peoniesIt was late May and the freshness of spring was oozing from the ground. The pink peonies were full of bloom along the fencerow. The year was 1965. The day… my graduation from high school.

By the end of the day I would hold in my hand a diploma, evidence of completion of my high school efforts. A small party was planned at my home following the ceremony at the school. Pink peonies would be the centerpiece for the table spread with a white cloth. A few family members would attend including grandparents I hadn’t seen for over six years, though they lived only a few miles from me in our small town.

The white dress I would wear under my gown hung on my door. My mother sewed it, spending hours creating the scalloped edges of the top and skirt. The material had small delicate white flowers embossed on the fabric. I silently wished she spent as much time noticing my longing heart and talking to me as she spent creating clothes.

I accompanied my mother on a trip up town to pick up a few last-minute foods for the evening’s gathering. As we returned to the car, my mother spoke of their intentions for my future, their desire to have me move out of their home soon. This was a pivotal point in my life, a place of traumatic transition and change. Her desire for me to leave their home as soon as possible was a shock to me.

As my friends left for college with their suitcases packed with clothes purchased on shopping trips with their mothers and brightly colored bedspreads and supplies to make their college dorms comfy, my suitcase held my few personal belongings. I was thrust into adulthood on my own, poorly prepared.

There are no photos of the day and I don’t have memory of walking across the stage to receive my diploma. As the speakers talked of how they would spend their summer, their college dreams and hopes for what they would become, my mind focused on where I might go now, how I would survive, what job I could get to pay for a roof over my head and food for my table.

I was committed to smiling and hiding my fears at the party back home. Somehow I didn’t feel celebrated, yet I knew it was wise to appear pleased. I have a picture captured in my mind of me standing in my white dress in front of the table with the pink peonies to my side. There were a few cards that contained money. Would it be enough for my first month’s rent? Would it purchase enough food to sustain me until I could land a job?

Clearly a time of transition and change…

Celebration has come to be a passion of mine, passion born from my own losses as a child.

I love to mark the milestones of others, especially my family. With five children, we’ve had lots of opportunities to host birthday parties, sleepovers, sweet sixteen parties, and graduation celebrations from high school and college, marriages and births of grandchildren.

I have fun memories of the wedding reception we hosted on our lawn beside the lake. We spent much of the preparation time ordering two young geese away from the tables set with elegant white cloths, china, silver stemmed glassware and fresh bouquets of flowers. The geese were especially curious about the wedding cake.

As I ponder the stories of my early years and lack of celebration, I smile and my heart feels tender to celebrations I’ve hosted and how my children have learned to celebrate well. This weekend we will celebrate the dedication of our youngest grandson and attend the dance recital of two granddaughters, complete with large bouquets of flowers to celebrate them.

This summer the legacy of celebrating will continue in my family, with birthdays for grandchildren, and our wedding anniversary of 48 years and plan for family gathering over the Fourth of July.


I am grateful for the blessing of a large family and lots of reasons to celebrate, what was once a place of loss has become a legacy of goodness.

valerie averynbsp
Valerie Avery treasures the journey of embracing all God has gifted her with including creating art and beauty using fibers, beads and nature. The bond of 46 years of marriage has created a legacy as mother to 5 and “Grammie” to 20. She is venturing into the world of writing and is grateful for a place to share stories of growth and hope. ¬†You can read more here.