the very last school bell: a litany of thank you, thank you, thank you
i’m guessing you thought i might explode by the time today came along — today, the day my once-upon-a-prayer miracle child, the Egg Who Wouldn’t Take No For An Answer, the one who made me an Old Mother in the obstetrical books, born just shy of 9-11, the kid who all but grew up here at the chair (he was new to kindergarten the day this began), today’s the very last day he saunters out the door to high school. the day you might say my front-line duties are downgraded/diluted/shoved to the side, as i move one step back to where i mother from a little bit farther away, from impending long distance, from text and phone call flung from cell phone tower to cell phone tower clear across the heartland, 357 miles kitchen door to college door.
i actually thought i’d weather it without too much percussion.
i was wrong.
somewhere in the last couple days — maybe it was when that sweet boy reached his lanky arms across this old maple table and said the before-dinner prayer the other night, the last Grammy Tuesday of a quarter-plus-century, when he thanked God for a Grammy who was there every step of the way, to take him to toddler gymnastics, most every soccer match he ever played, who pored over spelling books with him, and helped him figure out his math, and then cooked his very favorite orange chicken or her famous 3-4-5 stew, to boot. or maybe it was the night before last when he paused in the dark at the top of the stairs and asked if he could give me an extra-tight hug — it hit me. washed over me like the tidal wave i should have expected.
all i could think of was thank you. thank you, Universe and heavens above, for this unlikeliest Wonder that i’ll ever know. the one i’ll never ever get over.
thank you to the whole litany of heroes big and small who have made this adventure in loving and growing a human so very extraordinary.
thank you — for there’s no finer place to begin — to the mighty big brother who, long ago, declared the impending wonder his “dream come true!” and never once wavered from thinking so. and never once acted as if the late-stage expansion to our little family was an interloper, or any sort of nuisance. (heck, in all these years, i’ve never heard either one yell at, poke, prod, or otherwise seriously incense the other; that eight-year buffer does much to dilute filial rivalry.)
thank you to the five-star teachers, the coaches, the counselors, the school-bus drivers, Other Mothers, and tribal elders who’ve aided, abetted, and leapt into Superhero togs and tights on an as-needed basis. thank you to the dispensers of band-aids and bubble gum, forgotten soccer shoes and sharpened pencils, all along the way. to the school nurses who quelled the queazy tummy and oh-so-calmly called me at home when he got klonked on the playground. thank you, thank you, to the kindergarten teacher who made him giggle each and every day (and whom he declared his “very favorite ever” till well into high school). the first-grade teacher who tucked love notes in his pencil case, and chased away the butterflies. the second-grade teacher who called no attention to the fact that alphabet letters were not lining up into legible words, and certainly not into readable sentences. to the third-grade teacher who never taught him cursive (it’s a lost art, i’m told), but taught volumes on kindness. and on through to the seventh-grade social-studies teacher he wants to grow up to be.
and then there’s high school, where a phalanx of first-rate teachers and stellar human beings — biology, debate, and american studies, in particular — made him love even impossible subjects, and imparted wisdoms far beyond text books. and where anyone willing and brave enough to steer an american teen through the labyrinth — and pitfalls — of modern adolescence is more than a superstar in my little book.
to the brilliant journalist and editor and outside-the-box thinker in cambridge, MA, who invited us all to spend a year of sumptuous thinking in 02139, and gave the kid a chance to live out his never-say-no, “We Need to See the World!” philosophy. one that gave him a flotilla of friends from around the world (and a mighty fine Common App essay for college, besides).
to the glorious one who, early on, helped him figure out how to tie his shoes, hold a pencil, and cut with a knife, when those dag-nab things confounded him. and who, to this day, has never stopped looking out for him. to the extra-special soul who taught him all about puns, and irony, and the first few chapters of critical thinking, and to whom he owes his very proud (albeit scant) claim to Game of Thrones origins (that glorious teacher’s very own kid just happens to be showrunner, writer, and co-creator of Thrones, and back in the day she regaled us in real time with tales of the curious show in the making — one whose name i never failed to mix up, forever calling it Crown of Thorns, which it was certainly not).
thank you to the brilliant pediatric nurse practitioner who nursed our boy back from a nasty concussion (or two), and defended his case before the high school’s board of inquisitors. thank you to every single wizard who helped him iron out the kinks of growing up in a deeply digital, over-pressurized world. thank you to those rare and heavenly friends of mine who have always, always, talked to him as if he was their peer. and who dialed up the shine in his eyes. (wink-wink to the one who sent him the many-paged letter of wisdoms he keeps tucked in his bedside drawer, and to the one over whom he now towers and loves with all his heart as she fuels him with big ideas and ways to wrestle injustice in the world.)
