My husband asked me today if I have any birthday reflections to share with the wider world? The one that comes to mind has to do with my first date with Randy, over 15 years ago. He took me to see “Into the Woods” at the Littleton Town Hall back when we lived in Colorado. It was dark during the play and I can vividly recall the electric feeling of his fingers sliding into mine for the first time. I remember the butterflies I felt as I watched this play about classic fairytales while my own was just beginning. This memory comes to mind because my birthday present this year is tickets to “Into the Woods” performed by several of my local theater friends at St. Thomas Playhouse.
As I explained to my weekly Bible study group this morning, it is profound to consider the context of our first viewing versus this one. When I watched the play over 15 years ago, I took great delight in the first half of the play which lives in the rose-colored land of possibility and hope. The second half made me sad back then. My young, naive self didn’t really want to step into the possibility of the challenges posed by the 2nd act of the play. Having now walked with Randy through several geographic moves, job-changes, the birth of two children, the loss of a beloved sister and several grandparents, graduate degrees, trips to a variety of places, the dance of family dynamics on both sides, seasons of plenty and want, the highs of euphoric love and the lows of anger and mutual frustration, suddenly the 2nd act becomes more resonant. We have been in the woods, so to speak. The heartache and beauty found in the 2nd act are so much more poignant after 15 years of journey together.
In reflecting on 43 years of life, I find welling up within me such gratitude for all that I have been given. The wild days of high school, trips to the beach with surfboards and friends, launching into college and navigating independence, my 20’s in Denver with roomates and long conversations about calling and love, the thread of music and bands that provided fellowship and creativity in a variety of settings, the faith communities that I have called home and family, meeting Randy Kemp and stepping into the adventure of marriage, parenthood and the delight of life perspective through the lens of my children, friendship with siblings and parents are just a few of the many gifts that come to mind. Looking back, I see more joy than pain. Perhaps in the review mirror much of what seemed hard is lost in the justification of what that hardship formed. Looking ahead, I see woods yet to navigate and still a hopeful sense of exploration and adventure…though I know the road may be winding and will likely have detours that seem fruitless. There will also be some amazing vistas and uncharted territories beyond my wildest imagination.
So, my husband, my reflection is on that moment to come – Friday night – when I will again slip my hand into yours in the darkness of a theater and commit to the woods to come. The 1st and 2nd act. The highs and lows, and the next forty-something years.