that was fast
and there it was.
in yesterday’s pile of mail. just lying there, that short string of words, taunting me, teasing me, jolting me into the countdown of truth.
class of 2011. g-g-graduation party?
oh my God, i gasped.
now, i’d done that math. long long ago. maybe when still in the womb, in line with all my other fascinations with numbers (i tend to be moored by arithmetic, by adding, subtracting, defining my life in crisp-lined equations), i likely leapt forward in time, determined the points in my unborn’s unfurling story, first uttered the short string of digits, the 2 and the 0 and the pert pair of 1s. barely made sense, that sum of indivisible, indiscernible, parts.
for a good long while, through preschool and early-on years, through multiplication tables and kickball and the odd social fumblings of middle school, it’s just a blurry far-off posting there on the distant horizon, an odd combination you are called to conjure once in a while.
ah, but once your firstborn’s in high school, of course, they fling that digital string at you page after page, form after form, invoice after invoice. why it becomes a part of your child’s identity. he is 2011xxxx in their books.
and i suppose, vaguely, subliminally, ever-rising in consciousness, i’ve started to realize the punch in those numbers.
they are not merely computer-generated ink spurts. they whisper, ever louder, the undeniable truth: kid’s leaving, and here’s the date of departure.
oh, i’ve started to feel the rumblings. all this talk about college. all this mail that comes day after day. nice mail, fine mail, mail from places that want to harbor my boy.
but graduation party?
someone grab me a stool.
are we r-r-ready for that?
so there i stood in that way that we sometimes do, trying to get my eyeballs to clear out the fuzz, make sure i was seeing this right, not being fooled by some optical wizardry. downright insisted the brain part of the reading department kick into gear, try wrapping its neurons around the letters before me, make some sense of the fast-forward illusion.
hmm, seems to be not a ruse but the real, actual fact. complete with a date, and a comma besides.
coulda logged it onto the calendar. if i had one. for 2011, for cryin’ out loud. geez, i’m just breakin’ in this one, the one with the 0 at the end, instead of two 0s, a fine pair of eyeballs, peering out from the spot in the middle.
while i was busy, um, swallowing all this numerical befuddlement, the little one ran to my side. read round my elbow.
piped up, matter-of-factly, “this is how it will be, dad at work. just you and me.”
so it might be.
(lord knows, it’s not that i have even a wisp of a twinge at the notion of going along, just me and the little one, it’s just the hollowness of a four-bedroom house in which some of the beds never are mussed. and the towels in the bathroom….oh, never mind…)
so, yes, we will spend the next 15 months seeing that date–june 5, 2011–begin to flash along the roadside like some neon number that refuses to run out of wattage, blinking brighter and louder till it takes over the screen.
and so it goes as we pass through this life, aiming toward targets once miles and eons away, then inching closer, somehow getting so close we can make out the zigs and the crags of the outline. count the hairs on its head.
more often than not, we are propped up along the way, made to adjust to that thing on the far-off horizon.
so i’ve been told, when it comes to this college thing: “oh you’ll be ready, all right. your kid will make you so crazy you’ll cannonball him right out the door. toss the trunks onto the sidewalk, plunking behind him.”
hmm. not yet.
to this day, at nearly the midpoint of second semester junior year, that college-bound kid remains, solidly, squarely, among the most delightful lights in my day, he charms me. entertains me. teaches me, too. he makes me laugh so hard i swear i’ll embarrass myself one of these outbursts. says things that keep me awake thinking at night, not because they’re disturbing, but because they hold so much truth, so much wisdom, and like marrow of bone, i need to suck on it all a good long while to extract every speck of its essence.
so, no, not yet. i am not remotely ready.
and thus, the words on the slip of paper wholly stunned me, stopped me.
i felt the lightning bolt of truth shake through my body, down my arms, into my wrists, onto the tips of my fingers.
and there was the little one, right by my side. taking it all matter-of-factly.
life has a knack for sneaking up on you. and here, at this point on the map, i am noticing all around me, seeing the landscape blur out the window.
we seem to have picked up speed somewhere along here. not long ago, we struggled to learn to pedal a bike, swing a bat, spend the whole night in a tent despite the raccoon that scratched at the flap.
and, kaboom, here we are, getting a notice, high school graduation party. june 5, 2011. mark it, please, on the calendar.
that was fast.
what sorts of chapters have crept up on you lately? how did it feel once you arrived? what pangs do you still harbor? or, are you, like me, still peering at that post down the way, teetering bravely, hoping not to topple?
I have a 90 year old relative who told me once never to rue getting a year older, especiailly when considering the alternative. Likewise with offspring. You might feel sad when they move beyond home, but not when considering the alternative–sticking around home, not having ambition, plans or means to grow. Be thankful for all the offspring who are on track to launch themselves from your nest!
Many milestones in life do cause us to gasp and pause, and a high school graduation certainly can do that. It does mark the end of an era, a time of great change for the graduate as well as his parents. Right now I’m grappling with the untold reality of my son’s upcoming wedding this fall. I’ve lived through and survived two weddings already, but this is my baby getting married. Seems to me this is the big one, the end of line of being mother of the groom. And that reality stings for some reason. They are all grown up; they will all be gone. While I am thrilled that the guys all have wonderful, kind, generous women in their lives, it does leave a huge gap in mine. I’m looking at it as an opportunity to start a new chapter in my own life, but I have this nagging feeling the transition might be a bit rough.
A neighbor passed this last Sunday. He would have been 106 this year. He has lived, pretty much, his whole life in his home and in our neighborhood. I am still trying to get my mind around this. I may not though. It has given my sense of time a grand new perspective. This is partly because I will be 59 this year and so the whole marking of life with numbers is causing me to pause and do some reflecting. However, I am hoping for some springy warmer weather so I can stop reflecting.
How I love visiting the table and reading the wisdom from all of you. Thanks for the blessings. A dear friend told me once, life is a cycle of loving, losing, and healing. May we continue to make it through all of them …
Well, 2011 is a graduation date date for me too. I will (if all goes according to plan) exited the hallowed halls of college and enter the real world with a piece of paper and four years that say I have a bachelors degree in May 2011. I’m not sure that I’m ready yet, but part of me suspects that I will be by then. At any rate, I agree, that WAS fast. And here I am, in a hostel in Italy, reassuring my momma that I am safe and well, despite traveling through Tuscany all by myself.Life certainly does sneak up on you.
Thank you, Barbara, for the perspective on how my parents might have felt, nearly 40 years ago, when I left the nest (or flew the coop, as I looked at it).