The Art Of Changing


Every time my two college kids come home for a visit, in this case, Thanksgiving, I forget, that it takes 48 hours for all of us to get used to each other again. I wish I could remember that beforehand because it would take the sting out of the inevitable: regression,

dirty looks, initial combative behavior and sibling rivalry. What is it about coming home that automatically brings out old behavior patterns?

I remember this happening when I visited my parents when I was in college so I am not sure you really can stop it. I think you become child-like when you go home to visit your parents and old habits die-hard. To this day, it is never a good scenario when my sister and I are alone with our mom, together. I never liked being with two other friends, it’s not a good combination for me.

But, after two days of settling in with our children it’s wonderful, just like old times. It feels like they have never left and you wonder how you can let them go, again? The house will be so quiet without them. There are four of us now drinking coffee in the morning or snacking together at night, sitting on the bed together chatting and laughing, interrupting each other and rehashing the mini-dramas of Thanksgiving.

I know it won’t be like this forever, they will get married or move away or we will move so I cherish every second. I’m putting these memories in a special place in my heart, tucked away, like the memories of their childhood. The difference is that I have photographs of when they were young and sweet and innocent. I have a mountain of photographs of each stage of their lives.

But this, this one memory, lasted ten minutes, it is like a snapshot in my mind and I try desperately to hold on to to it, in my heart, hoping it will last a very long time.

The four of us all sitting together laughing and reminiscing, back and forth, happy, conversing, joking with no hint of displeasure or dismay. All of us being in tune with each other, bantering, back and forth, replaying the day, interrupting each other and finishing each others sentences.
The thought of them leaving in a couple of days just seems incredible, and lonely and sad. And yes, it will take another 48 hours for their laughter to die down, for my husband and I to get used to the solitude and the quietness and enjoy each other and the peace, all over again.
Change is inevitable, get used to it, it never goes away.
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Jillian, Leaving

Good bye Mum II

Good bye Mum II (Photo credit: Annette Blachere)

August 2012

My daughter, fresh and sparkling like a newly opened bottle of champagne continues to have the glow and effervescence from celebrating her 18th birthday. She sleeps in the room across from mine, her eyes closed, her skin radiant like early morning dew. Mornings, when her door is ajar, I sneak a peek at how she looks while she sleeps. Sometimes, I can only see her head, the rest of her body nestled in her blanket.  Once in a while, she sleeps on her back, with her arms straight back, resting on her pillow, a position she used to sleep in as a baby.  I look at her peaceful face and shut the door, ever so quietly, behind me.

I keep track of the number of days left before she heads to her first year of college. I gulp and turn my face away so she doesn’t see me start to cry.  She does not appreciate open displays of emotion, it makes her feel uncomfortable. My “baby”, my blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty, is going away to college, far away. Last year, I drove her brother to his first day at college and I didn’t think it would be that hard again but it is, maybe it’s worse.

“Don’t go” I want to scream out loud and carry on, hysterically and out of control, but I know I can’t do that. I can’t show her how I really feel. This job as “mom” takes on new heights, it is as difficult for me to hide my feelings as it is for my daughter to show hers but I will fake it, for her.  You have to do what is right for your child, not you. The tears sting inside me, my head aches from my effort not to break down in tears but this what parenting is all about. Parenting becomes a whole new paradigm.

We spent a lot of time together this summer and there seemed to be a shift in our relationship, it was warmer, easier, less complicated.  Why couldn’t we be fighting now so the leaving wouldn’t be so painful? I am thrilled she is going to a good school and I hope she will be very happy there but I admit, it will be so quiet in our house without her brother and her. I understand that my sadness is entirely selfish.

On the other hand, my husband and I will have more time for each other. We are finally and officially “empty-nesters” though I despise that term. Recently, after our first dog died of cancer I adopted a puppy so our nest will still have a dog to make some noise, to give us kisses. Of course, it was not a coincidence.  When I fell in love with a small, reddish-brown puppy at the animal shelter I knew I had to give her a home. I named her Lexi.

