Thursday, May 31, 2012

8th Grade's Last Day

It's the very last morning of May and of 8th grade for my Smaller Tall One.  It's crisply cool outside. The sun is brilliant with not a wispy cloud in sight.  Incredibly, it will be over 90 degrees by 3:20, the time his last ever middle school bus driver, Miss Sandy, will drop him off on her Route 13 run.  By then he will be finished with Ms. Panagi's, Ms. Crafton's, Ms. Hyde's, Mr. Brooslin's, Mr. West's, Ms. Watkins' classes.  Finished with middle school pods forever, with lining up quietly and no talking in the hallways.  Finished with Wildcat sports, with middle school dances in the gym, with flag duty, speaking the morning announcements.  Finished with nine years of tracking in and out: nine weeks in, three (or four) weeks off all year long.  Finished.  Forever.

I am over the moon for him, even though that small knot I swallow over is growing in the back of my throat, telling me there is sadness lurking somewhere just around the corner for me.  It's that Finished word and that Forever word.  Those words slinking up on me.  Today, forever means never again. Finished means it can't be redone, relived, rewound, there can be no regrets.  I have no regrets and I know he has none either.  I know he finished it all as he wanted, the first time.  So there is no turning back, no wistful thinking on his part.  But I'm not ready for this chapter ending, this Forever. I am wistful with this Finished word, with this Finished feeling. I am ready to turn back the pages of this book.  Just for now.

Then I'm pulling myself back into the moment.  I am fully here to experience these last 8th grade moments.  There is laughter and silly banter as I try coaxing him into wearing an over-the-top preppy outfit for these last few hours of middle school.  He is on the edge of considering but chooses not to.  He is making his last 8th grade lunch with roast beef and swiss cheese, he is finishing his last 8th grade worksheet, ("I forgot about it last night, Mom!"), he is tossing 8th grade photocopied sheets once tucked carefully into plastic sleeves away, he is packing up his last middle school backpack. He is slipping socked feet into athletic shoes and he is smiling as he walks out the door to meet Dan and Carson and Jake for the last middle school morning walk up Grantwood Drive for his last day of middle school. And there's that Forever word again, still waiting for me.

I am sipping my coffee and watching with a smile as they disappear out of sight behind full oak trees and Carolina blue sky.  That's when the lump in my throat overcomes my smile.  I feel tears welling up and I blink them away.  I am so proud!  Why do the tears come?  He has held all together these past three years.  There have been no Detentions, no Time Outs, no ISS notes. No failing grades, no phone calls home about trouble or angry fights.  There have been no high-jinx gone awry. 

Instead there have been genuine compliments and Junior Honor Society, Wildcat football and track.  There are close friends with comparable values, and it is all his doing. It is all his personality, his honesty, his strengths (and weaknesses), his daily choices to follow truth, that have brought him this far in middle school.

Oh, he is not perfect.  He is not more amazing than other young men his age.  But he is mine and I am proud.  Yes, his bedroom is a tangle of towels and wrinkled clothing (Clean? Dirty?) and books and shoes and Nike socks.  His desk is hard to find under piles of this and that important teenage stuff.  His nest of duvet and sheets and pillows are a crowning knot in the middle of his bed.  He can be a couch potato with that remote in hand.  He can be snarly with sister and older brother and Mom and Dad.  I would never suggest that this day means more than any other 8th grader's last day of middle school.

Today, he will become a young man in my mind's eye.  He was yesterday, and the day before, too, but this Last Day mark, this Ending Of, this Closing Chapter, this whispers Change to me.  So the tears fall gently.  I feel them spilling over and allow them to roll down.  It will not last, this feeling.  Tomorrow there will be joy at the End of Year ceremony.  So I allow the sad to wash over me for this moment.  To feel it fully, to embrace the welling up, to experience the throat knotting into a lump of sorrow for this day's Finished and Forever.

