Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Reunion Reminiscences

Okay, so if a reunion is where you go to reminisce, can a 50th high school reunion have its own reminiscences? As usual, I'm ruminating over words. It wouldn't be my blog if I didn't.

By the way, 25 of the 51 original graduates came (many with spouses). At least 6 others who had been with the class at various times, but just not our senior year, were also in attendance. How nice.

I think for the benefit of my friends and family members who follow my blog (anyone still doing that?), I'd like to copy/paste the e-mail I sent out to classmates on Monday (after returning home from the reunion on Sunday). Here 'tis.

Dear Friends,

So, the 50th reunion of the Wyomissing High School Class of 1961 is over. In the history books, so to say. My own journey to this reunion, while fraught with many classic pre-reunion manifestations of anxiety, turned out to be a journey to joy.

I want to write about it, while your voices and images are still fresh. Strange to say – the moment I walked out of the Huyett’s door Sunday morning, I felt a pang of sadness. I truly believe God sent Roger out of that closed door for one more goodbye to relieve some of the pain. Thanks, Roger.

As I started my drive home, I was missing you all already, something I hadn’t honestly done, in the past. It seemed during our hours together that I was making new friends, with familiar vestiges hovering on the edges of conversations and observations. As I drove the seven hours back to my home, family, and current friends, I sensed a lingering heartache. I didn’t have enough time over the weekend to get to know you again, you superb and often zany concoction of men and women.

Did I want to get to know you better? Yes! You were part of my life at a vulnerable, confusing, maelstrom-filled season – adolescence. And now, as I had hoped, you are all grown up. Each one of you seemed to hold a segment of who I was back then. Each one added a new dimension to who I am now, by your life-stories, by the richness of your fully-formed personalities (and the counterpoint provided by your spouses), by your warm welcomes and affirmations.

The only component that would have made this reunion better would have been the presence of more classmates. Yes, Nevin, the turnout was phenomenal. But I missed Linda A., Tina, Karen, Sandy B., Aggie (now Ann), Susan, Cynthia, Cathy, Dee, Jan, Mary, Mary Bell, John, David F., Connie B., Ted, and Bob M. It was nice to hear the e-mailed “greetings” from some of the missing, but not the same as seeing you and getting/giving hugs.

And perhaps my greatest regret was not getting to see Barry, Carol, Rodney (my senior prom date, thanks to Mrs. Knipe), Marilyn (such a splendid friend), Jim S., Spin, Linda T., or Beverly one more time, during the last 50 years. When Char told me who had already died, I was stunned. Then we received news about Rodney’s passing on Sept. 30. So sad.

Okay, I’m going to make myself weepy, if I’m not careful here. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed myself; I had fun (in compliance with my children’s mandate). And I have you all to thank for that. Remember, I mentioned the "journey to joy" at the beginning of this epistle. Emphasis on "joy." You did it, each one in his/her own special way.

So that's all for tonight. I hope everyone made it safely to your next destination. I look forward to The Directory in early December and our 55th in 2016.

God bless.

I've had several nice responses.

My greatest takeaway from this event was that God can be trusted, in every season of my life. He has made me who I am, through all events, those I perceived as negative as well as the positive. He used the insecurities of my high school years. He used the confusion and emptiness of my early twenties. He used even the unwise choices I made, when I tried to fill the huge hole in my heart with people who eventually hurt me. He used the dark years, when I thought I would never see light again. He used the healing years, with the support and love of my amazing children and my tender brothers and sisters in Christ. He used, most of all, His very own Son, Jesus, to walk the journey with me, to take broken shards of glass and create kaleidoscopic beauty.

I give thanks to you, Abba-Father, for providing perspective, for letting me see both classmates and myself through your eyes during the weekend reunion. Thank you for each one who was there, each one who was absent. I pray you will meet them one-on-one, in a new and fresh way in the days ahead. They are precious to me, and even more so to you. Amen.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Silence is Broken

What could entice me back to my blog, you ask? And even if you don't ask, you know I'm going to tell you, anyway.

