Fred

My dad said that when he ran track that everyone called him Freddie. I don’t know when it happened, but I am pretty sure it was sometime around 2007, when students started calling me Fred. I don’t really like it, I would prefer Kelly, but I have come to accept it. The inevitable Fred. Parents whom I have not yet met are always surprised at conferences to discover that I am not a man. Perk.

We just wrapped our annual art show and I am exhausted. Not just exhausted, but tired. TIRED. Sean keeps saying, “What’s up with you?” I am TIRED. Super, super fucking tired. He says, “What happens to the girl I met?” and I just stare blankly with tears in my eyes, trying to communicate the full level of exhaustion that comes with teaching and I just cannot seem to adequately express it.

Dear graduating AP Art Studio students of 2017, I love you so much, but I am so tired. I think, sometimes, that I just cannot do this anymore. The energy expended, the commitment that comes with 100% of me going into you … it’s just …. it’s like giving birth 1000x times over and then by time 999, the push comes with the sigh of, “I just cannot.”

But then … at the show I watch all these red dots go up on the work. You sold your work! Complete strangers walked in, connected with something you created with your hands and your heart, validated your experience with praise or money or both and in an instant I know that future you will surround yourself with the dreamers and the empaths. I know that future you values the arts, values the arts in education, values voice, and most of all values your own self. None of that makes me feel less tired, but it does make me know that if my job on this planet was to be the stone that caused the ripple, then I have done my job. There is something satisfying in that, something delicate and complete.

Yet at the center of it, I wanted there to be more. I wanted it to be me. I wanted the studio and the studio dog and the light in the window and my words in magazines and so I wonder if in all that giving if Fred is all that I am.

That thought is so overwhelming and comes with so many questions that start with the word “how,” that I stop asking and resign myself to eating ice-cream sandwiches in my underpants, perfectly content to watch the Kardashians, fully aware that horrible crimes against humanity are happening all over the world and that my hunger to be called something other than Mom or Fred are trivial wants in comparison to most humans.

No one calls my dad Freddie anymore. Recently, someone finally broke his college hurdling record at St. Norbert college, knocking him down a peg, but not erasing him from the college’s hall of fame. I think I was about eleven years old when my mom said, “Your dad has one prayer and it goes, “help me be a better father, a better teacher, a better husband, and a better friend.” That is a pretty good prayer, I think, but I think the part that is missing, the part that we all miss, is asking, “help me be me.”

This year I started building a religious shrine next to my bed. I ordered pictures of Jesus and Mary from an Orthodox church in Greece. I ordered a Buddha from Singapore and, three times now, I have made time to study with a shaman. I know this is ironic seeing I started my last post with a quote that started with the line, “I don’t believe in God.” What I am looking for, I suppose, is to trust the god within. Buddha, Jesus, the Shaman, the angels, and me.

I rocked Quinn and we read his book and I noted, silently, that he has just gotten to be a bit too big to be comfortably rocked. For heavens sake, his hands are almost as big as mine are. My own body is looking more and more like fifty and not in a, “Wow,  Jennifer Aniston is almost fifty,” kind of way, but more in an Aunt Bea/Andy Griffith sort of way. The physical is changing. No more babies, the middles are almost out of the house, Luke is supposedly a man… and here I am, still “just teaching.”

By September that resignation will turn from “just teaching,” to “TEACHING,” but for now, I just need that nine week hiatus to find my own core again, to close my eyes and let go of all of the voices calling my name, and instead, own my own name. It doesn’t start with F.

 

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Stay Gold, as Close to Heaven as I’ll Ever Get

“I don’t believe in God. I think Jesus was just a man, but with you in my life I feel part of some heavenly plan.You’ve shown me that there is faith without fear or regret. You are a love as close to heaven as I’ll get.” 

