pushing buttons

like that, the other eve, index finger reached and pressed the clicker pad: college, applied for.

after all the years and months and weeks. after all the endless dinner conversations about this class or that. this grade or that. this trip to here or there. after endless hours typing essays. after calculating GPAs, weighted and unweighted, it was a click barely audible.

so much transpired in that fraction of a second, the pushing down, the weight of fingerpad against the brushed silver clicker pad of the laptop.

if not for my eyes that misted up on cue, if not for the gallump that might have walloped in my firstborn’s heart, you’d not have known how much had just occurred.

how much of one boy’s life had been condensed into five short essays, a page or two of transcripts, a data sheet of name, address and biographic stripped-down who-when-where.

and so it is in life: we lift a foot and put it down in a whole new chapter, one that measures mere inches away, but in fact is miles and miles from where we started, or where we might have gone.

we say, “i do,” and suddenly we are someone we have never been.

the doctor yells, “push,” and next thing we know we are head over heels in love–not with fuzzy outlines of a dream, but deep dark eyes that pore over us as if they’ve always known us, known us since the dawn of time. how can that be, so new and old at once?

we grab a door handle, and walk into a workplace that will be our daily exercise for years and years to come.

we drive past a house, slow to an idle, open a car door, meander up the walk, and there we are inside the walls and windows that will be the ones we call home till the day we die.

thresholds aren’t such noisy things, don’t come with clanging cymbals or chiming bells.

but in your heart, oh yes, you know you’ve made the crossing.

so it was the other eve.

i could not shake it the whole next day, after my firstborn clicked the college button. nor that night, when my dreams came boldly and jarringly. i kept reading college essays. i recall papers being pulled from my hands. i’d not finished reading but the page was yanked away.

maybe, come to think of it, that’s how a mother feels when she is trying to wrap her head around the notion that her firstborn will soon be going away, for semesters at a time: wait, i’m not done yet. there is more to write, more to read, more to teach and learn. more to love.

i’ve not yet gotten to the point where i worry of all the things i’ve not yet added to his list of i-can-do-its: hospital corner on the bedsheets; ironing a shirt collar without singeing your fingers; getting out of bed without a bucket of water being poured over your sleepy face.

no, i spent the whole day-after simply trying to wrap my head–and the deep-inside part of my soul–around the fact that we now have a kid who has actually applied to college. done. did it.

where’d the years go?

weren’t we just racing out the door, little backpack on his three-year-old shoulders, late to preschool (mere preamble for a life of racing out the door, on the brink of late more often than i care to count)?

what about that little-boy sing-song voice that i still have saved on my phone machine at work, the one from back when he was two, and called my office phone to practice asking what time i might be home (even though i only worked one flight of stairs away)?

and farther back still, where went the endless days when i cringed at 5 o’clock for i knew the crying would begin any minute, the unsettled belly-aching that could only be soothed by running water from the bath, and rocking in my arms till those biceps yelped to drop the load?

i held on. through all of it, i managed to hold on.

and now it’s ancient history.

but not so long ago i can’t remember.

there is, this year, so much rewinding of the skeins of life, flowing back and forth in time. trying to grasp, retrace the years. like a crooked finger put to a map, tracing the route along blue highways, red interstates, how’d we get from here to there?

some of us like roadmaps.

some of us trace and re-trace, sift through grains of hours, minutes, months.

some of us mark time in loops, forward and rewind.

we come to deeper understandings of where we are in time, by circling all around our lives and the lives of the ones we love, to measure and mark just how it is we got here.

it is as if in sifting, re-sifting, i am holding up each blessed frame of the time we have had so far. i am holding it up to the light. i am marveling. i am soaking one last drop.

i am savoring.

i am stunned.

the buttons have been pushed now. one more to go before the waiting starts in full pursuit.

and as the year unspools, i will keep close watch, forward and reverse, circling round and looking top to bottom.

i will live and relive the chapters we have had, so when he leaves, i’ll know i have savored every drop.

the subject of course is turning pages in the book of life. how do you turn yours? do you look back closely over chapters past? or do you flip swiftly through and absorb the page you’re on?
the photo up above is from the moment monday night when the button was pushed and the screen shot back: you have successfully submitted your common application (which is college-talk 2010 for way to go, bub, your letter’s in the mail.)