Gray on Gray…

Little boots, sit by the door... waiting for children who have grown up.

Little boots, sit by the door… waiting for children who have grown up.

I am sitting at a beautiful Inn on an island in the San Juan Islands. It’s as magical and beautiful, as that sounds. At a writer’s retreat for the weekend, I’ve had trouble writing– lulled by the stunning beauty around me, and the welling of gratitude in my heart. The wet snow is pattering on the roof; music plays softly– a soundtrack of songs that speaks to how I’m feeling. I look dreamily out at the gray sky, the gray water, the darker gray islands, with only the evergreens to break the monochrome palette… and my emotions overwhelm me. I gaze out; I blink, and it all comes back to me.

As I sit, an email comes in to inform me that my twenty-one year old son has claimed the miles from one of my airline accounts. I told him he could; yet suddenly I am filled with such melancholy. I envy his freedom and youth. Momentarily longing to reclaim my own, a part of me resents that in using my points, he has taken the shadow of hope that I might use them myself– for an adventure I know is not likely anymore. This routine email also causes me to tumble headlong into missing my little boy again, even as I feel happy knowing that he is dancing across the planet– traveling with little care, other than saving for the tickets. He is content to sleep where he can lie down. He is hungry for adventure, as I once was– as I still am. He has a youthful lightness that allows things to just unfold without worry. I love that he is seeing so many amazing things before he commits to careers, a partner, a life that has schedules that conflict with travel itineraries. At twenty-one, he has studied in China for a semester; worked in Taiwan for a summer; explored Cambodia, Thailand and Laos with the one he loves. He has been to Peru, Australia, England, and Greece with us; and now he will spend two months this summer exploring Columbia with his friends, then attend the World Cup in Argentina, and finally trekking in Bolivia with his father. The world is his oyster!

Yet as he dances, my heart swells and I desperately miss the small boy who once saw me as his entire world. I can still see so clearly his earnest face; his twinkle; his desire to make me smile. I hear his little voice, asking me how electricity gets from the ground to the wires– a question beyond my knowledge even then. He was asking questions that made me stumble, long before he was in big boy pants. My mischief-maker, my challenge, my delicious love… where did the years go?  I miss the nights when he would pull me into his arms for a kiss goodnight, and I could nuzzle his sweet neck and smell his yummy little boyness, as he kissed my cheek.  The days when he would bring bouquets of flowers, pulled from my precious garden, are gone. To go back– I would reframe from chastising, and linger with my nose in those buds a few minutes longer. I would take in his pleased expression and bathe in that hopeful look that told me that I was the love of his life. Now he has other loves… while he is still, and will always be one of the great loves of my life.

As my daughter carves her life in a distant Holy Land, I remember her small hand, always seeking mine when we walked. I long to hear her tiny voice, singing or talking to herself, wherever she went. Her giant blue eyes followed me everywhere, as I longed for some solitude. Now that hard won solitude is filled with the desire to feel her head against my breast, and her tiny weight asleep in my lap. I knew all along that the day would come when she would be far away; early on, she walked without looking back to see if I followed. Still, her world then only extended a few feet beyond my arms; now it encompasses places that I must look up on Wikipedia.

As Little Man, rushes toward graduation, and searches for somewhere to spend next year, I know I will fall down this challenging rabbit hole of loss, all over again. My baby, my youngest, he still loves the safety of the home I make for him; but he is beginning to look beyond our front door, and yearn for more, as his siblings did before him. He searches on-line for places to go, for new things to do, and even as I encourage him, a part of me wants to pull him back and make him stay. Stay, sweet boy; don’t go. For now, he is still happiest when he’s near to us, but I know that a big world awaits him and it all can change in another blink. Then, he too will be gone.

Sneaking up on them, my little boy saw me... always so aware of his surroundings.

Sneaking up on them, my little boy saw me… always so aware of his surroundings.

The memories of my three children, when they were little and our world was so small, become sharper as I age. A simple email informing me that travel points have been used, brings such a visceral slide into longing.  Wasn’t I just their mommy– the cocoon where they felt safest, where they giggled and cried and plotted and danced and sought comfort and dreamed– such a short time ago? Now I am often only the mother they check in with. How is it that it all vanished in a blink, and yet comes back so easily in another blink, looking out at the grays? If I could hold my eyes open, and change the course of time, would I? This longing I feel only heightens the moments, the sweet sweet memories, that linger in my mind. The knowledge that it is truly gone, and can not be reclaimed, is equal portions of bitter and sweet. As hard as it is, given the chance to do it again, I would still blink.

