A once in a lifetime event

Although we did our best and took a walk after lunch, the dog and I missed seeing the eclipse. The sky became eerily dark, but there were just too many clouds to get a glimpse of the moon crossing in front of the sun. Oh well. Better luck next time, I say. If eclipses are your thing, I hope you were luckier than we were.

When we came home, I noticed a bright red maple leaf no larger than the size of a quarter on the driveway. Every autumn, I am both happy and a little sad to see the leaves change. Our five acres of sugar maples are a lovely sight to behold in September and October. It’s what comes after that I’m not too crazy about.

The grass still needs to be cut and so, after our walk, I went to find my special lawn mowing shoes by the back door. I gave each one a good whack against the side of the house to make sure there were no spiders in them. Then, I sat on the back steps to put them on. The left one went on fine, but when I stuck my foot in the right one, I felt my toes touch something soft and squishy. I pulled my foot out and peered into the shoe. Let me pause here to say that at this age, I am only still deathly afraid of two things. The first is out-living one of my children. The second is toads.

By now, you have no doubt guessed what was in the toe of my tennis shoe, haven’t you?

What does someone who is deathly afraid of toads do when one realizes that a toad has taken up residence in her shoe? Well, I can tell you what this someone did. I threw that shoe. Hard. Then, for good measure, I tossed the other one right next to it. Both bounced near the raspberry bushes. The dog walked to the fence, looked at the shoes on the other side and then looked back to me as if to say, “how am I supposed to get those over there?” The shoes are still there. So is the toad. I know, because I checked.  And I have a new special pair of lawn mowing shoes. In the garage, I might add.

And so, while I missed seeing the eclipse and am feeling ambivalent about that little red maple leaf on the driveway, I am still grateful. For a lot of things, actually.

Mainly, I am thankful that on the day of a once in a lifetime event, that I was wearing socks.

Fly away home

For Angie

The one little hummingbird we’ve had at the backyard feeder this summer hovered and chirped at me from the other side of the porch screen yesterday. It is late August and the feeder is empty.  I need to take it down so the tiny, nagging bird moves along. I told him the bar was closed and he glared and made a final squeak before shooting off over the fence and into the woods.  Endings are hard.

Moms of college freshmen this week know this better than anyone. They are lugging bins up staircases and trying to make themselves useful in dorm rooms with less square footage than some closets they’ve seen in the suburbs. Cement block buildings where their dear ones will sleep and study and magically turn into young adults by Thanksgiving.

As a mom of adult children myself, there are days from their childhoods I would give anything to re-live. The days they each took their first steps and said their first words. The year my son was Four. Brushing my daughter’s long, black, hair and putting it up in a bun for Ballet. All the Boy bear hugs from behind and Girly secrets shared through the years. The moments that pass in a flash that we take for granted.

Moving my children into their new lives was not one of those days.  Everyone who’d done it before me said that I should be happy that they were ready (I was) and that they’d be just fine (they were) and that life would go on (it did) and that the loss I was feeling was normal. It was.

But that doesn’t mean that it didn’t still hurt. Their leaving me. My leaving them.

And so, if you are one of those moms (or dads) who are feeling a little empty today, take heart. You’re normal. I have been in the business of educating college freshmen for twenty years and here’s what I know. They are feeling a little empty, too. And scared. And unsure. This is true even if yours gave you the bum’s rush out the door or glanced around nervously as you swooped in for one last hug.  If you helped them unpack, this is the neatest their dorm room will look until next June when you come to move them out. They may not call you as often as you’d like them to, especially at first. This does not mean you have failed. This does not mean they don’t love you. They think that texts count. They will tell you this when you ask why they don’t call more often.  In Freshman English, when they are asked to write about themselves, they will write about their homes, and siblings, and the dog. When I ask them to write about the people who have had the most influence on them, more often than not, they will write about you.

So moms (and dads) here’s some advice.  Be a little sad for yourselves today. Resist the urge to turn the car around and see if you can move into the dorm room down the hall from where your Dear One will sleep tonight. Go home and pet the dog. Eat ice cream. Cry if you must. Hug the rest of your tribe hard.

It gets better. You’ll get better at this. I promise.

Endings are hard. In the time it takes for a hummingbird to flap its wings, they fly away.

If we’ve done our jobs, our children do, too.