Last week I played the longest bridal procession of my career. About 4 solid minutes with about 50 “brides” coming down the aisle. It was a Thursday morning “gig” at 7:30am in an elementary school cafeteria. If this sounds like fake news, let me clarify. It wasn’t a real bridal procession and there was no wedding. It was a special activity that took place at this month’s All Pro Dad breakfast at the the school where I teach. And, despite being thoroughly pretend, this wedding was still moving to many in attendance because it was a reminder of how valuable our time is and how quickly it can go by.
The monthly All Pro Dad breakfasts are usually just for dads and their kids, but the May breakfast is special because the moms are invited as well and the activities are centered around appreciating them. It usually takes place just before Mother’s Day. At some point during this most recent breakfast, all of the dads and daughters were told to leave the cafeteria and wait in the lobby for further instructions. After a moment or two of suspense, the dads were told to re-enter the room, arm-in-arm with their daughter, as if they were walking her down the aisle to “give her away” on her wedding day.
As they came back into the cafeteria, passed under the rainbow arch of balloons and stopped on the mark for a photo, I stood nearby in a tuxedo playing the longest rendition of Clarke's Trumpet Voluntary I had ever played. Looking around the room, I saw quite a few teary eyes. Both moms and dads. The “brides” were mostly embarrassed and uncomfortable, having walked into the crowded room with everybody looking at them, but the parents were moved.
The whole thing was a live, role-playing reminder of that Nationwide Insurance slogan- “life comes at you fast”. All of a sudden, the kids you thought you’d spend the rest of your life raising are graduating from high school, moving to college, graduating from college, moving out of the house, getting married, and having kids themselves. Not long ago, my daughter Ally and I went to All Pro Dad meetings at her elementary school-she’s now a college freshman. Not long ago my other daughter Bailey and I would make up songs in the basement while playing Barbies- she graduates from college this week with Music and Communication degrees.
Memories and messages of this type can be totally cliche and even trite unless you pay attention to what they’re really saying. It’s not just that time goes by quickly, it’s also that time is so valuable that we should make sure it aligns with our priorities. Time is life. What we fill our time with is what we fill our lives with.
That too sounds cliche, but we shouldn’t roll our eyes and tune it out before we give ourselves a quick evaluation. Does our schedule align with our priorities? If not, how can we fix it? Maybe we need to give some things up in order to make way for others, even if that means quitting a job. Is our work fulfilling? Looking back years from now, will we have regrets about how we’ve managed our time or who we’ve spent it with?
These questions might also be added to the “cliche parade” I seem to be writing, but to do so would be to risk becoming immune to feelings like those the All Pro Dad parents had when faced with the reality of time. If it helps us align our priorities with our life, tearing up at a fake elementary school mass wedding isn’t so bad.