Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Defining Stage Right

You can judge your age by the amount of pain you feel when you come in contact with a new idea.

Pearl S. Buck

I have utilized the word Midlife in my blog handle even though I’ve never truly thought of myself as middle-aged. As I flirt with menopause, and the diet and exercise I exert don’t seem to send me to the lower size rack at the department store, my mind seems the same as when I was 28.

Each step of my children’s lives – from the morning I pushed them out of my womb to the afternoon I dropped them at the doors of the high school or college - have served to hit me square in the face that I'm getting older. I’ve not paid attention. Until now.

A few Friday nights ago at the lake, my oldest son Jacob, and his girlfriend, Chelsea, found me huddled in bed with a book. My husband came in and we all talked about this and that. Out of the blue, Jacob said, “I asked Chelsea to marry me tonight.”

That they wanted to share this significant moment on THE NIGHT made both my husband and I cry. That they have adored each other since junior year of high school, throughout college and beyond only made the next step logical and timely. Not to mention romantic. We toasted with the little red wine we had left in the house and sat on the bed talking for another hour or more.

Despite knowing the happiness and the significance of the moment, I couldn’t help the ache rising in my heart. An ache I didn’t quite understand.

The next day, I plopped my middle-aged ass in the hammock and hammered out my thoughts into my journal.

I was more than angry with myself. I banged at the frustration that I always slow down and take a side step, with a pang of puzzlement, to figure out what everything means. Then my mind clicked. My ache didn't exist because my son was getting married, rather because he couldn’t get married and begin a life with someone other than his dad and me. He was only born last week.

I lived my youth, got an education, a vocation, a partner, had children, bought a house, made 100’s of meals, and then before I knew it, my children grew taller than me. The growing passed so quickly. So quietly. Life seemed so easily defined and, now, I no longer know where I'm heading.

No longer am I at the front of the stage. The curtain isn't closing in front of me. Maybe just a fine sheath of mist before me from where I will watch the next generation, and exit stage right to do whatever comes next. It's not like I no longer have a part. It's just not a starring role - in that role. Does that make any sense?

Oh, how I hate all this redefinition.

This one's easy, though. Mother of the groom? Wear beige and keep my mouth shut. Right?

We love Chelsea. She knows all our faults and still likes us. With great love, our family offers a wide open stage.

I love thee, I love but thee
With a love that shall not die
Till the sun grows cold,
And the stars grow old...

William Shakespeare


  1. Stop it. You've made me cry now too, and I'm quite sure it's not the Darvocet. That was a lovely post, Jules. Truly heartrending. I'm so happy for Jacob and Chelsea.

    Of course, I know exactly what you mean about redefining. I've been trying to do the same, as you know, for a few years now. It has gotten somewhat easier, since I dropped one of my big problems (D-Man), but I'm not sure I'm any more directed than I was before.

    In any case, congratulations to you and Bob and to the happy couple, and I look forward to the wedding. I'll bring lots of handkerchiefs.

  2. Congratulations to your family! You didn't lose a son, you gained a daughter! :)

  3. First Congratulations to Jacob and Chelsea. I think it says quite a lot about your relationship with your son and future daughter-in-law that they wanted to share their special moment with you and your husband so soon after it happened. As for not being center stage anymore - I disagree. Now you get to be center stage in your own life. Not as a mom to your kids. Your time is NOW. You get to be the star. Shine brightly. The world is your oyster!

  4. Oh my, you captured "that" feeling we all have when our children grow up and out of the house. We look forward to their independence; we welcome it; yet...

    If we didn't feel torn, we would be too simple, too one dimensional.

    And yes, we are no longer the principal player in our children's drama. We have to stand behind the curtains, come out to clap at their accomplishments, mend the curtains and the custumes for them and be their confidante when they choose to talk to us.

    I know how all that feels. And you'll survive this stage and look forward to the next.

    Glad you stopped in to visit me and leave such sweet-smelling flowers. Thank you.

  5. Thanks for that engaging and honest look at one of life's beautiful, yet painful occurances--birth, the birth of a new stage of life.

  6. I almost got a little teary reading this.
    Mine are still little, and as I make my hundreds of meals I try (oh I try!) to savor the moments. I KNOW, like you say, one day I will turn around and they will be taller than me.
    Thanks for writing this post.

  7. was reading your side bar and I just finished The Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. LOVED it.

  8. Congratulations! It's wonderful that your daughter-in-law will be someone you know well and love.

    This is a beautiful description of the changing of your life and your contradictory feelings. Thank you for sharing.

  9. I can only echo the other commenters - you captured beautifully the ambivalence and acceptance that we have to face as parents.

    You made me cry too.

  10. Lovely! Congratulations to you's so wonderful to have a family that shares so much. A great testimony to you and your husband for sure!

  11. I ended up getting late to work but luckily had no makeup on while reading this wonderful writing. You captured it all, the beauty and the bittersweet. Thank you for the glimpse into (I hope) my future. Joyous congrats to the young couple.

  12. Right there with you. I got laid off a couple weeks ago - been in the industry for 30 years. Yikes!!! A new page, starting a new chapter, wonder where this story will lead?

  13. Congratulations! No weddings in our family...yet. Our kids are 22, 27 and 29 and not a wedding in sight. But that's okay.

    I'm so with you on the hormone thing. And why is it that exercising more and eating less does absolutely nothing now? Oy.

    Beautiful post.

