As I placed my head on my pillow last night, I tried to reflect on the first day of the rest of my life. How had it gone? Did I feel any different? I felt oddly quiet. Quiet was good, real good. Anxious thoughts were not ricocheting in my overcrowded brain. But the day had not been all good. What was making me so 'mellow'?
I picked up my 16-year-old from school and watched him saunter over to the car. It looked like he was talking to himself. I could see his mouth moving but heard no words coming out. He was all alone on the sidewalk and when I looked for his cell phone, it was not in his hand. My heart jumped a beat. Kyle has always handled stress so well, has the first day of Junior year broke him already? Did I need to rush over to a yoga studio or make an acupuncture appointment for him to detox? He opened the car door and gave me one of his gorgeous smiles. His pulled tiny ear plugs from his ears. "I'm just listening to some music Mom," he said probably noticing the worried look on my face. "I had a great day," he offered up. "I love being an upper class man. I can't wait to be a senior." Oh boy. I could wait. I could wait another twenty years I thought at that particular moment in time.
He can't wait to get on with his life. I remember those days. The days seemed so long as you rushed toward something unexpected and exciting. Selfishly, I think about myself. The only thing I am rushing for these days is more grey hair, hot flashes, and inexplicable fits of rage. But I stay in the moment. It's a very MARIN kind of moment.
I ask Kyle if he wants to get some ice cream. I could tell by his answer that he really just wanted to go home, but he said fine. I think he realized that we have a silent ritual. The first day of school we always get an ice cream. I don't know if he realizes that we have done this for the last eleven years. I was delighted to drive up to the ice cream parlor and stand in line with my six foot four son. All around us were little kids with their moms licking their cones or waiting to be served their own precious scoop. We stood next to each other and I looked up at him and felt proud. Really proud. I had raised a good son. For goodness sake, he still lets me take him for ice cream. I remember, long ago, when he would hold my hand. I thought about it for a second but thought he would probably check me into a mental ward if I took his hand. So, I was content just standing next to him waiting for our turn.
When he was little he would have to check out all the flavors to see which one he wanted. He always wanted to make the right choice afraid he would be disappointed if he got a flavor that he didn't like. On this day, I could tell he was more interested in the 'hot' girls dishing out the scoops than the scoops themselves. But, he wasn't embarrassed to be with me. We seem to have passed that stage. I wondered if he would treat himself to ice cream his first day of college? I hope he will. I wonder if I should get an ice cream cone on his first day of college. Should I should treat myself and celebrate his independence? It makes me cry just thinking about it. There will be a lot of salt in that ice cream cone.
For a few moments yesterday, all did feel right with the world. Kyle sat on the kitchen stool and began his homework. My 13-year-old, WIll, was in his room reading. He never reads. It was a miracle.
Then the old calendar came out. The tiny squares began to fill up very quickly. I have prided myself about not over booking the kids. So, how did this happen. We were yelling back and forth about schedules, and hot lunches, about SAT tutors and fencing lessons. Will wants to play the bass. Kyle is directing a play. We could barely squeeze everything the kids need to do into those tiny squares.
Then I stopped dead in my tracks. In a few short years, those squares will be empty. I will have nothing to fill them with. I want to run to my bed and hide under the covers, but I force myself to go to the market to buy dinner. As I mindlessly walk the isles, I think about the impending emptiness of my life. What am I going fill those squares with. Kyle can't wait to be a senior, and I haven't got a clue what I am going to do with my squares. This is what the rest of my life is going to feel like. An endless abyss of empty squares.
I come home and check my e-mails. So many friends have sent me reassuring messages as a result of this blog. This helps fill the void for the moment. I think about my friends here in Marin. Many of them started a "mommy group" when their kids were young. I was not a part of this group because I did not know it even existed. Are they going to start an "old mommies group? " And will I be part of it? Are we going to sit around and talk about how our kids are adjusting to college, where they are going to spend their year abroad, what they are majoring in? I imagine for a nano second the possibility of talking about literature and politics. The slight hope of dissecting art installations and theater openings. But I know I will just want to talk about my children. How utterly pathetic I am. Get a life, I think. Grow-up. And there it is. The first day of the rest of my life, and I realize that it might be time for me to really grow up.
(c) 2009 Terry Castle
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