Seventeen on the seventeenth. Every year, I wish you had been born on your due date, June 3rd, when the end of the semester was over and not right in the middle of trying to hang our annual art show. Now that I know you so well, I am convinced that you did it on purpose, so that your golden birthday would fall at the height of your high school years and during prom week. A week full of flutter and activity and attention galore. Art show included. Look at me, notice me … the mantra of the middle child.

Happy birthday, golden girl. Last night we went to watch the theater benefit at school and Simon sang The Seraph, which moved me to tears. Actually, I was already in tears because Hazel sang Rainbow Connection, and that just gets me every damn time. I held your hand the whole show and was feeling really tired and also really grateful that we don’t have one of those mother daughter relationships where there is constant bickering (even though there was that one time this week where I insisted you wear a bra). You let me hold you hand. You always say, “I like your hands, Mom. They tell stories.”

Your school year hasn’t been the one you hoped for or planned on. In January you started to sleep. Sleep and sleep and sleep, so I thought maybe you had mono. Then you started acting kind of funny, foggy, forgetful. Your hands swelled and turned blue, your legs went numb. ER visits and blood draws, tilt tests, sweat tests, and many missed days of school resulted in a diagnoses of Dysautonomia, but not yet fully blown POTS. That story is longer and more complex than can be summed up in a paragraph, and now I watch you take six different medications each morning and I wonder if you should be or if maybe doctors are still wrong. I wonder if dysautonomia stands for “we don’t fucking know.” Meds or no meds, the heat at school has been giving you horrible migraines, so last night at 2AM, you crawled in with me and we debated ER or no ER and dad covered you with ice and I rubbed your head until my alarm rang at six.

So I didn’t really want to make birthday pies. I haven’t slept. School has been super hard, super “May,” but the thing about being at school is that I listen to the stories other kids tell and I realize how many shitty mothers there are and I don’t want to be shitty. I want real banana cream pies with my great grandma Connell’s homemade custard recipe. I want to set the table and breathe you in and … stay golden. That is ideal, but in real life, I dropped the pie on the floor. Then I went to peel the bananas for pie #2 and someone had basically sat on them and they were flat and black. Both Dad and Luke offered to run to the store to buy more bananas while the third crust baked, but I basically told them to suck it. When I arrived at the store myself, there were piles upon piles of the greenest, hardest bananas you have ever seen:

I texted a picture of them to Dad, along with the word, “Seriously.” I am pretty sure that was an angel joke because on my way out, there were three lonely ripe bananas in a basket by the register, exactly the number I needed. They were right next to golden birthday candles, so apparently there is an angel that thinks I have a soul to keep.

So sixteen ended up being sicks-teen and we have both been feeling heavy and driven and overwhelmed, but then last week, I heard you singing. You haven’t sang for real in so long, that hearing your slow, deliberate words, just filled me with such relief … like you are still in there somewhere. https://www.instagram.com/p/BT7vZQmDaSn/?taken-by=lizmizzz You sound unsure yet, like you are just starting to emerge again, but there, right there before the word “sin,” I can hear you in there… it is golden.

We will ring in seventeen in a dirty, crowded, hot house, but there will be pie. There will be love. All of your brothers will be there, surrounded by laundry piles and unopened mail. We will laugh and drink beer and eat Korean beef tacos. There won’t be the puppy you asked for, nor the red corvette, but I will be there (and I ordered your Stan Smith’s in navy).  You will have this birthday letter and I hope it is enough. I see you… scrambling to keep up with your vision of you, driven to meet that desire, and in that I recognize myself. “And when you lay your hallowed head warm against my chest, my divine, highest angel, mine… Somehow, I’ll be blessed.”

I love you, Lizzie, more and more. Stay gold.

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 9.33.52 PMElizabeth, on the edge of 17. 

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Cheers, Baby

Eek. 21. I am momma to a full blown adult. I feel like I should call in sick or something.

Happy, happy birthday first born beautiful boy of mine. I am so excited that you and I head to NYC next month. Last week you tagged me in a post about a restaurant that sells margaritas there for $100 a piece and you commented, “We are going.”

