Mm-hmmm

Driving my almost a teenager kiddo to school this morning.

Silence and music for a bit.

My mind snaps to gear; plan for the day.

Must review the plan.

Remember, you have a game tonight.

mm-hmmm

Change into your your uniform after school.

mm-hmmm

Walk to the club like normal after school, ok?

mm-hmmm

I’ll call you when I am on the way to get you. We have to leave in time because of the Friday traffic.

mm-hmmm

Oh, make sure you order a snack too, there won’t be time to stop on the way and you’ll need something before the game.

mm-hmmm

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Don’t say too much now.

You might use up all the words.

And, that would be such a bummer.

Snarky mama.

mm-hmmm

and an ever so slight and could-have-so-easily-been-missed

grin.

Or was that a smirk?

Have a great day, bug. love you.

love you too.

 

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Wait. Just stand there for a sec.

He walked to the table for breakfast this morning.

He looked different.

He looked different than he did just nine hours ago when I badgered him about getting his nighttime reading done.

And when I tucked him in for the night.

He looked older.

I said to him.

Wait, stand there. Just stand there for a sec.

You look different this morning.

I looked at him.

I surveyed his face, his every hair and the space he occupied in the room.

I saw the baby I once held.

I saw the small boy who used to hold my hand and call me mama.

I saw the teenager he almost is.

I said to him.

Sometimes I miss my little little boy.

But mostly, I just really like who you are right now.

And.

And I am curious about who you are becoming.

He looked at me.

With eyes that almost rolled. Almost.

He said to me.

Ok mom.

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And It Was Summer

Last night, I was helping Kiddo with his homework – which is often a harrowing experience. Ok, well, not harrowing but often stressful, exhausting, frustrating and at times, just plain time consuming. Ten year old boys are not known for sitting still and focusing and just loving the whole endeavor.

But, last night was a mama’s dream – we worked on vocabulary (this mom just so happens to love words), language arts (never end a sentence with a preposition) and some literature (reading? Ok!).

He has a test today on this week’s story in literature so I had him re-read quietly and then tell me the story from his understanding, and then I read the story. We talked about the characters, motivations, themes, what-do-you-thinks and more. His comprehension is so much better than mine ever was at that age and I was impressed with his ability to retell the story to me – it all matched up when I read it for myself.

As I had the book in hand, and read the story, it was only then that I realized it was from Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury; an excerpt of his ‘priceless distillation of all that is eternal about boyhood and summer‘ as a young boy tries to describe the magic of a new pair of tennis shoes to to his father.


This passage just sunk in with me as we are on the cusp of change from summer into fall…

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“…It was because they felt the way it feels every summer when you take off your shoes for the first time and run in the grass. They felt like it feels sticking your feet out of the hot covers in wintertime to let the cold wind from the open window blow on them suddenly and you let them stay out a long time until you pull them back in under the covers again to feel them, like packed snow. The tennis shoes felt like it always feels the first time every year wading in the slow waters of the creek and seeing your feet below, half an inch further down-stream, with refraction, than the real part of you above water. 

“Dad,” said Douglas, “it’s hard to explain.”

Somehow the people who made tennis shoes knew what boys needed and wanted. They put marshmallows and coiled spring in the soles and they wove the rest out of grasses bleached and fired in the wilderness. Somewhere deep in the soft loam of the shoes the thin hard sinews of the buck deer were hidden. The people that made the shoes must have watched a lot of winds blow the trees and a lot of rivers going down to the lakes. Whatever it was, it was in the shoes, and it was summer…” 


I was asked a great question the other day about September (thank you DK) and in response, it came to me that September ushers in colder climes, harsher times, more to do – and I asked if perhaps it is possible that September is one of the most marked months in terms of transitions from one season to the next?

Ahhh, and it was summer; I give it up so reluctantly.

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Can We Be Done Now?

My Kiddo and I have some of the best conversations; he’s an old soul and his humor on par with many adults I know. Add to that, he’s open with me and we talk about some pretty cool stuff; I feel lucky as the mom of a now ten year old boy that we talk the way we do and about the things that matter.  Boy humor is often thrown in, well, just because. And because it really is funny sometimes.  And, it’s hard to avoid!

That aside, when we get into one of our cool convos, I always know there will come a point in the conversation when I hear, “mom, can we be done talking about this now?” and I always say yes, even though of course, I want more.  I know he’s reached his limit; that he’s overwhelmed or we got just a little too close.  Some kind of noise, right?

I figure if I take his lead, then there will be a next time.

And, so far, so good; we’re still talking.

The other day, we were discussing his request for a new video game for his game console. It’s a never ending, ever-lovin’ request stream.

I hear the typical arguments:

“But mom, all my friends have it…”

“Mom, I will pay for it with my gift card…”

So, I ask kiddo to lay out the positives and the negatives.

Tell me why I should say yes. Tell me why I would say no. I want to hear both sides from you.”

He plays along, the arguments are solid.

