in the end, after all of the worry, and all of the nights of stumbling from bed, retracing my steps to the sliver of light that seeped from the crack in the door of the room that never seemed to go dark…
in the end, after all of the fears that somehow it wouldn’t get done, that papers would never find words, and psyches would crack under pressure…
in the end, after 40 weeks of this school year that everyone labels “insane,” where parents in lines at the start-of-school book sale lean in and whisper of kids pushed to the brink of emotional breakdown…
in the end, it all came down to three eggs, cracked on the rim of a bowl, shells the color of cafe au lait cast in the sink, so many empty-hulled shards.
it’s all i could do here at the end, at the start of the final exams, as the boy who i love inhaled a few last lines of latin declensions, read back over ovid, gathered his pencils and sighed.
all i could do was stand there stirring, and praying. watching the yolks turn creamy and hard, pile high into egg drifts.
i imagined the protein, the strands in the eggs, bolstering all the cells in his brain. i stirred and constructed the scaffold, the brace that would hold up his thought, streamline the answers, hurdle him straight to the finish.
it’s all a mama can do sometimes. stand there and stir, and spiral her prayers.
“channel grandpa geno,” i told him, as i sprinkled cheese in the eggs. “he was a wizard in latin.
“and, remember, this is your national language,” i added, a feeble attempt to lighten the moment, to wedge in a sunbeam of humor, one that drew on his old catholic roots.
and then for a moment, i clung to that thought of my papa, saw him again in my head, vivid and clear and in color: his irish face round, decidedly rosy, his eyes atwinkle as always. i imagined him, an apparition of comfort and joy, see-through and floating, just over the desk of my young latin scholar.
i’d grown up with stories of how my papa, time after time, saved my uncle’s behind and his grade point average, besides. how, under the strict gaze of the jesuits, he’d managed to lift the edge of his test, so from the seat just behind and across, my uncle could peer at the answers.
i imagined my papa doing the same for my firstborn, the grandson he never knew, though over the years i’ve offered him up, made him a part of the canon of story. made sure through the power of word that one knew the other. my firstborn, in fact, can reel off tales of his grandpa. and i can picture my papa beaming, bellowing, at the antics and charms of my firstborn, the one with the mind so much like his grandpa’s.
it’s all a mama can do at the dawn of the year’s final passage: beckon the spirits, call on the clan. all the while stirring the eggs.
it’s time now to let loose of the worries. time now to lean into faith, and the soft chest of my papa.
it’s time to believe in the power of mind and of prayer.
it’s time now to rinse our hands of this year. to bid it goodbye and good riddance.
all we can do here at the end is serve up the eggs and the vespers.
as i scraped out the pan, buttered the toast, i realized this was the last. next year, there will be no end-of-the-year finals. and the year after that, when he’s somewhere at college, i won’t be there to stir–at least not the yolks of the eggs.
but wherever he is, wherever i stir, the prayers will always continue. and as long as i breathe, i’ll channel his grandpa.
for just such a classical challenge and triumph.
believe me, i hear the idiocy of such pressure run amok. i swore back in that book line, that i’d not succumb to the madness. despite my deepest intentions, though, this year crept up on us, got under our skin, jangled our nerves. forgive me for writing about it time and again these past few weeks. but typing is healing. and in the construction of word and sentence, i found wisps of solace. enough some days to carry me through till bedtime, when i got down on my knees and prayed. for holy strength to get to this day. and now, hallelujah, here we are. two tests next week, and i’ve got a senior in high school. holy lord……