Friday, May 8, 2009

time and shaggy dogs and pretty flowers

Yesterday was a busy day: Faculty meeting at 10 followed by lunch with some colleagues followed by some work in my office followed by shopping and alterations errands followed by Pilates class all topped off by an evening with my husband at the retirement celebration of someone he's worked with for close to 30 years. Those of you who have attended similar events know what a peculiar form of time travel this is. We both knew R. before M. moved to join him in the little north-coastal town we then lived in, and several years later, we called them for advice about where to house-hunt in the new little city we'd followed them to. I remember their oldest son as a big bump in his mother's abdomen, then would see son and daughter at the school our kids went to together. A few years ago, I even had the good fortune to teach first the son, then the daughter, in my 1st-year English classes. All these changes, though, happened over a long period, and we were able to adjust to the reality of full-grown adults existing where once, metaphysically, was only hope and love. Last night, instead, time was speeded up bizarrely to the effect that many of those gathered to celebrate an accomplished career morphed from 30-40 to 55-65 right in front of our eyes, and then back again as our memories triumphed over the reality confronting us.

Talking over all these changes on the boat ride home in the dark, we knew ourselves to be fortunate even as we contemplated that lost youth. That sense of comfort evaporated, though, once got in the house to find a voicemail message from one of our daughters, a message obviously delivered through tears which obscured content. But she didn't say she needed us to call her back and it was after midnight, so instead we went to bed worrying about whether it was boyfriend troubles or work troubles. Those of you have adult children will know that this level of worrying never leaves -- the parenting gig truly is a lifelong commitment.

This morning, she didn't pick up when I called, so I left a message hoping she was feeling a bit better, giving her my love, and telling her I was available to chat whenever she wanted.

The point of this Shaggy Dog story? Girl just called to tell me that last night's call was simply a daughter-mother reachout, calling to share the tears at last night's episode of Grey's Anatomy. Knowing I'm addicted as well, assuming I was not answering the phone 'cause I didn't want to be distracted during showtime, she just let loose a wildness of tears about the whole Izzie situation (will say no more for fear of spoilage). Pretty funny -- and another indication that maybe I could "stand down" just a bit, relinquish a little bit more sense of responsibility, trust that the kids can solve their own problems. Replace worrying with laughing whenever possible? Sign me up!

These photos of a Clematis alpina are very similar to ones I posted last year -- I love this reminder of other configurations of time than the linear one I saw manifest so clearly last night. Nice to know that while some experiences are gone forever along with my youth, others will circle round year after year.

How are you aware of time in your life these days?


  1. I love that story about your daughter calling you and crying and wanting to share that moment with you. So very dear and so telling about the kind of connection you have. Lovely. and, the Cleamatis ain't bad either.

  2. Oh mom, it was such and emotional episode, I was home alone and I hadn't had a good cry in so long. It reminded me of when I was younger and you and I would rent movies just to have a good bawl.

  3. My dear, departed friend Maya's Granny used to say that having a child, even a grown child, was like having your heart walking around outside your body. We probably never stop worrying completely.

    GA note, even my husband was sniffling a bit at the end of that one. ;-)

  4. Mater, thank you for this post. It was insightful and truthful. I read with keen interest the stories from parents whose children are a little farther along than mine--I always anticipate the change or losses before they happen. I have one daughter, on the brink of teenager hood, and I need all the examples of mothering I can find. I appreciate yours. You gave me permission to continue to be a mom even as my kid "needs" me less.

  5. Thanks, Belette, I'm really lucky, I know.
    Meg: It would have been a good one for us to watch together -- with chips or ice cream?
    Pseu: Yes! Maya's Granny had it absolutely right.
    As for GA, I can't believe I had to miss it -- my son once noted that almost every episode of it had something that made him almost cry.
    Sallymandy: I don't think we're very good at acknowledging the role that elders, in the form of parents, still play in the lives of adults. We have put so much emphasis on individuation (over community, really) that we pretend young adults should be completely independent at 18, yet so many of us could benefit from all kinds of mentoring long, long past that. Finding the balance -- allowing kids to be independent enough to build their own accomplishments and learn from their own mistakes yet still supporting them as you might support any friend -- is tough, but I think it's worth working towards.

  6. Getting the call, whether about TV, a job interview, love, or how to make hollandaise, is what counts.

    Thanks for this wonderful story.

  7. I joined Facebook a few months ago. A trickle of old friends have found me via FB. One posted a picture of my 20 yo self (over 20 yrs ago!), before I got sick.

    Who is that beaming, trusting and hopeful girl?

  8. Duchesse: I think so, too, altho' I'm glad to be moving away from the stormy years of ups-and-downs of new love! Fielding calls about carrot cakes and what-to-do-with-bulbs-after-flowering -- two of last weeks' questions -- are so much easier than hearing an adult child (such an oxymoron, no?) cry over a hurt heart.
    BMGM: Have you managed to answer that tough question? Are there elements of her still tucked away? Were some of her hopes validated?


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