the air is cooler. there are leaves on the ground, crunchy as you walk. the light is different – a golden, crisp hue. the flowers are starting to wane (well, at least ours are.) babycat isn’t sleeping in the window every night now; sometimes he can be found curled in the blankets on the bed.
it is fall. fall…my sweet momma’s favorite time of year. mine too.
fall. for so many it is a time to embark on new adventures. children in a new grade of school, teachers shaping goals with new students, parents packing up carloads of shower supplies, comforters, notebooks, pens, pencils, plastic bins and driving long distances to drop their babies off at college. i distinctly remember this….the first time with both of my children.
boys are different than girls. and so it was with the boy, my second to go to college. we drove a few hours and unpacked the car into his dorm room. he didn’t want me to arrange it or hang things on the wall with him. he was ready to just go. having been through this once, i knew i would live through it, but it was tough to walk away from my buddy, this once-little-boy who picked dandelions for me and who made me mac & cheese at 10pm the night of my 50th birthday because i had played for a charity event and hadn’t been offered anything to eat. the one who told me that to move ahead i needed to stop going in circles and needed, instead, to be a ray…move out from the centrifugal force of the pain. the one who made me watch ‘family guy’ again and again with dinner on our laps. the one who shared the stage with me on his tenor, laughing at our hidden mistakes and the notes we made up on the spot. all those tennis matches i couldn’t breathe through. the same boy who slept in the bed of the huge rented pickup truck under the stars with me, just because. no, it’s not easy walking the other direction as he walks to have a smorgasbord of dinner i didn’t make for him. but it’s necessary and it’s right. and he was embracing it just as the girl did.
it was a few years before that, and now, many years ago, and inside the scion it was glowing pink with all the pink dorm supplies we had amassed for the girl’s first dorm room. you couldn’t have fit a snickers bar in the back if you wanted it, it was that loaded with stufffff. we drove the six hours to minneapolis to move her into her new life. on the way we stopped and etched our initials (and me, a peace sign) into the towering sandstone rock formations we passed each time driving that route. she was excited and i was, well, you know how i was.
after spending the night and then hours the next day (move-in day) unpacking and with her turning down my offer to organize her socks (thereby extending my time there) it was time to take a walk on campus. we got close to the student union and she turned to me and said that she was going to go. “go where?” i asked. “go meet some people,” she said. it dawned on me that she actually meant it was time for ME to go. to leave. wait. what? after eighteen years plus of being right here, right near her? all our times together. opening the sunroof of the car in the middle of a winter’s night, with our sunglasses on, with summer music pouring out the windows. shopping. talking in southern accents the whole day at a country music festival, convincing people we were from nashville. navigating the dye-ing of the tips of her beautiful blonde hair red. shopping for prom gowns. the honor of accompanying her (without breathing the entire time) while she played exquisite oboe solos. mommy and me swim class. holding her close for her forty-five minute long hissy fits. the zillion times she crept over to me with an armful of picture books saying, “read, momma.” the moments i memorized in the rocking chair as she fell asleep.
tears came to my eyes as i looked at her, this beautiful girl, wracking my brain for all the wise things i knew i needed to tell her at that moment. all i could say was, “go. be yourself. be amazing. i love you.” and then i tried hard not to weep. she hugged me and turned to go. she walked away with grace and confidence and exhilaration and anticipation. so much joy. and i watched. full of pride and joy and intense yearning to go back in time, just for a bit.
my phone buzzed in my pocket. i took it out and saw she had sent me a text message while she was walking. it read, “don’t be sad, mom. be ecstatic. i love you.”
and now the girl is high in the mountains living her life and the boy is in the city living his.
and me? i’m in the fall of remembering and the fall of anticipation. ecstatic.