Last night I went to my 40 year high school reunion…I know, right? It seems impossible to remember what it was like during those years so many decades ago, and the hundreds of people that crossed my path on a daily basis, but then…I walked into the room and spied name tags, and it was as if those memory/feeling files awakened from a long slumber and I was back in 1977. No judgement, just happy hello’s and good conversation…for the most part. It’s hard to disregard those memories, feelings and insecurities that were so plentiful from 15-18, many of which were rooted in placing pretty much every body else above myself, as if there was a game being played and every one else got the rule book, but me. I also realized, though, that even though I felt foolish a lot of the time, I had much better taste in friends than I ever gave my younger self credit for. They were good people then, only to have evolved through life’s trials to be even better versions of themselves today. Those whom I didn’t feel worthy of back in high school I felt no need to pay heed last night either, but only in the calm and resolved maturity when it just doesn’t matter any more. And besides, there were just so many good people to reconnect with and hear about their lives. There were so many happy memories, and they are the ones to celebrate and reminisce about.
It was also interesting to hear feedback from people about how they saw you in high school. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself thinking, given all the positive statements, I wonder why I felt so tortured and alone in high school much of the time? I’m sure it’s the same for many of my cherished friends, because we just didn’t spend as much time pumping each other up as we could have, a teenage thing I suppose, the inactivity of our frontal lobes…so I will do it now. I am an accomplished and educated woman…but I wouldn’t have become the me I turned into without so many wonderful people throughout my adolescence who were there to help form and support me, even if I was too myopic to notice. I was so impressed with all the stories I listened to and shared last night. Regardless of the path that each of us took, I have a much better appreciation of who they are now. 1977 was full of good people, people who help build the foundation that is me and I really am grateful. I hope, too, that I helped build a foundation for others as well. Most importantly? Like wine, we do get better with time.
So here we are, Connor John. You are about to begin the greatest adventure of your life, spring boarding into action all the dreams you’ve been building on thus far in life. Like most young men, right now you feel so ready to leave the nest and begin life on your own. You’ve outgrown your life here and are ready to move on. And as much as I am so proud and excited for you to begin this next step, I am also nostalgic and wary of letting the world have you at the same time. I have always told you that you were meant to be a great man some day, and that was predicated on your ability to rise to the occasions that were placed before you. Yes, my head may have exploded a few times when you missed opportunities because you were distracted by something else, but I think that’s true for most 18 year-old’s. What I want to tell you on this important occasion is exactly why I think you are destined to be a great man someday…and then the rest is up to you.
From the moment you could move around on your own, you were driven by curiosity…mostly expressed by breaking or taking apart everything in sight just to see how it was put together, sadly you could have cared less how to put things back together. You were as curious about people and seemed to inherit your mother’s no filter quality. Early on, you understood the art of conversation was something that involved an exchange between two people, and you liked to practice on the way to Montessori school. This was a line you repeated almost everyday: “Mom, let’s talk about the power lines…you start”, and then we’d have an exchange of ideas about the power lines, unfortunately you never let me talk about anything else, and I’d try to get you to sing songs instead. I’ll never forget your first conference at kindergarten when the teacher asked the school psychologist to be present; my heart sunk to my knees in fear that something awful had happened. When she told me that you liked to hug everyone, and some kids don’t like that…I literally laughed out loud, some in relief and some in utter shock that we fallen so low that hugging somehow was considered a problem, and then I got incredibly sad. So, trying to be a good parent and help teach you about boundaries, we had a talk about social bubbles. Like all the Edling men before you, you just loved everybody and were never self conscious about sharing it. Unfortunately, the world wasn’t quite ready for that lack of inhibition. It still makes me sad sometimes.
