My kids are growing up, and I've begun to think about who I will become when they leave. You know, when they go off to an amazing college or sign up for the Peace Corps or get that coveted internship in Italy with the renowned fresco restorer and leave poor me here at home. (Can you tell I'm totally jealous of their presumed destinations?)
Mama bird, empty nest.
I mean, the youngest just started kindergarten, and the oldest is a mature second grader so I get that I have time for this. But sometimes when I pick up my youngest and clutch her big-girl body with its big-girl smells against my chest, her feet dangle all the way down to my knees, and I realize that I do not in fact have time, that I never have time.
When I watch a movie on TV and it's made sometime after 2000 I think to myself, well this is a recent movie. Until I look at the hair style or the unwrinkled actress who I used to sort of look like and I realize that 2000 was a long time ago.
Like tonight when I cuddled up and watched the first Harry Potter movie with my four kids for the first time, and I actually noted Daniel Radcliffe growing older. Over the course of the movie. And now? Now he's got a play on Broadway under his belt... where he's naked. A naked grown-up. Fifteen years go by just like that, in eight hastily rendered Harry Potter movies, from boy to man.
Vacation days belie this of course. They slump by, one aching day after another. Meal and dishes and laundry and card game and meal and dishes and laundry and straighten up and craft and... In perpetuity. It's a deceptive thing. Until you consider the Polaroid snapshot moment of the first gift Christmas morning or the New Year's Eve toast with sparkling apple juice. I have approximately fifteen more of those. Oh, wait. Fourteen.
I remember watching my older sisters go off to college. First there were four of us carrying boxes up to a crappy dorm room for the oldest, then there were three helping the next, then for me there was just my younger brother helping me. Then I guess he moved his own cheap futon and folding bookcase.
Once he was out of the home too, my mom was left with my ailing father and severely disabled older brother. It was just enough to be too much for her to recreate herself from scratch into the librarian she once was for six months before my oldest brother was born and her whole life changed, it was too much for her also to go back to school to become a nurse, officially codifying the caregiving she managed daily.
Last year she moved into a groovy retirement community near my oldest sister. She took up bocce with a vengeance. Bocce. She called this past fall to say that she broke four ribs and one vertebrae climbing onto a chair to reach a high shelf, but she still took her turn in the bocce tournament before heading to the ER. And now she's begun to volunteer for their memory ward, which seems mildly ironic if you know her, but still. Fifty years later and Stella's getting her groove back.
I'm not wishing away these days, trying to fast forward the next fifteen years. (Oh wait, fourteen.) I'm the one who has trouble getting rid of outgrown clothing. Because I can't imagine they've all grown so big, and because I have such achingly sweet memories of my middle girl in the yellow corduroy pinafore with the flower appliqué. If I give it away, how will I remember how we bunched her wispy hair on top of her head just so? How can I possibly hold onto that time?
But I know too, that they are watching me, these four kids of mine, to see who it is that I am. Am I there for them when they need me? Do I cook and bake and nurture for them, to them, at them? Do I treasure that yellow pinafore appropriately?
Then again, am I something for just me and sometimes just for my husband, too? Because they need to know they can leave someday and then come back again to a woman who is happy in her marriage, thinking thoughts, asking questions, making things that weren't there before. Growing.
So for 2016 I'm making some goals. They're mostly the broad strokes but mildly specific kind of goals I make every year and then vaguely aim towards. Make some art, write some stuff, finish the rough draft of the book, clean out a closet or two, choose joy and kindness over complaining or meanness. Work out more, waste time less. Be a good friend, daughter, mom.
Oh, wait. Too much?
That I could be someone they'd one day want to be too, maybe that's my resolution for 2016. Or better yet, that I can be someone I would want to be, perhaps that one is even better still.
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