  14. You think this made you redefine your life ... wait until they come in while you're huddled in bed with a book and say they're going to have a BABY! Every stage we go thru is awesome in it's own way, and we just have to roll with the changes. I'm always aware that the way I handle these milestones is observed by my daughter,and may one day influence how she in turn will react to her milestones.

  15. Oh wow. This is a beautiful story. I would have been surprised if this day hadn't come soon. The fact that they have been committed to each other for so long before deciding on marriage is sooooo admirable. I can totally see how this would bring you to a new place in your life, but a good one! Congrats to Jacob, Chelsea, you and Bob!

  16. That post was incredible. I connected with every word and feeling, and I just loved it.

    The proposal???? Oh My God. I am so happy for them as they turn the page on this brand new chapter...and wish them every happiness.

    You are truly gifted...

  17. That was so beautiful! Your original love is expanding and gathering more and mor people in its wake. Congratulations, Mom. Blessings on the new couple too.

  18. They make a lovely couple. I think that mother of the groom is an easier part than mother of the bride. Sit back and enjoy life.

  19. "Wear beige and keep my mouth shut" sounds like a plan, but where's the fun in that? My mother got drunk and went around taking other people's disposable cameras because she thought we had provided them and wanted to make sure we got them all back for developing, and my husband's mother walked off the dance floor right in the middle of the mother/son dance because she thought the song was over.

  20. I just found your blog (followed from Fragrant Lier if I'm not mistaken) and I really enjoyed reading your post. Congrats to you.. your son... your family!

  21. the blog having good future time
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  22. I do know what you mean. I too have lived in denial of the time passing. Congrats on your new family member. They are a beautiful couple.

  23. the blog having good future time
    please give important informations to all other bloggers
    don't forget comment a back to my blog or follow my blog
    next time i come here. ok

  24. What do you mean you won't have a starring role?

    Grandmothers rule!!!

    Haven't you heard that.

    All aboard for the next part of the journey

    Love and hugs


  25. They ARE a beautiful couple. Congrats to both of them!

    I know exactly how you feel. I was so happy when my son and his wife married almost 6 years ago. But soon after he moved out, I was sad. Very sad. My only son was gone. Who was I?

    I like to think I have found my way since then and I look forward to all my new adventures in life. Even though I moved away from my son and his wife last year, we are still very close and always will be.

    When my father passed away in '06 (at too young an age), I was at a loss again for a short while. Then, before my whole family went to Hawaii to celebrate a belated 50th anniversary for my mom, I found a ring at the Sundance Catalog which said so much: May your wildest dreams come true. I bought this ring for me, my mom and sister. I felt the philosophy was especially fitting for my mom, and she still ponders it from time to time, wondering what she should do next.

    Trust me, raising your kids is the best part of your life, but the next part is just as exciting, if not more so. It's all up to you! :)

  26. Very exciting new chapter in your life.

  27. Fragrant Liar - Thanks and yes, the defining goes on and on. And, yes.Bring lots of hankies.

    Missy - yes, finally another female. After three brothers and three sons, I welcome the female addition.

    Pam - You are right. Center stage in a new stage. Just a tad scary.

    Lakeviewer - Your words brought great comfort. Thank you. Sometimes I yearn for simple, but I know that would not make life fulfilling. Also let me know I will move on.

    Jody - beautiful and painful, indeed.

    Life - I enjoyed the book, too. Enjoy those kids - even on days when you wish they'd just grow up. Thanks for commenting.

    Beth - Thanks for reading! You know the joys of a daughter. I'm excited to have Chelsea.

    Pamela - I'm sorry for the tears. I feel so much better now though.

    Sandy - Thanks. We were blessed with great kids.

    MR - I hope it for you, too. Such fun now that I got rid of my initial angst.

  28. Kim - best of luck with your job hunt. 30 years and changing. My heart goes out to you.

    Willow - Thank you. Maybe we just weren't meant to be skinny. And, no weddings yet might be a good thing.

    WTTW - Wow, your last line is so powerful. I never thought that my kids might be watching me to learn in that way. Provides a valid reason to handle ourselves well.

    Michelle - Thanks. Hope to see you before the wedding. Alas it is time to get together once again.

    Vodka Mom - Thank you. Connecting with the reader is major challenge. Glad I did with you.

    Angie - I hope I handle the water in that wake well. All little alliteration there.

    Cheshire Wife - Sit back and enjoy it. Great advice. I believe I will do that.

    Amie: Too funny. Oh, I hope I don't make a spectacle of myself. At least no more than normal.

    Tracy - Welcome. I hope you will come back often.

    SMB - Thank you. Sometimes denial is a great place to hang out - for a while.

    Margaret: Okay, I'm onboard. Thanks Margaret.

    Oz Girl - Thank you for your thoughtful comment. May your wildest dreams come true indeed! Sorry about your dad. And, you are right. It is up to me. I will make it exciting.

  29. Diane - Yeah, I guess it is exciting. I need to look at it like that and have fun. My new motto!

  30. Congratulations all around. Change, even the very best kind, hurts. This is a beautiful reflection on that.

  31. Loved this post and identify with all of it! Middle age is such a strange time of redefining just about everything. You put it all beautifully. Am very glad that I have found your blog. Will definitely be back.

  32. I know the word "congratulations" belongs somewhere in this comment, but mostly I want to say you are amazing, and you have captured so much of what I think and feel--captured it beautifully.

    I'd also say, in the next few years, that you'll have the chance to create a whole different stage upon which you can perform entirely new dances. It might have a smaller audience, but they will clap really hard.

    To, er, make up a really lame metaphor and all.


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