There are lots of firsts in life. And commonly, after the first comes a second, and then more succeeding events. But for us, it was once in a lifetime. As the parents of an only child, our daughter’s wedding day was an occasion we will never repeat. Hosting the celebration at our farm can accurately be described as a labor of love. And the preparation can be defined as taking a village to complete.
It doesn’t seem possible that what took over a year to plan was over in a flash. But the video and pictures will forever preserve and refresh our memories. Thank goodness, because the pictures reflect what I missed by living in the moment. But it’s those same pictures that have made it difficult for me to write this…
I didn’t cry on Brittney’s wedding day, but I tear up every time I watch the video. And the tears reflect a variety of emotions, beginning with happiness. When I see Brittney’s and Zack’s smiles and laughter, I well up from their genuine expressions of joy. It truly looks like it is the best day of their lives, so far. When I see how much our guests seem to be enjoying themselves, I’m filled with pride and gratefulness. When I watch Dick give his father-of-the-bride toast using his classic sense of humor, I laugh out loud again and again. But when I look at pictures that include me, the emotion I feel is one that I did not anticipate. I look at those pictures, and I see my Mom. While many have always said that I look like my Mom and that Brittney looks like me, I have just politely acknowledged it. I must confess when I first saw the pictures, for a millisecond I thought it was my Mom! (And not just because I wore the same dress she wore at my wedding). In appearance, I have indeed become her. Yet it wasn’t the facial resemblance that’s stayed with me. No. It was the appearance of my hands captured by the photographer when I was tying the bow on Brittney’s wedding dress. While my nails were freshly manicured, my hands looked like I remembered my Mom’s…old. And the resulting emotions range from reminiscence and nostalgia to melancholy and reflection. Then when I look at the picture of Brittney’s hands, the one with the focus on her wedding ring, my thoughts change. And I feel a smile taking over my emotions, as I begin to muse about what Brittney’s hands will look like when she proudly ties the bow on her daughter’s wedding dress. Humm. Wonder if she will look like her Mom, too?
“I bit my tongue ‘til it bled.” My mom said that a lot! You never had to wonder on which side of the fence she stood. She was outspoken. My dad was firm and true to his convictions and opinions as well, but he was more of a diplomat. I like to think I am a blend of the two. And I believe each would be disappointed in me if I didn’t speak up and speak out about our current public discourse. No - I’m not headed down a political path here. I’m headed down the path of civility. That old saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is not true! Words hurt. Words discourage. Words insight.
But words also comfort, reassure, unite. And sometimes, using no words (“biting your tongue”) is the best choice.
So as we begin a new school year and begin to shape a new generation of leaders, let’s remember and remind that “Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten.”
Colleen's Kindergarten Portrait
Congratulations to the new Illinois FFA Officer Team - all women! While there have been seven women presidents at the state level, this is the first all-women team in the 90-year history of the organization.
So why do I title Colleen Comments “Almost 50 Years Later”? Let me answer by asking another question. Do you know when women were permitted to be members of the Illinois FFA? It was June 1969. I may forget a lot of events in my lifetime, but not that one. Why? Because I graduated from high school in May 1969. That means the month after I graduated, women received permission to join the then Future Farmers of America. I was permitted to take ag classes in high school, but I could not contend for any recognitions.
I don’t know any of the 2018-19 officer team, but I do know that each of them has a competitive spirit. And I know that none of them set out to be a member of the first all-female officer team. That was happenstance. The goal of each was to have an opportunity to learn more about agriculture and agribusiness and its relationships to everyday living. To have an opportunity to learn about themselves, determine their areas of particular interest, and hone their skills through competitive events. To have an opportunity to chart a career path in agriculture. To have an opportunity to perform and not be pre-judged on their abilities or capabilities or deemed unqualified because of their first name or gender.
I’ve had many firsts in my professional life. None of which were goals. It just turned out that way. But I want to believe each of those “firsts” was a consequence of my determination, my genuine desire to inform and educate through a communications platform, my stick-to-it attitude, and because I had the encouragement of my family! I’m confident the current members of the FFA officer team each sought the same opportunities I did. They, however, had a different path to travel. Despite dissimilar routes, my hope for each is that this leadership opportunity will propel them to the same work gratification that I’ve experienced. An experience that began...almost 50 years ago!