It's quiet. It's peaceful. And for the first time in a very long time, I don't feel the pressure of having to get up and make something happen today. Oh, there are things to do, of course, but the pressure to be ready for a graduation party on May 30 is gone! Gone!!! Can I hear an amen from other mothers of graduates? Unless you've been in those motherly shoes, I'm fairly comfortable that you might not quite "get" it. Not only are you dealing with all the emotions and decisions that go along with raising your child in what may be his or her final year of their life under your roof, but then you add this enormous pressure to somehow throw together a very special party at the end to celebrate that precious life. Somehow you want everything to be perfect: the house, the yard, the food, the invitations, the guest list, the decorations, the seating, the weather, the atmosphere. Some things are way beyond your control, and you just have to deal with it, but other things are totally up to you, and if you mess it up, you have no one to blame but yourself. All the little details need to be thought about from where people will put their garbage to making sure there are forks and spoons available at all times to rounding up extra chairs and making sure hot foods are hot and cold things are cold. You have absolutely NO IDEA how many people might show up, so you have to plan enough food to not run out, but you don't want to end up with tons extra. The details are so exhausting that you kind of even give up making lists because even that can be overwhelming. I mean, when you're running around like a crazy woman at the last minute and you find a pile of extra tablecloths that need to be put away that are just laying in your living room, who's going to think of putting something like that on your list? "Make sure the tops of the Dorito bags are cut open." "Stock the bathroom with toilet paper." Seriously, that was one of those things that was on my mind but never got done, so either we just had enough or someone made work of finding more from another bathroom! I apologize if anyone found themselves in a predicament!
It's all those little things that just keep building up in your mind, and you find yourself in this vicious cycle of rolling things over and over and over. Your family thinks you're a little nuts and extra crabby and overly obsessive, but you just get frustrated because you don't understand why they don't see that that pile of shoes by the front door must be put somewhere and that the floor underneath them needs to be swept. You wonder why on earth they don't see the pile of dishes on the counter and just do them so you don't even have to ask them to do so. You just know that it all has to come together by a certain time on a certain day, and if it doesn't, you'll have the one party that everyone comes to and walks away and says, "Wow, what were they thinking? That was a total disaster! They didn't have any food to eat or a basket to put cards in or any pictures to look at. And did you see how messy their house was or how badly they should have mown their lawn before we came?" I mean, really! You know in your heart that it won't all end up absolutely perfect and that no one will really truly care if your windows didn't get cleaned (mine didn't, by the way), but somehow there is just this level of expectation that you have of yourself and your family to pull it all together for this one big event.
At one point Haley and I were in a little tiff over something, and she was wondering why on earth we were going to so much trouble. We ended up kind of joking around about it all, and I finally said to her, "Well, if you'd like me to just buy a big bag of bubble gum, throw it on a table in the middle of the garage, and call it a party, we could certainly do that, but I think we'd look pretty funny to most people who come!" I think she got it. We were able to laugh a little at that point, and I think her level of commitment to helping me went up a few notches.
Finally, the big graduation weekend was here. Haley and her friends had all very strategically put together a plan of when their parties would be so that none of them overlapped. We first attended a retirement party on Friday night, but once we were finished there, the grad parties began, and it was quite the party-hopping circuit. In 48 hours' time, Harris, Kelsey, and I made it to 11 parties, and we had the graduation ceremony, church, and a special visit from out-of-town friends thrown in there too. Haley and her friends hit as many as 12 parties in just one day, and I have no idea how many more they went to on the other days. Heath and Keaton went to a few here and there as well. Every single one was unique and different, and we had so much fun. One of Haley's friends is Indian, so we experienced some very tasty but very spicy food there, and unfortunately, Harris paid for that all weekend. We enjoyed a carnival style party, a "dessert by twilight" theme, and everything in between. It was while sitting in the actual graduation ceremony on Saturday morning that I had to make the decision to just enjoy each party and not give way to worrying about being outdone in some way. Our party would be our style, and as long as Haley felt honored and loved, that was all that was important to me.
Sunday night the final frenzy of activity officially kicked in, and this family pulled together and helped out in so many ways. Keaton took it upon himself to sleep for the family. He fell asleep reading in his bed at 7:30 p.m. already and slept till 9:30 the next morning! We've always known our family is probably not real normal, but we verified that when we found ourselves grilling a package of brats at 1:00 in the morning. There was still much to be done, and eventually Haley and I were the last two to head to bed at 4:45 a.m. All we could do at that point was pray for strength for the day ahead, but we were just glad to be left with the final last-minute kind of stuff for Monday.
Even though my alarm was set for later, I woke up on my own at 7:45 and knew that it was time to just get up and get going. It was a countdown till 4 p.m., and the clock was ticking. Our parents all arrived in town around noon, so we grilled some burgers and hot dogs, warmed up a can of beans, cut up some fresh strawberries, opened a bag of chips, and enjoyed a fun family Memorial Day meal around the kitchen table. Once lunch was done, I put our moms to work in the kitchen, and my dad went to help Harris in the garage. There is no way we could have done it without their help! Other out-of-town family started arriving at 3:30, and by about 4:15, I was finally able to just breathe a huge sigh of relief and knew that I just needed to relax and enjoy the next few hours. Friends and family poured in, lots of good conversation was had, food was consumed, and Haley was honored and loved, just as she should be. Steph, Jenny, and Kelsey were my appointed gals for making sure things were replenished, and Kelsey captured the evening with my camera around her neck. In typical Westerkamp style, we gave the neighbors something to talk about when a policeman showed up at the party, complete with sirens, but hopefully they were peering through their windows soon enough to see Haley give the officer a great big hug! Her friend's dad was on duty, so she had asked him to come by like that, and she was quite pleased to see him and get the chance to crawl in the back of a squad car just for fun.
The whole evening passed by quickly, and memories were made. Lots of special friends and family members showed up to give hugs and celebrate Haley's life. It was a wonderful evening, and I just can't thank everyone enough for all their help for the party, for coming, for the cards and gifts that were given, and for all the support Haley's been given over the years. She's planning on college in the fall but continues to remain open to God's calling on her life. Her real passion involves all those orphans and child soldiers over in Africa, so if and when the opportunity arises, she may find her way back there someday. In the meantime, she'll just keep trusting the Lord to guide her steps. What more could these parents possibly ask for?