So, then I say,

‘Tell me about the game honey. Tell me why you like it so much.”

I hear so many words, my brain starts competing with itself to stay with him.

“It’s important, let him talk” vs. ‘”you have no idea what he’s saying”

He’s doing a good job explaining it”  vs. “stop thinking about what you need to finish this afternoon”

“He really wants to get his point across, wow”  vs. “If only he was this focused and clear when it comes to homework”

Then, I start to laugh.

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Noise.

There is noise in my head.

I hear words like memory. extraction. database. points.

And then I don’t know what else. It’s all noise.

But I am laughing (he’s still explaining). I totally get it.

I say to him,

“Kiddo, can we be done talking about this now?”

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Ps…remember..change is in the air.

Note Of The Day…

“My mother… she is beautiful, softened at the edges and tempered with a spine of steel. I want to grow old and be like her.”  – Jodi Picoult

My mom was just that, soft and nurturing,  yet small and oh so mighty.  We went toe-to-toe in my childhood and adolescence – my strong will matched so completely by her inner strength; a power that I suspect she never quite fully realized.  It’s what I channel to this day as a mother of my own mini me.

To grow old and be like her would be an honor.

My mother lived what unconditional love looks like; she was forever my number one champion and the evening she quietly slipped to the other side marks a most striking contrast; a before-and-after moment in my life, unparalleled by nothing other than the birth of my own child. The stories I could share to make this clear are endless. My mother knew me in ways I am still yet realizing. She saw me in a way I can’t even quite yet, standing here in the middle point of my life.  She accepted me despite my many attempts to push her back, because I always needed one more test to know that she really and truly was always going to love me.

She always passed.

Today marks the day she left our world, sixteen years ago.  There will come a day, when I will know more years without her than I do with her, but thankfully we are not there yet. Even if so, her essence, her spirit really, is etched deep within; she is part of me. If life is aligned as it should be, we do not forget our mothers, and I think that we never stop needing them. At least I don’t, and in fact, the older I get, the more I realize just how much I need her. I wasn’t yet a mother myself when she passed on, and it’s my deepest sadness that we didn’t get to share this profound part of our lives.

Anticipating this milestone, I have been thinking of her more than usual, if that’s possible. Not too long ago, I unearthed a box of old journals – a Pandora’s box of memory and emotion.

In the box, I found – among so much else – something I wrote in October of 1995, while taking a creative writing class. It reveals, and reminds me of an exquisite part of her character, her everyday presence. That look between us in our photo above.  Her gift of constancy; I always knew I was at the top of mind for her.  What I wrote 19 yrs ago  – which turned out to be exactly two years before we started to say our goodbyes, my memorial to a most gracious soul  – is really my post for today.

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Here’s to you mom,

you are missed

in every way,

in my every day.

xo

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Motherhood Measured

A month ago, my son turned 10, and in the time since, I have been reflecting on just how much I have received in the lessons learned in these ten years; for him life and for me, a decade of Momming. Parenting. Learning. Stumbling. Loving. Questioning. Doubting. Knowing. Crying. Savoring.

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I can remember looking at myself in the mirror, when pregnant, staring at that face looking back at me, and telling the woman in the mirror:  You are going to be a mom. You will have this little person who is going to need you. There will be feet running through this house soon. You are going to be a mother. YOU. YOU? You can barely keep a house plant alive, just how do you plan to do this?

Looking back, I recall all of the cliches that have been shared with me over the years. And, they are all true: It’s a wonderful experience. It’s the toughest job you will ever have. You will never love anyone as much as your child. It all goes by so fast, appreciate each moment. You think you are tired now? 

I have had all of that. And more.

…I, for the first time, see myself in another.

…I stop dead in my tracks on some days when I remember that I am not raising a child, I am raising a PERSON.

…I am humbled by this person, and a few years ago I stood back and looked at him and could see him as not just my son, but as someone I would want to know if I were not his mom.

…This person has a sense of humor that rivals many adults I know; the spark in his eye and the cackle in his laugh emerged at the ripe old age of 3 weeks.

…This person has a wise old soul that understands – and articulates thoughts – that make me wonder where he’s been all these years.

…This person has a threshold of emotion that manifests itself outwardly in ways that matches mine, on the inside. I am proud of him for feeling safe and secure to not hold back, hard as it is on some days.

…This person has a brain that works in all directions; its only a matter of time before it’s going in circles around mine.

…This person pushes my buttons, tests my patience, wears me out and turns me inside out.

This person knows me; warts and all. And loves me.

…This person has taught me more than I knew there was to learn.

I know without question that I am a better, stronger, wiser, woman for having this now still little, but shifting – if only barely perceptibly – right before my very eyes, into this amazing person to call my son.

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I have had to learn to dig deep to find the patience in my core, because I want this person to feel safe in who he is.

I have learned to learn to stop and listen and ask, so that he knows that no matter what, he can trust me. About anything. Anytime.

I have learned to say yes as much as possible; and to mean it when I say no.

