Friday, July 25, 2014

Kids and Birthdays and Memories and Life . . . You know, your basic Kitchen Sink!

I've been slammed by a hit of depression this week, but I'm hoping I've put most of it behind me. I do wonder how much hormones have to do with these swampy patches. Solidly past menopause, I nonetheless suspect one last whip of its scorpion tail -- anyone else experience this? Really hoping I move on from this stage soon -- you know, to that phase that's always just around the corner, the place of contentment, satisfied achievement, happy competence, etc. etc. . . . Long, long ago, the early or mid-70s, I suspect,my girlfriend and I watched one of those made-for-TV movies, this one about a group of women friends who, beginning in their 20s, would meet for lunch, long intense conversations catching up on their lives, and at some point in each visit, would repeat a variant of the phrase "When we're 30, we're going to be. . . "; "When we're 40, we'll know what we . . . " ;"When we're 50, we'll be settled with. . . ".  She and I used to paraphrase over the years, laughing wryly, and both of us have long ago recognized that there's no point assuming that "When we're 70, we' l l. . . ."

One can hope, though, no?

Meanwhile, it's Birthday Time in our family, and I have much to be Happy about. Our oldest (daughter) and our youngest (son) share the same birthday, as I've mentioned here before. Coincidentally, we've had reason to peruse and edit both their resumés over the last few weeks, and it's been an odd and gratifying experience. So accomplished, such a wealth of experience, and above all, so Adult! I remember their original birthdays so well. . .

And I have two little anecdotes to share, one relating to each of them.

First, my daughter. She texted me a few days ago about arrangements for this weekend's visit --she's dropping off our granddaughter who we'll have to ourselves for a week, after we have the weekend with Little Girl and her Mom. I texted back, wondering if Daughter had her childhood copy of Charlotte's Web because I thought I'd like to read it to Nola, who's coming up to 6, this fall. B texted back that they'd already read CW, but perhaps she could bring Book 2 of the Narnia series, as they were just finishing up The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

If I agree to this selection, it will be the 3rd, 4th, perhaps even 5th time, that I've read the book (Prince Caspian) aloud, given that I read the series first to my younger siblings decades ago, and then to my own children as they were ready.Whichever title I end up reading next week, I couldn't be happier that I'm reading to a 5-year old granddaughter for whom it will be (at least) the third chapter book she's listened to. I had somehow imagined that Nana would be the first to read a children's novel to her, but I'm not in the least disappointed to have missed out on that. Rather, I'm thrilled to learn that my daughter's already picked up the torch.

Nola loves to sit with a video on Netflix or Youtube while her Dad or Mom makes dinner at the end of a day. She's keen to find out what games we have loaded on our phones or iPads (Nana and Granddad are pretty sad prospects here, I have to say). And her immediate career goal is to be a Pop Star, driven by steady attention to tunes coming from any media possible, with or without video enhancement.

But she's also reading, and she loves to be read to. She can picture a story in her own mind, no external imagery required. She can contend with a vocabulary that is more complex, (and more arcane, as well, in the case of the Narnia books) that what she normally hears in an everyday environment -- indeed, she loves adding new words to her lexicon, "awkward" being one she was peppering into sentences while we were in Italy.

This makes me happier, really, than I can tell. It puts this little one in a long line of young readers and listeners, and my mother, Nola's Granny, would have been so pleased to know how her love of books has carried on. So it might be my daughter's birthday today, but she's the one who's given the gift, the one that keeps on giving. . . .

Second, my son. He may have forgotten the conversation between front seat and back seat on the long drive from Bari to Peschici last month. I almost had, myself, until this lovely piece that Lisa re-posted recently from her archives reminded me. Like hers, my all-grown once-upon-a-time-baby boy showed me that what we do as moms/parents does get appreciated and remembered (we might know this, at some level, but having it articulated when least expected -- aaaahhhhh).

On that drive, I'd let my son sit in the front with his dad, not only in deference to his longer legs, but also because Pater, no more tech-savvy than myself, had rented a car without GPS, and Z had an iPhone with a huge data plan and a chatty Siri. Never mind that chatty Siri neglected to point out that the "scenic route" we chose instead of the default, more direct trajectory was currently under construction, heavily potholed and so narrow that reversing would be regularly required to accommodate oncoming traffic. That just gave us more time to catch up after weeks apart, myself and my daughter-in-law talking wine estates and food and Italian culture in the back seat, the guys talking the same plus basketball and World Cup soccer and why Pater should get with the iWorldofTechnology in the front.

The conversations often overlapped, of course, and then I'd have to lean forward (my hearing aids were lost before the trip, you might remember), and Z would have to crane his neck 'round to aim his words to the back seat. Somehow, at one point,something in my conversation with DIL reminded me of Z as a boy, and I raised my voice to catch his attention, reminding him of the way he would know, as young as 4 or 5, exactly which pair of shoes he wanted to go home with.