Man, it’s been such a long way from this snapshot of us on the beach at Martha’s Vineyard, both of us so new to our relationship. You can tell you are the first born because you are wearing matching socks! As far away as you roam from that little self of yours that slept so soundly in my arms, that space is still where I feel you.

I know you are kind of dreading coming home for the summer. Our house is tiny and hot and you have outgrown it and you are anxious for your own life to take over full time. You texted me that you would rather work on a fishing boat in the middle of Alaska than come home for that long. Three things flashed through my mind when you said that: Seattle is closer to Alaska than to Milwaukee so wow you really do live far away. Wait, that isn’t fair because I want to go to Alaska. Oh my God you will get seasick and drown, please don’t go. Mom thoughts are like that … a lot of them pile on at once and they are usually a mixture or curiosity, envy, and fear, so I get how the idea of moving back in with those thoughts is a little daunting.

I do miss you, but am equally excited for your shiny, brand new, adult life to take hold. I am eager to see what this next decade brings you. I am incredibly proud of the person you have become, and somehow when I think twenty-one, I have an image of catch and release fishing … the gift of your childhood so beautiful and fleeting, caught in the slippery grasp of my hands for just a single powerful moment before you are released back into an unknown world. It’s funny. Quinn is still at an age where he tells me he wants to live with me forever. I eat that up because, well, you know, fishing boats and all. Still, watching you live such a brave, vulnerable life is so fantastic and rewarding. Court side seats from here on out, kid. No place I’d rather be.

Kate went to visit you and when she came back she said, “I forgot that boy is just all heart. He is a heart walking around on legs.” I love that you think with your heart. What a wonderful way to enter your twenties. So cheers, baby. May twenty-one feel like the turning point it was designed to be. Take stock. Look at the road that lead you to this point. Now is the time to decide which road to travel. I don’t care if it’s the one less traveled. I care that it’s one that brings you great joy.

See you in two weeks. I will make pie.


Luke, 2017. Light of the world. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blowing in the Wind

“How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man”

Last night I had to work at parent teacher conferences. I spoke with so many moms who have sons graduating this spring. One mom said, “I just catch myself knowing that he is in the house, just in his room, we haven’t even talked, but he is there, you know? He is there,” and then she teared up imagining him off in his new dorm room, his new life, one cut free of her, but also launched by her. It just made my heart hurt and made me aware of how in this vast world of insane headlines, wars, politics, Academy award blunders, that somewhere in a little kitchen in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin,a mom is sitting alone at a kitchen table listening to her first born shuffle around in his room, imagining what the sound of silence will actually feel like.

 I haven’t talked to Luke in weeks, but he called tonight, distraught after a tough midterm and a tough professor, with a decision to change his major, with anticipation of his upcoming exam for an anatomy class in which he wondered how the hell he is supposed to remember detailed lessons from September, and irritated at his peers who opted for the easier science class. From two thousand miles away, phone on speaker on my lap, as I drove on the windy overpass to pick up William from practice, I tried to offer comfort and validation.

I hung up wishing that I had told him some funny stories about Will that would have perhaps offered comic relief, like how the lady at the grocery offered him a sample of a meatless meatball and Will replied, “that is just a ball then,” or how he is in my design class right now and when I gave him a typography assignment that asked him to design a fact or quote he asked me if he could write a fact about chlamydia and draw a picture of roast beef.

I have watched Luke fight battles since the day he was born, first to just survive nine weeks in an incubator, then again at five when he started to realize his kindergarten peers were catching on when he wasn’t, again and again throughout grade school, through love and heartbreak, through grief and panic. He has always come through it a little bit beat up, but also a little bit stronger, a little bit shinier, and each time, his heart grows.

