Posted in (Actual) Empty Nest, College, Fragile Life, Insight, Milestone Moments, Mother to Crone, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Demeter (College drop-off, Part. I)

There’s a battle raging in my belly, but what is the fight really for? I expect few in the battle know.

I once fought for a lover, offered to wear a string bikini & buy him a motorcycle.

But was it really him I wanted? (I’m so lucky I lost that fight.)

Neither do I want my children to never age, to never leave home.

I woke at 3 this morning, 4 am yesterday. I was there when the morning took its first breath and when that breath swept across the land with the rising sun, and I saw it greet the setting moon in the pink sky over the pond.

Though it’s been painful and violent and sweeping, maybe there isn’t a battle inside. Maybe this is what comes from laying a mantle down.

Before my decades as Mother, I cared for classrooms of students (who are parents now themselves), and before students, it was my eight younger siblings and an entire generation of younger cousins.

“Kelly Ann, you’re the oldest, you must set a good example.”

They began to potty-train me before I could walk.

I wore black last Saturday when we moved our chubby-cheeked sky-eyed baby into a dormitory room 100 miles away.

Before leaving home, I hung a black fleece blanket on the line thinking: How fitting.

“We don’t have a family anymore,” I cried to my husband when we returned home to nothing but ourselves.

I refused consolation.

Like the fabric draped over mirrors, this grief, this agony is an honoring of a great passing. A necessary or at least certain tearing of the fabric.

“Let it rip,” my mind says.

“How dare you!” replies my heart. “Would you say the same of your life’s work, or your country or your self? What do you know of carrying a life inside! Of sustaining it at your breast!”

But the ripping has been there since the beginning. The cells dividing. The infant forced from the womb. The first day back to work. The first day of preschool. The first crush. The first death of a pet.

I lay on the couch, holding my belly in agony. I haven’t been able to hold down food since the day I wore black, and a hardly ate in the days leading up to that.

But I’ve figured out what it is about that line from that parenting song by Tom Rush where the son is leaving. It’s bothered me ever since my boys were young, back when this family of four was a forever feeling…

Goodbye momma goodbye to you too pa
Little sister you’ll have to wait a while to come along
Goodbye to this house and all its memories
We just got too old to say we’re wrong

Got to make one last trip to my bedroom
Guess I’ll have to leave some stuff behind
It’s funny how the same old crooked pictures
Just don’t seem the same to me tonight

There ain’t no use in shedding lonely tears mamma
There ain’t no use in shouting at me pa
I can’t live no longer with your fears mamma
I love you but that hasn’t helped at all

Each of us must do the things that matter
All of us must see what we can see
It was long ago you must remember
You were once as young and scared as me

I don’t know how hard it is yet mamma
When you realize you’re growing old
I know how hard is not to be younger
I know you’ve tried to keep me from the cold

Thanks for all you done it may sound hollow
Thank you for the good times that we’ve known
But I must find my own road now to follow
You will all be welcome in my home

Got my suitcase I must go now
I don’t mind about the things you said
I’m sorry Mom I don’t know where I’m going
Remember little sister look ahead

Tomorrow I’ll be in some other sunrise
Maybe I’ll have someone at my side
Mamma give your love back to your husband
Father you’ve have taught we well goodbye
Goodbye Mamma goodbye to you too pa”

~

Give your love back to your husband!

WHY IS IT only the mother who is assigned another object of desire as if a woman is never a subject in and of herself. Either a Miss or a Mrs. Never an “I.”

Yes, I may have food poisoning or even a parasite. I’ve seen the doctor. And I’ve missed everything I’d imagined pouring into last weekend and into this week–from the Boozy Brunch to the Romantic dinner to the hours of uninterrupted focus to swimming with the moon and communing with friends beside the pond.

But have I really “missed” it?
Is that what I wanted?
Is that what was needed?

Aren’t I like Demeter, separated from her child, in a period of necessary darkness.

Isn’t it true what May Sarton had to say, that without darkness, nothing comes to birth, as without light, nothing flowers.

And isn’t this separation like a flower on a garland lifting up all the other flowers—all the previous incarnations of seed & bloom & leaving—like summer is getting ready to do. Summers past and lovers past and even my own siblings taken from the home we shared and kept apart from one another except for formal, supervised visits in a cold and unwelcoming place. And then the earliest flower of all, Lila, when 4 years and two-thousand miles separated me from the place and the person to whom I most belonged until death made that a fools dream.

Last night as I lay on the couch bemoaning the heat and a diet restricted to broth, a breeze blew through the window above my head and lifted the gauzy ivory curtain across my face, like the caress of a lover, like the first breath of the morning across the land, like a mother soothing a feverish child, like a covering draped over the head of the dead.

