Thursday, 24 May 2012

Where's the Sense of Occasion?

I just had an very interesting conversation with Younger Son and for some reason I felt the need to address it in the blogosphere. It isn't a secret that he is on the cusp of his graduation from university and it certainly isn't a secret how tremendously proud we all are. He has worked so hard and deserves all accolades coming his way. But in a fashion that is typical for him and many others I know, he is terribly non-plussed about the whole thing. I have been trying to figure out why this is bothering me so much and I think that I finally have. I believe that there is a terrible lack of occasion present in his outlook.

Maybe my frustration is borne from the fact that I have not had the pleasure of seeing either of my children graduation from anything since grade school and that trend will continue this spring. You see, camp has always taken priority. Graduations typically occur in June and have ALWAYS coincided with the opening of the camp season. As a committed camp alum and parent, I know that I should be dripping with pride at the special place that camp has had in my sons' lives and, frankly I know that we had a great deal to do with that. But, honestly! One stinking graduation ceremony is all that I ask for!

This year the problem is as much about American Homeland Security as it is about Younger Son's ambivalence. And trust me, his ambivalence is great! When the conflict of dates was discovered, I did try to procure airline tickets to bring him home for his convocation. The problem is that the visa granted to him only allows him one crossing of the American border. If he attempts to cross back, it renders the visa null and void. There went the grand plan of attending a graduation ceremony. I was suitably upset and still am, but the rest of my family-including Younger Son-don't seem to think it a big deal. Even before the border shut us down, he was not at all interested in sitting in a sweaty Convocation Hall with thousands of others in order to have his few minutes of glory. It matters not at all to him. The degree matters. The work matters. The accomplishment matters. The occasion doesn't.

In order to try and alleviate some of my disappointment, (and yes it is MY disappointment) we planned a family dinner at a nice restaurant to celebrate. Very low key and very in keeping with what he wants. I am just fine with this, honestly I am, but I can't help but wondering to where has our sense of occasion disappeared? I'm not talking big over-the-top events. I'm talking about simply recognizing a life event and making it matter. There are so few of these celebratory moments in life, it seems to me we should do all we can to make them special. Why are we so quick to dismiss them and render them unimportant?

You see, I do think that the occasion matters. I do think that we should celebrate whenever given the chance. Life is simply too damned short not to. I do think that we should applaud ourselves and those we love when milestones occur. I think we should find purpose in these events and see them for the stepping stones that they are. So tonight, I will celebrate the accomplishments of my son. I will dress nicely and I will snap his picture. I might even order dessert! I will toast him and all that he has done and I will let him see my pride. Because this is one occasion that I believe does matter.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The May of My September

I haven't written in this space for a while not because I lack for opinions, (perish the thought) and certainly not because there aren't a myriad of topics about which to scribble, but rather because I have become somewhat circumspect over the past month or so and as a result haven't been able to properly articulate what I am feeling. I think that I am ready and I beg your indulgence if this post gets a little misty and mushy.

During a conversation with friends a few weeks ago, we somehow got onto the topic of Facebook and what is its real purpose. One friend remarked that while he is on the site, he is patently uncomfortable with the lack of privacy and online presence that Facebook encourages. Our answer to him was easy. Delete your account. Nobody is forcing you to remain in the online world and if one's discomfort is that acute Facebook is certainly not the right place for you. And yet....he is still there. Why? Because there is something about the links that Facebook provides that is truly compelling. It is easy to dismiss the social media tool as a colossal time-waster akin to bad reality television. Certainly too many of us spend far too many hours playing inane games (guilty!!) or "over-sharing" our lives with marginal "friends", but when we delve deeper we note that Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin and the like are so much more. Putting aside the obvious commercial advantages for businesses and organizations, Facebook has provided a connection for us with our pasts, our presents, and our futures. Never being much of a phone person or even a diligent letter-writer, I have enjoyed the reconnections that Facebook has allowed me with old camp and school friends. Even though I haven't seen some of them in more than thirty years, I am now back in their lives, even if it is only on the periphery and for only a fleeting moment when I click the "like" button on their posts. I have seen pictures of their families and they have seen mine. Is every friend on social networking sites my best buddy? Of course not. But tell me....What is wrong with that?

It was the fallout from this conversation about Facebook that got me to thinking about the milestones in our lives and how we have a true need to share these momentous occasions with the world, both those near and dear and those more removed. Maybe it is the spring season that has me so nostalgic as this is a time of year when so many are celebrating touchstone moments in their lives. Over the last couple of weeks friends have shared anecdotes about B'nai Mitzvah, proms, graduation ceremonies, big birthdays, engagements, college acceptances, travel plans, confirmations, new employment opportunities, a new baby, and even an unfortunate death. We are watching our children and our parents move into new phases of their lives, and we ourselves are wondering where this leaves us and what comes next.

In my own home Youngest Son is graduating from university. I could not be prouder of my son. He worked his tail off to achieve this goal and he is truly worthy of the title "College Graduate". But the occasion is also one of melancholy. For the first time in more than twenty-three years there will be nobody in our house getting ready for school come September. Those kid days are gone forever. When he returns from his summer hiatus, he will be actively seeking employment and moving out of our house for good. The Husband and I have been semi empty-nesters for going on four years, but this event suggests a permanency where there was none before. We will be fine. We both embrace change (him better than me) and all that it brings, but still we know that an era that made up the bulk of our married life is coming to a close. What lies ahead, while exciting, is also a tad frightening. We are entering the May of our September. The beginning of the next.

Many friends have asked if my nostalgia is a result of this being my fiftieth birthday year. Firstly I need you all to understand that I have seven more months until I reach that momentous milestone. Secondly it needs to be said that I am not having any problems with the idea of 50. If this is what 50 looks and feels like, I think that I can cope. No. I think that my introspection is a result of so many big events converging upon us at the same time. The fact that I will be 50 in December is just a coincidence of the calendar and frankly I plan to celebrate it with all that I have.

We are a social species. We need connections. We require human contact. We need to feel a part of each other even if that time is fleeting and small. When I posted about Younger Son's accomplishment my friends rallied with words of love and mazel. Each one was special and important to me because they shared in my life's news. And in the end isn't that what it's really all about?