gratitude-a-thon day 1043: you’re born and then you morph

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Yesterday was a funny day. Not ha, ha funny, but interesting funny, “wouldja look at how life is, all it is,” kind of day.

My son should have graduated from college this year, only his first choice college, USC, Fight On, Go Trojans, accepted him for the Spring semester, and he wanted to go there enough to say yes. This prompted us to have to find something to engage him for the first semester. A friend ran a cool organization and we found he could go to University of Barcelona. The USC Admissions board said, “Oh yeah, we know that program. No problem. Great” But being a novice college mom (and possibly dumb as poured cement), I didn’t get it in writing, and yes, if you’re playing along, it did not, in the end, count (four courses in a foreign city, three of which were in Spanish and not a one of them counted, THANK YOU SO FUCKING MUCH). Which means, he did not graduate this year with all of his friends, which also means I did not yet have to ponder, yet another transition.

But it seemed yesterday, I did. And it a little bit undid me.

I started the day by going to a graduation party for twin boys who I’ve known since they were little, and I say this as little in the sense of just a few months old, and little in the sense that they are now both 6’5. Not even kidding. They are like buildings in a sea of cottages. This may have started me on the course of where I ended up. I mean, you look at them and because they’re so tall, so much larger than when they were babies, you think, how, HOW could this have happened that those two tiny people became these two very big people? They are perfect visual symbols of this concept that just reminds me of everything I don’t understand about life.

Then, Peter and I met our friend Sharon, at the movie “Obit” at the Coolidge, where the filmmaker and one of the writers of obits for the New York Times was having a Talk Back after the movie. Some time ago, we recognized that we were all a little in love with   obituaries. My obsession began after my mom died at 73, which I felt was way too young, and which is when I began reading obits in earnest (age 32), being secretly grateful when someone died who was younger than my mother, and covertly angry when someone was older (I never said that I was a normal person, I am clearly not). Anyway, when we heard about this film, I knew we just had to see it and we just had to see it with Sharon. It was great. But of course, it made us ponder dying and what our obits would say and I realized that I really have to step it up, because at this point, if I were to get a headline at all, it would be, “She made a nice poster, she wrapped a nice gift.”

The end of the day was another graduation party of my son’s high school girlfriend. I love this girl like she is mine (even though she is not, and has wonderful parents who raised her to be the brilliant, ethical, loyal, loving and hard working girl she is). I think after the obituary movie, which had me look at my own mortality, and the morning acknowledgement of the neighborhood boys graduating, I was set up to sob. And before I could even eat, I started to, which was ridiculous, and wrong, and I decided we had to leave abruptly, because I all of a sudden was rushed with the emotions of how fast time is jetting by, and it flooded me like a goddamn tsunami. A tsunami, I tell you.

Graduations mark time. I haven’t thought about time since back in September when my daughter left for college, leaving the nest void of kids. I’ve been busy doing stuff. But yesterday forced me to not only look at these kids who I’ve watched grow up, but once again at myself and to be reminded that there are certain periods of my life that are now over–times that seemed at some moments to identify who I was.

Morphing. That’s what we’re all doing, all the time. Going from being one of 1,209, 792,378 things that we are, into one of the 1,209, 792,378 other things we are on our way to becoming.

Graduations are for celebrating the graduate, but they also make us look at where we are in the great graduation procession of life. Yup, we’re born and we die, is how some people would sum it up. But we all know it’s  more than this. It’s so much, so goddamn much more. It was a funny day. I suspect there will be many more just like it.

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Happy graduation to Scott, Jonas & Patrick, Maddie and my girl, Jess. Your future’s so bright……

gratitude-a-thon day 880: go back to the well

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Can you prepare yourself for big change? I don’t think so.

Isn’t it funny how when you know something hard is coming, you think “I know, I’ll prepare myself.”

Truth is, you can’t. Most of the time you just can’t prepare yourself for the tough stuff–the losses, the mammoth changes that rock the stability of your little world.

I really did think I was going all Boy Scout’s motto in regard to my  last child’s graduation this Sunday. I have thought about what this day means for a lot of years. It means the chicks have flown the coop, or anyway, soon will, and that your life before kids, is well, before you.

I really thought I’d done this homework. I honestly thought I’d emotionally prepared. There’s that word again.

But it’s so clear to me, from my crankiness, to my troubled sleep and feelings of total vulnerability, that I have not. In the least little bit. AT ALL.

Fuck.

I go back to the well.  Be in the moment. Stay present. Be grateful.

And don’t pretend to be prepared. You are not.

 

 

gratitude-a-thon day 133: education part 1: done

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Go Jakey!