It seems to me that becoming a man requires journey, requires battle, requires one to learn to cover that soft heart up with a big wool blanket. It seems bravery is a necessity. Even now, I want (I won’t) to call up all of Luke’s teachers and try to explain to them his history. My wanting to do that idiotic thing makes me realize that there are a lot more roads for my son to travel before I can call him a man. Maybe I never will be able to do that.

I texted him the Lori McKenna song, (“So I wonder, what do they know/Maybe the problem is me not letting go/Of a little boy who’s smarter than me/Who can’t sit still and sees things differently”). I stopped myself from texting, “fuck music theory anyway.” I stopped texting completely  because all of  my 42 character rants of advice were really just my way of saying, “NOBODY HURT MY KID,” even though my kid is twenty and with each road traveled another step closer to man.

I keep thinking about those few moms last night who felt the weight of anticipated loss and change. I am wishing them a beautiful life and as their young sons venture off to become men, I wish that the answers that are blowing in the wind nestle into place, and that an empty nest never truly feels empty, but feels accomplished instead.

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Kelly 

Sometimes, 

Most times, 

When I crawl into bed, 

Left foot aching, heel cracked, 

I think about my first hour class 

That took place fourteen and one half hours earlier, but 

Feels like weeks earlier, and I close my eyes and catch glimpses of the in between … 

Ringing bells and volleyball whistles, pink hall passes and panic attacks, quick glances at my phone, Instagram hearts from strangers, and I try to count all of the times that I heard a student call my name 

Ms. Frederick, Ms. Frederick, Ms. Frederick, Ms. Frederick, Fred 

All of the times I heard my children utter Mom. Mommy. Mom. MO-OM. Mother/eye roll 

And as I start to fade into sleep, so fleeting and sparse, I wonder if I am spending my minutes the way I was destined to. 

Or if perhaps there are voices shouting Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, but I am just to pre-occupied  to hear the chants of my own longing, or if they will even still be chanting once all of the chaos clears. 

Will they have given up on me? Lost their patience? Find a new girl? Someone who doesn’t have frizzy hair and heat rash? 

Before dreaming (I dreamt I asked a boy to ride horses with me and my horse collapsed from a thyroid condition) I try to stop the world from spinning just long enough to hear my own soul whisper my name. 

Kelly. 

Just to know I am still in there,

Patiently hibernating, barely a pulse, waiting and still, breathing just the same. 

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Six it Is

small6

Six is the year little boys seem to turn into kids. Look at that little misplaced tooth… how can one grin contain so much innocence and sneakiness at once? Happy Birthday, Mighty Mighty Quinn. 48 lbs. later (for both of us).

September 3rd is a terrible time of year to have a birthday if your mom is a teacher, even if it does fall on a Saturday.  You walked out of school for the weekend with an “It’s my birthday” sticker on your sweatshirt, a nudge of a reminder to me that I didn’t visit the classroom to watch you walk around the sun. I didn’t see your peers sing to you or share photos of you or answer questions like, “Does Quinn have any pets?” from children sitting like pretzels in a circle. You didn’t seem to mind and I have decided not to let the guilt of that even enter my energy field. The joy of being child number four is that you don’t seem to mind and neither do I.

We celebrated last week, while Luke was still home. I made the mistake of looking on Pinterest for ideas. Welcome to your last birthday in which I will roll out starbursts to make dog collars. It was a rookie mistake and I should have known better. I haven’t driven myself that crazy since Lizzie was six a decade ago and a rolled up wee marshmallows to mimc sheep fur for Nursery Rhyme Character Day.

Last night at Lizzie’s volleyball game, I saw one of our freshman wearing a shirt that read “Class of 2020,” and I swear to you that I almost ripped it right off her. 2020! Are you kidding me? All of the kids (version one) will be moved out and Luke will even be done with college and you, my dear, (version two) will be ten. Everyone needs to slow the f down (except for the part where we are broke all of the time and I scour the freezer for an old corndog to feed you until payday … feel free, Gods, to fast forward to the money part). So even though it is 12:21AM on what was officially my first full day of classes, I just wanted to pause for a brief moment on your big day to tell you about your six-year-old-self.

