The invitation was clear: “You are invited to a silver polishing party at my house on April 13, at 10 am. Be a dear and be here!”
Of course we were there — all five of us. Who would dare say no to Nancy? Had she not been there for each of us through every cloudburst of our lives? In fact, we had been there for each other through more years than any of us will number.
We are all aged 70+, WWII babies raised in the fifties at a time when a bride’s wedding gifts were silver.
Our children were raised in the same community and were all cheered by us through birthday parties, scholastic achievements, Little League, Scouts and church events. We celebrated their successes and shared their hopes. We groaned over every trip-and-fall from bicycle accidents to failed grades. We bemoaned the disappointments, days when a child’s hopes were dashed by streaks of hard luck, health problems or other stumbling blocks. We lifted their spirits and reassured each other that “this too shall pass.”
Our children fought with a determination exemplified by their parents and the persistent encouragement of friends. Every mother tooted another mother’s horn when a child graduated, found a new job or got married. New grandbabies were always loudly tooted. One only needed to look at the mother to know why the child was a success. When an adult child met with woe, the Silver Liners were there to remind our friend that it could happen to anyone.
Together we shared each other’s journey when it was time to care for an aging parent. Often we were there at that last breath. Brothers, sisters, grandchildren, extended family, are all within the scope of our caring.
When one of us is happy, we blow out the windows with joy and laughter. When one is discouraged, we do what we can to raise her hope. When one’s struggles seem like unrelenting storms, we string together like a lifeline and pray like preachers. We hold our presence like an umbrella of shelter in a hard rain, unyielding as a dam against the flood of fear. For our friend, we suppress our own anxiety and force our sweetest smiles as persistent glimmers of promise. Through the years, the Silver Liners have learned to plant expectations like a rock foundation. We shake our fists at thundering pain.
Often we glimpse a little hope as a ray of sunshine creeps around a boulder of trouble. We feed the occasion with loving attention until troubles dissipate and a silver lining ushers in a blue sky.
It is difficult for me to imagine that any hardship could drown one of us in despair. I write this humbly because we share a spirit that has carried us through darkest shadows.
As we are watchful, we sometimes notice a woman walking along her silver lining as if it is an arc, lifting her above the crisis of her circumstances and lighting her path to solution. As her problem is resolved, we are empowered with hope.
There is a newbie among us, a woman in her sixties. She is waiting for a new lung. We wait with her. There seems to be no exhaustion to heaven’s supply of silver linings.
On April 13, we were all in that kitchen polishing silver like Mr. Clean!
The reason for this labor is that Nancy is selling the house where she and her husband raised their children. They hope to reduce their material responsibilities and simplify their lives by selling unneeded surplus, including family heirlooms.
Nancy placed a pile of silver hollowware before us — four generations of wedding gifts!
We rubbed and buffed until our arthritic fingers froze. When the last piece was polished down to its claw feet, a collective sigh was heard around the table.
We began removing our rubber gloves, but Nancy was not done with us. “Would you mind polishing the silver service? It’s the only thing left.” She held up a tray, coffee pot, teapot, sugar bowl and cream pitcher. After a second of silence, she said, “Oh, I — I’ll do it later.”
Quickly, someone said, “Bring it on!” And she did.
After a rewarding Southern Chicken Salad lunch, we left for home and to bed knowing that once again, we had gathered to support a friend.
There will be challenges for each of us, some of which may catch us in the downpour of the century. Still, the bond that has held us in the past will bond us again. The sun is always shining and it will shine on us.
We are the Silver Liners.
Editor’s Notes: After Fifty Living thanks Mary Stripling for sharing this wonderful piece with us. Thanks, Mary!