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

___

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.

3july

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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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Not All At Once

Hi Kiddo,
{a letter to my son}

In the last week you have revealed to me so  many new corners of your character, and you simply amaze me.  You got some news that had to be the hardest thing you have encountered in your short but full nine and half years.  It breaks my heart to be the bearer of any news that interrupts your otherwise perfectly placed focus on MineCraft, Soccer, pitching for your little league team, mastering the kendama,  and of course chasing the dog around the backyard.  Someday, all of this will make much more sense  to you.  Maybe you will even see how it is in a crazy way even better for you.

For now, though, I wish I could really tell you how impressed I am with you, how in awe I am of your bravery, your determination to be a big boy. Your willingness to not only bend with and lean into this change, but that you can find some upsides so readily.

I can see the ripples of fear creeping up around your edges from time to time, and yet you somehow find a way to rise above it and knock it down, almost like your own version of emotional whack-a-mole.  That, Bug, is true courage.  If you only knew.

The questions you ask me are far more insightful than some conversations I have had with adults; you find the crux of it all more succinctly than I ever would have.  You face your fears and ask me the questions anyway, even though I bet you somehow know that you are not going to like the answer, or know that at least you will not totally understand it.  I don’t like ambiguity now, decades ahead of you; you somehow are able to roll with this ambiguity with no ambivalence.

I wish I had had what you somehow have in abundance when I was nine and a half. If I did, perhaps you wouldn’t have to.

When I pushed too hard, trying to help you, comfort you, I could hardly comprehend how you knew what you needed and even more, that you knew exactly how to ask me for it. With an analogy. “Mom, it’s too much advice. All at once.  Too much advice mom, is like a bunch of rocks too close together “, you said, and then told me that, “it should be more like a long string, strung out over time.  Not all at once. Ok?” 

I hear ya kiddo, you are speaking my language and I am astounded by your wisdom.  You have my word to not barrage you with too many words too close together; but whenever you need to take a rock from that pile, you know I am right here next to you and will take your lead. Maybe together we can out to ‘your bridge’ and go throw it in the river.

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We are just starting this new adventure and you have shown me that you are possibly stronger than your mom. You are showing me how brave you are, how truly adaptable and resilient you can be and I could not be more proud of the person I get to call my son.

You, growing up, is a long game and even though you and I both want it to all be ok for you right now, let’s both try to remember that you need to take your own time with things.  I want you to know that everything I do is for you – so that things are better for you.  So that your easy laugh and smiling eyes are always what people see first when they meet you.

Love,
Mom

Ps: that wrestling match tonight? I totally won!

Hometown Girl

The old saying, ‘you can’t go home again’ has some truth to it, as we know.  However we choose to define home, the place where we ‘grew up’   –  whether physically or metaphorically –  we all know that we can’t go back and expect things to be the same, just as they were. Our mind plays tricks on us ; we often remember things as larger than they really were, selectively omit certain details and attach specific feelings to smells and sights.  But, perhaps, we can go home if we understand that we will find a new version, with new layers that add to our memory and the richness of all that we have received from that zip code specifically imprinted upon us.

I grew up in a small town and even as a kid, knew that I would need to stretch my wings in a locale not edged with orchards and one little main street. I’m convinced that came from my parents, who had lived and experienced so much of the world before settling in what became our home town.  Dad had left home at the age of 13, putting  himself through school, jobs; ultimately serving as an Army Colonel in the South Pacific during WWII. The cabinets in our family home contain boxes upon boxes of his military photos, many of which capture him in uniform, touring Sydney, AU and out in the bush of aboriginal New Guinea seated with the natives – and their lack of attire. Post-war, he became a self-made man as the only optometrist in our small town.

Having grown up in Seattle and then San Francisco, Mom was a city girl. And though barely 5 feet tall, she could finagle the worst traffic in San Francisco with the grace of a ballerina and the mouth of a locker-room jock.  She could bully her way into just about any parking spot she had her eye on and then stroll into I. Magnin with no one the wiser; she had exquisite taste in shopping and a culinary gift that clearly has not carried on with me.  And a heart softer and kinder than I can explain in words.

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McDonald Manhattan: 2 parts bourbon, 1 part sweet vermouth, splash of bitters. On the rocks.

In our home, dinners were often a formal affair, with the table set beautifully with all elements of the proper stemware, silverware and dinnerware. Our mother took great pride in presenting a meal that not only earned her the chops as wonderful chef, but her presentation was always perfect. In her mind, it had to look as tantalizing as it would taste. She would undoubtedly agonize over the details, often wearing herself out and then serving herself last; a true hostess.  Ours was a home where napkins were placed on our laps, cocktails were often served during the 5 – o – clock hour, with hors d’ oeuvres in actual serving dishes, in the formal living room. Ours was a home with a set of every day dishes, a set of ‘nice dishes’, and a set of china.  Ours was a home where people were always welcome, but by golly the house better be clean, all the way down to the baseboards.

We said goodbye to mom nearly 16 years ago, and my father, now 92, still lives in our family home along with my brother, who is beyond a shadow of a doubt, one of the most patient men I have ever known. He cares for our dad, with the assistance of a part-time care provider, Gloria. Last week was John’s birthday and my son and I hit the road and made the three-hour trek south for the celebration.  The childhood teasing he subjected me to does not merit my mercy, but I will conveniently omit his age [you are welcome John]. But, let it be known that he is my OLDER brother!

