The weather has been fierce this weekend, bringing torrential rains and powerful winds. While we were out of the house, running some errands yesterday, the wind ripped the canvas canopy right off the gazebo on our deck! Oh, well. We needed a new one anyway and I found a replacement online a while ago. I just never ordered it because we didn’t need a new one that desperately.
June is graduation season though, and I was feeling bad yesterday for those whose parties were scheduled for this weekend. Our neighbor, Maria was celebrating her high school graduation yesterday afternoon. Maria’s brother, Luke graduated three years ago with Kacey. His party was the same weekend as Kacey’s. I remember that weekend well. We had a Friday evening celebration at our house and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Then came Saturday and it rained steady and heavy for two days straight. Luke and many of Kacey’s friends had to improvise on their outdoor party plans while the rain refused to let up. Maria’s mom reminded me that her oldest son, Charlie’s graduation party five years ago took place in the rain as well.
We lucked out weather-wise with all three of our kids’ graduation parties. But this is Minnesota, and the weather can be unpredictable. Any outdoor celebration has to include shelter, either from the hot sun or in case of rain. That’s why most outdoor graduation parties here are centered in the garage and include a few portable canopies set up around the yard.
The weather didn’t put a stop to Maria’s party, although the wind took out the large canopy that had been set up in her family’s back yard. The rain couldn’t keep guests from coming to celebrate with the guest of honor. We all just squeezed into the garage or house. And we had fun! Graduation parties like Maria’s give us a chance to reconnect with old friends. Many of us in this neighborhood have children of similar ages. We were all so tight when the kids were little, coordinating play dates and keeping in close touch. But as the kids grew up, as they tend to do, they expanded their interests and circles of friends. Our kids sometimes moved in different directions, and without the play dates to keep us in touch, we parents connected less as the years went by.
I love the photo collages at graduation parties and seeing the timeline of a graduate’s life. Maria had photos galore and a digital slide show too. I clearly remember when Maria’s parents and two brothers welcomed the addition of a sweet baby girl to their family. I remember that Brooks and Dunn’s version of My Maria was Maria’s mom’s favorite song back then. And now that “little” girl is heading off to college! Her photo memories were filled with pictures of her with her friends, family and many of the kids from the neighborhood. They made me smile and brought back memories of my own. They made me marvel at how quickly she seems to have grown up and reminded me how fast time passes us by.
And we got to reconnect with old friends. Even though our kids have grown up and gone in different directions, we all remain connected. We all seem to be tied to a larger circle of people in some way. Many of Maria’s friends’ parents have other children who went to school with or played sports with our kids. The weave of relationships grows larger as the years pass by, yet keeps us connected even as we move on to the next phases of our lives.
With the heavy rain and chill in the air, I didn’t think we’d stay at the party long. But we encountered so many old friends and neighbors, we were there for hours. Hugs were exchanged. We listened to each others’ stories and caught up on the goings-on in everyone’s lives. We talked about our kids – their experiences, good and bad with college. We talked about upcoming marriages, and the loss of one of our friends last week at a much too young age. We talked about figuring out how to adjust our lives as our kids move out of childhood and on to lives of their own. We comforted each other with shared experiences as our parents grow older. There was so much conversation inside the three-car garage, it was sometimes hard to hear. But what struck me most was the genuine warmth in the eyes and smiles of our friends and neighbors as we reconnected again. Many of the people we saw have moved out of our daily lives since our kids left grade school, or since their sports teams played their last games, yet we conversed as comfortably as if we saw each other daily. The laughter we shared and the closeness we felt reminded me that even though we no longer see each other on a regular basis, we’ll always have those moments in time to bring us back together when we happen to cross paths again.
The sun eventually peeked out from behind the clouds and the rain subsided long enough for the crowd of guests to find some breathing room, meandering out into the driveway and front yard. Evening was closing in by then. It was time for us to be on our way.
I rarely regret growing older. Times and celebrations like these only further remind me that growing older, though it has some pitfalls, also has so many rewards. Congratulations to Maria. My wish for her and for every graduate is that they’ll enjoy the days and years ahead and feel the same rewards of time as I feel right now. Life is a gift. Make the most of it!