It has been very bittersweet around here this spring and early summer. Perhaps in your world as well. May and June often bring important transitions and changes. Graduations, weddings and the like are just two of the traditional bookmarks of this time of year and we have seen both in our family this year.
The word itself colors our perception of the events. You’re all set to be happy on your way to the wedding or graduation, baby shower or parade and someone says “How nice, bet it’s bittersweet.”
Well, now that you mention it.
The dictionary defines bittersweet as “pleasure alloyed with pain.” It’s also a woody type plant that gardeners can’t quite decide whether or not is friend or foe. Invasive species or decorative vine?
And of course there is the baker’s world of bittersweet chocolate. And that last one does it for me. I see the dark, rich chocolate. Its aroma deep and heady. I break off a small piece, take a bite… the smoothness covers my tongue and palate, its essence warms my taste buds. And then, it bites back. Not the sweet confection of even semi-sweet, like the chips I bake into cookies. But bitter. Is it disappointing, or just surprising? A happy respite from sameness or the taste of something foreign and unpleasant? Oh yes, bittersweet.
My niece in her bridal gown perfectly beautiful. But nothing defines bittersweet to the parents, aunts and uncles like her happy march down the aisle. Wasn’t it just yesterday, that we all explored the beach together? Took photos with Minnie Mouse?
My own daughter took her own walk this spring to pick up her college diploma. It was her commencement. But to her father and me it seemed like an ending. Oh yes, happily we are done with tuition payments, but we know she has taken even more steps away from us and our sphere of influence. And as she is our youngest, for me at least, the feeling is more intense. I am pondering all these things while knowing full well that the bitter of the bitter sweet is probably only being experienced by those on the older side of the equation.
My recollection of my own to walks down those two aisles of adulthood is only of the joy, the happiness, the fulfillment, the sweet. I felt no sadness, no pain, nothing bitter. Oh perhaps some fear, anticipation, but pain? No.
And that is the bitter pill we not so young and not (quite thankfully) old parents must swallow. The sadness is all ours. We know that they, our babies our children have more wonderful moments to experience and that some of them will be bittersweet. They will take a child to school for the first time and think “where did my baby go?” They will leave a job or move or end a relationship and know it’s for the best and yet be sad, bittersweet.
It’s my understanding of bitter sweet that colors my understanding of not only the milestones but of the seemingly regular path of days. Summer with its longer days and smells of cut lawns and the flowers in my garden are experiences I try to embrace and appreciate. All to soon the temperature will change and the days will shorten. Bittersweet. To me it lends a richness and a dimension to my days I had no understanding of while I accomplished the milestones. An though I know I have many more wonderful experiences and days ahead (God willing) for me and my family and “framily” this view of bittersweet keeps me in the moment and joyful. Breathe in, taste, embrace the bitter it makes the sweet taste even better. I’m just say’n.