The Storm Clouds of Life


I was fortunate to have been born with a happy spirit.  My early childhood was not idyllic, but I was blessed with parents who loved me and the pleasures of growing up in a peaceful rural area of the Northeast.  Adolescence was agonizing for me; I was chubby, socially awkward,  and “bookish” — not exactly prime dating material.  My greatest dream was to be happily married and have children of my own; I thought all I had to do was be a good wife and good mother and things would fall together perfectly — and then real life happened.

As do many senior citizens, I look back now on my life and treasure the good memories — and there were many.  I am also aware of the sad memories, the storm clouds, which had a huge impact on my life.  We all experience both great pleasure and great sorrow in our years on this earth — it is the yin and yang of our existence.   Even now, as we reach the years when we can slow down and our responsibilities are not as demanding, there are storms we must walk through — family strife, illness, financial problems.  

I find that it is much easier to walk through these storms with the help of friends.  By the time we reach these “golden years,” it is especially important to find pleasure in the company of friends our own age.  We all have our stories to tell, and problems to ponder.  Somehow there is a comfort in hearing a friend say, “I know exactly what you are going through,” or to have someone hold your hand and listen to your story with compassion.   Our children have busy lives of their own, and they find our memory lapses annoying and don’t have the time to listen patiently as we repeat ourselves in conversations.  

Friends are important throughout our lives, but I believe that in our later years, they become vital to our well-being.   Their lives may have been very different from ours, and their problems may not be the same as ours, but we can offer each other the gift of time — time to listen, time to care, and time to laugh together.   We will experience wonderful days as we age, but there are always storm clouds just over the horizon.  Friends can celebrate the wonderful days, and hold on to us tightly as we navigate our way through the storms.

I am reminded of a favorite quote from an unknown source:

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”


As Summer Wanes


Today is Labor Day; even though summer isn’t officially over for another two weeks or so, for me Labor Day marks the end of summer.  Already, the garden has begun to wind down — the hydrangeas that were such a pristine white last month are on their way to becoming the dusty rose of autumn.  The petunias which hang by the front walk are quickly losing their summer vigor, and the milkweed is bursting open its silken seeds.  

As a child I was conflicted about this day;  while I dreaded the first day of school, I was also excited about trading my summer shorts for the skirts and dresses newly hung in the closet.  Autumn seemed to be the best of times — weather warm enough to play outside comfortably, but not too hot, countless brightly-colored leaves to rake and jump into or merely press into a book, and the anticipation of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas .

I feel much the same today as a sixty-something grandmother.  While I have enjoyed my garden, waking to early morning light and birdsong, watching darkness fall, filling the sky with stars, and the delicious taste of a fresh tomato with a sprig of basil, I also look forward to cooler days, trees aflame with color, soups simmering on the stove, and snuggling into cozy, warm sweaters.


On Friday I brought out my autumn decorations — swags of colored leaves, wine baskets with grapevines woven here and there, ceramic gourds, pumpkins, and my lovely little turkey gravy boat which will grace my sideboard until Thanksgiving.  The weekend has been perfect, with deeply blue skies, cool breezes and plenty of sunshine.  I have savored every moment.  This afternoon I prepared a potato salad to complement our grilled burgers tonight, and a chocolate cake is cooling on the counter.  We will have our last picnic of summer tonight.

On Wednesday, my grandchildren will go back to school.  My youngest, Emma, will begin kindergarten, and my days will be much more free.  For the first time in nine years, I will not have a little one to care for during the day.  I will drop my older granddaughter, Alivia, off at school in the morning, and have the day to myself until time to meet Luke and Emma at the bus stop in late afternoon.   With the coming of autumn this year will also come a change in my lifestyle.  I have loved every minute I have spent with my grandchildren, but I will also love having time now to pursue other interests.  Time is very precious, and for the first time in many, many years, I will have the gift of free time.  

This Labor Day ushers in both a new season and a new phase of my life.  The days ahead beckon to me with plans and ideas for projects and pleasures.  I will have more time to spend with friends, maybe join a writing group, return to the genealogy research I began before my grandchildren were born — my days will be a blank slate to fill with the things I enjoy.  And I definitely plan to enjoy this gift of time to the fullest.