Stressing over party prep; or was it something else?

I was at the local Walmart in the party section when I felt my eyes start to well.  Cory Tyler, my youngest of five had just graduated from High School.  It was hard to think that after 31 years of stressing over my children’s homework and report cards, it was game-over for me.

I scanned the walls for yellow and purple decorations and wasn’t surprised to see a limited selection.  I still had a week before the party, so I wasn’t overly concerned.  I knew I could order what I needed online, at least that much had changed since 1999 when my oldest son Ryan graduated.

“Your first child and your last are the hardest,” my mother said.  “It’s not that you love the others any less, it’s just that these occasions mark the turning points in YOUR life.”  She was surely right about that.

I wandered over to the scrapbooking section and stared at the wall of letters and stickers.  I recited the letters needed to title the picture board.  I’d need two C’s, two R’s, three O’s.  Was congratulations spelled with a t or a d?!  I couldn’t believe I was having trouble figuring that out.  When Ryan graduated, I would have run to the card section to check the spelling, but it was a new century, so I Googled it.

Because it was my fifth graduation party, I had a pretty good handle on what needed to get done, by when.  Monday, I cleaned the house.  Tuesday, I planned the menu and made the card box.  The only thing that I started fretting was the weather.  According to the weather channel, which I checked at least twice daily, there was an 80% chance of rain.  I was relieved that I remembered back in May to reserve the park pavilion.  I learned my lesson the hard way on my third child’s party that pavilions get booked up fast.

Wednesday, I made the picture boards. Thankfully, I started organizing photos in albums once Cory was born.  When I made the picture boards for my other kids, I had drawers, bins, and boxes over the span of three floors to search through.  I had a heck of a time finding the ones I wanted.   This time, I forgot that I started storing photos on a disc.  The last album I put together was when Cory turned thirteen.  But it was Wednesday and I had to use what I had.  It was okay though.  Looking through the albums in chronological order allowed me to take an abbreviated trip through my youngest child’s life.  I felt a renewed appreciation for the wonderful times I had being a mom.

Thursday, I began to panic about the food preparation.  How many people should I plan for?  Should I make the salads or order them from the deli?  Would sloppy joes be good enough or should I have a second selection?  My husband suggested ordering chicken from the local restaurant.  Maybe I should check on a catering service?  After a few phone calls, I realized I was too late for that.  I ended up ordering the salads from Super One, chicken from The Breakwater, I picked up a few watermelons, and found a recipe online for sloppy joes for 100.  Cory’s Grandma Lois ordered the cake.  Cory’s dad was picking up the drinks, chips and dipping sauces.  It was just a graduation party, right?

Friday, my anxiety was building.  I furthered that along by adding selections to the food menu and made a plan for another picture board because two wasn’t good enough anymore.

I no longer wanted to decorate the pavilion alone.  I called my friend Cindy and step-daughter Courtney to see if they’d like to help.  I almost cried when they said yes.

Saturday morning, I woke to a weather forecast of 40% chance of rain, slated to start the same time as the party.  I took deep breaths and asked my husband for the hundredth time, “would you please figure out a way to hang a tarp to keep the rain out of the pavilion?”  When he didn’t answer, I knew I’d better pull it together.  Rain or shine, we were having this party.

When the first guest arrived and everything looked perfect, I realized that deep down my stress wasn’t so much about the party, the food, the decorations, or the weather.  It was about the sadness I felt at letting my last child go.  Being a mom was what gave my life a purpose thus far.  And maybe I was just a little bit hesitant to be grateful for what the next stage of my life had in store for me.

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