out the door with a prayer
never mind clean underwear and new no. 2 pencils. i’m fairly certain, as certain as a laundress can be, that he had the former. saw ‘em stacked there on the chair. where i–i mean the laundress–had left them. the latter, the pointy-tipped pencils, he’s long outgrown. outgrown till he gets to the SATs, which, the way things are speeding along here, might be tomorrow for all i know.
my baby just left for high school. i know, i know, you’re not here to hear me whine. i won’t. i promise. i did not shed a single tear, i’ll have you know. not like in kindergarten when i gulped and hung in the hallway, peeking in through the cracks with all of the other over-bred mothers. or first grade, where i’m sure, though i cannot remember, i repeated the scene.
well there was the day last week, come to think of it. he had some gathering with all of his homeroom. called the advisory, here on the chi-chi north shore.
i let him out at the curb, after our usual goodbyes for such an occasion: ”love you,” says i. “love you,” says he. “more than life,” i come back. “more than life,” he confirms.
then i watched his long lanky body, the one with the curly-haired mop on the top and the brown-colored skin all over the rest, watched him lope down a sidewalk, watched him steer toward a coagulation of boys-verging-on-men.
“he’s going to high school,” i heard the little voice in my head announce. and then, on cue, the tear kicked in. oh, all right, maybe it was more than just one.
but he is my firstborn, you know. he is always the one who does everything first. and drags me right along with him. never before have i been the mama of a child four years from college. or, as he reminded me the morning he woke up 14, two years from driving a car, one year from taking the wheel, practicing on high-speed expressways where they do not save a lane just for your little boy.
dang. maybe i will shed a tear here this morning. after all.
but nope. i’m stayin’ dry-eyed. no precipitation from this mama’s eyes will do one thing to alter the outcome there at that high school.
he’s on his own.
we did all we could here. besides putting out the red plate, the you’re-special-today plate, and the waterford goblet for o.j., besides the three-egg-bacon-and-cheese omelette, made by the tall grownup who now calls himself the omelettizer, there wasn’t a whole lot of use for us old folk.
oh, sure i wrote him a note. but mostly i wrote all of the things that he’s taught me in the last coupla weeks, since he came home from the woods with the mantra, “walking is putting one foot in front of the other.” just reminded him of a few others.
like that light is the divine animator, and he is illumination, defined. that boy, i’m tellin’ ya, has a light, much more than a double-dd beam, shining from back of his eyes, back where his soul is.
can’t claim any credit for that. he was born that way. way i see it, all we could do all along was recharge the batteries. i did that each night on my knees, way back, from the beginning. once he could talk, me and his papa, and plenty of others, we did the recharging through umpteen gazillion hours of long conversation.
puttin’ that kid to bed, even back in the old days, meant you were in for a two-hour philosophical jaunt through the woods. listening to where his mind poked around, always being there at the bend, ready to shine our own sort of light on the answers he sought.
it’s all of that that we sent out the door on this fine august morning. it is all we ever can do. in the hours we’re given, in the hours where our shoulders can touch, and our fingers entwine, we pack in what little we know, and we pray for the rest.
there is, i realize, a whole bunch of catch-and-release in this parenting. you catch ‘em just before falling. you hold ‘em, embrace them, whisper soft words in their ears.
you let go, with ever-increasing frequency, it sure seems. we are thick in the letting-go years here. we are left, many a morning, murmuring there on the doorstep.
good thing the good Lord knows how to decipher all of the murmurs.
at my house, they go something like this: make him the light of your love, God. make him the light.
and should the batteries dim, come to me. i’ve got a whole closet of back-ups. and, just in case, i’ve got knees that’ll never wear out.
gracious me, i had no intention of bothering you with my letting-go thoughts. i had every intention of telling you all about something altogether other. but some mornings i just listen to the pounding of my heart. and this morning, my heart pounded one song, the song of the boy on his way into the halls of the high school. once again we strike up the letting-go theme. what are your thinkings when you send the ones that you love off into the world? how do you play catch and release?