It was a bit of a ritual back then, the new shoe buying. Even though he was our fourth, and I'd relaxed in so many areas, I was all about having proper shoes, properly fitted, and there was a particular, dedicated kids' shoe store that we always went to. Z would walk with me to the section of wall that displayed the offerings in his size, and he'd spot them. And once he'd identified the Holy Grail shoe for the season, he could not be dissuaded, and I quickly learned not even to try. He was always very co-operative about making the choice from within the established parameters (he wouldn't, for example, fall for a sandal if he knew we were shopping for a high-top sneaker), but once his affections were engaged, he wouldn't shift. (His older sister, on the other hand, even through her teens, could be counted on to return a pair of jeans she'd sworn undying love for -- almost every single time, within a day or two.)

Z had been reminded of this propensity before, but he indulged my retelling. And then he went one better. On one occasion, he reminded me, he had been torn. As usual, within minutes of getting to the store, he'd known which pair best suited our guidelines and his personal aesthetics. But this time, there was an outlier, a rival for his affections. He could see right away that they weren't quite as practical -- besides the teacher-required leave-at-school gym shoe, and the rainboots that somehow got left in the closet almost as much as they got worn, his pricey leather runners or court shoes, whether high-top or low, were his only everyday shoes. With four kids, that was what the budget stretched to, especially given how often they had to be replaced for fast-growing feet.

He got all this, and he was always a pretty thoughtful guy, but he was struggling a bit before he definitively made "the right choice," and put the perhaps trendier pair down, followed me and the sales clerk to the cash register. And there must have been something in that quiet struggle that made me shrug away the budget and take home two pairs of shoes, for the first time (and, I'm quite sure, last; it was a precedent worth quickly negating).

In the car last month, he wasn't remembering all the lead-up, of course. That came back to me, from a mom's perspective. What he remembered was getting home, going straight to his room with his new shoes, lacing them on and, with the door shut against discovery, jumping on the bed to air out his exultation. His hearty late-twenties chuckles as he recounted that bed-jumping told me how fresh the memory was, how important my long-ago decision was.

 And again, another gift that keeps on giving. It was always an effort, back in those busy days, to find time to take one child out on his own, but I worked at engineering that special shoe-shopping date, among others, with my boy. I remember the quick calculation that went on as I walked the few steps to that cash register, and I know that something got left off that month's list to make room for a second pair of shoes. So it's beyond gratifying to know that these moments, a mother's small actions, have happy reverberations two decades later. And that her adult son would share those generously, rounding the circle.

As Lisa says of child-rearing in her eloquent post,   It’s not just that you can’t tell if you are doing it right, it’s that you don’t get to say what any indicators that you are doing it right might look like. So it's wonderfully satisfying and reassuring and absolutely, astonishingly happy-making to know that I must have done something right because Look! Look what I helped make!

Happy Birthday, B and Z! Love you, Miss you, Very, very Proud. Have a wonderful day -- maybe even jump on a bed (this time, one I didn't pay for!)


20 comments:

  1. It is uplifting to consider our adult children and to appreciate that they each have a different nature and different sensibilities. There really is no scale on which to measure the success of parenting. I certainly thought, like you, that life would be more settled when I got older. Now I know that it will never be. Life will always change and in some situations it is considerably less stable. Perhaps this instability creates the strength to endure the inevitable losses of older age. A counsellor friend of mine once told me that it is the distance between our actual lives and that perceived place of contentment, competence…. that creates our unhappiness. I'm not sure...

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    1. It's almost a relief, isn't it, though, when we finally recognize that Complete Plenitude is just around the next corner. It's not us individually that it's eluding, but rather it's the reality for all. . . .

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  2. Life is constantly in flux...
    I think hormones have a lot to do with our moods and women of our age certainly have raging hormones! I thought I was totally over the hump but hot flashes and night sweats are back with a vengeance.
    I wonder if our children realize how challenging it is to parent until they become parents themselves and experience it first hand.
    A lovely post today mater...

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    1. Thanks, Hostess. It's interesting to watch our children learn firsthand about parenting, isn't it?

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  3. Aw thank you. I'm honored. And your story is so beautiful. I can just imagine him jumping on the bed in joy. It's that kind of calculus, the knowing of what mattered, that makes a good mother. And helps our wonderful children grow up to be wonderful adults. xoxoxoxox.

    I don't get depressed, but anxious. It comes and goes. I've come to suspect that it's always going to happen, and that the best I can do is cease to fear my anxiety and to treat it as an annoying but familiar friend. Depression may be harder to shake, but you talk about it openly now, and maybe that's the equivalent.

