My Dad was a big fan of Fiddler on the Roof. I’m quite certain it must have been his favorite broadway show. He was particularly fond of singing Sunrise,Sunset at times when our family gathered together. I always thought it a sweet nostalgic song with a pretty melody. I enjoyed his sentimentality which he seldom shared physically, or expressed verbally, but could easily express in song.
Yesterday, after a visit with my two oldest granddaughters,14 and 17, I found the lyrics of sunrise going around in my head, “ seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers, blossoming even as we gaze.” It had only been three months since I’d seen “the girls.” During that time, the 14 year old had suddenly overtaken me in height. Her sister, passed me in height a few years ago. She’ll leave home for college next fall. Some invisible line was crossed from childhood to young adulthood. I was thrilled for them but also a bit saddened for myself, thinking that they soon would be less likely to be in my life on a regular basis.
I can easily recall the feelings of anticipation I had when I was their age. Almost anything seemed possible, once I escaped the restrictions of a small town and the prying eyes of parents. Once I’d stopped dancing at age 13, I had no sense of a career direction. In college, I easily decided that I was a hedonist. That fantasy felt just fine to me, at least through college, when nothing more than decent grades were required of me.
I could sense my granddaughters current uncertainty or dissatisfaction with life. It’s what I’d felt too. I’d thought of my parents as inhibitors who didn’t understand me in the least. I couldn’t wait to go away from home. Life away from home was definitely more interesting, but hardly idyllic.
Friendships and love life were in a frequent state of flux. My mother drilled me that “Nice girls don’t!” I was smart enough to silently question that double standard, but the fear of pregnancy shed a dark cloud over any wilder inclinations I harbored. I was repeatedly encouraged to become a teacher even though the boring process of teacher’s ed courses repelled me. I resisted going in that direction until I graduated from college and needed to go to work. Reality hit hard and the life of a self-described hedonist quickly transformed to that of an less- than- happy- teacher- breadwinner.
Being a product of the 1950’s, I’d swallowed the kool-aid and genuinely believed I need do no more in life than find and marry Mr. Right, and live happily ever after. Suffice it to say, it took quite a while for me to find Myself, because Mr. Right or Mr. Wrong can’t get you from here to there.
My granddaughters are entering a very different world with a different set of challenges and options. I’ll hope their paths to learning will be not too difficult, but challenging enough to help them grow. I’ll pray that their paths to rebellion and individuation will not lead them into treacherous territory. Personally, it has taken a lifetime for me to learn the lessons in life one needs to know and to get really comfortable in my own skin.
Most of all, as their sun continues to rise and mine begins to set, I will hope they know and remember how much I love them and hope that from time to time, my words or my life, might serve as an inspiration upon which they can build.