shadowdancingThis past Sunday, I found myself standing in a park at twilight, watching my son and a group of his friends sprawled on a big green hill in the distance. They had been there for hours, celebrating the end of 6th grade with pizza and frisbee and water balloon shenanigans, and now a cluster of them had simply dropped onto the grass – haphazardly like a handful of strewn pennies, and far enough from us to avoid the hook. These kids have been around long enough to know that a cluster of newly arrived moms means another twenty minutes, easy.

Bone tired and barely able to string two words together after my weekend at Notre Dame with my old friends, one would think I might have been in a hurry to go home and get to bed. But lucky for Saint James, my list of ailments after my weekend of debaucherous catching up included a swollen knee (I was disinclined to climb the hill), no voice (I couldn’t yell for him) and more emotion than my heart could bear.

In my addled state, I actually had to step away from the other parents before anyone saw me welling up. I walked a few paces toward the hill and simply watched. This is how it all starts.

Kids in the grass. Talking. Talking.

The funny thing about a reunion, is that it really does play tricks with your sense of space and time – especially if you also happen to have a group of friends who are balls to the wall and ALL IN from the second their feet alight from cars and planes in South Bend. It was as if no time had passed. We partied like 21 year olds partying like rock stars and that’s not something this mother of three gets to say out loud. But we did.

And these friends, who for months, sometimes years at a time have been so far away from me, were suddenly within arm’s reach. Space and time collapsed so that I felt like a 21 year old and a 41 year old at the same time. As if by magic, I was the girl who squandered words and time and laughter like they were going out of style. Who assumed the world to be chocked full of lionhearted boys who would always make me laugh and soul sisters who understood everything about me.

But now I’m old enough to see how lucky we were and to be acutely aware of the pleasure of laughing again with the people who have, hands down, made me laugh more than anyone else in my life. This kind of connection is not a given, it is a gift and to have gotten that gift as early in life as we did, is nothing short of a miracle.

There is a wit and a wildness to my friends. A keen sociability, an inability to sit still, a yen to stir up trouble and an insatiable fun tooth. I got a good arts and letters education at Notre Dame, but it was with my friends that I learned the important things. The stuff about people and friendship and love. About making yourself happy and making other people happy. About planning for fun. About being grateful. About having a nose for adventure. About pleasure and laughter.

About noticing.

And so it is because of you guys and thinking of you guys, that I found myself standing alone in a park, letting my son linger on a darkening hill with his friends.

Because I know that this is how it all starts. And I know that this is everything.

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