What St. Elmo’s Fire Taught Me About Growing Older

A mom of a high school senior remembers back to when her eldest was a baby and she first met the women who would become her fast friends, much like the characters in St. Elmo’s Fire.

Mom of high school senior remembers St. Elmo's Fire

Billy’s bus pulled away. Alec, Leslie, Kevin, Jules, Kirby, and Wendy walked over slowly to St. Elmo’s Bar. They peered in the window and saw a bunch of undergrads hanging out inside.

“Do you want to go in and get a drink?”

“I gotta be at work early tomorrow.”

“Me too.”

“I need to find a job tomorrow.”

“Me too.”

“How about brunch Sunday?”

“That sounds good. So, we meet here around 12:30?”

“Why don’t we go to Houlihan’s?”

“Not so noisy.”

“Not so many kids.”

“Great. Sunday, 12:30.”

They all walk away.

The ending to one of my favorite movies, “St. Elmo’s Fire.” Back in 1985, this ending made me sad. They were moving on. Change can be difficult.

“Don’t you feel like we are in the last scene of ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’? As if we were looking into the bar and seeing all younger, unfamiliar faces?” my friend asked me.

I was at a favorite neighborhood restaurant with my girlfriends to celebrate one of our birthdays. We had been going to this restaurant for years – for birthdays and other celebrations, girls’ nights, dinners with husbands. It is a popular place in our neighborhood, and we often see many people we know there.

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On this particular evening, we had finished our birthday celebration and were getting ready to leave. Two of us were walking a little ahead of the rest, so we stopped to wait by the door. We looked over at the bar, and that was when we saw them – an entirely different group of people than we were used to seeing. They were all much younger than we were. Some looked familiar, but most were strange faces.

That was when my friend mentioned “St. Elmo’s Fire.” I knew exactly what she meant.

I met my wonderful group of friends when our oldest children were less than a year old. I walked into a Mommy and Me group with my nine-month-old daughter after moving to a town where I did not know many people. I am grateful every day that I chose that class. It is where I found them – women who would become my lifelong friends.

That was close to 18 years ago. Since then, we have been through so much together. The births of our younger children, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, vacations, bar/bat mitzvahs, and just plenty of fun times.

Our husbands became the best of friends, and our children have such a special bond.

There have also been hard times for many of us. Illness, deaths of parents, and in my case, the unexpected death of my husband.

When tragedy strikes, you discover the meaning of true friends. These friends stepped up for me in a way I could not have imagined. I am so very thankful for all that they have done for my children and me. They were by my side every moment. I could never have survived that time without them.

This year, those little babies that brought us all together are graduating from high school. In a few months, they will be going off to college. Our younger children are not far behind them. “Time flies” is an understatement.

A mom of a high school senior remembers St. Elmo's Fire

Looking at the unfamiliar, younger group of people in the restaurant bar that night, I realized that my friends and I were growing up along with our children. While we aren’t quite ready for the “early bird,” we were ready to go home at night after dinner.

It is hard to believe, but in the next few years, we will all become empty nesters. That will bring a big change for all of us. Sometimes I would like to turn back time and go back to those younger baby days. Looking back, they seem much simpler. Since time travel is not an option, I will appreciate these last precious years that my daughters are still living with me and are, in my mind’s eye, still my babies.

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While I am not always comfortable with change, it is not always a bad thing. Moving forward might be exciting. When one chapter ends, a new one begins. I am even a little curious to see what this next phase of life will hold for me.

Somewhat hesitantly, we will let this younger group take over the bar at our favorite restaurant. We will not stop going there, but occasionally it may be good to try somewhere new.

I always wondered what happened to those “St. Elmo’s Fire” kids after they met up at Houlihan’s. They would just about be empty nesters now also. I hope that wherever they are, they are making a smooth transition as well.


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About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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