It is clear to me that no matter how much I dig hanging out, rocking-out or laughing until our bellies ache with my son, I am here to be his parent, not his friend. He has his. I have mine.

I have come to recognize myself in new ways because this person mirrors my best and worst.

I have learned that I love us both more for that.

To the next ten…

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You listen, is what you do.

What do you do, when you meet someone and walk away from the conversation and a little voice inside says, ‘we need to help her’?

You listen, is what you do. 

And you talk about it with someone who is willing to listen to you.

Listen to you share your feeling of being moved by another human being and their misfortune, difficulty, hardship, heartbreak.

You risk feeling vulnerable about caring so much.

You push past the feelings of uncertainty.

And, you listen to those  who encourage you to not lose the moment, to not let it pass.

And then, you do something about it. Get busy. Make something happen.

That’s what happened to me two weeks ago, and it’s one of those things that will leave an imprint on me forever. One of those moments.

Two weeks ago, I was in my neighborhood grocery store and true to form, (I talk to just about anyone) I struck up a conversation with the gal at the check-out. I was in a great mood, it was a Friday night and I had company coming for the weekend. I was there to buy fun food for snacking. Engaging with the woman at the cash register, we slipped easily into conversation about feeling tired, end of the day, end of the week, end of her shift. Recognizing her exhaustion, I asked if she had little ones at home to attend to when the work day came to a close at ten pm later that night. She responded that no, she does not but that she has one on the way, as she gently patted her rounded belly that I had not noticed before. We moved easily into the language between two women who share the wondrous experience of motherhood – no matter that she’s at the wee stages and I am on the cusp of having a decade of motherhood behind me. We are the same, bonded, in that moment. I recognize her fatigue.

I ask questions, and the story spills out of her, bit by bit. She’s on her own in this maze of motherhood she has only just entered. I gingerly ask about support from the baby’s father; not so much. I ask about family support; not so much. I ask about friends, girl friends, someone? She confides that yes, there are a couple of friends on hand, there for her. And that she’s going to have to move. And that she can’t continue with this job, it’s just too physical. Underneath the utterly delightful smile and despite it all, such happy eyes, I can see her exhaustion. She’s on her feet nine hours a day for her job. I can sense in her the looming questions of ‘how is all of this supposed to work’?. Something inside me pinged and panged. I wanted, I needed, to know, that she’s going to be ok. It was just way too easy to insert myself into that place of alone-ness. And only later did I realize that It scared the hell out of me.

I left the store, looking back at her and smiling and said, straight to her, “I will be thinking about you.” 

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I just had no idea how much.

I walked home in the warm fall evening and that little voice said to me, ‘We need to help her” and I had the idea of just putting it out there on Facebook. See what happens. Then something in me started to second guess myself. And then, I was swept up in the busy-ness of the weekend, but though the voice inside was nearly drowned out with other activities and conversations, it kept whispering to me. I shared this experience with my guest and in a quiet, simple comment the message to not let this pass was conveyed. I heard him.

And I didn’t. Let it pass. I wish I didn’t have to say that for some reason I still hesitated, but I do. I hesitated. Why? Perhaps that is for another day, because this story is much larger than that. I pushed beyond and posted a note on my Facebook wall sharing this encounter, with a gentle invitation to my friends if they also felt compelled. 

What happened next still gets me.  Within hours, more than a dozen of friends from around the country responded. PayPal started hopping, requests for my mailing address started and i was again moved, as I watched this take shape before my very eyes. I hesitated? How could I have second guessed this goodness?
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By week’s end, nearly twenty of my trusted friends – who in turn trusted me, trusted my instincts – came forward so readily, with amounts ranging from $10 to $100 each. In the end, our pennies all put together really added up. I was moved at each turn in this process.  Amazed by the momentum. Standing back in awe that others saw what I saw.  Graced by the opportunity be part of something far larger than me. And that my kiddo could witness this greatness unfold over the course of just a couple of days.

I took Kiddo with me and we went to see her. As she walked out from the back of the store, we were met by those same happy eyes and a beautiful smile. She recognized me but had no idea what was coming. I simply asked her if she remembered that I had said that I would be thinking of her. She nodded, a bit perplexed. I handed her two envelopes; one a card with a message from me and the list of first names (and their city) of everyone who jumped on board with me; and a Target gift card for $500. Yes, $500. That will buy a lot of diapers. Or binkies. Or toys. Or whatever she needs.  Wow.

The hugs. The smile. The gratitude. The tears.

Words like miracle. Angels. Gift. Grace.

I was adamant that this was not about me but she insisted on getting my phone number; saying she wants to keep in touch with me and the next day I received the most beautiful, moving, transparent and articulate voice message. It is still on my phone. I am certain that this woman, and her baby [oh, it’s a boy!] will somehow be part of our lives for a long time.

How could I have hesitated?

What do you do when a little voice inside says, ‘we should help her?”

You listen, is what you do.

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