First, I want to write about "Andrea Bocelli: Vivere Live in Tuscany," a 2007 concert PBS (WOSU-TV) is replaying as part of their annual fund-raising effort. God met me here last Friday when I played hookey from Celebrate Recovery, and now it is on again. His first guest was Kenny G. Ah, Kenny G. Proof of God's drawing me to worship Him while listening to this gorgeous music. I hope no one takes offense to my worshipping God while listening to "secular" music. Yes, the lyrics are mostly Italian, but the harmonies and drama speak for themselves of the creativity of our Lord. Another perk: Bocelli sings two duets with Heather Headley, who is a believer. The second, "The Prayer," makes me weep. I thank you, Abba-Father, for teaching me freedom in Christ, for allowing me moments of rest where I can focus on you after spending time with family and friends. Thank you for reviving my soul.

Second, I want to write about a telephone call I had last evening. I've been discovered! You knew it was bound to happen...all this talent wrapped in one compact package. Oh, not that kind of discovery? No, come back into reality, Nancy. The call actually came from one of the organizers of the Wyomissing High School Class of 1961 50th Reunion. Through the marvels of modern Internet investgative technology, and through the kindness of my ex-husband in giving my current phone number, I was found, even though I didn't know I had been lost. The reunion is in October. I plan to attend for the first time in the 50 years since graduation.

Our class was small, just 51. I was startled and saddened to hear the names of eight who were no longer alive. So strange. Probably to be expected when we are all in our late sixties. But still, hard to grasp. I don't do well with keeping in touch. I have only one friend from college, even, with whom I have maintained a relationship over the years. Only one. And none from high school. Once again, I find my inner radar scanning the horizon of my life, looking for something to put in my guilt backpack. I should have stayed in touch with Marilyn, I find myself saying. We walked to school together almost every day. And now she's gone. So hard on myself, thinking what I do is Never Enough. Okay, I'll need to be content, right now, to pray for the families and friends of those who died. I'll need to be confident that God has been big enough to take care of all these classmates over the years. Yes, I can believe that.

Now, Let's see. I'll need to get a complete makeover, lose 30 pounds, buy some new outfits, and write a biography that makes me look successful and prosperous. Hmmmm. Not the Nancy you know? Doesn't sound like me, even to me. So maybe I'll let my girls take me shopping. That's one thing I haven't done in five or ten years that I think I could manage. Yeah. A couple of fall outfits, some new blue jeans, maybe a new pair of shoes. This is going to be fun. Thank you, Lord, for new experiences that will stretch me to trust you more.

This is not going to be fun. This is going to be scary. Me, the introvert. Nancy, the not-popular high school wallflower, returning to her first class reunion. After fifty years. What am I thinking? Do I have to do this? What will it be like? Will I connect with anyone? My life has been so out-of-the-ordinary. What is ordinary? What sorts of lives have others in my graduating class had? Hmmmm. Not the Nancy you know? Sounds like a version of the Nancy I know. The one you don't see too often. The one I see more often than you. The one Jesus sees. The one to whom Abba-Father says, "Be still, my Nina. Hush your silliness and take my hand. I have created you with gifts I have given to no one else. I have plans for you that will unfold with joy, if you will relax and trust me." Okay, Lord. Thank you for new experiences that will stretch me to trust you more. I place my hand in yours. Let's get ready! "That's what I'm talkin' about! Remember, I did make you yearbook editor right after you gave your life to me ." So you did. So you did, Lord. Here we go, again, then.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thursday Morning in May

On cool crisp windy-cloudy morning
please send refreshment
O Lord
on your buoyant breeze.

Clouds move
at wind's breath
steadily slowly
no resistance
shapes changing
at weather's will.

Branches in treetops
sway and dance
firmly attached to trunk
yet lithe and limber
to blustery embrace.

Come Holy Spirit.
Breathe waves of life
into these overcast thoughts.
Sweep my murky clouds
into shapes of grace.