Usually you wear a raccoon Davy Crocket hat to school. Men in their sixties stop us in the coffee shop to pat you on the head and say, “I had one of those when I was a kid.” For good or for bad, no one else your own age says that. Last week, you paired it with Luke’s old superman socks (went past your knees), athletic shorts, and a sweater. I told you that you looked ridiculous, but then Luke said, “You don’t have to wear it, so what do you care?” So for you went to kindergarten, happy as a clam and no worse for the wear when you returned home. The only thing I have vetoed is you wearing a heavy wool reindeer Christmas sweater on a ninety degree day in August. You replied to my veto with, “BUT I HAVEN’T WORN THAT IN AGES!”

You have lost your first tooth. You tell me that your favorite color gummy bears are the colors of the window and of bubbles (“is that color called blank?”). You cannot sit still at volleyball games and when they sing the national anthem, you sing along with it really loudly because you just learned that song at school. You are still the biggest lover of dogs and of all things stuffed I have ever met. Our house has more stuffed animals in it than it does utensils. I promised to take you to Build-a-Bear with Tegan and you have already told me you want to get a hyena (they stock hyenas?). You are the most joyful, loving, enthusiastic, sensitive boy in all of the land. You are my sidekick and my shadow, and, like always, “my cupcake and my earthquake.”

Your actual birthday was one of the worst days of my life. We both almost died. Just made it, you and I. Every day since then though, kid, have been the best. There is BQ and AQ (before Quinn and after) and all I can tell you for certain is that the wonder and love that you have brought into all of our lives makes BQ feel incomplete, a semi-circle. I always liked even numbers better anyway. Love you, Q. Infinitely.

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Fifteen, waiting for Twenty-Five

Dear William,

Technically, you aren’t fifteen until 2:44pm today, significant in that you were born exactly sixteen minutes before the doctors were going to throw in the towel and perform a c-section. I tell you this every birthday: I believe you were waiting for the stars to turn from Cancer to Leo, which you did they did with three minutes to spare, but what I love about you most is that you have the best traits of both signs. Happy birthday to my nurturing Cancer and mighty Leo. Fifteen.

You have grown about four thousand inches this summer, towering over me now… still a pup though, lanky with giant paws. A Great Dane in the making. Fourteen was a beast of a year (you were hit by a car, for crying out loud) and I am betting you are excited to move on. I have always loved your birthday the most because it is nestled into the heart of summer when I am not distracted by school and life and chaos. Nine times out of ten, it thunderstorms on your birthday .. the Gods up there must be having quite the party.

When I look at you, I always think of the Cat Stevens lyric, “It’s not time to make a change,
Just relax, take it easy. You’re still young, that’s your fault,” mostly because you are so impatient with the steps it takes to get to adulthood. I think you have always known that you are ready to be twenty-five. You have asked me forty times this summer if you can just skip the rest of high school.

When I was getting a pedicure the other day, I spent the hour playing fake lottery games on my phone, pressing the same button over and over again. I know that is how school has always felt to you. Still, you have made some pretty great friends this year. Suddenly you, like your sister, are never home. Yesterday you went cliff diving at red granite quarry. I didn’t want you to go. You were not deterred by my text that listed the death statistics from that place. I feel the same way when you go jump on trampolines at Helium or skateboard down the middle of the street. I know the dare devil that lives in you. Faster, higher, more. You are waiting for life to feel more like an adventure and less like a chore. Hate to break it to you, but that is pretty much the definition of fifteen.

