An email from Oldest arrived in my inbox today...
What does it take to get a boy who grows up to be a man ( a Senior in college!) that is this sweet?
I really can't tell you.
All I know is that, if you are very lucky, there comes a moment when all the long days of loving, worrying, fussing, stroking, laughing, yelling, tickling, scolding, tousling, hugging and singing, the long days of talking and listening, of holding on and letting go, they all find their way back to you and slip, an unexpected guest who knows and loves you back, inside your heart.
I have found at least one good thing about Middle's departure.
I got to ditch the following from our Tivo Season Pass list:
Does anyone know what this show means?
Cause I know you want a taste, here is today's Daily Download.
OMG, if I had known what this show was I would have deleted it long ago.
And just when you thought it could not, really it could NOT, get any worse...
PS I could not bring myself to delete the Season Pass for Top Gear because when I really miss him, I'll watch an episode and text him a question about the most obscure aspect of the show and I'll be 100%, absolutely, positively guaranteed a return text.
I have been in mourning for the last two days. Middle and Mate left on Friday and I wept all day. I was particularly sad because Middle was uncharacteristically sad himself about leaving. He has always been the one child of ours that I could rely on to be incredibly excited about any new adventure. I remember when he went to camp for the first time in third grade. I was weeping and he was nothing but keyed up and excited. He is always the first one up and ready for any trip, no matter how early in the morning we are departing. His bags are packed, his shower taken and his breakfast eaten before his brothers roll groggily out of bed.
Not this time. Friday morning, when I went into his room at 5AM and crawled under the covers to watch him pack his computer and iPod into his backpack, he immediately stopped what he was doing and crawled back into bed with me. Mutt, who has an unerring nose for exchanges of love, joined us, arranged herself right between us and started snoring. I stroked Middle's hair and scratched his back and none of us wanted the moment to end.
Mate came and did his job of breaking things up to get them on the road.
Middle asked for the camera and we took pictures.
We stalled some more by me asking if he wanted some fresh OJ and him saying, "Yes."
It was dark when we finally walked out to the car.
The night before, as we all sat down outside for our last family dinner of the summer, a huge owl came and landed on the cedar tree at the edge of our yard. We all oohed and ahhhed as he swiveled his head almost all the way around and stared down at us all, gathered together. He screeched loudly - and often. We all wondered where the idea came that owls hoot. We wondered at how such a large bird could successfully perch on such a small branch. He stayed so long that we all got used to him - took his enormous presence for granted way up in the cedar. And only when he flew away on wide and silent wings did we notice him again, and marvel at his passage through the darkening sky.
The next morning, as Middle and I hugged in the dark driveway, the owl came back. It was so dark we couldn't see him, but his familiar call broke the canyon's silence right above us.
And as they drove away, it occurred to me that the owl had come to remind Middle that when he was in second grade he announced he wanted to be an ornithologist when he grew up.
I went inside, crying my eyes out.
To me, when Oldest left for college it was like a death. I know that is extreme. I know that when our kids go to away they are doing just what they are supposed to do. I feel proud of them. Proud of myself for mothering such amazing boys. Excited too - for their new life and my opportunity to revisit the person I was before I the miracle of their arrival.
But it still feels like a death.
When I came back from dropping Oldest off at college, I used to go into his closet and run my hands over his shirts. After they Middle and Mate left on Friday, I went back into Middle's room to catch the last warmth of his presence.
I spent most of the day crying on and off.
But then, when I sat down at my computer to busy myself with something, anything, a lovely surprise landed in my email inbox.
It was a video! Middle behind the wheel, his arm out the window, sunglasses on, music blaring, the Arizona desert flying by, happy, relaxed, himself, still here on the planet, just heading East.
That made me happier.
For a minute.
The other night, at 10:30, I peeked into Youngest's room. It was dark. I stepped in to give him a kiss good-night and stopped when I saw a glow under the covers. Could it be? Could it possibly be? Could my Youngest actually be reading in bed? I mean, I did that all the time when I was 14.
That bluish glow? Cell phone.
He was texting. At 10:30.
I reached out my hand.
"Hand it over."
"It is 10:30. Way past bedtime. Say 'good-bye' and give me the phone."
He turned back to his phone.
Minutes went by. He studiously ignored my loudly tapping foot.
"WHAT are you doing?"
"Just wait a second. I'm saying good-bye."
"A simple "g-n-i-t-e" would suffice."
He glared at me, finished the message and handed me the phone.
"Don't you dare read this," he ordered me sternly as I turn to leave.
"I know you're tempted."
One thing that always surprises me about mothering is that, despite the fact that my personality tends toward what might kindly be known as hyper-vigilance, I still miss about 90% of motherhood's endings.
The truth is, absent the endings you can't miss because they bear down on you like a freight train (the last day of nursery school comes to mind) and the ones you actually make happen (giving away the high chair), the vast majority of motherhood's endings go completely unremarked.
You would think it would just be a matter of common courtesy that, when a child no longer needs you for something - to carry him on your hip, to go Trick or Treating, to tuck him into bed - you would get some sort of a heads up. It seems only decent that someone be around to tap you on your shoulder and remind you to treasure the moment because it is the last time you will ever...
Here are some of the last times I have not noticed: when one of my boys sucked his thumb, held my hair for comfort, asked me to tie his shoes, rode on my shoulders, mispronounced my name, cried when I left, crawled into my bed in the middle of the night, or looked at me as if I were the brightest star that ever shone at the center of any universe.
