Category Archives: photos

Confessions of a Baby Boomer Mom – Time Passages

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Our elders are leaving us.  Slowly, slowly one by one. We are reluctant to let them go. They’ve given us so much but selfishly we want more. More time together, more memories to make. Some of them left us too young but some have braved this life for more than 90 years and we know they are tired. They have pulled us through good and bad, through war and peace. Their love for us is deep and true. We know all that but it does not lessen the pain.

When we came into their lives they were as young and as idealistic as we once were not so long ago. They had their dreams and hopes. They were scared and unsure too but they moved forward.  Growing families, working jobs, buying homes, nurturing. In time their work was all for us. Their hopes and dreams were for us. They wanted to build a life that was better for us. A life full of opportunity. A safe haven, material comforts, an education. I am not sure what they wanted for themselves and when I was young, I never asked. With such a large brood of children, it was easy to put their own lives aside.

We loved them and we fought against them and then we came running back. We often missed their fear or their flaws and struggles in the egotistical glow of youth. We were certain we knew so much more then them. We were children of the 50’s and 60’s, a time of such human upheaval that they could not possibly understand what our lives were like. We didn’t stop to listen to what wisdom they might have for us. Oh baby it’s a wild world. How sweet and naive we thought their concerns were. The world was different now, they could not possibly cope. We forgot they fought in devastating world wars. We forgot they lived through the Great Depression. We forgot they lived through the Civil Rights Movement which forced them to rethink everything their own parents had taught them.

But now the tables have turned. Now we are the older ones although when they were our age we thought they must be so old. I did not appreciate age. Now that they have made it into their 90’s we can understand what age truly is. Now we appreciate what they were doing. Now we know what their lives were like. Now we understand that hopes and dreams do not disappear with age but grow and change. They are just as strong. Learning never finishes. Dreams don’t die. At the age I am now, my mother flew across country to spend a month with her first grandchild. My aunt decided to learn to play piano. Now we want their advice.  Now we can see the strength and joy of those lionhearted loved ones as they struggle with their fragile bodies. Now we want their lessons, we want their wisdom and we want to become young again. To savor the things they had tried to give us when we were so young and naive. To curl ourselves into their loving arms.

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Now our own children have grown. We try to tell them our lessons, our wisdom and sometimes they listen but they must go their own way too. Such is the circle of life. Many of us are celebrating weddings and new births. Some of us are grandparents. I am soon to become a mother in law. Time passages. We can only hope for a full life of more than 90 years. The time has flipped on us. Now we are the caretakers. We worry over them, what they eat, how they feel. It is our turn to step up and give back what they have given to us. And watch, and listen and learn. They are teaching us how to walk into that sunset. With a head held high and no regrets for being the flawed, fragile, amazing humans that we are. They have taught us well. They have taught us how we take care of each other and I am so proud of how well these venerable souls have been cared for by my siblings, my cousins, my peers.

In many traditions, the elder is the symbol of wisdom and esteemed respect but sadly in our western culture, age is not as revered as in other cultures. We try to fight age with medicines and surgeries and hair dye. Youth or even the suggestion of it is prized beyond belief. As a culture we are often in awe at what an elder might possibly achieve. How great is our hubris to believe that innovation can only happen with youth?  How is it that the tender age of 40 or 50 should be considered over the hill? At that age we have not even reached the summit.

Now we bear witness to true age; it’s wisdom, it’s grace, it’s ravages we cannot escape. We don’t realize how very lucky we are to have had these amazing elders bring us into this world and pass our entire lives with us. The measure of pain at their leaving is only exceeded by the level of pride we have that we are their children. We are their family. It’s what they have always wanted for us and for themselves. They should be so proud of their legacy and the love they leave behind. Thank you, dear ones. Godspeed.

Confessions of a Baby Boomer Mom – Graduation Day

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June is the month to celebrate graduation. Young adults in their late teens and early twenties are finishing their education in high school or college and Commencement Ceremonies are happening across the nation. Caps and gowns in a rainbow of colors are worn by students, faculty and staff don gowns and wild headgear that represents their various degrees and march with banners and poles in an age old ritual that could rival those of the mythical, magical school of Hogwarts. The strains of Pomp and Circumstance reverberate in the meeting halls  and open arenas in every city and town. It’s Graduation Day.

Two years ago on a windy Saturday, my youngest child, my daughter graduated from college. Her brother had walked in his own college ceremony five years earlier. The emotion this ritual evokes cannot be minimized. We are proud, so very proud, we are hopeful, we are gratified, we are relieved. We have given our children the opportunity to achieve that which can never be taken from them and they have risen to the challenge. The flowers, the balloons, the gifts, the parties are all expressions of our collective gratitude in that august piece of paper. Our children have earned a college degree.

I have worked in a community college as an academic advisor for over 14 years and yesterday was graduation day. I have always loved this day, have always been a fan of pomp and ceremony, of dressing up in ceremonial gowns (although not so much of a fan of the mortarboard caps!) and of celebrating this special day with my students. I am fortunate that the population I work with are also graduating from high school and are still young and idealistic. Although many have experienced adversity beyond their tender years, they have their whole lives ahead of them.