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    1. Yes, that's the kind of calculus, and both its frustration and its beauty is that restrospective element. You can't know, at the time, but when you get a glimpse later of what you "did right" it's a moment of true grace.
      It's funny how hard it was at first to talk about depression and every single time, I worry that there's a tipping point that will make folks shy away. So much of my identity feels constructed around Solid, Practical, Generally Cheery Competence -- or at least a need to manifest that. It's scary to risk people seeing behind the mask -- or believing that the other mask is all there is. . . .(see, I have anxiety too, along with the depression ;-)

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  4. I'm sitting here smiling at these two lovely stories of yours that have triggered other memories for me. Parenting is always stepping into the unknown, trusting one's instincts and hoping to make the right choices. It's only when one looks back that evaluation can occur. It's satisfying to have your children affirm choices you've made.

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    1. Happy to have made you smile, Lorrie. It's so lovely to have them affirm that, isn't it -- and, of course, sometimes they do that just by being their wonderful selves!

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  5. I really hope that in 10 or 15 years, I can look at my now-teen and see a fully formed, responsible, achieving adult. I can only imagine how much satisfaction - and relief that gives you. And worry not, your tech-savvy 6 year old will have some good games uploaded on your iPhones very soon.

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    1. It's tough for all to do that in those mid-teen years. So hard for the young woman, so hard for the mom. You'll get there. Meanwhile, if I remember correctly, there are moments. . . . I'd clutch onto those as to one of those tiny pegs on a climbing wall, desperately looking for another place to put my foot on the steep surface. . . Eventually you get to the top and the world looks very different. Bon courage! (and chuckling at your comment about Nola's probable tech skills)

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  6. Such lovely joys to enjoy while sitting on my deck with birds chirping this afternoon. When my book group was discussing Life after Life" by Kate Atkinson last night we brought up just that theme. We often think it's the "big" decisions that have so much impact on the course or content of our lives when perhaps more frequently it's the quiet accumulation of little moments that are steering us. What a lovely little moment for you and your son, then and now. As for the depression, I just went through a mini bought earlier this month and I think it's my own existential angst that has surge until it is tamped down again by the good things around me.

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    1. Life After Life is a brilliant book to bring into view when talking about the little things we did, in the moment, making up as we went along, as parents. Actually, it's just a brilliant book all around, isn't it? (at least, hope you enjoyed it!)
      I admit I've been prone to the existensial angst throughout my life (and I love what you say about it being tamped down by life's surrounding good things) -- it's seemed worse in the last couple of years, which may be circumstances but I somewhat suspect hormones. . .

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  7. It is funny how many of our memories are related to our children and shoes. One of my best was when I took both sons shoe shopping. The older one (as usual) picked his out quickly and was ready to go. The younger one (age 2 or so) was uncertain until he saw a pair of red, sparkly mary janes. Despite our best attempts to dissuade him they were the only pair he wanted to try on. The store did not have them in his size, so big brother, who hates shopping to this day, looked all over to find the brightest pair of shoes he could. They were so ugly, but the little one was thrilled. They are both grown now, but the younger still talks about the time we found him the "color shoes" and how loved he felt. It's memories like this that keep me going on the down days. Aren't we lucky to have them?
    Lynn

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    1. Lynn, that is such a charming story, and how wonderful that it was big brother that worked to make your younger son happy. Just lovely. Neat that they still treasure that memory.

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  8. Love your stories. Like Lorrie, I'm smiling as I read them.
    I recently read a lovely book called The Last Enchantments...a coming of age story...in which the author says..."When you're finally a grown-up, one of the things you find out is that there are no grown-ups." I love that...how else can we explain the fact that we never really leave our younger selves behind? Me... I've not left menopause entirely behind either. Thought about HRT a few years ago, but my GP said that when I eventually went off it I'd have to go through the same s**t again anyway. Do you think that when I'm 60 it will all be good and I'll have it all figured out? No, me neither.
    Hope your feeling chipper soon. That reading aloud marathon coming up will help, I'm sure.

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    1. Thanks, Susan. This is so true, isn't it? We're lucky, really, that we get to keep growing, although to children we might seem all grown up.

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  9. I do so identify with this! I love having grown up children. I love seeing them parent and am astonished and impressed by how very good at it they seem to be. I am not sure why I am astonished really. They are entirely competent, professionally successful, kind and loving adults but their own childhood seems so recent that the fact that they have children of their own continues to surprise me. I do love the fact that they have become the kind of people I would love to have as friends, the sort I would meet at a party and think "oh you are interesting!" I also love the fact that from time to time they mother me and take their share in the difficult adult things which attach to the care of my father. Adult children rock.

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    1. They do rock, don't they? And you're so right that it shouldn't be particularly astonishing, but sometimes I'm just gobsmacked by it, bouleversée. Glad you're having the same wonderful experience.

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  10. Loved your stories today....brought back wonderful memories of our kids' antics and, yes, they do remember the good things as well as the frustrating moments......I am sorry about your depression. I, too, am well past menopause but I swear every couple months or so I act and feel like I am premenstrual. I eat, I worry, I am angry for no reason, I need to cry and then it's over....and, yes, I still have hot flashes...do they ever go away or subside? YIKES!......Janie

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    1. I'm sure there must still be hormonal tides ebbing and flowing in some distant, somewhat subdued internal ocean. . .

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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