You loved music from the womb, it soothed you and moved you always, as it still does. When you were little, we went to the wedding of the great niece, I believe, of Lawrence Welk in his home town of Strasberg North Dakota and you were so mesmerized by the accordions played at the reception you begged me for weeks to sign you up for lessons. After I did my research, and got over the OMG factor of this has got to be the worst instrument ever, (an apology to all you fine accordion players out there) I did a final check on whether or not you were really serious about the accordion, and here was your reply: “No, mom, I changed my mind, I think I’ll learn the glockenspiel instead.” Well…you ended up with the trumpet, and it’s bass counterpart, the euphonium, and I’m proud of your accomplishments. Beyond just listening to music, you were the first one to dance to any band that was playing, or yell out to all our friends around the pool, “Hey everyone, how about a dance party!”. You were the sensation at the dance recitals the girls in the neighborhood would put on. Remember the group called “Connor and the Connorettes?”, hey it is a great memory, one that always makes me smile.
You were always deeply spiritual, perhaps not in the traditional sense, but then really, neither am I. I remember once, when you were about 6 years old, in the midst of summer fun at jelly stone park, while we were getting ready for a day full of sun and junk food, (Steve was at Wall-Mart, or golfing…the neighbors reading this will understand) you turned to me and said, “Mom, there is no place in hell that could keep out the love of God, right?” My neighbor Lisa D’s mouth dropped open at the depth of that statement, but I was used to it at that point. I also remember you breaking down at a Osceola football game because you had discovered that there were diseases out there, specifically cancer, that didn’t have a cure. How could God let that happen? It shocked your small world that some things can’t be fixed, and that there truly is darkness out there. You were almost inconsolable until the friends sitting around us told you that a cure was just around the corner. We’ve had some great conversations about faith, and I hope that it will continue to develop as you venture on your own.
Walking to the beat of your own drum hasn’t been always easy though. When bullied in middle school, I had to explain the concept of male posturing and drawing a line in the sand, you told me that you just weren’t interested in playing that game, that beating down the weak to feel strong was just ridiculous. And while I agreed with you, it was because you wore your heart on your sleeve and they knew they could get to you that you were an easy target. There is nothing more horrible for a parent than to find out their child is the victim of bullying, frankly it kept me up nights. But I also believe that God would never give you anything that you couldn’t handle, and it took all my energy to not to open up a can of whoop-ass. I took solace in the fact that adults have always seemed to love you, and talk about what a remarkable kid you are. Truthfully, I never fully understood why so many of your peers could never see you the way the rest of us did. You found out the hard way, that choosing to be different isn’t always acceptable. While you never let bullies define you, you never held it against them either. You forgave them and from what your class mates have told me, you now hold great respect in your class. That makes me so proud. You, with all your hats and freestyle attire, are a true character.
Being proud doesn’t imply that you aren’t flawed, though. So here is some advice for next year:
1) Wanting life to be easy, won’t make it so. The best truths in life are the ones that must be fought for; the greatest successes are usually preceded by failure, with the difference being the ability to get back up, learn from your mistakes and work even harder.
2) You are starting fresh. No one knows you, therefore you have no baggage or reputation to worry about, so remember the golden rule: treat others like you want to be treated.
3) School comes first. College is a blast, I won’t lie…but you are there first and foremost to obtain an education (and a 3.0 if you’re going to keep your scholarships)
4) Remain true to your values. It’s true, dad and I won’t be there to nag you, but there will be all sorts of temptations that we can’t protect you from either.
5) Never spend what you don’t have…and that means NO to credit cards. You’ll thank me some day.
6) Remember the talk about boundaries and social bubbles we had in kindergarten? Remember all those basics and you’ll be fine.
7) Never pick up a t-shirt or underwear from the floor and smell it, to see if it’s ok to wear. That is just gross.
8) BRUSH YOUR TEETH. Your smile is one of your greatest attributes.
9) Utilize your time well. Don’t wait until the last-minute to do an assignment or study for a test. OH, AND GAMING AND BEING IN THE MIDDLE OF AN IMPORTANT CAMPAIGN IS NEVER A REASON TO BE LATE FOR OR MISS CLASS.
10) Finally, always remember that you are meant to be a great man some day and that day is today!