Since the spring of this year, the Dicksons have been attending weddings.                                                                        We have been to one almost every weekend since June, some in Fayetteville and some out of town, some in churches and some in lovely outdoor settings. I even have an outfit I have come to think of as my “wedding dress.” All the brides and bridesmaids are beautiful and all the grooms and groomsmen handsome. Sitting in various pews and folding chairs, I have been pondering this nuptial surge and have realized, yet again, the cyclical nature of life.
    {mosimage}Three decades or so ago, we were doing exactly the same thing.
    Then the brides and grooms were our friends and contemporaries. Now they are the friends and contemporaries of our children, young people we have watched grow up and, in some instances, loved as our own. A lot has occurred in between.
    Shortly after we attended our first round of weddings three decades or so ago, we began receiving fewer of those invitations and more to a different sort of social event — the baby shower. It has been a while, but I remember these occasions as fairly staid and fairly scripted, with the mother-to-be opening presents and exclaiming over various baby items. These tiny things were usually pale yellow or pale green since knowing one’s baby’s gender before she announced herself was unusual. Most of the time, the dads were not present, but if they were, they were generally in another room watching a sporting event. Small green and yellow items were not of much interest.        
    Next came the ubiquitous birthday parties.
    These, of course, were far more energetic affairs, and I remember many of them vividly. We marked such happy occasions at bowling alleys, miniature golf courses, skating rinks and in backyards all over Fayetteville. There were cakes, candles and party-favor bags of candy, pencils and other goodies appealing to young children. The first mobile phone I ever saw arrived at one of these parties. The chatting mother had come to pick up her child, and, much to my amazement, she talked into what seems now like an enormous phone the entire time as she located her son and walked him out the door with a friendly wave but nary a word to me as they departed. Sometimes the birthday boy or girl was simply overwhelmed by the long-awaited occasion and was unable to contain his or her emotions or behavior. My most vivid memory of this occurred in our own yard when our just-turned-5-year-old was overcome by the excitement of having a Fayetteville Police Department K-9 unit visit that he lost it altogether and had to be excused to his room. I can still see a little nose pressed to the window as he watched his guests watching the dog as they ate ice cream cones.
    Think the Berenstain Bears book Too Much Birthday.
    The dreaded sleepover birthday deserves a column by itself.
    Then came graduations of all sorts.
    The first graduation I remember was from a Fayetteville Parks and Recreation summer program in Mazarick Park, and the young grads wore paper plate mortar boards held on by colored yarn on their heads. There were other graduations from pre-school and special programs of all sorts, but the big ones were high school and then college, with one of our precious jewels still working on that one. These are occasions guaranteed to bring tears to a mother’s eyes, along with many laments about how our little ones who once wore little yellow and green things and paper plates on their noggins became so grown up.
The real question, of course, is how they grew from our arms into independent human beings when nothing happened to us.
    And now we have come full circle.
    The brides and grooms I see now will always, in some ways, be children to me. I changed some of their diapers. I dried some of their tears. I put bandages on some of their scrapes. I drove them in carpools and cooked pancakes for them on Saturday mornings. I knew when they made A’s on their report cards, and I knew when they were in trouble at school or at home. I miss their regular presence in our house, dirty socks on the floor and all.
    Mostly, though, I am shocked and awed at the people they have become.
    These brides and grooms have prepared for and are now executing their life plans. They have had bumps in the road with schools which did not accept them and jobs they did not get, but they are moving on, just as we did. The trappings of their world, mostly in the form of technology and communication, are faster and easier than ours, but the core values of family and community are solidly in place.
    I check my mailbox every day and look forward to an invitation to a baby shower.
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