Friday, May 21, 2010

The Season of Second Chances

My son graduated from college yesterday. And as much as it was a turning point in his life, I'm feeling as though it was one in mine as well. I've been thinking a lot lately about second chances. It's galling to be such a cliche, but I think I may be a part of that legion of women who find themselves at loose ends when their children leave home or when they reach a certain age. (Don't you love the phrase "une femme d'une certaine age?" Sounds so much better than "pushing 55," doesn't it?) We have been caretakers for so long, that when faced with time on our hands and no one to drive to soccer practice, we simply don't know what to do.

Until it dawns on us that maybe this is not such a bad thing.

I was recently asked to review a book about second chances. The Season of Second Chances, by Diane Meier, is the story of Joy Harkness, a woman who seems to have what she would consider the perfect life -- a tenured position at an Ivy League University, her work in print, and an apartment overlooking the Hudson (just) in New York City. Despite this, she begins to realize that what she has always strived to achieve may not be all that she thought it would be. When she is offered a teaching position at Amherst, in western Massachusetts, she jumps at the chance.

Joy buys an old, run-down Victorian house, and sets about renovating it with the help of a talented handyman who teaches her about sheet rock and masonry and tiling and, inadvertently, about life too. Joy has found her life in academe to be limited and sterile. She had a few friends, but has not really connected with them on an emotional level. And as a feminist of a certain age, she dismisses matters of style, both interior and personal, as unimportant.

As Joy settles into her new job and her new home, she acquires some real friends who both give and need emotional and real-world support. And the restoration of her beautiful old Victorian house becomes a metaphor of sorts for the emergence of Joy's restored emotional life.

The Season of Second Chances is the engaging story of a woman who takes a chance and finds her true self. Diane Meier is a wonderful writer and her characters are multi-dimensional. We are immediately drawn in by the voice of Joy Harkness -- intelligent, witty and engagingly vulnerable. She is a woman we would like to meet in real life. We watch with concern, and later with joy, as she emerges from her cocoon. And ultimately, we rejoice in the message that her story illustrates -- that no one is ever too old to recreate themselves.

And this, my dear bloggers, is the message that I suspect a lot of us need to hear. My son graduated from college yesterday. My daughter attends her senior prom tonight. Tomorrow may be "how in the hell did I get so freakin' old" day. But we can always reinvent ourselves. Like Joy.

Or like Madonna.

I think I'll stick with Joy. :)

by Diane Meier
Henry Holt & Co.


  1. That sounds like a good book.

    Wishing you well in this next stage of your life.

    Enjoy each day ~ FlowerLady

  2. Mary,

    You will be just fine! I adjusted very quickly and although you miss them you will find time to do things that you couldn't do before and you will learn new things as well.

    The book sounds wonderful!


  3. Yes, Joy sounds like the better choice. The book sounds great. I have recently been realizing that its time to make some changes. My girls just don't need me as much any more. That has actually been very freeing. I look forward to finding my new place in life. Carla

  4. I know just what you are talking about Mary. I began to feel at loose ends when my daughters graduated. Reinvention isn't for the faint hearted though. I'm in the process and I have to say, there is something to kicking back and having the time on your hands to do what you like. I keep telling myself it will be worth it. I'm not sure if my self believes me yet, but she is willing to try:>)

  5. May go bless you abundantly. Congratulations to your son and YOU!!! Well done! Cathy

  6. I know the feeling. I ended up moving to a different country...getting re-married and am living the life I've always wanted to. Not bad for a 'woman of a certain age'. You'll do just fine...think of it as a time of adventure to try things you've always wanted to but never had the time before. Have a wonderful weekend Mary....Maura:)

  7. This sounds like a great book. When I worked in the tea room, I had the chance to converse with all sorts of varied and interesting people. I remember one conversation I had with an older gentleman about which age of a human was the best. I thought younger and much older were the best. He said, "are you kidding? A woman who is in her 50s is the best. She knows who she is and how to do things - she's in perfect bloom - fully herself. I see what he means.

  8. Sounds like a very good read..
    will certainly look for it!
    and I like and agree with Katy..
    howeever I must be on the decline..
    this is my year of 65,,
    life is good!
    and to me, age is just a state of mind!
    congrats on your successes..
    your kids are living/loving proof!
    warmest hugs..

  9. Diane Meier may be a wonderful writer, but so are you, my friend. This was a beautifully written book review. And why aren't you going the Madonna route? I so wanted to see a photo of you dressed up with a whip.

  10. Oh, Dear Mary... I can relate to the last paragraph! It just made me smile to have you say it so well. I don't find myself with time on my hands because this just isn't going to be an empty house. Our first grandchild came when our youngest was just five and there has been a steady stream since. (We have 9 grandchildren). Our youngest daughter is finishing high school but going to a local collage.

    I enjoyed reading your book review!
    Kindly, ldh

  11. Hello Mary.....I have reinvented myself so many times it's not funny. It certainly makes life much more interesting! I find each new day of life to be an unparalleled gift, to be opened slowly and savored! Sincerely, Susan

  12. Dear Mary:

    Hope you take lots of photos tonight, and have some from yesterday's event. Select the best one's to frame for your household.

    Enjoy the new memories and use the momentum to move forward on your own marvelous journey.

    You have a wonderful way with photographing your space and presenting it to us. Keep up your great work.

  13. Your post today really resonates with me. I'm still immersed in the "kids with me 24/7" phase. I long for some mental space. Your post makes me wonder what I'll do with this space when I get it. Anyway, I don't know what you're going to do, but I know what you have done. You've nurtured your children so that they can embrace and create their own futures. Well done! And yes, things always sound better in French.