I raise my arms
to you
my Jesus.
Please twirl my lethargy
creating zephyr-sweet gusts
of your joy. 

Friday, July 9, 2010

Slow Lane - Retirement Reflections #2

Today while searching through my stash of new and partially used gift-wrap, gift bags, and tissue paper, I came upon a gift bag that was wan and wrinkled beyond usefulness. I don’t remember its history, whether I received it and saved it to re-gift, or whether I purchased it, but never discovered its occasion. I just remember keeping it, for many years, and seeing it every time I look through my supply.

It was originally one of those gift bags you order from the fund raisers for your co-workers’ kids’ schools or sports teams, because they are the least expensive item you can find, and you want to buy something, since your kid will probably have a fund raiser, too. These gift bags look really nice in the catalogue, but when your order comes in, you find out they are shaped like brown lunch bags, and the paper is – well, paper thin, not substantial like a real gift bag. They look as cheap as the price you paid for them. Serves you right. That would be “serves me right,” actually.

This one particular sad looking bag called out to me today, with its rust, gold, maroon and faded blue flowers, suspended on a dark chocolate background. It called out, not to be used. It just called out. The original design purported to be a tapestry of sorts – something like those screens you do cross-stitching on. It was pretty, but not very cheerful. The flowers seem to droop, or perhaps they were imprinted onto the master up-side down. Yes, I think that’s it, now that I turn the bag around.

Well, I knew I’d never put a gift in this bag. So I folded it lovingly, and placed it tenderly into my almost full trashcan. The gift bag seemed to solicit this sort of respect in its final hours. I found a comfy space for it between a collapsed packages-of-oatmeal box and the fliers that make their way weekly into my mailbox. You know the ones, from “Coupons, Promo Codes, and Savings Tips – Find a Good Deal More.” Those.

Then, I started thinking about this item, how I’d kept it all these years, how it was in its own way a part of my family-of-origin’s frugal tradition of saving wrapping paper to be used a second, third, and fourth time, although it probably didn’t come from Mother, Daddy, or Margaret. And even though I know I won’t use it, I’ve grown attached to it. And, for goodness sake, I’ve now memorialized it in writing. How could I throw it away? So I’ve retrieved it from its sentence of doom, and here it sits beside me, as I am writing about it. What do I do with it now?

And what – you ask – makes this blog post fit into the retirement category? Well, ever since retirement was just a glimmer in my eye, I knew one of my first tasks would be related to my cluttered apartment. I call it: Clean Out and Clean Up, Search and Destroy, Organize and Arrange. Now that I am in my sixth week of retirement, I realize I have not started the daunting assignment I blithely said I’d take my first month to complete. My question is, how will I ever get rid of anything, if this silly little gift bag is any indication of My Propensities To Keep Stuff?

Stay tuned.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Life in the Slow Lane - Reflections from Retirement (Installment #1)

One of the most astonishing aberrations of retirement is my suspension of belief in the days of the week. Today, for instance, seems like a Saturday. I’m not sure why. It is Friday in the real world, but my brain keeps saying “Saturday.” Actually, I can make it whatever day I want, so long as I don’t tell anyone. Or if I do tell, I’ll need also to suspend my reactions to repercussive remarks from reality-based relatives (and friends) (but using friends breaks that lovely alliterative streak I had going there).

I think today may present itself as Saturday because most of the other days of this week, I’ve arranged encounters with the outside world, lots of them. In other words, I've been busy, in the Fast Lane sense of the word. And today, I do have a task to be completed: preparing a crock pot supper for Celebrate Recovery leadership before the CR meeting tonight, making it Friday in the real world, by the way, Brain. However, today I deviated from my Retirement-Based-Schedule-of-Sorts. I didn’t take my morning walk. I didn’t have my daily Quiet Time prior to entering my day. I haven’t even showered or changed out of my PJs yet. And though it’s almost noon, I just realized I never took my oatmeal breakfast out of the microwave to eat it, and I’ve been up since 7:45.