What stands out more for me on this day are the other students that comprise a community college population. Adults who have overcome addictions or homelessness to earn a degree that will lead them to a different life. Students from broken homes. Students who dropped out of high school at an early age and then returned to finish that diploma. Students who have committed crimes and have paid their time to society and are now clawing their way back to peace and respectability. Students who are children of immigrants or indeed immigrants themselves who have tried to navigate a foreign language and foreign customs to make a better life for themselves and their families.  Students who have come from violence, from loneliness, from neglect. Students who have studied in the late night after working a full time job then coming home to put their children to bed. So much need and support to get to this place. And yet, get there they did. The hope and happiness in the air at graduation ceremonies is palpable energy. The pride and joy of the students and their families. The utter relief to have gotten to this point.The huge smiles and fist pumps in the air as they walk across the stage.

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I was on that stage myself more than once. I hit the age of 35 with 2 small children and no marketable skills after a decade of pursuing my dream of an acting career.  I had a hard working husband but the fact remained that any circumstance of life could leave me the sole caretaker of these two young people and I was woefully unprepared. Going back to school was not an easy decision. I almost gave up after I met with an advisor and realized what a very long road I had in front of me. But that wise person changed my life. When I bemoaned that I would be in my mid forties before I finished my degree, he reminded me that I would most likely get to my mid forties anyway so why not have have the degree when I do get there. So I persevered. Perhaps I feel such an affinity to so many of those walking the stage yesterday because I was that mom doing homework late at night after I put my kids to bed. I was studying my note cards while sauteing meat for dinner. I was bookmarking my latest assignment so I could supervise the bath or read the bedtime story. But like those jubilant students yesterday, I was not alone. When I walked that stage 15 years ago, my children with there, my husband too. My brothers and sisters. My mom. Friends gathered at my home to celebrate with me. It really does take a village.

I am grateful that I can pay it forward as an advisor because that long ago advisor was right. I did make it to 45 and I had my degree. The joy I felt yesterday in watching my “kids” walk across that stage knowing that in some way I inspired them was lovely. The joy and pride I felt when my own two children walked across their respective stages knowing that I had supported them and maybe inspired them when they saw me do the same 15 years ago was priceless.

Graduations ceremonies are aptly called Commencement. I like that word. Rather than an ending, it suggests a beginning, a time to commence to the new phase of life, whatever that might be. Education is a gift to oneself that no one can ever take away from you. Happy Graduation to all those making that walk this month. That is something to celebrate.

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Confessions of a Baby Boomer Mom – Ode to a Refrigerator

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Confessions of a Baby Boomer Mom – Ode to a Refrigerator

Our fridge finally died. Not all at once but slowly as if leaving us was something it was reluctant to do. One day the bread in the freezer was no longer frozen. The milk went bad long before it’s time. The rattle and loud hum of its motor could no longer be ignored. This refrigerator had been with us for 23 years. It was the first one we bought for this our first house. It’s the only appliance in all of those years that has not been changed. It could be now be called a plain old outdated fridge but when we bought it, it was shiny and new. As the years passed, this fridge became somewhat of a monument as it amassed our colorful family history on its doors.

It started with the magnets. We collected them from places we had visited or from friends who visited us from far off places and brought us a tiny piece of art from their part of the world. Over the years those magnets began to hold many things. First it was bills or appointment reminders but soon pictures began to appear under those little gems. The initial photos were of our children. Baby pictures, toddler poses. First grade and school photos, little league team shots. Halloween costume pictures, family Christmas cards. The gallery continued to grow as we added school pictures of nieces, nephews and cousins. Photos and postcards from trips, school events, family outings. BBQ’s, proms, weddings. Pictures of loved ones no longer with us. Graduation photos.

The refrigerator held this historical account of our family history steadfastly for many years. It held awards and letters. It held drawings and cards. It had times when it was somewhat empty and other times when it was full to bursting. It held the humble evening meal or the extravagant birthday party cake. Today on Cinco de Mayo, I reflect on how much guacamole and Pacificos that good fridge chilled. The many feasts and holiday meals it held in its spacious hold. It had been opened and pulled at a thousand times by tiny hands that became grown up hands and adult hands that now have age spots and wrinkles. All of that lively scenery on the surface took our eyes away from the rough and peeling handles. It detracted from the seal that was not quite sealing anymore. Finally we had to admit that this humble appliance had lasted far beyond what had been expected of it. People gasp in surprise when we tell them how long this fridge has lasted. It was time to purchase a new refrigerator.

The delivery day approached and we knew we had to remove the 23 years of history attached to that fridge. As we took down each magnet and each photo we paused to laugh or remember that moment captured in time. It was like a ritual and much like a prayer. We could not do it all in one day because the memories that were evoked were almost overwhelming. We had to savor them.

Some photos had been there so long they had to be peeled off the surface. But finally we were done. There was a barrenness left from all of those memories. There were random dark outlines like photo negatives that reflected the echoes of times past. In an effort to perhaps prove that he was not done yet, the fridge began his final days with an energy surge. The ice in the freezer was frozen again. Drinks were cold, vegetables were crisp. But we knew he had gone above and beyond his duties and now it was his turn to rest.

We have a shiny new fridge now. It stands proud in its strength and its youth. But it doesn’t hold memories close like our old fridge did. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe in the end, a fridge is just a tool to make our lives comfortable and our food safe. Maybe it’s not right to romanticize a large inanimate object. But therein lies the magic. All of our photos and bits and pieces of living brought that refrigerator to life or the closest it would ever get to being alive. And that is a beautiful thing.

Thank you, dear friend. Rest now. Your work is done.