Monday, June 8, 2015

On the Precipice

In some ways he is already gone. Even the hours when he is here, he is somewhere else – ear buds in listening to music I don’t understand, texting with people I do not know, reading books I’ve never heard of, and surfing websites certainly not meant for parents. I’m proud of the fact that he is so independent and obviously ready to be out our door. Yet, my heart breaks at the thought of him being gone.

I watched him walk across that stage a few days ago, accept his diploma, grin for the cameras, toss his hat in the air. He celebrated for two days straight - eating every manner of junk food, laughing, throwing frisbees, solidifying memories to take with him when he goes. This is the last he will see of some of these people, but he won't feel that truth until decades from now.

It seems like only moments ago, he couldn’t remember to hand in homework and lost his shoes and jacket on a regular basis. Learning to drive stressed us both and I wondered if he’d ever be able to find his way without me or his father in the seat beside him. And now he comes and goes, driving to towns 45 minutes away, negotiating the city, and finding a friend’s house on a lonely, dark back road. Undoubtedly he makes a few wrong turns, but he figures it out eventually.

He will negotiate the world in much the same way.

I can’t imagine a day when he will not barrel down the stairs noisily, tease the dog, leave the open milk container on the counter and his socks on the porch. I miss him already and no longer complain when I find Dungeons & Dragons dice or Magic cards all over my house. They are evidence that he is still here.

I feel like this leaving is just one more example of the pain of parenting no one warns you about. The other stuff – sleeping through the night, potty training, starting kindergarten – there are entire books warning you about these trials, but no one tells you that one day this person who has taken up residence in your heart 24/7/365 for eighteen years is going to leave. And it will hurt like nothing you can imagine. There is no metaphor for this pain that is already casting its shadow on my heart even though I still have three months – three months! – before he goes.

For his part, he seems a little guilty. He is kinder and more grateful. Maybe he feels bad that he is so excited to get out of here and leave us. I watch him with his younger siblings. He listens to them more than he ever has – as if memorizing them. He will miss so much of their growing up and they have relished their front row seats to his adventures. This will be hard on them, too.

I don’t know when he discovered the horizon.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ma'am I am?

I was walking the dog the other day and passed a young man in a baseball cap working in a neighbor’s yard. He looked up, smiled, and called, “Good afternoon, Ma’am!” I smiled and waved back, but inside I was shrieking, “Ma’am?! Ma’am?! I’m not a Ma’am!”

I look in the mirror and I don’t see a Ma’am. Next year I will be fifty, so chronologically, I am firmly in Ma’am territory, like it or not. Why did his respectful greeting bother me so much? I’m not one of those women contemplating Botox. My biggest worry when it comes to aging is that my knees will keep me from running or I won’t have the energy for my ever expanding garden habit. Age isn’t such a bad thing. I’m looking forward to less responsibility and more time in the hammock.

But I don’t want to be a Ma’am. Ma’ams are not sexy. They are not fun. They are not hip, interesting, or exciting. They wear cardigan sweaters, let their hair go gray, and cart around a few extra pounds. Ma’ams drive too slow on the highway and grumble over the check-out person who forgets to give them the extra ten cents off per pound on their ground beef. They complain about kids today and resent school taxes, pierced eyebrows, and loud music.

Perhaps I am affronted by the reference because being referred to as Ma’am reminds me that I am past my prime, fighting the inevitable creaks and pains and pounds more every day. I’m surprised by my age. I look at my face in the mirror and don’t see the years unless I’m not wearing my contacts and lean in close to be sure my eyeliner is lining my eyes and not my cheek bones. I’m startled by the tiny crosshatch marks and obvious wrinkles. Where did they come from?

Sometimes when I see a picture of myself I cringe at how old I look. How did that happen? How could I possibly look that old? Certainly, I don’t feel that old. I find myself talking to a thirty-something mom and thinking of her as my age only to be startled out of that assumption when she doesn’t understand a reference I make about the 1980s, she having only been a toddler at the time.
Maybe it’s denial; this insistence that I am not old enough to be considered a Ma’am. More and more I find myself ducking out of pictures not wanting any more documentation that I am aging. I even vainly untag less than flattering pictures of myself on Facebook. If there isn’t any photographic evidence, I haven’t aged. I’m fooling no one I know, but it’s the principle of the matter. I’m not old. And I’m certainly nobody’s Ma’am.

When I reached my late thirties, a friend explained to me that we were becoming invisible. She said that teenagers, young adults, and men younger than sixty didn’t see us anymore. We were no threat and held no potential as a sexual being. Therefore, they looked right through us. We could be classified henceforth as middle-age mom.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

On the Safe Side of Fate

Every mother harbors nightmares about losing her child. It’s what makes us nag and remind and question and stay up in wait for the headlights in the driveway. We only want to keep them safe. We wrongly imagine it is within our power. This past weekend that nightmare was a reality for a mom in my town. I don’t know her, but she has weighed on my heart ever since the moment I heard that a five-year-old had been struck and killed by a delivery van.