I did prepare gobs of fresh green beans already, now bubbling their way to tastiness in the crockpot. And I was in the process of washing the red potatoes when this day kept saying "Saturday, Saturday, Saturday." I suspended the potato preparation to write for posterity what I had been writing in my head, lest it go the way of many of my best works – into Oblivion, because I never wrote them down.

And for those of you who are tracking my TV addiction thing, no, I haven’t had the TV on today. But I did finish reading the last 70 pages of Wally Lamb’s novel The Hour I First Believed. I even uttered anguished cries aloud at the most unexpected plot turn. “No, no, no! You can’t let that happen!” And then I wept quietly most of the way to the very end, savoring the well-crafted, character-changing outcomes and the successful tying up of all sub-plot strings. A slow, introspective, leisurely Saturday sort of activity.

Though I have completed five weeks of retirement, the pace and content of my days still surprise me. Several busy days followed by a day of comparative inactivity apparently shifts me back into a workweek mentality. So if it’s okay with you, I’ll just go ahead and make this Saturday. Well, actually, that won’t work, because if it’s Saturday, I should have just finished watching the Gahanna Fourth of July Parade, and I should be busily making deviled eggs for my granddaughter’s third birthday party at 5:00. Hummmm.

When people ask me how my retirement is going, I’ve been saying, “It’s a mystery.” Yup, it sure is.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Morning Walk Revisited

This morning I walked willingly
omitting obligation
a grumpy fellowtraveler
Left him at home

I breathed
rain-washed earth pungency
I sang God’s praise
with robins and sparrows
I felt wind’s unwavering urgency

I absorbed Holy Spirit colors:
Deep blue morning glories
cascading over trellis ladders
Lush dense grass
wild from overnight storm
Orange palette day lilies
springing open at sunlight
Grey clouds superimposed
on bright white billows
with clear blue sky patches
peering through

breathe all vivid colors
of who you are
into my spirit’s lungs
willing me to live free
as you paint your image
in me

Nancy Godfrey
June 6, 2010

Morning Walk - 2006

The air is still.
Morning mist hangs heavy
In the trees.
Step after step after step
She treks the sidewalks
Hoping to exchange lethargy
For health
Hoping excess pounds
Will fall from her aging frame
Hoping her Lord will infuse
Her fainting spirit with His fire.

She passes houses that
Do not divulge their secrets
But cluttered lawns
And unswept sidewalks betray
Their owners’ indifference.
Neatly manicured bushes
And flowerbeds suggest
Their owners’ orderly lives.

This is a timid emotionless neighborhood
Judging by random gardens.
Sparsely-sown shy flowers
Dot heavily mulched plots.
No lavishly-painted day lilies
Sing their songs in these yards.
No proud hostas
Parade their rich variety
Of greens here.
A single geranium now and then
A few neat clumps
Of impatiens
Purple morning glories climbing
A mailbox or two
Suggest muted lives.

One house remains
Permanently placid –
A puzzle to the morning walker.
An upright wooden organ rests
Upon the porch.
A second story window
Stays ajar at the same distance
Day after day.
No car in the driveway.
No porchlight left burning
Into the early hours of dawn.
Does anyone live here?
Who abandoned this house,
Not for sale
But definitely dormant?

Who lives behind
The cryptic faces
She sees each day?
What signs can she detect?
What insights?
Lord of the lost,
Show her who resides
Inside gnarled lives
Along her way.
Is the house abandoned
Or is its resident hiding?
Do perfectly edged lawns mean
Hearts in harmony with you?

Will you show her snarled souls
Inside masked countenances,
Drawing them to yourself
Through her?
Will you place in her hands
Vivid seeds
With kaleidoscopic possibilities
To be sown in fertile soil?

You have answered her prayer
For fire-infused power.
You will stretch
Her morning walk
Into a daily pilgrimage of praise.
Unneeded excess stuff
Is falling from her soul.

Her eyes are open to see
The creativity of your love
Surrounding her journey.
Astound her with the brilliance
Of your gardens
As she walks the path
Of her destiny.

Nancy Godfrey
August 20, 2006