To my daughter: I love you with all my heart and soul and I will miss you terribly. I’m glad that you are going to college and I am so proud of you and your accomplishments. But, I will miss watching “Friends” with you. I will miss your honey blonde hair wrapped casually but perfectly in a top bun, your keen sense of humor, our veggie burgers eaten together and even your endless love for clothes shopping. This summer was one of the nicest we’ve had together and I hold it and you in my heart forever. Just remember, if you need me, I will always be there for you.  Love you always, Mom

Old Pain Anew

Pregnancy and blood

Image by ec-jpr via Flickr

Many moons ago

They told me that I probably would never conceive babies.

I was lost inside myself with pain and grief, tears dripped down me like a steady rainfall.

I suffered emotionally and physically, drugs, blood drawn, nightly injections plunged

in to my thigh from my husband.

The pain took over me, possessed me with the sole, solitary routine of sadness and grief.

They told me I couldn’t have babies, that I was barren.

I listened to them every bright sunny day until every dark dismal night for two and a half years.

Those stupid fool nurses and doctors who clucked their heads at my chances were wrong.

When I got pregnant it was the happiest time in my life, I burst with blossoms.

I loved being a glowing pregnant woman sharing a secret with her unborn child

my hand rubbing my tummy lightly in soft circles.

My children were born twenty-one months apart, now 17 and almost 19.

I gave birth to each of them, a blessing, a gift, two presents from G-d.

The years pass too quickly, like a frenzied movie at the wrong speed.

I miss the emotional softness from young children

kisses soft as goose down, sloppy hugs, wet kisses and shiny faces like lit pumpkins.

My son is leaving for college in three weeks

I  realized this pain is very familiar, it is the feeling of loss.

It hurts but I am older now however,

the past, as I know it, is gone forever.

Time moves at a rapid pace robbing us of memories.

They are leaving me, and not turning back to wave good-bye,

I know that they will return but it is a new stage, a turned chapter, a new course.

It is a big change and one that we all may love but tonight, in this instant,

I feel barren, all over again.

Cleaning From The Inside Out

(Meditation

Image by atsukosmith via Flickr

It started out as a summer closet-cleaning project, as it does every year.  What differentiates this year from the last seven is that I am actually doing it. I started cleaning out our closet several days ago and I haven’t stopped.  Among some if the items found are: bags, shoes, books, sweaters, children’s toys, my own stuffed animals. The closet is very crowded with boxes upon boxes of paper and old clothing and photographs, about fifty books, drivel in adolescence journals and every memento since I was a teenager.

I bought new bright aqua hangers at Target feeling confident and ambitious. Only minutes after my mug of espresso I was ready to start. I cleaned for hours as music blared from my computer:  The Beatles and Glee, America and Bruce Springsteen,  I revisited Natalie Merchant, The Beach Boys and songs from Grey’s Anatomy.  I sang as loud as possible, off-key.  I found cookbooks, a dozen notebooks, and old, scratched CD’s. I made a pile to give away perfectly fine clothing that fit my far younger self. Clothes, past their expiration date by twenty years, as I looked down at my larger body. I sighed as I stuffed them into black garbage bags shaking my guilty, downtrodden head. I tried to soothe myself by saying they will go to people who have nothing, but I don’t deep down, forgive my slovenly self.

I was enjoying putting some order into chaos carrying out box after box of stuff I hadn’t seen or used in years. It felt really good to finally attack at least ten to twenty years worth of stuff. That is, until I found “Baby.”Baby was my son’s love object when he was very little. I remember we flew to Oregon for a vacation with our six month year old son, the Buddha Child.  This was a boy who fell asleep in a second. One day, while we were in Oregon we put him in his car seat and he cried and wouldn’t be soothed. The child who fell asleep immediately in any car ride fussed and could not sleep and we had no idea why. As new parents do, we thought ear infection? He looked fine albeit cranky but he didn’t look sick.

All of a sudden as if  I had just discovered the new 500 million dollar invention, an idea popped into my head? Baby?  I made my husband pull off the side of the road and he searched for Baby; Baby was found in the trunk.  Baby was given to our son as we watched in wonder. He clutched Baby in one hand, my son’s thumb slid smoothly in his mouth and he fell asleep immediately. We hadn’t known Baby was that important until that moment. When Baby needed surgery, he was not allowed to be fixed by my mother-in-law, an expert seamstress. Only I was allowed to fix Baby; to me, it was a proud moment.

