Life in the Fast Lane…

SamAnna

Bride: Would it be wrong to go to bed this early again?

Frank: You have to get to 9:30, otherwise you’re officially elderly.

Bride:  What am I supposed to do for an hour?

Frank: Write in your journal.

Bride: Did that. My entry was “I’m too tired to watch TV or read.”

Frank: Why don’t you bake something.

Bride: This is my “Are you high?” look.

Frank: We could retire to the bedroom and trip the light fantastic.

Bride: What does that mean?

Frank: I think you know.

Bride: Would you prefer brownies or a bundt cake?

Do we have to?

Cowgirl Rosie
For those of you who don’t know my mother, Rosie, let me just say she has always been a straight shooter.

So I wasn’t too surprised when she left the following message on our home answering machine the other day:

“It’s me.  You must be out hiking…You know, it might be time to cut the umbilical cord and take the kids names off your message…”

After shrieking “Akkkkkk!” I had the following conversation with myself:

“I HATE that idea.”

“Well, she may have a point.”

“They’ll feel rejected! Unloved! Erased!”

“They never call, so they’ll never know.”

I’ll spare you the rest but trust me, it’s gone on like that for about a week.

So, I need help.  Specifically, yours.

Is it time…

Boys become men…

fishing

All this talk of road trips and covert phone calls got me thinking. I’ve learned a thing or two in my many years as wife to Sam and mother to three sons.  One, men and women have, shall we say, different conversational needs.  And two, there comes a time in every male child’s life when he goes to bed a boy and wakes up a man.  You won’t notice it at breakfast. In fact, you might not notice anything different for a long time.  Not, perhaps, until you are at the start of a road trip…

***

The minivan was stuffed with gear. Sam had made his fourth trip to “secure the perimeter”, assuring himself that doors he had already locked four times were, in fact, locked.  The boys were settled in, GameBoys and iPods at the ready.  I was the last to get in the car and when I did, I turned brightly to the men in my life and asked,

“So, we have five hours. What’re we going to talk about?”

Silence. Until that moment, I don’t think I knew the meaning of the word.

Finally, Henry decided someone had to set me straight.

“Mom, it’s a road trip. We don’t talk.”

***

Which reminds me of another thing I’ve learned: When traveling with men, bring a large stack of magazines.

Covert Calling

photo

When the kids were living at home, we never picked up the phone. Ever. It wasn’t even a screening situation, we just didn’t pick up. Now that they’re gone, we screen, but only because we’re hoping it’s one of them calling. (As if)

Marital discord followed this shift in phone behavior. When one of the kids finally called, we got on the phone together. Big mistake.  She hated it when I interrupted to make boy-centric cracks. I hated having to hold the reciever away from my ear when she spoke.  Bickering and changes in sleeping arrangements followed.

As mature parents do, we moved on to a new communication modality, talking to the caller separately, one after the other. The problem here was that the first one to the phone got an animated conversation, fresh and full of detail. The second one got Carl from “Sling Blade”, begrudgingly repeating the same details in monotone, or, worse, got blown off entirely with “I gotta go. Mom will tell you everything.”

So, I’m done. No more racing across the house to get to the phone first. No more wrestling my partner for the receiver. From now on, I’m going with covert calling. Shut the office door. Dial up the offspring and have a lengthy and fulfilling conversation that I can gloat about over dinner.

Now all I have to do is figure out a way to get the kids to pick up…

Damn, I’m good…

photo

Every day I make an entry in a journal about what my boys are up to. Sometimes it’s a page, sometimes a paragraph, sometimes a word. I made my first entry 24 years ago, when the oldest, Henry, was born.

Now, with all of them gone, I go back to the old journals, yes, to reminisce, but also to research. What were the seminal events in their early lives that made them the young men they are today, and what role did I play in those formative moments?

I found this in my 1996 Journal: “I helped Quinn build his first model today. A Revell B-52 bomber. When we were done, he pointed out that I glued the wings on upside down. Oops.”

And this, from the 1998 Journal: “I assisted Quinn with his science fair project, a miniature boat motor. Fucking disaster. I’ve always sucked at this science shit.”

1999 Journal: “Quinn and I went to the beach to launch the rocket we built. Descent chute failed to deploy. Plastic astronaut perished in crash. My bad.”

And then this, in the “Christmas Lists” section of my 2000 journal: “Quinn asked for a subscription to Popular Mechanics. Good for him!”

2002: “I asked Quinn if he needed help with his science fair project. He said, ‘Thanks, I’ll do it myself this time.’ What’s up with that!?”

And this, from my 2010 journal: “Quinn declared engineering his major. Wants to specialize in nautical engineering. Wow!”

And then, in 2011, “Quinn got an internship working in a boatyard in Brazil, helping a boat designer with this project…”

fromRhino.151

 

Damn, I’m good.

The things that matter…

funny what matters

Here in the empty nest, we’re lightening our load.  I only want to carry things that are either purposeful, beautiful, or meaningful – or some combination of the three. Everything else can go.

Yesterday, I came across some red and white checked fabric. On its own, it’s nothing special and so with little hesitation I threw it on top of the give-away pile. But then I remembered the child-sized mattress it had covered, by the bay window in Quinn and Eliot’s room in our old house on 7th Street.  And I remembered that the mattress had hosted much raucous play and eased many a nervous sleepover guest to slumber. When we moved, we left the mattress behind because all our boys, and all their friends, had grown out of it. I saved the fabric, and brought it with us to this house, and it has waited all this time to be purposeful and meaningful and beautiful again.

I picked the fabric off the pile, folded it carefully and placed it with the other keepers. Like us, it will have a new life, someday soon.