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Arriving at my childhood home, and walking into the kitchen, I could not help but notice that the table – the very same dining room table – was set impeccably.  The decor, though decidedly a departure from what my mother would choose, was so well thought out, down to the last detail, and so perfectly created with my brother in mind. Gloria – the mastermind behind this party – had brought items from her home to create a setting fit for the celebration. For family celebrations, my mother would prepare a leg of lamb that as a 12 yr old I knew was special; and Cornish game hens that still make my mouth water when I remember them; and countless other dishes made to perfection. To the same height, Gloria prepared a feast true to her family; two recipes of fantastically homemade enchiladas, beans, rice, salad and more. “Juan” made the salsa and guacamole.  On tap were beer, wine, tequila and drinks for the kids.

My nephew, now 21 and soon to graduate from college, played soccer with my 9 yr old in the backyard, the way that I used to entertain my nephew when he was the only little kid in the room.  Friends from our childhood joined us for the evening and stories ranged from reminiscing of the old days, to forging new ground with sharing about the loss of our parents, and a spouse far too early in life, family dramas and old secrets, our parents’ marriages and world travels.  We exchanged these stories with a fluency only spoken by those who have come up through the same ranks, inexplicably knowing we belong to each other, because our parents had forged the the bonds for us an entire generation ago.  Photos were posted to Facebook and viewed on our phones while sitting 3 feet away from each other, in a living room where as kids we played and hung out, and would never fathom the advent of social networking or smart phones. Shots of tequila were consumed, and with my mother’s every day dishes put aside, we continued to drink and play Mexican Bingo. I quickly became unpopular as I called out “el lotteria’ over and over again. The cards were somehow stacked in my favor; which meant, that everyone else had to drink. While others could walk home, or were home, I had an early drive back the next morning. I needed those wins!

I sat and marveled at this new version of home, my home. My brother’s home. My mother’s dishes serving a beautiful meal that was never part of her repertoire, raucous laughter and banter from an unlikely group that spanned the ages from 9 to 92 and everything in between.  Our childhood friends, and folks I had never met, but hope I see again, all sharing the same dining room table where I had sat as a child. English, Spanish, and probably some Spanglish mixed in.  At one point, I looked over and  my dad was mixing a martini; 10 minutes later in the same spot, my brother was attempting to learn to dance the Salsa, in spite of a knee refusing to let him forget his age,  in the same kitchen where so many of our memories are safely held. And before I know it, my father has produced his trusty harmonica and proves that though his mind is a bit fuzzy most days, his lungs work just fine.

Report from the home front as I write is that the party may have been too much for our Dad; yesterday he had a martini at 3:30 and a bowl of cereal at 5:30. Who needs rules when you are 92!?

It seems plausible to say that it’s true, you can’t really go home again. Everything changes. We change. Physically and otherwise. The streets change, the landscape changes.  It will never be the same as it was, and it really shouldn’t be.

But, after this last visit, I find myself realizing that maybe we can go home, if we can accept that things have changed, that we are different, and when we understand that what we remember will always be with us, a part of who we are.  Perhaps the key is letting ourselves allow our memories to welcome new ones – new stories, new people, new recipes – in layers, like the perfect birthday cake?

Happy Birthday John...you are Juan in a Million!

Happy Birthday John…you are Juan in a Million!

So that, combined, with each layer resting upon the next,  as if held together by the most perfect frosting  – all the delicious life we savor during the years; the joys, losses, comforts, people, perspectives – is the “home”  that we can return to whenever we need to.

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House Hunters

Last night, we watched an episode of House Hunters on HGTV and this particular episode  just happened to be located in theWashington, D.C./Arlington, VA area, where my husband and I lived just after we got married. That was a moon and a half ago.

We have talked about this often with our son who begs for a visit, likely curious about the fact that his parents actually had a life before him. We’ve promised one, we have talked about it, we have started thinking about when, it just hasn’t happened…yet. But it will.

Reminiscing about our days there, I asked him, ‘what would you think if we moved there?‘  He looked at me and for a split second, he looked excited, and then his face softens and he says,  “I would like it for a visit, but my friends are here mom.” I nodded, he’s got awesome buddies for friends.

This kiddo is 8 going on 32 and is already planning his college years, talking about where he wants to go and how I don’t get to choose for him [smart kid] even though I reassure him that I would pick a really cool, awesome location [smart mama].

During the course of the episode, the first property featured as a choice for the prospective buyer, who happens to be a 24 yr old young man who brings his mom along for the house hunting excursion [smart boy] is a condo building we actually looked at and considered when on our own house hunt when living in DC. It was surreal, to say the least, to see it and do the walk-through. It had been updated [smart building owner] but we recognized it without a doubt.

I watched my son while he watched wide-eyed at this young man branching out on his own, transitioning from the college-days-frat-boys-who-can’t-clean-their-apartment-days to being a first-time home owner. And as an apple who has fallen not far from his tree, he digs cool houses; the kid has taste.

My son, who is one third on the way to 24, was taking it all in. I leaned over, poked him gently on the shoulder, and whispered, Hey Bug, can you imagine that being you, all grown up, and buying your first house?

He said, “No, mom, I only have $24.00”

Have I ever mentioned, I love that boy?

If anyone knows how to slow the speed of time, please leave it in the comments. I don’t mind the aging process for me, [well, ok, maybe I do, a little.] but I just want to freeze time in moments such as this.