It was an accident. The van wasn’t driving too fast. The driver wasn’t doing anything irresponsible. The little boy was probably being a typical little boy – impulsive, energetic, easily distracted. I imagine he was happy to be out with his mom on such a day as Saturday. It was a gorgeous, blue sky, gentle breezes picture perfect day. Not the kind of day to be pierced by something so tragic.

I heard the sirens. I was puttering in my gardens. I have a friend who once worked as a surgeon in an emergency room. Days like this were busy days for her – people are out and active she told me– motorcycle riders without helmets, kids falling out of tree forts, accidents at picnics and concerts and fairs and sporting events. I worried when I heard the sirens and did what I always do – mentally sorted through my own children’s whereabouts.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Screen Control

Albert Einstein said, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” I believe he was referencing the nuclear age, but I’d say it’s still relevant when it comes to the pervasive technology today.

I’m sick of screens. I say this as I stare at the screen that I spend the better part of my days with, and don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that I have this screen. I can’t imagine what it was to be a writer in the days of typewriters, or eegads, scrolls and quills. I consider this screen a necessary evil. 

The screens I am most tired of are the little ones, the ones attached to the hand of just about every living person in a lobby, waiting room, check-out line, park bench, walking path, and car. I’m waiting for the next health crisis to emerge called carpal neck syndrome or chronic far-sidedness from the act of constantly staring at these tiny screens.

I can be as guilty as the next as I sit waiting for my youngest son to finish practice that should have been over 15 minutes ago. When I try to resist the phone, I feel angsty. I look around the car for something to entertain me. I read the school papers littering the floor. I sort out the glove compartment. I pick through the nasty things crammed down in the far recesses of the center console. What did I do when I awaited my oldest son’s appearance from practices ten years ago?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Whole New Season of Parenting

There are landmines hidden in my days. I never know when I might step into one.

I’m happily putzing along doing my thing – picking up the socks left under the coffee table, making yet another pot of tea instead of writing something, or wiping down the counter– when a thought floats through my mind, “This time next year, Brady will be gone.” I’m overcome, and have to sit down on the couch with his dirty socks in hand.

I find his socks all over the house (and a few on the porch, in the driveway, and of late – in the car). He has hot feet and has always had a horrible habit of removing his socks and abandoning them wherever he happens to be at the time, which is rarely his room and even more rarely the laundry room. He’s been doing this for 18 years, ever since I first covered his precious tiny toes with socks too small for my own thumb.

Somehow, he grew up. I wasn’t prepared for this.

All these years I’ve worked hard to raise a capable child – one that can cook a meal, pack a lunch, use his manners, put gas in the car, clean a bathroom, and be responsible for his own decisions (but not, apparently, his own socks).

The problem with this goal is, that once I’ve accomplished it – he leaves. And that is painful.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Savoring the Days

I sense that I’m losing control. Okay, maybe I never had control in the first place, but I sure thought I had it. Now I feel like a passenger in a car being driven much too fast over those hills that make your stomach do that droppy thing.

I no longer have any say in what my teenagers wear, eat, or choose to do with their time. My opinion is not one they welcome and only on a good day even tolerate. Luckily, there is still one child left here with me on the island, but even he is inching across the sand, searching the horizon and forgetting to put on his life vest despite the fact that I have a stack of them right here beside me.

I knew this was coming. We all do, right? We joke about when our kids will be teenagers, right up until the point where they are teenagers and we stumble through our days of empty cupboards, stinky laundry, unset alarm clocks, music we don’t understand, and the daily reminder that we know NOTHING and all we can think is – how did this happen?

Monday, September 29, 2014

How a Pepperoni Pizza Cake and an Annoying Little Dog Have Joined Forces to Keep Me From Fame and Fortune

It’s very easy to squander a morning wandering around on Twitter and Facebook. I clicked over there on the directive of the latest article I’d read on getting published. Since my lovely agent is busy pushing my latest manuscript on unsuspecting publishers, I thought I should help her out by following up on the advice that publishers want to see you’re active on these sites (at the very least these two, but they’d also love it if you were active on Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, and several other social media sites I hadn’t heard of.). And here’s where the trouble begins - staying active on these sites is nearly a full-time job for those of us who are easily distracted.

All I was planning to do was tweet a clever, profound comment and get back to work, but before I could do that, I was distracted by a picture of a pepperoni pizza cake – cake! – and I had to investigate that. This proved so distracting (Admit it, that picture is WAY distracting) that I couldn't remember the clever thought I’d come up with while running this morning, so I began reading everyone else’s clever thoughts which seemed to revolve around food.