thank you for the grandma and grandpa from far away who have sent love notes and trinkets and holiday treats — and countless knock-knock jokes and infinite, infinite love, year after year, phone call after phone call, since the hot august day he was born. thank you for the upper-east-side aunt who is, hands down, the very best giver of ahead-of-the-curve boy gifts that ever there was. thank you to the auntie now in maine who once upon a time, among other weekly adventures, wrapped him in aluminum foil, and led him by the hand into the world of unlimited arts and creation. and to the cincinnati aunt who drives as many hours as it takes to be here for most any special occasion — or plain old sunday brunch. and to the uncles who have loved him up close and long-distance for all of his years. especially the ones who sit down beside him and engage in deep and long-winding conversation (and don’t mind at all being listed as the one to call, God forbid, in any emergency). and make him laugh out loud at their bottomless jokes.
there really aren’t words to capture the love that’s grown between my sweet boy and my mama. it’s one of the breathtakingest loves i’ve ever seen. he simply adores her. takes her by the hand and whirls her in circles, their own imaginary waltzes. sets aside most saturdays for lunch with her, treats her to hot dog and fries and silly conversation. sees in her a tenderness that she might have reserved just for him.
and thank you, of course and emphatically, to his most beloved band of brothers, the comrades in arms who together have taken on the ups and downs of boyhood, straight through to high school graduation. the antics they try to hide from parents, and the ones we’ve watched wide-eyed — and proud. a boy couldn’t wish for more loyal — or hilarious — or tender sweet, true-to-the-end friends.
thank you to his papa, who has loved him lavishly and wisely. and without whom i’d be lost. (and whose particular thank yous are spelled out in real-time, in words spoken not typed.)
and thank you, most of all, to the God who gave him to us. who gave me one more chance to try out these mothering tricks, to traverse the twists and turns of the tight mountain pass. to test my patience, and melt me all over again. to leave my mark on the world, in the indelible form of the Boy with the Extra-Big Heart.
watch over him, angels, saints and heaven above. he’s my treasure. and he’s just about ripe for the world.
forgive my diving into the long and winding particular here. i’d meant to make it more decidedly universal, but got caught along the way, in all the nooks and crannies of remembering. i could have strung together a litany of “chairs” from over the years, monster fighter, reading by the light of double DD, heart to heart. all of which are sealed here — and, some, in the pages of my trio of books.
my beautiful brave friend robbie died this week. her wisdoms are sealed against my heart. she was so rare, and so very very brave. here’s a bit of her beauty, her capacity for pointing us toward what most mattered….may her memory be a blessing forever.
who are the heroes — especially the unsung ones — in the world that is yours? the ones who might never realize just how much they matter?
i melt every time i find you here. thank you. xox
Lovely! Warms my heart!
thank you, sweet liz. xoxo
well, i cried just now, making reservations for the little inn where we will stay when we drop said child off at the college’s middlepath. and then this lovely poem, from wendell berry, dropped in, as if the heavens are lining up to point me toward the gentle coming….
They Sit Together on the Porch
BY WENDELL BERRY
They sit together on the porch, the dark
Almost fallen, the house behind them dark.
Their supper done with, they have washed and dried
The dishes–only two plates now, two glasses,
Two knives, two forks, two spoons–small work for two.
She sits with her hands folded in her lap,
At rest. He smokes his pipe. They do not speak,
And when they speak at last it is to say
What each one knows the other knows. They have
One mind between them, now, that finally
For all its knowing will not exactly know
Which one goes first through the dark doorway, bidding
Goodnight, and which sits on a while alone.
Thank you for this lovely glimpse into the life your darling boy has lived within the sturdy circle of his loving family and friends. Wishing him every good thing as college days begin! His yesterdays give such hope for bright tomorrows… xoxo
sturdy circle, indeed. and i — as much as him — am the one they’ve been propping up all this time. xoxox
bam dear, I count you among the many….you put into poetic theme what I am too often overcome with emotion to express in the light of profound revelation and bestowed mantles of beauty. Robbie was such a gift, an eternal one….she will never be gone, really…some say she passed this week, but she lives, bam dear, oh how she lives, so long as we keep her
spirit alive in our hearts and share her with others, as you have so graciously done. Eternity will one day show us how the chain is ever unbroken. How beautifully you express the jettisoning off of your beloved Son to the world of promise that awaits him and highlighting all the ones who have been the chosen threads in his woven fabric of life. I celebrate your humility and pride and wonder in this “egg who wouldn’t take no for an answer” (love it) Time to sit back and watch the fruition of your hopes and dreams for thismost special gift from the Heavens…. Love you with blessings~
if anyone’s soul is going to waft by and tap me on the heart, it’s going to be robbie’s. she was incandescent, all the more so in these last years. i think i’ll set myself by an open window, or out in the moonlit garden, arms wide and waiting…..
bless your wisdom, and your kindness, and your blessing.
and thank you.
