It’s a business trip I told my husband. I was leaving for the beach but not to go relax or rejuvenate. I had a job to do.
In July, my mom asked me to chaperone her to her 60th high school class reunion. She’s a proud member of the Class of 1962, Laguna Beach High School.
Sadly her health hasn’t been good. Simple things like walking have become difficult so she uses a walker and takes it very slow. It feels like everything takes double the time and while I’m okay with it, she is impatient with herself. She feels like an inconvenience and a burden.
Nothing could be farther than the truth.
But we were determined to make this trip. She talked about it all summer and desperately wanted to go. We willed ourselves: we would make it, even when she landed in the hospital for a few days the week before the reunion. The whole time in the hospital she kept saying… “I have to go. I have to see Sally”.
Sally was moms best friend from 6th grade through their departure to college. They grew up together and my moms adolescence and high school years were all about the mischief she got into with Sally. I have heard stories my whole life about Sally and their special friendship. Sally went off to Wellesley College in Massachusetts and my mom to Colorado, their lives never intersected again. Even though my mom has memory issues, her ability to remember the specifics around treasured times together with Sally amazes me.
We made it to the reunion (hallelujah!!) just as everyone was sitting in a big circle sharing a little bit about themselves. As we began our slow trek on the beach to the spot where her classmates sat, someone spotted us and yelled “It’s Mollie!!”. My eyes quickly filled with tears as they all came rushing to us before we could get to them. She was welcomed, remembered and loved.
Amidst all the hugs and hello, one hug stood out. It was Sally’s.
Their embrace was different, almost magical. It was a reunion of souls. They looked at each other and they were 16 again. Later, as we sat and listened to people tell their story, I glanced over at mom who was sitting next to Sally.
They sat, side by side, holding hands.
Mom had one request when I planned the trip. She wanted to stay as close to the ocean as possible. I think in her heart she knew this might be her final trip “home” so she wanted to be near the waters that raised her. Our hotel room, boujee and oceanfront, filled this request to her approval.
After returning from the first nights events, I suggested we get fancy. Mom was all in so I ran to the hotel restaurant for two glasses of champagne. There we sat on our hotel balcony, listening to the majestic water welcome her back, drinking our bubbles and toasting to her life… a life well lived.
It’s a moment I’ll tuck away deep within myself- a moment that when I’m her age, I pray I still remember vividly.
We slept with the patio door open to the crashing waves. Listening to the water gave our brain and our senses a rest and the calming veil of the swelling sea lulled us to sleep.
The next day we rode a trolley with her classmates around Laguna Beach, seeing their old school and stomping grounds. Of course, Mom and Sally sat together. Listening to them share who lived where and what they used to do in 1962 was like a walk through a history textbook.
Funny thing- turns out Mollie was spicy in high school. Who knew?! I heard stories of her epic slumber parties where they read racey novels out loud — my mom making the ladies howl reminding them how they read “certain parts of the book twice”. Somehow mom seems a little cooler now.
Finally it was time for us to part. We were the first to leave because two full days were too much for my mom so we skipped the final nights dinner. There were hugs, lots of “love you’s” and “I hope to see you again”.
And then there was Sally’s hug. It just hit different. They held on to each a little longer with true love and admiration. They were an important part of each other’s her-story and they will forever be connected, regardless of the years or the the distance.
My mom knows her memory challenges her and she forgets big chunks of time. She hates it but knows there is nothing she can do but manage it gracefully. As we were driving to the airport she had a profound comment-
“You know I may forget these amazing two days but nothing can ever erase that they happened. Because of that, my heart is happy.”
She continues to make lemonade out of lemons.
I’m so grateful that life slowed down for those two days. I’m grateful I met Sally and learned things about my mom by being with the people who she grew up with. I’m grateful we got fancy and made a priceless memory together. I’m grateful her classmates told me that I was my mothers daughter.
I’m eternally grateful I took this “business trip” that turned out to be one of the best and most important trips of my life.
Finally… I’m so grateful my moms heart was happy. She’s in the twilight of her life, the golden years they call it and precious moments together—whether they are remembered or not— are truly gold.