  14. LOL well said! I too had to re-invent myself! I thought I would be DONE with age 55. Hmm NOT a chance. Only because of the economy and health. I am beginning to wonder...what it will be like at 65...hopefully by then the re-inventing will be hopefully.

  15. Please stop calling yourself old. I am older than you and that makes me...

    Oh thank you for the review. I adore stories about women buying houses and redoing them. And if, in the process, she has an awakening all the better.

  16. Mary, thank you for the review. I am going to read that book. Hope you have a wonderful weekend contemplating how you will reinvent yourself. Take care:)

  17. Congratulations on your son's graduation. The book sounds lovely. I just attended my baby brother's graduation in NC!!

  18. Mary - you had me on the edge of my seat throughout you review and then you threw that curveball - Like Madonna. LOL!
    I thing you're fabulous and can't wait to see where this journey called life takes you!

  19. Sounds like an excellent book, I will put it on my "must read" list. Happy weekend!


  20. Congratulations to your son, Mary! Hope your daughter had fun at her prom.

    As a Mom whose children have flown the nest I can tell you from experience that your life will evolve and you will find your place in this new stage of life. It is a time for new adventures and expressions of creativity.

    Then, before you know it you will enter the realm of being a grandparent..the very best time in life!

    ♥ Pat

  21. PS This sounds like a good book! Perfect to read on the beach this summer!

  22. Well done Mary, your writing is beautiful. That book seems to resonate with feeling that I went through a few years ago. Lovely review, and lovely sentiments. Congratulations to your son and your are not old!! For me sixty-two is the new forty, tee hee.


  23. It IS a milestone for you. It's a chance to re-evaluate and move furniture around. It's a beautiful thing. Congratualations to your son and to you!

  24. I identify with your thoughts, Mary. I've been there and both of my children have children of their own now. I'm loving every minute of life after the soccer meets and proms and graduations but it was a big adjustment when those things all came and went. You will find a 'soft' place that is just right for you and it will be good! Love the book review - going to try to read it soon.

  25. Good friends of ours have raised 3 wonderful boys, so when my girls were little I asked how she was able to deal so well with letting them go? She told me 'when the time comes, you'll be ready'

    At that moment I couldn't imagine it but now I can definitely see what she was talking about. The thought of them leaving hurts but I think with some children it hurts more than others. My older daughter has been talking about moving out for 2 years, and she's only 16! I say go ahead and go, you think it's so easy. HA!

    My younger daughter, sweetest thing ever, says she's going to stay with us for a while after graduation. Our luck it will probably turn out the other way around. LOL!

    Honestly I'm trying to embrace the girls getting older while finding a little more time with my husband. That said, what I wouldn't give to hold my babies just one more time. Or take them to the playground for an hour. Where did the time go? And who did we become?

    Sorry this is so long Mary.

  26. I got a whole new life at 50, when I gave birth to my second son. My oldest-and only other child-is exactly 32 years and 10 months older than his little brother! Widowed when my little one was 5 months old, I have had to start anew as a single mom---and OLD single mom! I will be 54 on Tues and in 3 weeks my little one will be 4. We are doing okay together!

  27. Ahh Sweet MAry... typically you are such an inspiration... and today no difference. First I am going to go get that book!

    When our kids hit these heights you have to be so proud of them and FOR you... I always said I wouldn't take all the credit for my kids achievements OR their failures. But a little of each is true too.

    My heart is with you... but I keep my eyes more clearly focused on my daily beauty ... as now you will have more time to enjoy it ALL. Hugs friend... see you Sunday night!


  28. Sounds like a very interesting read Mary. Thanks for the review. And she settles in my neck of the woods so I'll definitely have to check it out. ~Jeanne

  29. Oh, Mary. I can so identify with where you are right now.

    Right after graduating from high school, my son landed a job where he was making enough money that he could buy a house and move out on his own.

    From the moment he signed the contract for his house, an almost overwhelming sadness enveloped me. He lived at home the whole time his house was being built, but just knowing he was going out on his own just seemed so final. And, it was happening so much sooner than I had anticipated.

    My children and I are very close, and I think that made the transition even harder in some ways.

    He knew I was struggling and made even greater attempts to hug me and tell me how much he loved me. But, when the day came for him to move his things into "his" house, I cried like a baby.

    It took a long time and a lot of prayer to get through that time.

    Fledglings leaving the nest can be a very trying time for us mother hens. ; )

    Big hugs of comfort,
    Liz @ the Brambleberry Cottage

  30. I need a new book for a trip I'm leaving on next week. Sounds like a great one for where I'm at these days. My youngest just graduated from college two weeks ago. I'm working part-time for the "fun" of it, basically so I don't go crazy. Maybe I should look for a new adventure. Maybe a class in photography so I can take beautiful photos like you! Blessings,

  31. Oh, I thought I was going to faint when I found your blog, something resonating with so much beauty; at first it seemed too much - and all the result of the wife with too much money; man working,wife at home. in my mind pictures of starved children in refugee camp.And then your intelligence shone through...and I remember my dear friend on welfare who creates the same beauty with hard work and very frugal insights..

    and I came down to earth and realised your potential which is so important to make the world a natural place, full of care.So it should be in the refugee camps too! There are enough means, all that it takes and all that is really needed is your insight...

    Talking about second chances.....

    and I mean this

    For your information,
    I studied law and psychology and a lot more and worked for the government in a EU country before I started taking care of my ailing older famuily members; and now you touched something deep inside; thinking about how beauty might be an antidote and a healing agent in the world,talking about rhytm, life , love




Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. I love to hear what you have to say!