There are parts that I love about fifteen. I love the group text that we share with your older siblings. Lizzie changed the title of that chat to “Fake pot is bad pot,” because it is filled with articles of me worried about the dangers of the world at large. In it, I literally say, “If you are gonna smoke pot, don’t smoke the fake shit. It is dangerous.” It is super hard to be a parent of teenagers … not because you guys are tough, but because the worry that comes with you wedging your way into adulthood is sometimes crushing. That is okay, though. It’s one of the many lessons about letting go that I am learning. I catch myself holding my breath. Your hunger for adventure reminds me to release that, to trust, and to replace worry with the incredible love that I hold for you.

Still, even though you are  in the in-between, with your foot on the accelerator, I still think of you like this:

I hope that in all of your adventures, of which I am sure there will be many, that you always remember to listen to that boy. The voice that lives inside of you is loud and trustworthy. Last week you told me that you hate emotions. Emotions are stupid, you said. I imagine that they do feel that way right now. Sometimes, I too, would rather dive off of a cliff than feel them deeply.

The Avett Brothers warn us, “Nothing happens here that doesn’t happen there/When you run, make sure you run to something and not away from…” My wish for your year ahead is that you continue to weave a net of friends and mentors that will always make you feel like you are home, so that when you leap, we are at your core. I love you more than you will ever know or believe. The earth goes around the sun, tralala, the earth goes around the sun … no dragging of my feet will slow it down.

Looking forward to celebrating with you tonight. Meatballs and banana cream pies. xoxo

 

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Nothing

In a lonely room in a little city,

He was a magnet

A regret

A panicked scramble

Like all magnets, he responded.

 

In a little room in big city,

He was a thorn

A reminder

An unwelcome ghost

 

His invitation returned,

Peeked at, but not absorbed

His ache easily ignored

Replaced by a dozen white flowers

 

A blocked witness to his grief,

I am unable to mend the tear that sits

Beneath the breastbone,

A little to the left

 

The lump in my throat mimics his.

Heartstrings in my lap, idle needles in hand

The reopened wound, pulsing

Each day is one more away from

 

Her laugh.

Her eyes.

Her plans.

 

In a shared room in a familiar city,

I wait with him.

Nothing comes.

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Sweet Sixteen

It’s quite possible that the person that invented the phrase sweet sixteen meant it as an oxymoron. In my experience sixteen has a temper and is a little moody.

It’s May 17th and you, my birthday girl, my only girl, are exactly sixteen, and I love you even more now than when we first met. If you had told me that was possible in 2000, I would have not believed you.  I know that I have a lot of posts about time flying, but in some ways, the bedrest pregnancy that preceded your birth feels more like it happened in another life time. I look back and wonder why I was in such a hurry. I look back and miss little you.

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 5.44.45 PM

You are still you though, in so many ways. Messy and funny, animated and sensitive, thoughtful and intuitive, open minded, anxious, and just a wee bit hot tempered. You are the most social person I have ever met. Each time I have to pick you up at a friend’s house it seems like it is yet another friend I have never met. How many Grace’s can a girl know?  The other day you asked me what I remembered about high school and I said “Nothing. I blanked all of that out. I hated high school.” You were incredulous. You said, “Well, I love high school.” In many, many ways you and I are different. You have a million friends. I have only a few close ones. You are athletic. I prefer not to move. You don’t like stew. I just, really? Who does not like stew?

Yet as you grow older, I see more and more of myself in you. When you walked down the stairs this weekend, Dad looked at me and said, “Kelly, who does she remind you of?” It took him awhile and then he said, “Oh. You. She looks like you when we met,” and then (because Dad is Dad) he added, “but, you know, with all my good parts.” Yeah, sigh. Legs for days was not from me.

Having you in my illustration class has been a love/hate relationship for both of us (mostly love). As the school year wraps up, just know how incredibly proud I am of the work you have created there. I am proud of all of your mistakes and truly in love with your successes. Recently you have started to talk about studying fashion design. When Grandma said, “It’s a super competitive field,” you answered, “I am competitive.” Even though I am not remotely an athlete, I see myself in that answer. I see myself in your dreams, your drive, your unwillingness to settle for second best. The only real birthday advice I know is to stay true to that self … just allow some room for error. Allow some room for belly flops. Continue to surround yourself with amazing friends … like the ones who know you are having a bad day and secretly drop off grocery bags full of chocolate ice cream and goldfish crackers on our doorstep. Surround yourself with that kind of love and you will always have a net to catch you on the days that perfectionism gets the best of you.