My life has held so much loss.
So much love.

To the refugees separated from their children, to my friends posting photos of the first day of preschool or a college drop off on the other side of the country… The flower of my heart is connected to yours.

On that first morning waking without a family, I looked out the window and saw that all the Gladiolas at the back of the garden had bloomed bright white.

~

College drop-off, Part II: Whose dream?)

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Posted in College, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

SATURDAY NIGHT SOCIAL-JUSTICE BEDTIME THEATER

TIME: 11:00 pm (when teenager arrives home from work surprisingly tired)

STARRING: Parental Units (who had caffeine much too late in the day)

TARGET AUDIENCE: Teenagers who wake sleeping parents–night after night, week after week, month after month, year after…

SETTING: Teenager in bed, falling to sleep.

ACT I: Open and close latch doors to bathroom and bedrooms

ACT II: Drop something. Drop something else. Drop another thing.

ACT III: Open and close drawers. Open and close drawers.

ACT IV: Go up and down the stairs. Two times. Make that 3 times.

ACT V. Walk into teen’s room and say, GOODNIGHT, after he’s turned out the lights and is falling to sleep.

ACT VI. Walk into teen’s room when he is sound asleep to show him something cool on YouTube.

CLOSING ACT: Run into teen’s bedroom and dive over his body because of a dream.

ENCORE: Call to teen for help because there might be a spider in my room.

(Countdown: just a few sleeps before he lives somewhere else and visits on weekends and vacations.)

Posted in College, Milestone Moments, Mother to Crone, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

I’ve hated this song since my kids were little


“Mama, give your love back to your husband.”

Such an obnoxious line from a son/song. First heard when my boys were babes, and now their birthdays make me sad, 23 & 18, the youngest leaving in ten days, the other long gone, home for a short stay to celebrate his special day.

But don’t I find myself cuddling up toward my husband more, like that guy in Maine with the old coon dog he had around the place on that bitter three-dog winter’s night.

And perhaps the most telling:

This morning I recombined our laundry after separating mine from his (and theirs), almost twenty years ago, a radical act of a new mother’s individuation then, an unexpected act of cleaving now.

Posted in College, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Mother to Crone, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Old Yeller

It turns out that I resent my children for aging out of our lives.

This is a surprise, because I was never one of those moms who wished the kids stayed little forever.

I always liked when they aged.

New beginnings and all.

And I am really looking forward to belonging to myself again. To rediscovering what that means.

So why this hostility?
This grief?

How does it hurt so much when I wouldn’t have it any other way?

These aren’t questions I’m asking my own heart. Questions that wake me into the moment so that I don’t miss it while hating them.

“I wish I never loved you at all,” I want to yell.
“LEAVE!”

Posted in College, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Mother to Crone, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Empty Nest Countdown…

august 10, eve of the new moon eclipse:

the night sky & i have companioned these two nights–first the museum lantern walk with my husband & son and then this evening’s solo soak in the woods tub–crickets sounding, Venus & Jupiter rising, bat circling overhead; this afternoon spent readying the home for the great transition–the last eclipse–Leo New Moon–Mother to Elder, “Dark of the moon, New beginnings, Dark of the moon, Plant a seed tonight,” the house aglow, welcoming letting go, the path to the back door still holding the day’s heat…

When, in two-weeks time, this new moon waxes full, 3 have become 2…
~

august 9, road trip, part I. & II.

“Mom, what do you want your tombstone to look like?”

~

Aidan talks to us about science & technology, non-stop, grilling us on what we don’t know (and don’t want to know)  “Preparing us for the future,” aka. shaming us for our ignorance, disinterest & fea

After much trial and error in search of an equally potent rebuttal topic (beyond “I taught you how to use a spoon and wipe your butt,”), I found the perfect one, something that is of little use to him, potentially aggravating and which I know more about.

(Thank you Vacation Bible School & Catholic higher ed.!)

~

august 7, looking back:


We were still in our twenties (and childless) on this day in 1993 when Casey and I left the sea for our new home in these Green Mountains.

both boys were conceived in this, our first house in Vermont, the longest I’d lived anywhere

both born in August, our youngest in the sweet room with the dormer and the louver window (aka. the small farmhouse bathroom), crowded with his father, his aunts, his big brother and not one, but two midwives with a dear friend looking on…

~
august 5, date night

filter play & ballet at the Retreat Farm with the bathroom baby, just after his 18th birthday

~

july 31, emptying

Aidan left town for a couple days which is a weird thing to say, but he will turn 18 in two days and that’s how it goes even if he has been our baby for so long which means we’ve aged him in our minds to about 13.

Won’t we be surprised in 3 weeks when he no longer lives here!

Which brings me to the dishwasher, almost full, even though it’s just been the two of us.

