Earlier this summer I was invited to a party to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of my mom’s cousin and her husband. It was special for me because I had been their flower girl, and it would mean a trip back to Newfoundland and a chance to be with family that I hadn’t seen in many years. It also prompted a life review as I looked back at each decade that has passed since then.
50 years ago, 1968, I was 3 ½ years old when Violet and Fred asked my mom if I could be the flower girl at their wedding. I know that mom thought I was too young, and Violet said that I would do great. I know that I fell at some point and scraped my knee, (and probably cried) and that I fell asleep during the reception. I know these things, not because I remember them, but because I have been told the stories many times over the course of my life. I heard those stories again as I spent time with the people who knew me first. How much of the story of our life is told by other people? How many of our memories are someone else’s version of our life? How many people beliefs do we have because they have been passed onto us by someone else?
50 years ago, in the summer of 1978, my family travelled from St. John’s to Vancouver for a convention, then 3 days after our return, we moved ½ way across Canada to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. As we got to know our new home town, we experienced a bit of culture shock. The excitement of living in a new place was tempered with nervousness about not knowing what we didn’t know. We had “an accent” and used different words to describe things, like asking for a “custard cone” in an ice cream shop that sold “soft serve”. I had to point to the picture on the wall for the clerk to understand what I meant. Then there was the time we were invited over to a friend’s house for supper and had cucumber for the first time. All around us were reminders of the differences in this new place, from the colour of the margarine at the grocery store, to the sandy beach and no smell of salt water at Lake Superior. High School started at grade nine, so that September day, I walked up to the first group of girls I saw and said “Hello, my name is Michelle and I’m really nervous.” They gave me the look that only teenage girls can, but one responded with hello, and it got me through the first part of the day, and that girl became a friend. Sometimes being brave means sharing your fear, it can lead to new experiences, new foods, and new friends.
30 years ago, in October 1988, our first child was born. This was the moment I had been waiting for my whole life (at the ripe old age of 24). When I held him in my arms for the first time, I felt a love that I could never have imagined. I was a mom, I was this baby’s mom, and I knew that I would do anything in the world for him. When his brother was born 3 years later, and his sister 3 years after that, I realized that love is not divided, it is multiplied. Not all the days were easy, but they were all worth it. I am so proud of the people they have become, and they are my greatest blessings.
20 years ago, in 1998, I was taking courses in youth ministry. Each summer for 3 years I spent a week with an amazing group of people who came together to learn from and teach each other. It helped me to deepen my spirituality and connection with God and showed me the importance of community. Even though I am no longer part of that religion, the lessons that I learned in the courses, helped me in my later work.
10 years ago, in 2008, I graduated with honours from the Human Services Counselor program at NBCC. I had taken classes at night, and through correspondence while working full time. It took me a while to get through the program, especially when it got to the courses that I did on my own. It was (and still is) hard for me to set and follow though on deadlines, but I persevered, and I walked across the stage to receive my certificate.
This experience of looking back over the decades has helped me to put a lot of things into perspective, and to reflect on the events that have helped to shape my life. I am going to make this an annual event so that I can remember for myself and tell my own stories. I encourage you to do the same.