Lyrical Laughs

Saturday, August 27, 2016

One letter short of the empty nest


A letter to my Baby Girl:
Remember that time when I poured my heart out about you leaving for your freshman year of college? Four years ago it seemed like such a monumental change, with your sister already living in Philadelphia and you heading to a campus nine hours away. Now we’ve reached the end of this summer - possibly the last summer you’ll spend here - and it’s a much bigger adjustment than that of four years ago.
I sensed this summer was different for you from the first week you came home in May. Early on you admitted to the feeling that this time seemed more like a visit. You've been restless and ready for senior year where you'll gain the final momentum to fly, and your dad and I know there's a strong probability you - our gutsy second born - will spread your glorious wings far. After all, one of your most spoken phrases as a toddler was "I do it!"
Sometime in the past couple of weeks the uncomfortable memory of a long ago confrontation came flooding back to me, from the day I told my parents your dad and I would be moving closer to our jobs a half hour away from them. Your grandmother stood in the kitchen with angry tears and fiercely swore they would never call me because I was moving a toll call away, as though I had announced we'd be starting our life together in Alaska. Back then I didn't see her fear through her words. Having you around this summer had given me new insight about how things were more than 30 years ago when I was on the receiving end of Too Much Mom. 
Maybe your subtle changes struck a nerve in me - I don't know - but there's been a startlingly pervasive sense of panic coursing through my veins that life as we know it would soon be void of the magnitude of your presence. I pictured with dread that last morning when you would pull out of the driveway after I've hugged you tight and tried to hold back tears that would come long before tail lights turn the corner. I fully expected to deal with this weighty unease until the day you drove off, as I am - after all - my mother's child. Then the three of us went away for one night and it changed everything.
It was during our little family mini-getaway just before you left. We were at dinner, you, me and your dad, all pretty relaxed and enjoying the pleasant restaurant atmosphere, when I realized I was seeing you - really seeing you for the first time. I don't know what changed, if anything, but at that moment in time I knew you to be a beautiful, wise-beyond-your-years, totally capable adult. Right there in the middle of the restaurant my body suddenly released every hint of anxiety almost as if I was melting into it, so much so that I felt close to crying with relief. In an instant I no longer feared for you or for me.
I'm thankful you were with us for that trip. It wouldn't have been the same without you. I also realize that from now on nothing will be the same with you, and that’s all right. You haven’t left us with an empty nest, which sounds so daunting and difficult to recover from. What really remains is the empty net. You don’t need me to catch you every time – you’ve spent the last 21 years preparing to find your own way. So I am slowly but purposefully learning to do what is natural and let go. And I’m lovingly aware of the hardest part - that you, my girl, are letting go of me.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Making an Olympic size effort – to watch from the sidelines

Raise your hand if you were even slightly tempted to call in sick to work at least one day this week to stay home and watch the Olympics. At this very moment our living room television is featuring the women’s rugby competition. It is downright frightening. So many hands grabbing and gripping - and what seems like zero regulations. You know if this stuff had been going on at the playground when these kids were younger, there’d be a whole lot of Time Out.

This wasn’t the only sport that caught our attention during the Games. Spouse, Second Born and I cringed through the first night’s nerve-wracking scenes during the men’s cycling, where the leaders suddenly found themselves careening off course, so close to the finish, ending their Olympic ride with broken bikes, bones and hearts. The next day Second Born and I were clutching our seats during the women’s cycling, unable to look away as riders risked their lives riding like the wind through Rio’s mountain ranges. In the final moments we were convinced the lead rider was at the very least critically injured when she crashed (we learned later she was badly injured but would be all right).  The U.S. cyclist catapulted to the front and looked sure to win. Then a small wolf pack of adrenaline soaked competitors swept past her just as she could almost touch the finish line. The trio took the top three spots, crushing the U.S. rider’s dreams.

I was exhausted.

A little less exhausting but just as mesmerizing was the synchronized diving competition. The three of us had our own version of judging going on, tossing out comments about who was perfectly aligned and who was just a bit off. We were sure we knew a great dive when we saw it. According to the actual judges who – you know – do this for a living, we didn’t. As a mom, my biggest concern was whether those suits were going to stay on. I could imagine some poor diver’s mom closing her eyes praying for minimal exposure while she cheers from the stands.

I had to consciously not hold my breath during the women’s gymnastics. How did they lift their bodies up from the floor as if they were attached to strings? I’m clutching the coffee table to pull myself up from hours of TV viewing… unless there are M&Ms just out of reach. That would be what I call incentive.

Did you happen to catch the freestyle swimming? The speed, the form, the accuracy – it was all breathtaking. In fact, I look just like that when I’m swimming at the Y. My laps are such a blur that you probably won’t recognize me, unless I’m just warming up. Or cooling down. Or trying to reach the other end of the pool while gasping for breath and craning my neck in an attempt to not get water up my nose, all while only occasionally slamming into the lap dividers and ripping the skin off various fingers and toes. Other than that it’s a complete blur… to me at least.

I felt a little guilty about not spending more of the weekend outside, considering most of us try to cram 52 weekends of activity into a few short summer months. I admit I kept hoping it would rain, and not just because we desperately need it. But witnessing history in the making together was also rewarding and it led to some great conversations, especially about some of the personal stories we heard during the course of the week.

We are an emotional lot. The kid and I shed a few tears learning about the backgrounds of underdog competitors who fought back physical, emotional and personal issues to be an Olympian. Even Spouse got swept up in some of the more moving pieces. So many of these stories were inspiring and uplifting. Some competitors came away with medals but all came away with memories to last a lifetime.

From the quirky opening ceremonies to the final evening, the Olympics are several fascinating days of competition and camaraderie. Even I am inspired… to move the M&Ms just a little farther away.