i’m doing my arithmetic. multiplying quarter cups and teaspoons by multiples. i’m firing up the waffle iron. dumping hash browns in a vat. i’m making first-friday, end-of-high-school brunch for however many high school boys decide to swoop through the front door any hour now.
mostly, i’m squeezing every last drop of joy out of this bumper crop of boys i love. boys i’ve known, some of them, since they were wee tots. i’ve watched first days of kindergarten, first school-bus ride, first loose tooth, first sleepover, first at bat and strike out, too. i’ve watched this crop from almost the beginning, the whole lot of them. i’ve been nothing more than a bit player at the margins of their childhoods, but i’ve been keeping close watch, and i’ve been listening. i’ve known of dark shadows haunting some of them, and scary monsters that would not go away.
across the years, i’ve grown to love this brood. i’ve watched as they’ve reached out to weave a tapestry of love, a band of brothers, if ever there was. i’ve watched them surround the boy i love the night he got cut from soccer. i’ve watched them pile out of a van, bearing ice-cream cake and cookies, the night the kid i love got sidelined in the middle of tryouts, after getting kicked in the head in a scramble at the goal, and the trainer could not let a would-be concussion back onto the field. i’ve listened as i drove them mile after mile. remember back to second grade, when one tried to teach the others the intricacies of quadratic equations. heard them race to read 100 books one summer. watched them run around the neighborhood giggling, chasing make-believe superheroes on their phones. and, in the latest interlude, i’ve listened closely as each one reached for college dreams, listened closely as heartaches came and they leapt in to console each other, to bear the hurt together, share the load, shake it off, and laugh the night away after all. they are each other’s front-line rescue squad of heart and soul. theirs is a deep-grained bond, a glorious brand of friendship i wish could be bottled, sold on supermarket shelves. we’d all do well to learn a thing or two from their thick-or-thin inseparability, their faith in each other’s goodness, their forgiveness at ordinary bloopers.
it’s a blessed thing to love not just your own, but a whole flock of little rascals. to blink your eyes and see them not as little rascals shyly coming to the door, but grown men (with shoes twice the size of mine) now looking me in the eye, engaging in nuanced conversation about the politics or the heartache of the day.
i’m going to miss the lot of them — their cacophony rising from the basement where they gather with nothing more risqué than pretzel twists and gatorade, where they drape themselves amoeba-like on arms of chair, on beanbags, on the treadmill track (unplugged and motionless, at least most of the time). i’m going to miss the way they swarm the kitchen, locusts sucking up whatever crumb of carb or sugar they can find. i’m even going to miss the rides to school, where conversation keeps time with NPR, and we engage in everything from venezuela to william barr or the latest bit of drama from the high school halls (i only catch the latter if i’m listening really really closely).
they’re a bunch of boys so good, so unblemished, it gives me hope — a bumper crop of hope — for the world.
missing the whole lot of them might make it a bit more tolerable to imagine missing only one. the one and only who’s been haunting these halls all by his lonesome for the last eight years. ever since the steamy august day we dropped his big brother off at college, and motored down the highway, wiping away the tears that would not end.
we take our goodbyes in sips and bits. makes it far more bearable than one big final gulp. we animate those leave-takings with the wrappings of joy. with one more excuse to fire up the waffle iron, crank the oven, haul out the maple syrup by the gallon.
long ago, when i too was a high school senior and my mom and dad were out of town, i somehow invited every single girl in my class (that would be a few hundred) for may day breakfast before the school bell ring. i somehow thought of that the other day, and thus the invitation for the flock of high school senior boys. thank goodness it’s not the entire class. i’d be neck-deep in waffles, if it were.
i’m getting off easy here this morning. waffles for 20 oughta be a breeze.
what are the rites and rituals of goodbyes that have animated your years? and while we’re at it, anyone have a simple plot for keeping waffles, bacon, sausage and hash browns hot and to the table?
I would love to hear the rest of the May Day breakfast story from your senior year! Our family rituals of saying good bye usually involve a favorite dinner and then a blessing as they head out the door. Hugs to you as you celebrate your little one’s final days in high school and his upcoming adventures. xoxoxo
that’s beautiful, the blessing as they head out the door. i am already wrapping my sweet boy in every blessing i can whisper……
will tell the tale of may day brunch some day. i have NO real idea how i did it. there must have been easily 100 pouring into our kitchen, spilling all over the front lawn and the patio out back. i think i was a bit wackier in those days. and with a whole lot more energy. maybe the details are somewhere in a diary. i don’t think there are pictures…….
I bet that was a wonderful breakfast at your house! And I don’t think boys that age care too much if the waffles or hash browns are perfectly warm! I’m sure they adjusted! Your story of these life long friendships brought tears to my eyes. How I do remember that year, when the youngest and his buddies all left for college. It was difficult to let go of that brood. BUT, now I see them at their bridal showers with their lovely soon to be wives, and then a few years later we meet again at the baby shower! My thought is that this summer will not be the last you see of these boys. Enjoy these last few months with them, I’m sure you will also be part of their futures!
oh, gracious! your words–flinging me into the future–bring on more tears. i only got teary three times this morning. oh, i love those boys. and it will be such a blessing to watch them grow and grow into wiser, fuller citizens of this old globe. xoxox
No rituals or special meal “send offs” in my family, growing up…but whenever any of us left the house, a “God be with you!” would waft after us. A habit (pardon the pun) my mother picked up from the nuns at our school. Funny, I haven’t thought of that for years. We were not huggers back then. With family now, it’s a bear hug and a sincere “Love you!”…and “Safe journey!”
And how was your weekend away last week?
weekend was lovely. that magical april snowstorm — from my window looking into the woods, and then a daybreak walk INTO the woods — was miraculous. i had arrived at the cusp of spring, when all the woods were frilly with newborn earthy green, and by the next afternoon, all was white and hushed beyond words.
at our house, somewhere along the line the words “holy guardian angels protect us,” turned into “holy garden angels protect us,” so that’s what we say whenever we pull out of the alley for a long or even midling drive…..