When I found Original Baby and Substitute Baby today scrunched in the back of my closet I gasped and exclaimed “Baby!!” Then I burst into tears. I thought I had worked through the anticipated separation from my first-born son going to college in three and a half weeks, apparently I wasn’t done. Holding Baby in my arms, clutched to my heart, I sobbed.

When you clean out old things, you find emotional reminders of the past. I found letters from my dad who died ten years ago, it makes you more aware of what you are missing; it brings up sadness, longing, for things that will never again be the same.

I’ve decided to put away all the not-so-gentle reminders of my children’s younger lives into boxes.  It’s time. My  father’s shirt and his letters will get another box and it will also live in the basement. I don’t want to bump into Baby or Dolly or the cards that they made for me and cry. As my son and daughter move on, so must I.

The sad part of seeing Baby was that I thought, I have only one more year with my daughter staying home. My life as being their mother will never be the same.  What on earth am I going to do now?  Sobbing answered that question quickly and then I normalized. I will always be their mother, I will always be my father’s little girl but relationships shift and change. It was time for all of us, including Baby and his friends, to move to a different place. When my son and daughter want to look for memories of their past they will know where to look and that’s how it should be. Life moves on and I with it. Starting from the inside, then moving out.

The Moment ( HS Graduation 2011)

Cap Toss

Image by Herkie via Flickr

I never knew how high and wide the big white High School graduation tent was until I stood under it. I didn’t realize how massive it was until I wandered through it.  I walked through the aisles under the tent saying “Hi” and “Congratulations” to people I hadn’t seen in years.

I didn’t know how I would react when my son’s name was read over the microphone yet instinctively we stood and clapped and cheered and roared. I saw a young man walk back to his seat in slow motion; I didn’t realize it was my son; his face  looked so grown up. Teenagers age, I think,  once they put on their High School graduation caps and gowns; he looked six inches taller and six years older too.

It’s all a blur, the speeches and the people you smile at, familiar faces that you have seen in elementary school recitals or a middle-school play. The friends that you hug warmly are the best, closest friends that you have, that you have talked to all year, day in and day out, wondering anxiously if you and your child would ever make it to this grand day. We hold on to each other for an extra minute, sharing this surreal moment, not believing we are actually, finally, here.

They officials on the podium made an announcement to please refrain from clapping until all the students names have been read. Yeah, right. I felt sorry for the first few kids whose last name started with “A.” Those parents were very well-behaved; it just took one family to start…  There were further instructions from the podium to NOT clap for each student so I felt perfectly justified playing my silly game of selection. I did NOT clap for the kids that had ever been especially mean to my son (starting with kindergarten through 12th) and for the mean-spirited moms, dads and kids that everyone knew, were the culprits of spreading ill-will. It was like a silent victory lap for moms and dads; besides we all did the same thing.

I was proud of my self-control, all my sadness, tears, and sobbing began months before the actual event. On the day of graduation I smiled and laughed and was so proud of my son and the amazing young man he has turned out to be.  I was also filled with pride when his three best friends names were called, we shouted and clapped for each one. I will, undoubtedly, miss my son when he leaves for college but also, I will miss his friends, “the posse” as I called them or “The Entourage.” I have no doubt that they will see each other when they come home from college, but this long, lovely chapter of best friends and video games, parties, dinners, dates and diners has ended. I will miss that and my special group of “The Moms.”

Just when I thought the ceremony was over, the President of the High School, told the students that they had officially  graduated. The blue caps were flung in the air with unbridled joy and excitement. There was a deafening roar from the students and all my self-control evaporated in that moment; I burst out crying. It was so emotionally intense; it was captured in my mind and heart forever.

The graduates beamed so much that it looked like they were lit up from inside with joy and pride.  They were shining, like new copper pots or brand new pennies, excitement dancing in their eyes. Congratulations to my son and to all his friends and classmates; Congratulations to the Class of 2011!

