Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rites of Passage

By Belinda
Rites of passage--those transitions from one stage to another in our lives can be fraught. I am a 1950 model and in June this year, I turn 60. Logic tells me this is just a number and nothing will change over night when it happens, but I have to get my head around the fact that this number will have an application to ME. Peter turns 40 a week before my birthday. How can this be? Surely it isn't 40 years since we came home from the hospital together!

I had been so self absorbed that it didn't occur to me until very recently that two of my best friends will share the trauma and triumph of 60 years lived, this year. Eileen and Ingrid, both lifelong friends, turn 60 in April. Eileen is in England and Ingrid is in British Columbia, but knowing that we can commiserate on this transition, as we have in all of life's transitions so far, is comforting.

Ingrid and I share a second generation friendship. Her aunt, who was "tante Mies" to both of us, and my mum (whom she knows as tante Nell) were best friends for 60 years.We met at the age of 4 in Holland. I can't remember that meeting,but over the next 12 years, as we grew through childhood into young womanhood, and during other happy holidays in Holland, we grew into friends.

Ingrid is beautiful, with dark hair and blue eyes that sparkle with humour and curiosity as they gaze at the world. She is elegant and stylish and I always felt so unsophisticated and plain in comparison (before I learned how silly it is to compare!)

During our teenage years we corresponded regularly, and Ingrid wrote in English, which she was studying at school. How mortifying it was, at age 15, when she showed me a letter of mine that she had saved, and I noticed that she had corrected my misspelling of the word "receive!"

That year, in my little green five year diary, I briefly noted, in part, that on August 19th, "Ingrid came and we went to the park. Two boys came and asked if they could come with us into town..."

That summer day was warm, and the sun streamed down on we two laughing girls as we left Oma's flat for the park. Tante Mies, and oom Bart were having coffee with Mum and Oma and Ingrid and I decided to go for a walk together. At 15 I was showing the mildest of hints that I might eventually emerge from my puppy fat, but boys were not exactly flocking to my door! I was shy and awkward; blushed at the drop of a hat, and I didn't have the luxury of many clothes besides my school uniform.

We walked along the gravel paths of the park; along green slopes shaded by graceful weeping willow trees whose branches swept the canal banks. When Harry and Leo made their play, it was a completely new experience for me. To be approached by boys was not on my radar to that point.

We consented to them accompanying us back into town, where we stopped at a cafe. They lit up cigarettes and offered us one. My decline of their offer just made me feel even more of a whimpy provincial so when they asked what I would like to drink, I said, flippantly, "Coffee--BLACK!" You would have thought that I had just ordered, "Whisky--NEAT!" Well, if you have ever tasted the strength of Dutch coffee, there is probably not much difference.

I don't remember our conversation that day but I do remember choking down the very strong coffee, determined to look as though I was enjoying it and as if I drank it that way every day.

We never saw Harry and Leo again, but Ingrid and I can retrieve August 19th, 1965 from the hard drive of our memories for a replay, at the drop of a hat. One of the joys of friendship is shared rites of passage!

Do you have a rite of passage story to tell? If you do, please share it in the comments or send the link to your story.

8 comments:

Marilyn Yocum said...

I don't need much encouragement, Belinda. As you know, I've been sharing quite a few rites of passage lately, all involving my friend Joanie and me. Here they are:

- Our early days and spiritual turning points: http://asgoodadayasany.wordpress.com/joanie-and-me-summer-of-68/

- Our road trip and expectations for love and marriage: http://asgoodadayasany.wordpress.com/how-i-knew-he-was-the-one/

- And the current story, beginning here: http://asgoodadayasany.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/talk-her-out-of-it-please/

I have no idea if any more are coming.
LOVELY photo of your friend in your post today and I enjoyed going along with you on your outing to the park and sipping the coffee that makes your hair stand on end as I had my morning coffee here.

Belinda said...

Thanks for the links to your stories Marilyn. I am loving them.

Suz said...

I read your post with great interest. My "baby" sister will be 60 this year while I turn 62.

It is harder for me to imagine my little sister being 60 than it is for me to be 62. I feel she is having some of the problems you are having getting her head around that. Her oldest just turned 40 and that was a rude awakening.

let me share that 60 was wonderful! And you get the Senior Discount at the movies! It is all good!

Dave Hingsburger said...

Well, I'll tell you a 'coming of age' story but over tea.

Belinda said...

Suz, thank you for reassuring me! :) I can't imagine asking for the Senior's Discount but I am sure I will overcome that hurdle and enjoy it.

Dave--how soon can we have tea?? :)

Susan said...

My mind is suddenly abuzz with dozens of "coming of age/rites of passage" stories. But most of them I have been trying all my life to forget! Except, maybe for this one...

We were camping with the church youth group at Borrowman's Grove near Windsor. The weather was rainy and the ground was muddy. A few of us found refuge from the drippy skies in the biggest tent in our little compound. One by one, as the weather cleared, the others drifted out. We didn't plan it that way, but one of the boys and I found ourselves to be the only ones left... We quickly decided to follow the others out, and as we gathered our things to leave, the boy leaned over to steal a quick little kiss... It was all very innocent really, (at least on my part!) but just then one of the counsellors - a middle aged dad of one of the other youth - lifted the flap on the tent. We had no idea he was there until we heard his shriek of horror and his epithets of disgust. The boy was out of there like a shot out of a gun, and I was left alone and completely humiliated.

After seeking out the solace of one of the other wiser, and sager counsellors (who was much closer to our age, and someone who loved God and people and wasn't afraid of "life") I felt put back together enough to face the other kids. I went over to where said boy was throwing a football back and forth in a game of catch with one of the other guys. I sat down on the rain-damp ground at the foot of an oak tree to watch him and we talked - as best we could - between catches and throws.

I was 17 years old. He had been 18 for all of a week. His response to the whole situation was so mature. The words coming out of his mouth so wise and comforting. I fell in love right there and then. I knew I wanted this guy's stability and maturity around for the rest of my life. I couldn't believe how good he made me feel - in the midst of a very embarrassing situation.

That boy, under that oak tree, throwing that football back and forth, won my heart. He soon became my first ever boyfriend, and a couple of years later, we married and nearly 40 years after that kiss in the tent, we're still very much together. And, when the going gets tough and my emotions go crazy, he still makes me feel really, really good.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Susan! you kissed a boy in a tent ... you jezebel ... you!! Kidding aside, what a wonderful, how we met, story.

Susan said...

Hmm. I'm sure the word "jezebel" has crossed Ron's mind a time or two in the last 40 years! (Especially that year he forgot both our anniversary AND my birthday! :) )