Summer vacation was also spent visiting our cousins. There was no shortage of cousins to hang out with as my mom came from a large family. She was born and raised in Holland and was the first in her family to come to Canada. After marrying my dad in 1950, they said goodbye to everything familiar and set off toward the unknown. Their honeymoon was spent on a large ship filled to capacity with hundreds of other Dutch immigrants searching for a better life in Canada. To say it was a honeymoon cruise would be an exaggeration. It took 10 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean. With their few possessions, my parents disembarked from the ship at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. They then boarded a train for the next leg of their journey which ended in Chatham, Ontario. My mom’s parents and most of her siblings came a few years later. Between 1946 and 1968, the Netherlands was the fifth largest source country for immigrants to Canada. So, we grew up with an Oma and Opa and we were surrounded by lots of Dutch aunts, uncles and cousins. Sometimes we would have sleepovers. They were always fun! But the summer months seemed to fly by, and as I mentioned, once my birthday came and went, it was downhill after that.
My birthday is just a few days away now. As I reflect on this past year, I’ve had a few ups and downs but thankfully I’ve come out the other end and am left feeling fortunate and blessed. As a result, I’ve decided this year to throw my own birthday party. I’ll be turning 59 and I haven’t had a party since turning 50. My husband surprised me with a huge party for my 50th. There were lots of family members in attendance and a bunch of my high school girlfriends. We danced the night away to the sounds of “The ShakeBand.” It was a great party!
Some people have asked why I’m throwing a party for my 59th birthday and why I’m not waiting for the milestone birthday; my 60th. My response has been, “Why wait?” In fact, if I’m fortunate enough, I may throw my own birthday party next year and the years to follow as well. This party won’t be as elaborate as my 50th, but I have invited a few special women in my life to help me celebrate. My daughter Paige has even promised to bake me a cake. Paige recently convinced her Aunt Nettie to share her closely-guarded carrot cake recipe with her.
I anticipate the sadness that will likely follow this year’s birthday might last a little longer and be tougher to overcome. While I won’t be heading back to school in September, it will be Paige who will be packing her bags and heading to Hamilton, Ontario to attend McMaster University. Paige is my youngest and is very excited to be leaving the nest. I, on the other hand, am dreading the day. Life will not be the same without her. As much as Paige can drive me crazy at times, I love the girl and will miss her terribly. My only saving grace is that my oldest, my son Carter is still at home. He attends the University of Saskatchewan, which is just a 10 minute drive from our home. I’ve told Carter he can never leave. But I know, eventually he too will make the decision to go out on his own. Once both kids are gone, I’m not sure what I will do with myself. For years they have been my focus in life. I know many parents before me have gone through this and transitioned quite well. I know I will survive. Maybe I’ll even thrive as I eventually figure out a way to let go and chart a new course for myself. I’m just not sure at this point what I will do or what’s in store for me.
What I do know for sure is I won’t miss the loads of laundry that come with having a family. I won’t miss messy bathrooms or the fights or the nagging, on my part, to get them to empty and fill the dishwasher or clean their bedrooms. I look forward to seeing Paige’s bedroom floor once again. I’m pretty sure there is beige carpeting under the piles of clothes and wet towels. She’s a swimmer so there are always wet towels everywhere. I can’t tell you how many fights we’ve had over wet towels.
So, after my 59th birthday party, after I open the last present and eat the last morsel of cake, I’ll be joining Paige on her flight to Ontario to help her get settled into her new life as a University student. She has a one way ticket. I, on the other hand, will be flying back to Saskatoon to begin settling into my new life as a mom with grown up children with lives of their own. Who knows? Maybe I will eventually learn to love the quiet. Maybe the sadness and the end of summer blues will be short-lived. Time will tell. Stay tuned!