The truth is, growth is a conspiracy. Mother and child have to collude for it to happen. The child by nature and design tilts toward growth and mastery. Bit by bit, he takes on for himself all that the mother has done for him. It is his job.
I've always felt my job as a mother was to facilitate my boys' growth. I have wanted them to grow. I have delighted in their delight at picking up the first Cheerio, balancing on their own two feet, leaping alone into the water. But if I am honest, I have to admit that I have also wanted them to grow because I got a little sick of the endless diapers and bottles, the tucking and carrying, the minute and intricate needs.
So my boys and I conspired to ensure their growth. And I guess the truth is, if one of those endings had happened, and I knew it was happening, my sadness at the loss might have upset our delicately forged compact, stopped us in our tracks.
But I still wish someone had tapped me on the should last year around this time when Middle, Youngest and I had just finished our yearly last-minute pilgrimage to Staples, when the pickings are slim and the patrons are panicked. I wish that person had said, as I fidgeted impatiently in line, swearing to myself we would buy school supplies the first week of August this year, to just look around and take it all in because it was the last time.
Youngest and I had planned to get school supplies today, but we are in the middle of a record heat wave and he was preparing his draft roster for his rookie year playing Fantasy Football (LaDainian Tomlinson, yessss!) and thus was reluctant to go. Without thinking, I suggested that we shop online. It took about five minutes. No crowds. No heat. No lines. No grabbing expensive pens that will be lost in the first week. He looked over my shoulder briefly, but left quickly to mull his dream draft picks. I picked out the binders, decided we already have adequate supplies of pens, pencils and paper and clicked Submit.
Oldest had warned me that my Mother's Day card would be late. It arrived yesterday, in a plain white #10 envelope. I opened it and two pages ripped from National Geographic fell out. Here is one page, front and back:
And this is the other page, front and back:
What can I say? I'm biased toward text. So I read the paragraph (above) and was really struck by the first few sentences:
"At thirteen months old - still an adolescent - Legadema got into a spat with her mother that escalated into a permanent rift. The cause: Legadema's refusal to share a kill. Although tension between the two had been building for some time, Legadema was now demonstrating her independence and her mother drove her away."
You might say I was a little hurt and considerably perplexed. Henry and I had had a fight recently, but I thought we had repaired it and I had no idea that it might have felt to him like any kind of permanent rift. Not only that, this was my Mother's Day card? At best it seemed passive aggressive, at worst downright hostile.
So today, when he showed up on my iChat screen and in consideration of the fact that I am about to spend the next few days trapped in a car with him, I thought I had better address the issue:
hey. I didn't really understand your mothers day card. did I not share a kill with you?
no the other side, jeez
i thought ud appreciate the cuteness of it. did u read the caption?
I grabbed the pages again and put them together at which point they looked like this:
Underneath the mother and child, the fine print read:
"Growing more independent, Legadema was preparing for the day when she would stake her own claim in the forest. But the six-month-old, right, still seemed reassured by the touch of her mother's tail."
After blinking away my tears, I returned to our iChat screen:
OHHH! I didn't read the caption. I read the other side. where it said they got into a spat which "escalated into a permanent rift." Now I'm happy...that is adorable. thank you
haha. why would i have sent u both pages?
I don't KNOW. I was too worried we had a permanent rift to think about anything else.
My Oldest knows his mother well. I surely do appreciate the cuteness.
iChatting with Oldest the other day, he told me he would be finished school on the 22nd! Then he is going to be driving East to West, across the country. Coming home!
Apropos of yesterday's post, it shouldn't surprise me that it wasn't until he said the date of his return that I was suddenly aware of how much I have missed him. Only with the thrill of knowing he is coming home do I allow myself the sadness I have felt all this time.
Later that day, when I told him how I excited I was about him coming home, he replied:
I've been thinking of it during in every class.
He's in a hurry to get home and wants company during the drive. Correction, he wants someone to share the driving, limit the length of the trip, speed his return.
When I was in college, I drove the same route in reverse, from West to East, every summer. My dog was the only company I kept. I would never have dreamt of asking my mother to come drive with me. Nor would she have dreamed of either being asked or agreeing if asked.
I am not the Road Tripper I once was. The Road Trip is my Mate's purview now. He and the boys have each driven across the country together. But maybe it is time to restore some of my old rambling self, bring the adventurer back into the foreground.
And not only that, it would be an amazing opportunity to connect again with Oldest, to learn about these past nine months, how he has changed, who he is now, with one year of college under his belt, one year of being three thousand miles away from home.
But then I remember. The last time we went on a road trip, after we were all packed up, I got settled in the front seat as Mate steered us out of the driveway. Then I turned around to look at the boys.
"So," I said merrily, "We have five hours. What are we going to talk about?"
No one would meet my eyes.
Finally, Oldest broke the news. "Mom, this is a road trip.... We don't talk."
So, here's the question...
I spent almost the entire day doing work for the family. Finances. Bookkeeping. Library fines. Itineraries. Termite control. Jury duty registration. Each chore was as necessary and boring as the last. Then I came to the boys' school's 2007-2008 Calendar of Important Dates which I dutifully entered into my own calendar.
Two truths struck me. First, the bald and eternal veracity of my sister P's oft-quoted (by me) observation that, "The more you pay, the less you go." And second, that after next year I will have only one more year of Middle at home and Youngest will be in high school.
When I think about the former, I laugh. When I think about the latter, my heart seizes up.