Sometimes I think you need to step away from yourself and do big picture thinking. Yesterday’s graduation was really amazing. The weather, threatening to drown us, was absolute perfection, the speaker bright and inspiring, the music was exceptional. And of course, that damn “Pomp and Circumstance,” got to me, which it does every time. What is it about that song, that brings on the waterworks? You could literally watch puppies frolicking and cry a river if that song was on in the background.

Anyway, back to the big picture. I just want to say that I am so grateful for all that went right in Jake’s education so far. The teachers who loved and nurtured him, the friends who sustained him, the inner drive that spurred him on. From kindergarten to senior year, Jake’s education has been a stellar one.

And so there he was yesterday, picking up a piece of paper that sort of symbolizes that learning. Yes, it was one big photo op-athon, but what yesterday really means to me is “so far, so good.” Whatever part we played in getting him through to high school, is done. And I am basking in the results today. I am pondering the success of the whole process. I am putting my feet up, after all the festivities, and I am being proud of the boy. We will have more work to do, as he embarks on college, but for today, I am grateful for all he’s done, for all everybody has done to make yesterday happen.

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yay for Brookline High School’s class of 2013!

gratitude-a-thon day 130: feelings (oh, oh, feelings)

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Before. And after.

I’ve been crazy emotional since the day I arrived. I have always been all about feelings. I have a history of laughing hard, crying harder and experiencing other people’s stuff in a deep and profound (and sometimes debilitating) way.  Nobody can empathize with you, like me. I’m a “feeler.” This means I could not be a nurse, or a doctor, or a veterinarian, because I instead of being able to see how I was helping, I would just want to lay down and die from the feeling of watching someone else be in so much pain.

My feelings about things can overwhelm me in a Niagara Falls kind of way. Today is Jake’s SWS graduation. SWS stands for School within a School, and is a super cool program at the high school that he particpated in just this year. It’s self-governed, small and unusually amazing. On Sunday, the bigger graduation happens. I am like an emotional tornado. Don’t stand too close, or I will cry on you. Don’t say hello, or I will spring a hurricane of tears in your face. And while they are happy tears, they’re also sad tears, tears of time gone by and wonderment of how and where the little baby I gave birth to went (is he in like Sweden, still a bundle of adorableness)?

Anyway, I am grateful today for the experience of watching my child grow to be a high school senior, healthy and in tact. I am grateful for the awesome privilege it has been to watch another human being become. It is an extraordinary thing to see and feel. Even though, it comes with so many overwhelming highs and lows. I’m lucky to have had this, to have experienced this. And it would all be just amazing, if I could just stop crying.

gratitude-a-thon day 124: transitions

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Here’s my boy on our trip to visit California colleges last April. He’s ready for the next step. But am I?

I am still sick with the crud. What is this thing? You need to NOT get it. I hope you can’t catch it from reading the blog.

Anyway, tomorrow is Jake’s last day of high school. Saying that out loud is like saying, “I woke up tall and blonde this morning.” (I will never be tall, or blonde, although that’s not entirely true, since I was blonde for like a few weeks a month ago when my hairdresser went a little light on the highlights and turned me into Malibu Barbie.) Anyway, I am not even sure how this is possible, but tomorrow is the last time Jake will enter BHS as a student.

Life is such a funny little thing. Nobody tells you how really funny it is–you just have to experience it for yourself. I only remember the end of high school in a very foggy light. Little snippets, small moments. A cool dress my sister let me borrow to wear to Senior Night. My family in the stands of the Wildcat’s home football field watching me get my dipoloma in my dorky white cap and gown. The giant picnic my parents threw for me. And that’s really all. I don’t remember anything else. Except that I felt odd, displaced, strange. I guess there was a happiness, but I don’t remember it overwhelming me. I guess I went to the Cape for a month that summer, as usual, but I don’t remember it being remarkable, or especially better than any other summer on the Cape.

Anyway, I want to make this transition special for Jake, but I have to say, this end of high school is overwhelming me with all the feeling I didn’t have during my own graduation. It’s not that millions of kids don’t do this every year that makes it such a landmark moment, it’s that it’s the real beginning of the end of  your child’s life in your house. This is the part of graduation that is remarkable. That the day to day tending, nurturing, coaching, coaxing, cajoling, poking and loving your child is done with. I don’t mean that in a maudlin, or dramatic way. And I don’t mean that I won’t continue to do that to Jake, I just mean it as what it is, factual.  It’s real and it’s big. Your kid is on his way to having to begin a life on his own.