I am proud and the love that rolls down my face in the form of tears will not last.  It will be soon replaced, with smiles and eagerness, for what-is-yet-to-come, and yearning for what he will accomplish in the next four years.  So my heart whispers goodbye to this 8th grade year and my brain reminds me it is the Best Ever ending for this chapter. Finished Forever with his Best.  With his best Ever!  And that brings me a smile. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Comfortable in My Skin and this Happiness

I am learning to be comfortable in my own skin.  The mirror in my bedroom reflects a softer version of myself than what my mind's eye envisions.  The laugh lines around my smile and my blue eyes are more pronounced now.  The freckles now that never were, the lashes not as full, the neck with softest crease.  Daily I remind myself as I smooth in creamy concoctions that these changes prove I have deeply enjoyed life.  These changes, they are my trophies, they are my proof that I haven't skimmed through this world, I've lived it thoroughly right here to this very moment. 

I tuck in, and I pull the t-shirt back out of my striped drawstring pajama pants.  This waist, this waist, I suck in, and puff out standing sideways to look.  Wasn't it smaller, firmer just this winter?  Lying on the carpet I huff and puff through 100 crunches.  Exhaling and inhaling as I work at the waist which is and isn't what I want it to be on any given day.  There will be 100 more after lunch and 100 before bedtime.  I whisper to myself that it all makes a difference, none of it done for the waist is a waste of time.  Pulling jeans on I'm sure I can tell a difference, maybe just so here and there. Even so, isn't the slight rounding, isn't that evidence of, or my trophy from babies that kicked, hiccuped and grew under my heart?

The early morning sunlight shows off all the exquisite shades of blonde, brown and gray tresses. All those glorious shades. They're all mingled and curled into an unruly pony tail hanging down my shoulder.  Just seven weeks out from my hairdresser and the telltale signs are too clearly evident: gray down the part and whitening at the temples.  I yearn for gray to make me feel distinguished, but I am left feeling old before my time.  I know I have earned this shade, I know each gray is worthy of its place on my head as I twist my hair into a knot at the nape of my neck.  I smooth down those wiry grays and wonder if I ever stopped to appreciate the intricate shades of blonde before the arrival of gray. Gray with a mind of its own.  Gray that whispers, I have really lived...

I'm slipping rings on fingers and wondering if those hands aren't wrinkled just a little more?  Aren't they more tenderly freckled than last spring?  I twist a silver mongrammed band around my ring finger that was once broken on a late-night snowy sled ride down a slick white neighborhood hill.  Wasn't that night full of laughter, even at the moment I knew my finger was going to need an x-ray?  Isn't that memory worthy of the everso gentle slant of that finger?  The ache of arthritis in that joint?  And that silky white nick of a scar where thumb meets hand, where the IV went into the artery after others collapsed during one of my baby's labors...  Aren't these all trophies and proof of my well-lived life?  Thinking of them as such is my goal as years roll by.

When I imagine them disappearing, gone forever by some new treatment, cream, or exercise, I wonder, would I be erasing what I lived so well to earn?  I am still learning to be comfortable in my own skin.  Learning to be more comfortable in my life's happiness, and even in its sadness.  I know the outside changes go on and on as each year marches past, etching me here and there, more and more, little by little.  Rounding me out, softening me, freckling me, graying me because of a more deeply lived and more deeply loved life. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Master's Design

It's in the fading sunlight filtering softly through the branches creating artful shadows across the carpet of lush lawn.  It's in the throaty croaking of the toad down in the barest trickle of a riprap edged streambed.  It's in the flutter of fresh spring green leaves as the wind whispers across them.  It's in the delicate resonating hum of crickets warming up to orchestrate my evening's lulling symphony.  It's in the gentle tilt of the sunflower's lovely dark pebbled face following the sun's westward path.  It's in the softest echoing of the morning dove's coo at twilight.  It's in the palest milky blue of a clear expansive sky fading into softest rose before a silvery sliver of moon and starlight pierce through.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

That Storm

The flash is brilliant and blinding and powerfully silent in those first milliseconds.  I’m slow to wake even in that instant of pounding heart because the thunderous roll spirals round and round before it slams.  The window panes shudder from the strike that happens somewhere in the early morning distance.  How many times have I hushed small children and pets during thunderstorms?  Wrapped arms around them as their hearts pounded?  How often have I pointed to the magnificence of it all, the crackling roar, the zigzagging tear ripping across the heavens, the light show like no other?  Now my heart is the one pounding and I’m the one fearful.  It’s true.  I have no heart for thunderstorms that crash and roar too close for my comfort.

