
It's quite a relief when the letter arrives in the mail - for any problem would have resulted in a phone call. For another year, she appreciates her continued bodily integrity. Once more, she is grateful for the presence of her bit of cleavage.
Now that this year's test is behind us, we can joke about the procedure itself. Herself quipped that given the way the technician manhandles her mammaries to position them properly in the machine, she should at least get dinner and a movie first. I racked my brain for every possible breast-related pun I could conjure, making quite a boob of myself in the process. It was quite titillating. (Terrible, I know.)
Go to your fields and your gardens, and you shall learn that it is the pleasure of the bee to gather honey of the flower, But it is also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee. For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life, And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love, And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy.
Offspring the third is being teased by a small group of his classmates. Tender and vulnerable, he is unable to shrug off their words and actions, but instead takes them to heart and comes home with tears of frustration welling in his fifth grade eyes. He has been quite brave, and most remarkably, he has exhibited significant self-restraint in not physically reacting to the situation.
His teachers and the school authorities are fortunately taking matters quite seriously. It is hoped (and expected) that the malfeasants will be corrected and the teasing will stop. I long to send a large, ominous, protective shield to school with him. I cannot conjure a patronus, alas. If only I had a land shark to help.
It has been a trying few days in the household. Two of the Offspring were afflicted with galloping gastrointestinal virus, and Herself was sleepless for two nights in a row - the first night offering consolation to Offspring the Third, who was most upset about vomiting on Easter eve lest he spend all of Easter being sick, and the second night keeping close watch on Offspring the first, who was quite ill indeed. While Herself felt faintly green, she mercifully did not develop any major symptoms and was able to look after the Offspring as needed.
Interspersed before and after caring for the ill and wretched were obligatory family events surrounding the holiday. These occasions were complete with the requisite noise and sensory-overloading egg-related activities. Herself worked hard to encourage proper behavior by certain family members who are prone to difficulty, and there were some intensive efforts to steer conversation away from certain unpleasant topics towards more desirable topics.
In addition, a follow-up visit to the doctor to monitor progress of her treatment plan for her ongoing, minor-but-irritating medical problem, turned into a 2 and a half hour wait to be seen. The fact that Herself did not burst into wracking sobs or run screaming through the halls of the doctor's office is a testament to both her patience and her determination to ensure that this issue is properly resolved. The good news was, the treatment is indeed working and healing progress is notable. She is permitted to resume all regular activities - if she can find the energy.
Today, Herself is feeling strung out and generally exhausted. She is behind on her work, she must pay the bills, and she is concerned that her efforts to sterilize the house will be insufficient and that other family members may still fall prey to the pathogens. Most of all, she is annoyed at herself for having moments of self pity and for not being more stoic.
A telephone conversation with her sister and e-mail exchanges with a couple of friends have bolstered her somewhat, and I am being supportive by lending my listening ears. I suspect that what she secretly wants most, though, is for someone to make her a piece of toast, brush her hair, and tell her that everything will be OK.
Last night, Herself kept watch at the sickbed of Offspring the third, who was wretchedly ill with gastrointestinal distress. He is slightly improved today and is resting sorrowfully on the couch, unable to enjoy his Easter basket. We hope he recovers quickly.
In the wee hours, Herself had time to reflect on different vigils of past Easters. Twenty years ago at the Easter Vigil in an ornate Catholic church in Philadelphia, Herself was baptised, confirmed, and received her first Holy Communion. She described to me the peace and happiness she found as she knelt before the altar, and there is no doubt that it was a blessed moment.
Since then, Herself has fallen away from the Catholic church. There have been a combination of factors at work: her dissatisfaction with the hierarchy of the church, and sorrow and anger at abuses perpetrated by some of the priesthood; the many inflexible, seemingly narrow-minded and sometimes contradictory rules and beliefs that it appeared necessary to follow in order to be considered a good Catholic; and most of all, the prevalence of a disturbing "my way or the highway" attitude towards non-Catholics and sometimes even towards other members of the congregation who did not perform as expected.
She recognizes that Catholicism, like other religions, provides structure, hope, joy and comfort that is useful and beneficial for many people. She admires those of strong faith. While she cannot in good conscience adhere to the tenets, Catholicism has nevertheless provided for her many of the pieces of her own personal faith that she still holds close to her heart.
How glorious it is to hope that all of our transgressions will one day be washed away, and that we will be made whole. The hurts that we have inflicted on one another will be absolved, and the failings and stumbling blocks that have prevented us from seeing one another clearly will disappear. There will be no more loneliness, no more sorrow, no more pain. All mysteries will be revealed. There will be joy.
Today, holiest of days, we are grateful for the gifts of forgiveness and love that have been bestowed upon us. We vow to try even harder to treat others as we would want to be treated, and to look after one another with patience and love. Thank You.
NinjaHead resides with a muffin-baking woman known herein as Herself. Herself has a Beloved Husband, with whom she shares three nearly-grown Offspring. When she is not writing Things, Herself nurtures a visceral fondness for small furry creatures. The household menagerie, which has varied in size and composition over the years, presently contains a minuscule middle aged chihuahua, a most mild-mannered senior chihuahua, and a very small hamster who, due to the prominence of his gonads, seems to need trousers for decency.