“As you wander through this troubled world
In search of all things beautiful
You can close your eyes when you’re miles away
And hear my voice like a serenade”
-Dixie Chicks, Lullaby
Quinn started school. School! That wee little 480 gram baby is grown. Last night, we cuddled up in bed and he told me that he was feeling “nervous.” I told him that nervous was an okay feeling, that it meant something exciting was going to happen. His three-year-old little self replied, “I am still nervous.” I reminded him of the blocks we saw on the day we visited his classroom. He spied the tiniest little block on top of a tall tower of Montessori blocks and his teacher promised that one day she would give him a lesson on those blocks. He has been talking about the tiny one ever since. “I really like that tiny block,” he reminds me, constantly. He listened to me talk about the blocks with great admiration and then he sighed, “Okay, I will go to school, but I am still never going on an airplane.” I assured him that we would tackle one fear at a time.
I did not really anticipate tearing up. After all, I have been through this three times before and I know that he will love school and that everything will be okay. Plus, I was a little distracted that William also started eighth grade this morning and that Lizzie had volleyball tryouts at her new high school. Still, when I pulled into the drop-off line and saw Roger’s face (Roger who has coached as taught and encouraged all of my kids) I inhaled a big, scary breath that stuck in my throat and did not escape until Quinn hopped out of the van (with a little assistance from his big brother). The teacher in line shut the door and very said in a very Montessori, matter of fact, tear the bandaid off way, “Bye, Mom.”
I had a first grade teacher once who ripped a bandaid off my arm without warning me. We were at a reading table, shaped like a semicircle and she was trying to give some type of lesson or another and I sat there, picking slowly at the sticky plastic strip stuck to my forearm. I probably wasn’t really listening. I just remember zoning into distinct focus when she reaching across the table and screamed, “For crying out loud, just pull it off,” and tore it from my skin. It hurt so, so much, but I did not cry. I just secretly hated her from then on. She could have taught me a lesson on how humans can fly and I would have tuned her out. I was done with her.
Today I cried, though. I cried only until the stoplight and then I just hyperventilated briefly and checked my makeup in the rearview mirror because I was late for a meeting at my own school and then I looked away because, as Sean says, “nobody is looking at me anyway.”
Last week I drove the four kids and Haley girl to Lake George, NY, to visit my in-laws at their postcard of a home. We drove through the night and the older kids stayed awake with me so that I did not crash. At four in the morning, we took a detour through pitch black, winding Adirondack mountain roads. We all got nauseous and kind of punchy, and then, out of our drunken tiredness, began to sing aloud every single lyric to every “High School Musical” song we could remember. When we finally arrived at the lake, we all crashed for hours and all later testified that those hours were the deepest, best hours of sleep we ever had.
On the second day of our trip, it rained and rained. We decided to swim, despite the weather and we floated out there on styrofoam noodles, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains and clear water and no one else in the world, for hours.
I don’t know why, but jumping off the dock scares me to pieces. I am fine once I am in, but the jump … gosh, I guess I am just not a “rip the bandaid off” kind of girl. The kids drifted in the water, egging me on, wanting so badly just to get out and push me in. At one point in my procrastination, I looked up at the mountains, my cheeks dripping with rain water, and I thought about the jump as a baptism of sorts. As I paced the last few steps before the ultimate jump, I said goodbye to summer. I let the water catch and hold me, a temporary womb, and I prayed to just remember that moment, the sound of it, kids laughing mixed with rain falling. I prayed to remember it months from now when we are knee deep in snow and dark mornings and piles of school work. I prayed to remember it when it’s not Quinn’s first day of Children’s House, but his first day of college.
I purposely don’t watch the news because once Martina told me to stop, after a story about child abuse lingered with me for too long. She looked at me and said, “If you hated peas, would you eat peas?” I shook my head. She concurred, and maybe this makes no sense at all, that if watching the news made me so sad, then it was not good for me. It was peas. Still, I follow former student’s blogs … students who are photographing war zones and poverty and racial injustice. I am aware of the complexities and hypocrisies and unfairness in the world and some days I think that maybe I should be writing or making art about “important, worldly things,” or that I should learn to be a quick, articulate, Russell Brand, fighting the good fight. I should be making a difference other than writing about mountain rain and bandaids (a word, by the way, that eliminated me from a fourth grade spelling bee).
I don’t know how to do that, though. I don’t know how to save the world or even be worldly. What I know for sure is that there is a sadness about motherhood that does not have voice. That momma bird pushes those tiny birds out of the nest and then nobody ever really asks what happens to the mom next.
When Quinn fell asleep tonight, he asked me if I was proud and I said I was. He said he was proud too and then he asked me if everybody was proud and I assured him they were. If I have a voice or a prayer it is the one that wants to be the serenade in the lullaby song. I want to be a homecoming. I want for that little boy who walked up those big school steps, solo, to dream big dreams and to live his life, but I want a piece of him to feel that I am the waiting lake.
It’s the only way I know to make my dent in the world. There is a tiny bruise on my heart from letting Quinn go today. I think that magic of motherhood is learning how to turn that bruise into love.
Oh, how do you do it? Both the incremental letting go that hurts and the beautifully written record of that sweetly painful longing?
“Nobody ever really asks what happens to the mom next.” And that is such a small part of it. But that is also such a big, big part of it, too.
Thank you for capturing this feeling and sharing it. School starts in 2 weeks and I will watch my two preemies climb out of the minivan and into their kindergarten classrooms. We’ve been doing our own baptisms this summer, jumping from a huge rock into the ocean. Hopefully we are ready.
Thank you. Wow, you are braver than I am when it comes to lakes. The boys always jump off this giant cliff when we visit LG, but I don’t think I could ever do it. Good luck on day 1. You will be great.
I love this, Kelly!
Thanks, Meg. Hope your new move is off to a magical and perfect start. I miss seeing your face in the pick up line xoxoxo