“(S)He’s Leaving Home, Bye, Bye”*

Kleinkind beim Laufen

Image via Wikipedia

(April, 2011)

My son, my first-born made his final decision for college in September. He’s excited, thrilled and after celebrating with him, I slipped away and am now holed up in my bedroom, sobbing. It’s not like I haven’t been prepared for this, it’s not like he’s still six it just feels like he was six a moment ago. He’s my boy and as much as I know how happy he is with his choice, the deposit put me over the edge. I fell apart; it was now official.

I know I am being ridiculous, this is not sudden bad news but it feels like a total shock to me. I am weeping and I can’t explain it except to say that while I am so happy for him, I feel vastly sorry for myself. This is my son, my first child, the kid I called “buddy” so many times my husband was worried people would think that was his name. This boy is a delight, a warm, compassionate, smart young man. At the age of 2 1/2 he stunned a grown-up friend when he used the word “compromise.” When the friend doubted him and asked him if he knew what that meant, he explained it beautifully: “If I want to go to bed at 9 and my daddy says 7 then we compromise in the middle.” You can’t argue with facts.

(June, 2011)

I lost it today, in the supermarket between the pizza rolls and the pizza bagels, two past favorite foods of my son. The tears welled up in my eyes and I started crying, quietly, discreetly but that was just strength of will on my part. I could have sobbed but I held myself together. My son is graduating High School in a week and a half. The day after, he leaves to go to his old camp to be a counselor. I never liked being left, that’s for sure. My parents left me alone a lot when I was younger so they could travel together in Europe. I would cry hysterically but once the yellow taxi disappeared from the view from my sixth floor kitchen window, I was alright.

I feel, like many other mothers and fathers feel that he is leaving me and us, the family. I know I am overreacting but this is how I feel. It’s a great thing, a joyful thing but the good feeling hasn’t caught up to my heart yet. In time, I’m sure it will. I just have to get used to it but it is a drawn out process.  I like to think that when he actually leaves FOR college I will be better, but who am I trying to kid?  I’ve never been great at change and this is a big one.

It doesn’t help that my daughter, only one grade year apart from her brother, will be a Senior in High School come September. This little girl of mine is smart, independent and always knew what she wanted from the minute she was born. She planned her birthday party themes four years in advance and stuck to each one of them. She is a fierce animal lover, and vegetarian, she is very smart, extraordinarily beautiful and has an incredible quick wit. This girl, wrapped her arms around my neck for years and wouldn’t let go. No one else could soothe her except me. Soon, she too, will be running out the door, this independent free spirit that I fervently admire.

In our hearts, our secret fear is that our sons and daughters will forget us. So, I am saying this now. Please remember we love you so much. Please don’t forget us or stop loving us. Keep in touch and the hug you give when you visit, try to make it last a second or two longer so that we can remember just how good it feels.

*Courtesy of The Beatles song

What I Can’t Leave Home Without

Lipstick in application

Image via Wikipedia

Pretty Lips, Clean Hands And Me

I could be boring and say the usual expected things: keys, ID, driver’s license, credit card but those are things I assume I am bringing (at least I thoroughly hope so, especially if I’m driving.) The definitive answer to this question “what can’t I leave home without?” would be lipstick. “Lipstick? You say?” Yes! Having lipstick on or in my handbag makes me feel more secure (how do you spell OCD?!) I USED to have to put lipstick on before I drove, but now I am (a little) more flexible. I have driven without lipstick but I don’t like the feeling. I could go through many years of psychoanalysis to find out the reason, but it’s so much easier to keep a lipstick, or two, in my bag. You know, just in case……My back up answer would be Purell, the hand sanitizer, because IF I can get rid of some germs, I do. Having an auto-immune disease makes me conscious of those things and even if washing my hands is 100 times more effective, I don’t care. I feel reassured with my little bottle of Purell at my side or rather in my bag. I actually LOVE PURELL so much I could be their spokesperson.
Call me crazy, but it is a frightening world out there and if lipstick and Purell are going to make me feel just a tiny bit better and a little more in control? So be it!

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