I will miss that boy and his pile of clothes in the middle of his room. I will long for his silly jokes and his hugs, and his insights. I will even miss nagging him to do stuff (maybe I’m overstating here, yeah, I WILL NOT MISS THE NAGGING HIM TO DO STUFF.) In short, I will miss every single thing about this boy who made me a mom. He is the most special thing that’s ever happened to me (along with that girl).

Anyway, I have been trying to create this album for him. It’s forced me to sift through the literally thousands of photos of our family that I have amassed. It’s not like me, but I can’t pull it together. Every time I think of a plan for the book, I think it’s not special enough, and I want to take a nap, or try heroin for the first time. It’s not hard to psychoanalyze myself here. I don’t need a degree. I am totally engulfed in the emotion of seeing not only his life in pictures, but also my own. Where did that time go? Is that why people are always saying that–“Where did the time go?” Because it’s impossible to understand its passing.  I mean, IMPOSSIBLE. If he’s older, so am I. After 18 years of hard labor (privIleged, incredible labor, not to mention that really awful labor before the epidural) I’m done. Just like that. I’m in transition, too. And I’ve never been good at those. They take me a good long time to embrace. I’m better at middles. Middles are much more my thing.

Today I am grateful for transitions ,even though I hate them, they’re what prepare you for what’s next. They may cause you to be swarmed with feelings, like six year olds around a birthday pinata, but they are a must. So, I will let myself jump into the transitional pool and learn to swim. And then, I will get on with making that album. It won’t be perfect, or as special as I want it to be, but it will be from my heart, for my boy. Who will always be my boy (and hopefully will remember those 18 years with as much love as I do).

gratitude-a-thon day 97: May and June

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In May and June, there appear to be less hours in the day. I know it sounds impossible, but I’m pretty sure it’s true.

It’s about to be May. This is when it happens. Time is about to speed up and go faster than pack of cyclists at the Tour de France. And this year, this sci fi time warp thing is going to go even faster and be even crazier. This year Jake graduates from high school. You see the countdown is on. The time we have left with him under our roof is about to end. And we’re all acutely aware of the fact that next year at this time, he will be in sunny California, approximately 2,000 miles and 6 hours away from us.

This is of course what we want, what we hope our kids will be able to do, what we think about  in the middle of the night when they are nursing and we are bleary eyed and psychotic from nights on end without adequate REM sleep. And yet, the poignancy of the moment is bigger in its reality than when Neil Armstrong put his gosh darn foot down on the moon.

But I digress.

Back to the time thing. Ok, so really, this is what happens when May strikes. Time is actually reduced in some totally and completely other worldly way. First of all, there are the “end of year” events. When the kids were younger, there was a celebratory picnic for everything they did.  EVERYTHING THEY DID. It was like if you walked by the fountain in the cafeteria, there would be a picnic. PICNICS. PICNICS. AND MORE PICNICS. Festive, but endless, tedious and exhausting. And, most importantly, TIME STEALING. Then there are all the spring sports. We barely had a family dinner that did not consist of pizza at 8:00 during May and June for the entirety of my children’s youth. I mean how do you show up at a game, or two games, AND cook a meal. You don’t. And I decided, early on,  showing up at the game was a far better use of my time. And then, there’s the weather. For some reason, the spring, the GORGEOUS, GORGEOUS SPRING, WHICH I LOVE LIKE A BIG HUNK OF CHEESE, speeds up the proceedings, making May and June whiz by like the now defunct Concorde. Add weddings and graduations, a couple significant birthdays, and you’ve got yourself a a few months that feel like a few days.

I know it’s all perception. I know that May and June do not really go faster than the rest of the year, but they feel like they do, and as I get older, I see sometimes that’s all that really matters. This year there will be a lot of graduation parties, and my close friend’s 50th, and athletic celebrations, and I’m working on a large scale party for after the prom, and we will have relatives from out of state come for graduation (which you know, means I will have to clean and cook a lot), and I am trying to figure out how to create a meaningful album to send Jake to college with that reminds him of where he came from, and oh yeah, I’ll be fitting work in there somewhere.

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Here he is on his way to school (dressed up because of lacrosse). I like this photo because somehow it reminds me of him as a little kid. Which he most definitely is not any longer.

Anyway, this May feels like a bit of a magic time, although rather chaotic, and much like a long race that you’ve trained a lifetime for, and that you are finally in the last leg of. This May I will have to prevent myself from sobbing at all the end of year festivities. Jake is not dying, but the end of something is. The end of our time with him in his messy (this is the absolute understatement of the year) room is waning. The beauty of him flying off to sunnier pastures is thrilling and exciting and absolutely unbelievable. And it’s making me hold close all the Mays and Junes we’ve had with him as he’s grown up. I’m grateful to be aware of this window. I’m going to try and slow it down. Take it in. And enjoy the picnic.