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Lending a hand to the sky ~ Musings on mothering a graduating child

The western mountains were sandwiched by clouds this morning. The row of peaks was obscured by chalky grey banks of opaque clouds, no doubt packed with snow. I could see the middle elevations clearly. Along the foothills—the base of mountains—were stark white cloud balls. They looked like the trim on Santa’s hat. It was beautiful and I wished I could have pulled off the road to snap pictures. The shoulder was too saturated. If I stopped, I might never get going again. It’s been raining here for nearly a week and that is highly unusual.

When I arrived home, I didn’t go inside right away. The rain stopped briefly, so I decided to survey my front garden. Nothing is blooming yet, but the green leafy parts are thriving. They love this rain. Some of my plants have doubled in size in the past week. So much to guzzle! Earthworms everywhere, including on one of my boys. He found a worm on the leg of his jeans this morning, curled and somehow clinging to the denim. He plucked it off and tossed it into the mud amazed. How?

He doesn’t stand still long enough for a worm to charge up shoes and pants. Maybe it dropped from a tree? Maybe a robin passing overhead slipped up and let her breakfast go? The worm has a wild story to tell.

Near the edge of the driveway, I stood looking down at a billowing pile of bright green chicks and hens. Tears formed. As if there hasn’t been enough moisture dropping from the heights, I lent a hand to the sky and let loose. I cried on my coat and on my shoes. I cried over the concrete, my nose launching droplets earthbound. Massive life changes are just around the corner of next week. Aidan is graduating from high school and it’s been a long, tough year but she is going to make it. The level of bewilderment I feel is unprecedented. I had no idea what it would be like to be the mother of the grown-up almost-graduate. I suspect that moment her name is called and she strides across a stage to accept her diploma I will be left a bit tattered—in a good way. But I don’t know because I’ve never been here before.

Pine needle and raindrop

Pine needle and raindrop

Neither has she. Perhaps these last days of school are being perfectly and completely sheltered by the hood of grey above, quieting us with rhythmic splashing taps, stirring us with crashes of thunder, lulling us to deep sleep. Maybe it’s all a reminder to drink, drink, drink these days in as if we, too, are thirsty earth.

Yesterday, I saw blue sky for about twenty minutes. I stepped outside to the back patio and spun like Mary Tyler Moore in Minneapolis.

Within that dizzy hour, sog, sop, slop, slip, drip, drop, droop.

I went to bed early and without apologies. Before I fell asleep, Aidan came into my room and climbed up on the bed. She rested against the headboard. Archie joined us. She said, “Tell us a story, Archie!” and he did. I listened to him but I watched her laugh when he laughed at his own cleverness. She looked grown-up.

A few minutes later, I startled awake. Archie was kissing my forehead and Aidan was gone. “Goodnight, mama!” he whispered.

Younger Siblings Suggest Tattoos for Their Almost 18-year-old Sister

Aidan is closing in on 18. Last night, we were talking about the trend of brand-new adults running out to get their first tattoos the moment they’re legal. When I turned 18, the big thing was to buy lottery tickets and avoid committing felonies. Now, it’s all about the ink.

Occasionally, she has brought up the subject, perhaps gauging our level of support or horror. Aidan mentions tattoos are okay “if they mean something significant” and I point out to her that what seems significant at 18 is rarely what will be significant at 25 or 40. They are a lifelong sentence, short of using laser beams. Everyone knows laser beams should be reserved for Death Stars, for maniacal villains to mount on the noggins of sharks, and for Pink Floyd laser shows at the Planetarium. No tattoo, no reason to sizzle yo’self.

During last night’s conversation, I asked her what she found significant. What “means something?” Nothing sprung to mind (perhaps nothing she wanted to share?). So, I proposed Mrs. Potts and Chip from Disney’s Beauty and Beast. When she was 4 or 5-years-old, she got small plastic versions in a Happy Meal and carried them around everywhere she went. She still has Mrs. Potts sitting on her desk. Chip is MIA. Everyone thought that was a great idea but Aidan. Then, the suggestions—complete with illustrations—came rolling in.

Teddy drew this guy. It’s a monster to put on her face. She appreciated the sentiment, but a monster tattoo on her face could be a barrier to future employment. As a mom, I am a fan of future employment. Teddy said he is not worried about future employment. Proof? He’s going to have Chick Hicks tattooed on his nose someday.

by Teddy, age 4

by Teddy, age 4

Beatrix was drawing cute animals and offered this tiger for her only sister’s consideration. It’s pretty adorable and Hello Kitty-esque.

by Beatrix, age 8

by Beatrix, age 8

But by far the favorite of the night were Joel’s multiple suggestions revolving around ferrets. Aidan has never liked ferrets. Why he came up with ferrets is anyone’s guess, but they became a theme.

