Sixteen years ago today I was sitting in my friend Linda's basement, donned in a pink hat and feather boa, having a pretend tea party with her soon-to-be-5-year-old daughter. Where was Linda, you ask? Having a baby, Natalie Ann (my namesake). I was keeping Big Sis Michelle occupied while Mommy gnashed her teeth and pushed (but only a couple of times, I think) her adorable little bundle of joy from the cozy, warm womb out into the big, cold world.
My husband and I had no kids of our own, and didn't have a flippin' clue what parenthood was all about. So, obviously, it was a treat to play tea party, or build sheet forts in the living room (which I loved to do with my niece and nephew, Liz and Aaron). Yeah, it was great being child-free, employed, financially stable, let's-have-a-tea-party-or-build-a-fort Auntie Ann.
Man, life was a breeze 16 year ago. Nary a clue what challenges and stress awaited us all, in varying, some life-threatening, degrees.
Wow. Look at us now. Natalie Ann is old enough to drive. Michelle is in college (although she may still don that pink hat and feather boa now and then). My son, Daniel, 13, wants to be a film director. Somedays I still feel like I don't have a flippin' clue what parenthood is all about. And we're all in the crapper financially. But the great news, of course, is that Linda's son, Chris, remains cancer free and is enjoying life to the fullest. Liz and Aaron are successfully pursuing their career dreams. The circle of life, and all that jazz.
So what does The Homestretch hold for us, the "suddenly old" folks? The next 25 or so years...what's in store? We haven't a flippin' clue. And do we really want to know? I don't think so. "One Day At A Time" the old adage goes. Not just pretty words, my friends.
Let's see. My dear, hardworking friend Mary is moving to The Big City. We hate to see her go, but she's finally getting the break she deserves. I'm cryin' but I truly am happy for her. Her daughter, Kristin, will be starting college. Daughter Brittany, we predict, will blossom in a new school.
Back in my home town, Linda is frantically wrapping presents and baking a birthday cake for Nat. I wish I could be there to celebrate. My friend Trish eagerly awaits an email from her son, Mark, bravely serving his country in a land far, far away. My heart goes out to her by the hour. What she wouldn't give, I'll bet, to be building an imaginary fort with her son in the living room.
Here in Podunk, the repo man is knockin' at the door, and there's no milk in the house, but Daniel, sweet Daniel, is, for now, safe and sleeping in his bed, visions of getting his driver's permit next year dancing in his head. Gawd. The 24/7 valium drip will be a bit cumbersome, and I'll tire from dragging it around. But whatever it takes to survive the teenage years. Oh, Danny Boy. What would I do without you?
Oops. There I go, worrying about the future.
As it was ironically, and eerily, printed next to my late friend Janice's senior year book picture just months before she died, "For all its terror and tragedy, the life of man is a thing of beauty. To live is good."
Hey, who gives a rip about the repo man. I know what Janice would say. "Where's that pink hat and feather boa?" Yup. I feel a tea party comin' on...