“If we time it right, we can get Aidan to empty it,” I joke to Casey after our quiet breakfast date on the porch, to which he replies:

“Let’s get as many empties out of him as we can before he goes.”

~

july 29, births

I wake to the bold, buttery-lemon bloom of the DAYLILY which cheers my weary countenance and immediately brings to mind our fair-haired, sky-eyed, LEO, born this week, 18 years ago, under the sign of the SUN; as too his older brother, but two weeks deeper into the month of August, with a darker complexion, much like the TIGER LILY, whose sunset hues, like the embers of a fire, welcome me home.

~
july 27, in a month’s time

This time next month will be a Monday, with all my guys back to school, but come evening, only one will return, and that will be a turning point for me Casey, just the two of us again, like we once were.

I expect searing pain, deep despair, and then something else, some new, precious, delight.

After we dropped our firstborn off to college a handful of years ago, it felt as if our family of four, reduced to three, limped away from Burlington, like all the families with younger siblings we saw around us.

I can’t fathom how it will feel to head home without either child.

~
july 25, un-nesting

Just before Aidan’s college orientation last week, I began filling a basket for him with teas and ointments and band-aids.

“I’m not ready for that,” he admonished me when I asked what else he might need; but I wouldn’t/couldn’t stop, so necessary was the ritual to meet the angst inside.

This week, I find myself retrieving items from the basket. A few packets of tea. The open mouthwash.

What was I thinking? He doesn’t leave for another month (exactly.)

I remember the morning his older brother was to return to school after the long winter break (or was it after the summer one?)

While he was still sleeping, I unpacked one heavy box into two smaller ones which made more sense not just because of the weight but because of the organization of similar items.

I felt much better after that, but I wasn’t surprised when he arrived downstairs to see what I had done and was furious.

First-borns like myself have such a need for autonomy and self-direction having spent too much time in the lone company of (and constant direction from) adults.

After he finished dumping the contents of both boxes back into the larger one (excruciatingly more disorganized than before) , I grabbed the electric tea kettle that I’d bought him for Christmas, and he grabbed it too, and we stood on opposite sides of that big box, wrestling over where it would go.

“Just let me have this,” I said, and in my eyes, he finally understood.

I wasn’t trying to control him. I was trying to control the awful ache of letting go.

Posted in Fathers, Fragile Life, Insight, Legacy, Milestone Moments, Mother to Crone, Nuts & Bolts, Round Two, Takes a Village, Teens, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

“Someday” has arrived


Our community came together one day in June to raise the frame of our home–along with 3-year-old Aidan who spent the day hammering nails into the floorboards of what would be our kitchen; and 8-year-old Lloyd who knelt beside his preschool & primary teachers laying down the floor to what would become his bedroom; and Casey, age 38, who lifted beams with friends & family (and even strangers) to realize a dream come true; and me, age 40, who never had the chance to live in one place very long and who climbed the frame at the end of the day and tapped an evergreen branch to its peak while everyone cheered below.

14 years have passed.
14 Christmases.
14 wedding anniversaries.
14 winters & springs.
14 summers.
14 autumns.

Over the years, Casey spoke of needing an addition—the living room was always too small; but I countered that the boys would be gone someday and the house was already too large for two.

“Someday” has somehow arrived.

What was “raised” to be a home for 4, becomes a home for 2 at the end of summer—which is almost as unfathomable as building this home for ur family once was.

Posted in Fragile Life, Insight, Legacy, Takes a Village, Violence in the home

the fruit of pain


Having had too much to drink, I once openly grieved the separation of young children from their mother and siblings, adding to that my heartache about the emotionally abusive treatment they were receiving in their new residence.

For this admission of vulnerability and empathy, I was mocked, publicly, at a table in a cocktail lounge at the restaurant I managed during my summer breaks from school.

“If you really cared about them, you would skip your semester abroad,” he said.

I considered legal proceedings. I considered dropping out of school and getting a job so that I could afford a house that would fit us all. But these thoughts, like my voice, were futile. I wasn’t in a democracy. I was in a family.

All over Facebook, friends are sharing their stories of separation–the lasting impact–from the Holocaust to asylum-seeking to summer camp.

Feeling our own pain, however large or small, is a radical act. It allows us to feel the pain of another, without making it our own, which only serves to immobilize us.

Self-connection is necessary. Self-connection allows us to stay attuned to the needs of others while remembering our response-ability to the life we inhabit, right in the moment.

Self-connection might look like a walk, or a nap, a therapist chair, a bodyworkers table, a cup of tea in the garden, a meditation on a hummingbird’s flight, a weekend retreat, anything that reminds us of our distinctness so that the connection we offer is whole.

We have each experienced the pain of separation.

May it bear fruit.