We've just finished the annual birthday barrage in my family.
I now have a teenager (boy, do I). More on him in a minute.
I have a 10 year old, caught in-between. So full of himself, he longs to be 18, but still so much a boy. Caught in-between...I am a middle child. I get it more than he thinks I do.
And then there's the King of the Castle, my 4 year old, in whose realm I am privileged to dwell.
The stuff of one day in the life of my family gives me pause to consider the rites of passage that occur daily...if I'm paying attention.
My favorite Robert Fulghum book is not the one about kindergarten. Rather, it's "From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Lives." In this book he talks about the many rites of passage we experience in each and every relationship. Each moment, each transition carries the sacred with it, and if we're attuned to it, we recognize the gifts the little "rites" are.
They make up a life.
So, on one particular day this past month, I was especially struck by these rites of passage.
It was Andrew's (13) birthday. And he had a date. Yep...that's right, he had date.
We participate with some other clergy families in monthly social outings, and this month, it was bowling/skating/lasertag. Andrew invited his "girlfriend" with him. We had not yet met the "girlfriend." I'd spoken to her several times on the phone.
Well, I don't know if you call "hang on a moment, and I'll get him for you," a conversation, but I've said it to her, several times, while she was on the other end of the line. (Did I miss something? When was it o.k. for girls to call guys?)
We met her, her mother and little sister before taking off on our "date." Her mom hadn't met us yet, either, and she was more than a little curious about who these people were that were going to be with their daughter for a night. Can't blame her that.
So we had that going on...
Also, that evening before we took off, Christopher (10), and Jack (4), got into a, uh...disagreement. That's not so unusual in my house. But this was different. As they stood before us to explain what happened, it was the first time that Jack waited patiently, with his hands on hips, for Christopher to give his side of the story, and then, when asked, offer his rebuttal and give his own version.
It was stunning, and he did it perfectly! I think he's going to be a lawyer.
I caught myself thinking, "Gosh, I have no more babies." Of course, that is by my own choice given the very specific thing I've done to make that no longer possible. So any longing for more or misgivings of my choice, if present, are fleeting.
But there was more going on in me. Recognizing that it was a big birthday for Andrew, and obviously a big night (at least he hoped), I was struck by the continuum of life and how it does march on. You see, if you want to know what Andrew looked like as a baby, as a kid...look at Jack.
The resemblance is amazing.
So, I'm listening to Jack, thinking about Andrew, and realizing how much we've all grown...and changed.
That's what the recognition of these rites of passage do. They cause us to reflect. They bring out the essential character of life. It is through the little thing that the big thing becomes so clear. More and more I'm convinced this is how God works.
Perhaps in each of our days there should be time to reflect upon that which has and is changing in us and use that as cause for celebration or warning for behaviors gone awry to be brought back into check before they get out of hand.
And now, the rest of the story...
As if my moment of reflection had not reached an apex, there was more to come. At the end of our evening, I had to drive Andrew's "date" home. And of course, Andrew went along, too.
Now, some of you have noticed that I'm driving a different car. I'm driving a '92 Lexus. It belonged to my in-laws, and they "made me an offer I couldn't refuse" (imagine Vito Corleone's voice here). It's a beautiful car, and I'm glad to drive it, and it's certainly not anything I could drive under any other circumstance. And let me tell you, it'll gitty up and go, too!
But, if you're a guy and you're escorting your date home, driving from Collierville to Germantown in a sweet ride is a plus. I have to confess a combination of unease and curiosity as they both climbed into the back seat, and I became chauffeur.
Being the conscientious driver that I am, I was proud of how often I needed to check my rearview mirror to make sure we were safe on the road. Precious cargo aboard, don't you know!
But wait, my work wasn't done. There was one more role to play - DJ. As soon as we got rolling, Andrew asked me to turn on some music.
But did he want the radio? No.
Did he want "his" music? No.
"Dad, why don't you turn on some of that music you like?"
"You mean my 70's Soul and R&B?" I asked, knowing all along what he was thinking.
He is my kid, after all.
So, on Andrew's 13th birthday, with his first date, the old man escorted the young couple home as Earth, Wind & Fire sang "Can't Hide Love," and "Reasons" (the live version, of course).
You have to understand, EW&F was a pivotal band in my adolescence. I have owned several of their albums since the mid-1970's, and now CD's. I learned to sing soul by imitating Maurice White (a product of Memphis). Back when my voice was really high, I could give Phillip Bailey a run for his money (not really, I just thought I could). I learned harmonies with buddies as we sang cruising in south Jackson. EW&F was among the groups comprising the soundtrack of my teenage years.
To have my kid serenading a girl to my music - while I'm in the car....
(in the words of Frank Barone) "Holy crap!"
déjà vu. . .
twilight zone. . .
rite of passage. . .
ontological shock...all rolled up into one.
That's one day in the life of my family. I'm going to bet that if you pay attention, you'll be amazed at all the little things that become huge when cast across the span of your days. These rites of passage define the transitions of our living.
In those transitions, there is God, waiting, I suspect, to see what we'll make of them.