His first was a ferret surrounded by a heart. This was for her upper arm. “I don’t even like ferrets!” she wailed.

by Joel, age 11

by Joel, age 11

The second was very meta. Post-modern, even. Joel’s idea was a ferret with a tattoo of a ferret with a tattoo of a ferret with a tattoo of a ferret. Such an impressive piece would have to go on her back to appreciate the full effect. If you think the movie Inception is trippy, imagine infinite ferrets on ferrets splotched on your child’s back forevermore. Don’t contemplate if someone got a tattoo of someone with ferrets tattooed on ferrets tattooed on ferrets.

by Leonardo DiCaprio*, age   47* (*rumor)

by Leonardo DiCaprio*, age 47* (*rumor)

Finally, he suggested a small ferret hugging her big toe. This would only be seen by a few people. He couldn’t explain why a ferret would hug a big toe. I’m not even sure if you can tattoo the skin on the bottom of feet, but it’s a beautiful idea, no? If I ever get a tattoo, this will be the front runner.

Fire up the laser!

Fire up the laser!

It means something.

Mother’s Days of My Life

1. I was 7 1/2 months pregnant with Aidan. My husband didn’t get anything for me. Later, he explained I wasn’t a “real” mother yet. My feelings were really hurt. When a waiter at a Mother’s Day buffet gave a carnation to me, I felt vindicated. Wherever you are, carnation guy, thank you.

2. Unbeknownst to me, I was pregnant with Ryley. Aidan was 10 months old. I wore a pretty floral dress and felt so proud of Aidan. Funny. Mother’s Day seemed to be more about my child and I was fine with that.

3. I remember nothing. I had an infant and a toddler.

4. I remember nothing. I had an infant, a toddler, and I was pregnant with Sam.

*5. I remember nothing. I had a preschooler, a toddler, and an infant. Oh, and I was pregnant with Tommy.

*6. I remember nothing. I had two preschoolers, a toddler, and an infant.

*7. I remember nothing. I had a kindergartner, two preschoolers, a toddler, and I was pregnant with Joel.

*8. I remember nothing. I had a first grader, two preschoolers, a toddler, and an infant.

9. I remember everything. I had a second grader, a kindergartner, a preschooler, two toddlers, and we took them all to Red Robin for lunch where one of the kids, who was answering the questions of a waitress (shocked by our family size), said “There was another baby, but it died.” Had we used hashtags back in the wilds of 2005: #Downer. Then, we drove up to Lookout Mountain to see Buffalo Bill’s grave. We bought two pounds of fudge at the curio shop. Unknown to us, Joel spent the ride home eating one pound of white chocolate fudge and he threw up in the driveway when we got home.

A new era began. We’ll call it the BIB years, also known as Breakfast in Bed.

10. Breakfast in bed. I had a third grader, a first grader, a kindergartner, a preschooler, a toddler, and I was pregnant with Beatrix.

11. Breakfast in bed. Just add a year to each kid and note Beatrix was about 8 months old.

12. Breakfast in bed. Again with the adding the year. I was about 30 seconds pregnant with Archie.

13. Breakfast in bed. Catching up on the math: We had sixth, fourth, third, and first grade kids along with a preschooler, a toddler, and an infant.

14. Breakfast in bed. We had five kids in school, two at home, and Teddy on the way.

15. Breakfast in bed. Hashtag blur. 8th, 6th, 5th, 3rd, 1st, and three little ones.

16. Breakfast in bed. Aidan was in high school! Beatrix was in kindergarten. I was pregnant with Ollie.

17. Breakfast in bed. I was a mom of a complete family. Nine kids! We went to a park in Centennial. I was sitting under the shaded picnic area when a family walked in, claimed the table next to ours, and unfurled a tablecloth. They cracked out some wine glasses. The dad uncorked a bottle of red while the mom set up china plates and silverware. They opened a cooler and took out the most amazing-smelling collection of Asian foods and sushis and spread them around. The family dined like Kings while I sat there awkwardly pretending to not notice.

18. It snowed as I ate my donuts…in bed. I lamented a change I felt brewing.

I have no idea what this 19th Mother’s Day will bring. Hopefully, some BIB. Maybe some wine at a park or a pound of fudge to eat on a twisty mountain road? I’m counting on some sort of school-made surprise involving a handprint. I love that stuff.

mothersday

Mostly, I look at my bunch year after year after year and marvel how they’ve grown since the previous second Sunday in May. It’s not odd that I remember how old the kids were or who was riding around in my belly because they’re the reason for the season.

They also inspired me to look at my own mom and my mother-in-law in a deeper and more appreciative light. What kinds of Mother’s Days did they have? My mom shared one that stood out in her memory. I wish I had done more for my own mom when I was still a kid. I didn’t understand. I don’t wish my kids did more for me. I just wish they knew how beautiful it is to be in my spot. Here I am, lucky enough to have my children and to have both our mothers. I have a day when I can sling them all together in one beautiful bouquet.

* I seem to remember a chaotic lunch at Olive Garden one of these years, but I can’t pinpoint which.