Thank you, baby girl, for letting me in. For crying to me, for laughing with me, for making me pee in my pants on our drives home from far away tournaments, for not just plugging into your headphones and shutting me out. The biggest gift you have ever given me is allowing room in our relationship for friendship. So, yeah, I miss little you, but I love teenaged you. As you travel the road into adulthood, know that every time my own heart beats, it sings your song.

Happy Birthday, darling girl. You light up my life.

Mom

 

 

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Twenty.

Dear Luke,

It is the eve of your birth, twenty years later. Twenty. In four more hours your teenage years will be completely gone. Dust.

Did I ever tell you that when I was in fourth grade, we performed The Little Prince all in French? I was in the scene with the roses and I had to say je t’aime in front of Matt Miota. I had an enormous crush on 11 year old Matt Miota. He carried a comb in his back pocket and dated a girl named Maria. He was older than me. Damn those mixed age level classes. I (like the nine other little princes, one per scene) wore a white turtle neck and a green scarf. This was pre-digital cameras and pre-everyone-documenting-everything , so I don’t have a picture. You will just have to imagine that I  looked like this:

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 8.14.47 PM

The only words I remember from the entire play are je t’aime. I love you. You will be twenty and I don’t believe you have read The Little Prince yet. I was going to send it to you, but instead I sent you a book of Richard Brautigan poetry (“spinning like a ghost on the bottom of a top, I am haunted by all the space I will live without you.”).

Maybe it’s just because the Prince died this week that I started thinking about The Little Prince. I raced through my childhood … fourth grade, little fake prince telling three girls dressed like a giant rose that I loved them, all the way through seventh grade where shirtless Prince plastered the wall directly behind my adolescent pillow). Since you left for college, I still wear the shocked and puzzled gaze of a bulldog. Where on earth did time go? We used to have this teaching assistant on our playground (same year as my French debut) and her name was Ms. Audrey. She used to tell us to stop trying to grow up so fast and she would shake her head (wrapped in a plastic rain hat, even when sunny) at us when we tried to wear lipstick. She would plead, “Girls, Girls! Life goes so fast. Drop the lipstick and go play.” We thought she was crazy.

Yet here were are. Twenty.

I am still so madly in love with you. Sometimes when I put Quinn to bed and he is all cozy from his bath, I press my face against his wet hair and try to just squeeze the memory into my heart because I know … I know from watching you grow, that five really doesn’t last forever. I asked him tonight, “Do you know how old Luke will be tomorrow?” He replied, “Man.” Knocked the wind right out of me (“son of man look to the sky, lift your spirit, set it free”). As a young man, you are still so full of invitation energy. You are a joy to be around and your enthusiasm for life, your eagerness to share your journey is just a magnet to all of those around you. I could not be prouder to be your mom.

The little prince loves his rose because of the time he spent caring for her. The rose basically is a symbol for love and here, we are meant to know that love comes from investing in other people. Tonight, on the way to volleyball (AGAIN), Lizzie asked me if having kids is worth it. “It kind of seems like it ruins your life,”she said. She is fifteen. All I can tell you is that you are my rose. Every single minute of you has been worth it.

I am no longer in the scene with the rose. Now, I am the fox. The fox lets the Little Prince go (spoiler, I know) even though it is heartbreakingly hard. Before he leaves though, Fox tells him: “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Some people spend their entire lives trying to figure that out. You? You have known since the very beginning. Continue to live life through your heart. I know that you carry your worry in your stomach … let your heart win. Let your heart untangle your knots. I love you. Happiest of all birthdays to you, your first one away from home.

Mom

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