The window is cracked open just enough to let the storm winds catch filmy white curtains in our bedroom and cause them to stir and billow out just gently enough to be strangely calming.  I am counting one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand…  And the strike takes even longer than my counting.  It happens far away, not in my backyard, not on my street and not in my neighborhood.  Suddenly, I'm Luther on a rainy night making promises to God if he'll just keep us all safe.  And I am stressing as I think of the woman up the hill whose attic was struck by lightning, and I am stressing as I think of Liz whose family lost everything in a lightning strike years ago, and I am stressing over that slightly curved and ever-so-old tree just out back that is taller than the tree line, tall enough to attract attention from this lightning lashing.  And I’m fully awake now alone in the flashes and rumbles.   The thunder rolls again, but it’s halfway across the town, maybe halfway across the city, or halfway across the county.  And the rain drums with steady persistence and then a little more gently, tapering off.  That is the calming part I need, the reminder that it’s just a storm, that it’s just thunder and lightning, that it’s much needed rain.  My heart rate is slowing again but my brain is speeding up in all that stormy early morning aloneness.
All the little storms I’m surrounded by in life are coming forward to replay in fast forward, to rewind again and again, so I can reconsider decisions, so I can reevaluate the whole, so I can reconnect in worry.   Minutes tick by as I begin my storm of thoughts.  Some of my storms are lengthy and they move slowly, I see them from a distance and they bring steady sheets of blowing rain from heavy dark skies.  Some of my storms bring floods of sorrow, wonder, anger, and a need to take action.  And there are those storms of mine whose thunder is all electrical crackling and striking loud at the heart.  There are some immediate storms whose approach catch my breath and cause me to linger hard on current, past and future.  And there are storms so far off in the distance they make sleep worth crawling into that plump soft white bed early for.  They are pleasant to slumber to with a lulling light show so far in the distance and a gentle peaceful and cleansing drizzle.
Another series of long rolls and resonating claps and booms.  Again, a flash appears white hot beneath my closed lids. My doorknob twists and the door opens wide and daughter is standing in a pool of darkness clutching pillow, blanket, stuffed animal and armful of whimpering schnauzer, Mollie.  She steps closer into the room and breathes “Dad… Mom…?  The storm woke me up… It’s scary… can I sleep in here?”  I whisper back, “It’s ok, it’s just a storm… go back to bed… its loud everywhere.” 
And then I stop, words still caught in my mouth and I consider... Wasn't my heart was just racing and aren't storms always better fared together?  Yes, of course and  together we are stronger, together we are calmer, together we are wiser about storms.   There is comfort in togetherness. Together doesn’t make the storm blow away to the north or east or south or west.   But together makes all storms easier to get through.  I say yes instead, come in, and she is spreading her blanket on the floor and laying down with pillow and with shaking dog curled into her and she is tucking herself into that soft nest on the floor.  I’m drawn to breathe prayers of thanks and they quiet those storms my brain began earlier. 
Thunderstorm sights and sounds still surround us, but we are together in that room in that storm.  Together we are half awake and half asleep.  The curtains billow out just ever so slightly while thunder rumbles outside and soon she is breathing gently and the dog isn’t whimpering.  I am peacefully sliding back into pleasant sleep, leaving all the storminess of cares and worries curled in and tucked away too.  It’s weathering the crashing thunderstorms together with someone, I note with certainty, as I reach for the hand of husband who’s asleep next to me.  When it’s all done together, it’s not as fearsome, not as stressful, not as lonely.