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.!)
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.
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.
I’ve either done something right or terribly wrong.
Our very first vacuum was an Electrolux from our Wedding Registry, 1990. It was with us through our move to Vermont, through the birth of two kids, and into the home we built together.
Our oldest was 15 & youngest 10 when we had to replace our old pal. The kids were ecstatic. I was alarmed.
Should kids be this happy about a new vacuum?
Did this mean they were too involved in housekeeping?
Or were their lives unduly deprived of new things?
We did lead a very frugal life. I did expect them to be full participants in caring for the home we shared. Maybe I had gone too far.
Fast forward 7 years…
We’ve been without a vacuum for over a month now. It’s the second time this new Electrolux has stopped working. My husband and our youngest have been in a stalemate over how to move forward.
Repair–for this machine whose life was a quarter of that of its predecessor; or
Replace–and with what? Another Electrolux? Something new?
My husband wanted to play it safe.
Our son, the high school engineer wanted something technologically advanced.
I finally intervened.
“He only has a few months left at home,” I said, “Let him have this.”
“Exactly,” my husband said. “Why should we get the vacuum he wants when he’s leaving.
The Dyson V7 HEPA arrived today. The moment I messaged him, Aidan wanted to leave school.
When he walked through the door at the end of the day, he went right to the boxes (which I had to promise that I would not open without him) and he began unpacking, affectionately examining each piece, and bringing them to me, one by one, to illustrate the technology and the design (are those two different things?), and particularly the interlocking components.
It looks like a Cuisinart to me.
I will never be able to operate it.
But right now I’m headed to my husband’s yoga class and by the time I get home, no doubt I’ll have clean floors again.
I borrowed my son from his bedroom for his height–to remove a grasshopper from the inside of the screen door off my bedroom.
He hesitates, so I press, “Just lift it up and put it outside!”
Aidan is absurdly afraid of spiders, but grasshoppers?
He is also an engineer.
(Well, a 17-year-old with an engineering mind.)
He taps the screen and the grasshopper jumps onto the glass door.
“Now what!” I say, aggravated with the delay, but he only smiles.
He quickly pulls the screen closed so that the bug is on the outside of the glass door without return access.
“Engineering,” he says, with pride.
Relieved, I return to folding laundry, but distracted, Aidan remains at the door, which has become a specimen jar–eye to eye.
“Come look!” he says.
But I am not interested in grasshoppers–the whole point was to get rid of the grasshopper. But this is his last year at home.
“Watch,” he says, giggling, as the grasshopper pulls down its antenna, like a girl playing with her hair.
Each time Aidan laughs, the grasshopper does it again.
“He must be a comedian,” I say.
“He’s looking right at us,” Aidan says.
“Doesn’t it seem like he’s wearing a metal shield on his head?”
“Exoskelton,” Aidan says.
(He is also a scientist.)
I don’t know how to get from this story to what I want to say.
It’s a leap, like the grasshopper made from the door back into the world.
I’m grateful for this pause with Aidan and the grasshopper for the way it reminds me to stop trying so hard.
Like the Buddhist teacher, Pema Chödrön says:
There’s a kind of basic misunderstanding that we should try to be better than we already are, that we should try to improve ourselves, that we should try to get away from painful things, and that if we could just learn how to get away from the painful things, we would be happy.
“Wednesday is Anti-Procrastination Day,” and it still is, all these years later.
It began when I was a new mother, overwhelmed by keeping house, until exhausted by my own whining, I said:
“Kelly, you ran a classroom, a restaurant, a nonprofit, YOU can do this.”
And so even though housework did not deserve my best, especially as I had witnessed the unfair weight of it on my mothers & grandmothers, I set out to study the art and science of household management, as a matter of survival.
I created systems of sanity, engaging everyone in the household in routines that continue to this day. “I stayed home for the children not the house,” was my motto.
My sense was that this role was both sacrifice and blessing, but never an assignment to do everything alone. Along the way, a woman (and email subscription list) called FlyLady was an ally in staying the course, but this was long before I realized that housework was political.
I hadn’t understood then that homemaking meant that a women’s brilliance was unavailable in other spaces where it is was so desperately needed. I hadn’t understood then that refusing to do everything myself was not only an act of self-preservation but a revolutionary act of consciousness.
Sharing housework with my family from the very beginning created increasing space for me to begin exploring other aspects of myself, which are still unfolding as my youngest prepares to fly from the nest.