Old habits die hard, and I'm left wondering if the death knell of those habits in life might keep time with my kitchen clock. The clock's steady ticking is a gentle heartbeat in my home. Discovered in a store's Going Out of Business Sale, now 20 years closed, the clock has been a constant in three kitchens I've called home. I've relished its accompaniment through nursings, naptimes, numerators and novels. Usually I'm happy to hear it ticking the seconds gently away, but not this morning. This morning I need a lull, I need for time to stop. Instead of calming, it's tick, tick, ticking is chasing time away from me.
Yesterday seemed an endless here, there, and everywhere. It was an August afternoon of heart beating rapidly, head thumping constantly, heavy stress-in-the-chest feeling for a very last minute discovery. We got everything done with just ticks of time leftover. The printing out of Rules and Regulations. Tick...tick...tick. Finding a notary named Allison located on the 3rd floor. Tick...tick...tick. The signatures. Tick...tick...tick. Check written for a large sum. Tick...tick...tick. License and car registration carefully copied. And that was just two hours of work done on the fly before the clock steadily ticked to announce carpool time. And dinner time. And homework time. And tucking-in time. Much later last night I shut lights off in the kitchen feeling relief, and there was the ticking of time suddenly swooshing gently by me in the dark.
Today this reliable ticking kept me company along with early sun slanting through summer morning windows. Curls of coffee steamed and evaporated in whisps while I planned this Tuesday in August. Pondering the events of this day to be. And slowly, caffeine and time made me aware that I would not be needed for one importantly starred entry written on my list. It caught me by surprise to think that I hadn't thought it earlier. Why had I almost missed it? And then the words formed in my head, "Old habits die hard." I'm a mother. I'm a stander-in-lines. I'm a signer-of-forms. I'm a writer-of-checks. I'm a listener-of-days. But today is a teenager's Right of Passage. This first ever purchase of parking pass and off-campus lunch pass for high school. I had written it down this morning in pencil and assumed, without even thinking, that I would drive him up and stand in line with him. Much like I've done for the past 16 years of his lines to be waited in.
I erased and allowed pink rubber crumbs to remain where they lay. And then that steady ticking stopped me, paused me hard. Caused me to put the pencil down and stare up at the hour hand. No, in two hours he could take the car and he could complete this Right of Passage without me. I was welcome but no longer needed for his motherly Standing in Line duty which I've become adept at. Yes, I could go with him... but this is a part of the letting go. I know you're smiling. You're smiling because this is no big thing you're thinking. And you're perfectly right. It is no big thing. It's a small thing that coupled together with the numerous other small things for the rest of his life, allow me, no, teach me, how to gently let him go.
He did ask. After breakfast and after checking through carefully clipped paperwork, he did ask if I was going, too. My heart smiled at that thought, and yes, it raced faster than my ticking kitchen clock which was speeding time away from me. "Say Yes!," and, "Go with him!" it cheered. No, I said out loud. I smiled watching his face, "You take the car and go. Everything's signed, all the paperwork is there. Take the car and be careful on the s-curve." He looked at me, tick...tick...tick, before he fingered car keys, and clicked the door shut on his way out. Tick...tick...tick. I heard the garage door rumble up. Tick...tick...tick. I listened for the engine and the slow back out. I glanced at a sliver of window as he carefully navigated the driveway all gleaming windshield easing out. And then flash of trunk moving cautiously up the hill toward school. And the gentle ticking continued to measure the time it takes for old habits to die hard.