scrambled eggs and a prayer
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……
It’s funny … there are times and seasons in my life when I swear I can actually see my sweet grandpa smiling at me. Certain times for whatever reason seem to trigger such deep memories. My daughters never knew him. When I was 16 he breathed his last breath and dropped to his knees while walking through a field. So sudden, snatched from us it seemed, but while doing what he loved most. My girls would have adored him as I always did. Although not a scholar, they still would have learned so much from him. He loved the earth and worked the soil, grew the corn and had a laugh like no one else I’ve ever known. He would reach down, hold our faces in his hands and his eyes told the story. Laughing eyes. <<sigh>>Reading your post today stirred these memories so sweetly. Young Will is destined to be a great man … he has such a rich heritage. My heart is saddened that he never knew his grandpa, like my girls never knew theirs, but we can pass along the qualities and traits they possessed.And as far as this school year is concerned … farewell and adieu. Summer is here and we are free … only temporarily, yes, but free!
dear darlin, what a wonderful thing to finally have time to write you back. forgive me….i love your grandpa story….fell to his knees in the field. i can see that heartbreaking image. you are so wise my pjv. and you are sooo lucky because you are done done with school. we still have one week till w. can throw his hat in the air, and two more for t. but with the load behind us that’s behind us, i can at least breathe again. maybe you should come to chicago for summer vacation. i’ll make eggs for you, and your baby girl. no longer a baby, i know….xoxo
oh bam, this is so beautiful. i cannot tell you how much i look forward to your wisdom each and every friday. i so feel your relief. congratulations to the entire kamin /mahaney clan for surviving this crazed of years so well and so intact. it does take a village and will’s grandpa was right there with him at that latin exam. love and hugs.
There is an article this week in the Trib about this neat book and concept called Simplicity Parenting that you might want to check out as a sane antedote to such pressure, tension, craziness, loss of perspective of which you experienced. Oh wait! The article has your byline!
oh dear…not sure if the comment above is intended to poke, or sighs sympathetically. i do know that i subscribe wholly to the simplicity parenting model, and sometimes i feel like a salmon swimming upstream. i do know too that whereas when children are little it’s easier to wrap that cocoon and keep children from feeling the pressures of a world all around, but when kids are 16, almost 17, it is immensely harder to keep that world out. you send them off each day into a world where teachers and culture make considerable demands, and where all of it piles up onto a plate that nearly breaks under the weight. all i’m saying is it’s a mighty challenge to keep kids intact, with their eyes on their own personal agenda. and sometimes all a mama can do is stand at the stove stirring, and praying. and saying over and over again the few true words she knows with all her heart.
My comment about the essay was meant ironically, as I really did just read the article before seeing the chair essay. And, I went to the Simplicity Parenting site, and sent a link out to a few others. Then, pulled up the chair.Of children in the late teens and beyond, a wise man once said to me, “Their needs are not the needs to be met by a mother anymore.” Sad. Like a dagger, but also a relief. Though, sad, sometimes hard to watch, but probably true. At times, I have had to repeat that line to myself over and over. Having launched multiples, I know that the intensity you wrote of is in large part generated internally by the particular child, not necessarily the system through which they are going in school. It sounds like your son is at or near the top of his class, with lots of ability, drive, intellect, stamina, maybe perfectionism, and he wants to not only do his own personal best, but that might mean that he is ranked the best–or close to it–among a huge school with lots of gifted peers. And, he is striving for top colleges.There are others in that school, perhaps others near the same pinnacle of achievement who do not have the same interest or intensity. Then, there are the students who do have all in his package, but not the smarts, so they do their personal best, but can’t possibly worry about all the pressure of others above them, as they have never felt close enough to the top to plant a flag there.Deep breathing helps–for parent and child. Plus the eggs look mighty tasty.
yes yes, i do see the irony. my life feels laced in irony often. your words of wisdom are, yes, wise. and yes the eggs were yummy. found this amazing five-cheese garlic spread from my favorite mushroom farmer, and a dollop of that in a pan filled with farm-fresh eggs, and some handfuls of grated cheese….yum. so far has gotten the boy through three of the four finals….one to go…..
Congrats to you and your oldest son. As you know too well, there’s nothing easy about the school year he just finished. And, the stress of our children does fall on our shoulders, no matter how firm our intentions are. I know he learned a lot of life lessons the past months, including the knowledge that your parents have your back no matter what! And my experiences right now tell me that that is still important even with adult children. Happy summer!