With the advent of my birthday celebration in Palm Springs, I’m trying to compose a little speech, but all that comes to mind are the usual platitudes: I’ve lived a good life, pretty well done whatever I desired, travelled, had an excellent marriage, and am exceedingly proud of my offspring; and what matters most is my family, the love I feel for them. Although timeless and true, pretty boring stuff.!The people at my dinner, I hope, will all ready know that I express these truths in my own unique way.
When my elder daughter had her bat mitzvah, I could discourse on her talents and how like a seedling that is cared for, offered environments, opportunities, nutrients and love, she had blossomed. When my son was married, I used the metaphor of a string of pearls-that there are the momentous times that stand out like the gleaming lustrous gems that draw attention, for example, the day you fall in love or are married-but the strands that hold the necklace together, the everyday events are likewise significant, and we need both to keep the necklace together. Perhaps my best oratory was my mother’s eulogy in which I surveyed her life as an immigrant girl chased down the streets with the incantation,” green horn, tin can, five cents apiece” to her fortitude when my dad succumbed to polio along with her roasted chicken loving prepared on Friday nights. After the funeral, someone told me he had heard JFK debate, and my little speech only came second to his remembrance. Incredible praise. The attending rabbi who tried to calm me before I spoke, nonetheless at my conclusion demurred,” You’ve done this before, haven’t you?”
My work at OCT involved presentations and I worked extremely hard to craft them, some lasting two days . I drew on a variety of techniques to engage my participants: from examples of paintings to closed eye visualization and response writing to direct talk. And although I am a shy, reticent and a somewhat withdrawn personality, I could perform like an actor turning on , heightening, even dramatizing key issues, with an aim always of engaging my audiences in my presentations. I could tell by the way I held their eyes whether I had been successful or not. If I am boastful, I can attest that my work at the College, particularly in working with the faculties was well done. And I am proud of those days: prompting them to make a connection with their own experiences, encouraging their reflections and offering new information for their consideration, as well as interactive activities in which they could relate new information. It was exhausting but stimulating work. In New Brunswick once, a government official remarked how different my private and public personas were.
Hardly surprising, I recoil from attending holiday functions , for I do not know how to make cocktail chatter chatter, and should an unfortunate guest decide to converse with me, I will not move away from their side, stuck like glue, babbling away, just to avoid not having to begin the process all over again.My mind flies back to those lunchtime tea dances in junior high, a single wallflower unable to vacate my spot in the gym, totally exposed in embarrassment as a misfit.
But at my tiny birthday soirée, I will ,of course , I hope be familiar to my small guest list, delighted to be with those I cherish most on this planet so I shouldn’t worry about a speech. , to pass on wisdom?, to say something they will recall when I am gone😳.In deed as it is being held in a restaurant, it might be too noisy for a few words to be heard anyway . Yet, there is a need to express in a memorable way something of import, as words whether written or used in my professional life, speak to the essence of who I am, and who I have been. Yet, perhaps because what I feel is so deep, I am unable to dislodge the entrapping emotions and put them out into the light of day. Still I fret for providing a way of sharing in speech and elevating it to suggest my heartfelt meaning.But likely, my contribution will be limited to A nod, a hug, a glance, a smile, a way to convey what is at the core of me that frankly eludes me in my imagined speech.
I am reminded of my parents’ childhood admonishments, “You don’t have to say EVERYTHING you know, Pat,” particularly when I divulged family secrets.” Think before you speak,”I was reminded often- as if my loose lips could sink ships. Ironically my work was to commandeer words to my students, and later at OCT in the formation of policy and the development of the standards into clear, concise language with words that ultimately conveyed meaning. And now as I write my blog, I describe events that as a boomer I continue to note on an ongoing basis.
Still, I am bereft of words for my own special occasion, and maybe that is the way it should be, for I hope I am more than just words, good or bad, some thoughtless , I admit. but a being who has tried to touch the lives of those who have granted me access to their souls here and there, allowing me to share their space, their dreams, their thoughts. No words can approximate.
In the end, love takes multiple shapes.