… on glowing gardens and growing kids

Last night, I was so lucky to be a guest at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens Gardens Aglow preview event.

I know, that’s a keyboardmouthful!

Do you know about it?

It’s… incredible.

In 2015, The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens announced that they were going to open up during the holiday season, and string the grounds (and trees, and ponds, and…) with Christmas lights.

I mean, they probably didn’t say Christmas lights… probably ‘holiday’ or ‘seasonal’ lights. But not me, baby!

That first year, The Garden’s elves (again, personal imagery) strung something like 200,000 (yep!) lights and hoped to attract, say, 5000 visitors between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. The Gardens, along with our little coastal towns, waited with hopeful anticipation.

36,000… thirty-six thousand!… people came that year.

After that, things got real.

Folks have stepped in and up to create something truly wonderful along our little peninsula. Stores and houses and boats (and docks!) are draped in lights. Many shops and restaurants and hotels/motels/b&b’s stay open (or open back up) through this ‘off season’, the fire fighters bring out their ladders and help hang lights, food trucks come in, and our little harbor is full of life and visitors and the spirit of the holidays.

And of course, Gardens Aglow continues to amaze.

One partial view of one garden along more than a mile of aglow-ing paths!  That tall red and white capped mushroom? It’s ten feet tall!

In their second year?

360,000 lights, seventy-five thousand visitors!

Even when Covid hit, they figured it all out… in style.

They re-imagined Gardens Aglow as a drive through experience, knowing the attendance would probably lessen big time.

88,000 people drove through in 2020, and another 88,000 drove through in 2021.

Oh, I know.

So, last night, we got to preview Gardens Aglow’s return to an in-person, walk through experience.

Oh, no no no. I didn’t attend as a VIP.

I was the guest of a VIP.

My daughter.

Last night was a night for the press, for influencers, and other special invitees to be able to walk through their magical, beautifully designed and lit dreamworld, without worrying about holding folks up or having to rush.

It allowed the television stations to set up on-camera interviews, press and influencer photographers and videographers to capture the vignettes and vistas, and writers and journalists to soak up the imagery and emotions that they will later share in prose.

Smiles did their abound-ing, from the faces of The Gardens’ staff  – conveying welcome, and well-deserved pride in what we were about to experience – to the visitors oo’ing and ah’ing as their eyes and ears and noses (and taste buds) took in the feasts offered up to their senses.

But me?

Oh I was smiling too, alright.

In addition to the event itself, which was pretty awesome, I was watching my kid work, and she was also smiling.

Her years right out of college were a blur of corporate successes. In an astoundingly short period of time, and through a lot of hard work and talent, she’d become a senior-level video game producer, a role she peppered with awards and accolades.

I understood that career path. It made sense to me, having traveled the corporate road myself. I was so proud of her hard work and the love and respect she’d earned from her clients and colleagues (still am).

But she wasn’t happy.

In fact, she was miserable… eventually burnt out… fried. Her creativity, something she needed and craved, was lost in a slew of spreadsheets and planning and strategies. She found herself paying attention to the artists and designers working on the teams she was leading, and longing for their jobs rather than her own.

So she took a chance.

She leapt from that career, and phoenix-ed herself into one as a content producer, social media strategy expert, influencer, and more (I am constantly exclaiming, “Wait, you did what… for who?!”). And… she is still close with the folks that run the company she left, and does work with and for them all the time. And loves it.

Last night I got to watch her do her thing – initially as she met and talked with the event organizers, and public relations folks, and development peeps – and then tag along as she… well, we… headed out into a winter wonderland.

You can’t see it in these pics, but half way through our walk – to the delight of everyone there – it began to snow.

I’ve said, many times, that I found each subsequent phase of my kids’ lives to be better than the one before. And this holds true. Each phase is infused with sometimes stupefyingly beautiful elements, often the smallest of them being the best (the smell of a baby’s head comes to mind), but each is followed by even better stuff. Perhaps this is because they are continually becoming more them than they have ever been.

And then one day, not quite suddenly (but still kind of suddenly), there’s this empty nest.

And we realize that we are the only ones following up the word, ‘adult’, with the word, ‘kids’ when we talk about our ‘adult kids’. The rest of their world sees them as just ‘adults’.  Like… real ones.


If we can get over ourselves acknowledge this, deep inside, we are rewarded. We begin to know our kids as the humans we’ve poured so much of ourselves into, and who have taken all of that and combined it into a recipe for who they are.

And there’s more.

If we navigate carefully (and I do mean carefully, with oodles of empathy and self-reflection), our kids might get to know us a little bit too (you know, beyond our earlier job descriptions as benevolent dictators).

Here’s to being knocked off of any pedestals they created for us (whether through their own perceptions, or (gasp) our unwitting encouragement), those holding them to undesired paths and/or unachievable perfections. And lets raise another glass to them surpassing us in so many ways – perhaps in skills and abilities, or vocational success, but also in other arenas…  balance, health of mind and body, contentment, and the effects of their patiences and kindnesses and generosities on the world come to mind.

There is beauty in the dancing… of stepping back, so that they can step in.

Into the world on their terms.

Into their own lives.

Into themselves.

It feels a little bit…

Like magic.

Thanks for readin’.

I think Mac has already begun to post some of her photos and videos over on her instagram account. If you follow her, you can see some of her initial video in her ‘stories’. I’m sure she’ll have a Gardens Aglow vlog post up soon on her YouTube channel as well

Comments and shares are always appreciated, and you can do that down below. You can also join fellow ponderers on Just Ponderin’s Facebook or Instagram pages. C’mon over to either one any time to join the conversation :))