Speechless. Awash with an overflow of emotion. All I can say is, I’m so sorry about Robbie. And, T is so blessed to have been born to y’all. Love you.
thank you, beautiful. wink wink to you, the unreeler of many-paged wisdoms. wiping away so many tears today, i should pin a couple kleenex to my irish cheeks. xoxo
So beautiful, Miss B 🙂 But for the really important question: Can you run the recipes for orange chicken and 3-4-5 stew? Maybe there are some important bonding ingredients in there.
dear beautiful polly, it appears i’ve never before posted the famous 3-4-5 stew (famous in our house, anyway). it’s a hand-me-down from my grandma lucille, a heck of a cook if ever there was. here tis, copied, in part, from a family cookbook i gathered a few years back….(this is not not not fancy, but it’s delicious, and hearty — and perhaps even spiced with soupçon of magic….)
Lucille’s 3-4-5 Stew, with Buttered Noodles, of course
Quintessential Lucille food. Hearty. Solid. Delicious. Smells like Grandma come back to feed us. And she does.
3# chuck roast, cubed
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 package dry onion soup
1 can consommé
1 can tomato soup
Cut-up carrots and potatoes
Mix together meat (do not brown), soups, cut-up potatoes and carrots. Place in baking dish. Cook 5 hours preheated 275-degree oven.
About the noodles: No recipe, really. Take a stick of butter. Set it afloat in the cast iron used below (the original multi-purpose pan). Into the foaming sea, toss day-old bread cut into cubes, big hefty cubes, cubes you could sink your teeth into. Once golden brown and clearly sodden with fat, dump in a vat of boiled egg noodles. Toss to coat. Serve. Parsley, chopped, would round out the Lucille moment.
“I’m guessing you thought i might explode by the time today came along” – well not explode, but put every feeling and thought into your glorious words and sweep us along with you.
I was actually anxiously awaiting this after reading the countdown all year. I’m sure many of us can relate to this exciting yet bitter sweet time. You capture it so well. Best of luck to your son as takes on the adventure of college. The world awaits him!
I’m late to the party here as I’m helping my son prepare for his move this weekend into that crazy world of an off-campus house. Oiy! Can you believe I had to explain to him the difference between dishwasher soap and dish washing liquid soap? But on the other hand he is all excited about gathering recipes and cooking. Go figure.
And I’m so sorry to here about the death of your dear friend. She sounds like a wonderful person.
Onward as we watch the young ones move on. Somehow I think you will fill your time with some new meaning while you ship off countless care packages.
oh, dear dear denise. love the project that’s kept you ensconced. love the dishwashing tutorial, and now comes recipes and cooking. i love the wacky phone calls in those domestic departments i get from my faraway older one. i just remembered i once wrote a story for the tribune on eight things you should know how to cook before heading off to college (which i was looking up for you, and just realized i’d better teach my sweet boy). in case this helps your cause!: https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/ct-xpm-2011-07-06-sc-food-0701-10-things-20110706-story.html
bless you much. and thank you so so much for making your way to the table. xoxox
Oh thanks for that great list. He’s well on his way to mastering most of those, although I can’t take much credit for it!
And believe me I look forward to coming to the table every week. I always learn something and/or find myself nodding my head in agreement. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.
Dearest bam, you are among my heroes, for so many reasons. But above all for raising two awe-inspiring human beings.it was an honor and joy last Saturday to meet “the mighty big brother who, long ago, declared the impending wonder his ‘dream come true!’ and never once wavered from thinking so. and never once acted as if the late-stage expansion to our little family was an interloper, or any sort of nuisance.” Among my family and friends and their sibs, I have never seen such steadfast love, devotion and tenderness. Far from it, I’m afraid. But then their parents hardly set good examples. I don’t know which is the norm, but I fervently hope your family is. Along with bountiful best wishes to the new graduate, you and Blair deserve congratulations heaped upon you for sending such magnificent young people into the world. Love you.
oh, dear karen, that was a THRILL amid the saturday morning farmer’s market puddles to look up and see YOU! you are kinder than kind, and blushing all the while, i thank you with my whole heart for your sweet words. a whole village of folks get credit for bathing these boys in love. and it was one glorious, too-fast weekend. xoxoxoxox bless you. love, b