I went to a friend’s birthday dinner party a few days ago – a surprise event for her, and a wonderful time for us to relax over wine and good food. I can’t say how many times I’ve been to her home, or how many times she’s been to mine; it’s almost fifteen year’s worth of birthday cakes, New Year’s Eve toasts, Halloween treats, and casual coffees. But it struck me that this birthday wasn’t just another in a long line of celebrations. The world has changed a great deal since I first saw her blow out the candles…
-her children were preschool and elementary learners; I had one in preschool and one in diapers.
-she lived just down the street from me in a turn of the century Victorian.
-both of her parents were alive and well, as were mine.
-holidays and vacations brought the whole family together.
-two of her children are in college, one already beyond it; I have a college freshman and a high school freshman.
-she now lives at the beach a few miles out of town.
-both her parents have died, as has my father.
-it’s nearly impossible to get the whole family together.
We are beyond the intensive child raising years. We don’t have weekends full of recitals and sporting events, and we can enjoy a glass of wine at the end of the work day. The world has changed, and our place in it has changed. It’s a renewal of who we are, a different role that brings an appreciation for all the blessings we have lived into and grown out of. It’s also a letting go of who we have been.
I don’t think these changes are about loss as much as about renewal. This isn’t the same as rewind, for no life goes backward. But it is about the grace that unfolds as my friends and I step aside to let our children take on adult roles and responsibilities, and step into whatever the future holds.
What will this renewal mean for me and my friend? I can’t really say, but if the past is any indication it will be full of grace. It’s a new world – a birthday of a different sort, but definitely worth a cake and candles.