*     *     *

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About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
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39 Responses to Gray on Gray…

  1. Omg, Dawn. I’m sitting here choking back tears! It’s funny that I read this today. Our boy has been so challenging lately, the closer and closer we get to 2 and he has developed this very strong attachment to me. Some days it drives me nuts because he just has to be near me every second. Then other times I feel so loved by it. And at night, every night as I lay him down and walk out of the room he blows me kisses. I’m the only one who gets these nightly kisses and it hit me last night that someday, they’ll be gone. Someday he’ll be too big for mommy kisses and the someday he will be on his own. I don’t know why then, but it so hard and then I read this. Motherhood is so bittersweet, yin and yang, heaven and hell on earth.


    • Flip and flop! Yes, it’s almost impossible to truly appreciate it all when your deep in it. It’s exhausting and lovely and sweet and infuriating… and then it’s gone, and you want it all back. Truly, it blows me away. All I can really say is try to savor this when you can. It issn’t always easy, but NO one will ever love you as much or in the same way that your little boy does right now… good and bad. It’s an entirely different love, and it really is fleeting. It’s so true that when all that need is coming our way, it doesn’t always feel so delicious, but man, I miss it so much!

      I’m deeply touched that this moved you, Deanna. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and breathe… breathe.


  2. Bittersweet Dawn, as I think of my own three and all the changes these past few years.

    I blinked.

    Eldest is getting married later this year…and on we go 🙂


  3. aww…. so sweet and a bit sad too. I hear you. I just found an envelope of one son’s elementary school writing- adorable and so innocent and funny. My daughter has gone native in CA- got her driver’s license and registered the car there. A small thing, but it seems so grown up. I still miss the teenage years when it seemed we were so busy running around to see them in concerts and sports and their friends would come and go, eating their way through the house. Chin up! You’ll have lots of adventures ahead of you– hey, a writing retreat sounds like a great one!


    • Our larger writing group does some really cool “write outs,” where we go and write for a day. It’s always productive and fun. This time, we just made a whole weekend… it was divine! It’s strange to believe your girl is already settled out here; it seems like she just left! Of course, only for me… right? Those little art projects and letters we come across, could just about undo me some days! I hear you. 😉


  4. jgroeber says:

    Gorgeous post. Thank you. This is the attitude adjustment I needed to bring to Monday. Grab the moments, smell their skin, cherish the clinging, gripping hands. I will remember to do that today thanks to you.


  5. Great post as usual, Dawn. There’s no way to hold back time is there. My son is 37 and my daughter is 35.


  6. Cathy Ulrich says:

    I am so awed by all the love in this piece, Dawn. The joy and sadness all balled into one heart – just beautiful…


  7. El Guapo says:

    It’s the time spent mothering and teaching and encouraging them that makes it possible to go fearlessly forth.

    And after reading this, it looks you exploded through the wall of writers block.


    • Thanks Guapo! Amazing how that happens, right? Often when I sit down and don’t know what to write about… I find the most delicious stuff. It all depends on the day, my surroundings,and what moves me. When it’s my kids… I tend to dive deep. 😉 Thanks for taking the time darlin’.


  8. Lillian says:

    Oh this one has me all choked up today! You’re right, all we can do is blink and keep moving forward and keep loving. Any chance that your youngest will stay nearby for school?? That would be nice;) Your retreat sounds incredible!


  9. Carrie Rubin says:

    Ah, that will be my fate in just over four years (assuming both of my kids live elsewhere for college). Hard to believe. On the other hand, I WOULD love to fly off to San Jaun for some beach time without having to worry about who will stay with the kids. 😉

    Have fun, and don’t spend all that time writing. Those of us stuck in winter want to live vicariously through you!

    Lovely piece as always.


    • Thanks Carrie… let me be very clear about a few things: I was at a writing retreat, less than an our from my home. It snowed like crazy on the island, and we all were a little stuck. That said, it was a glorious place to be stuck! It’s the San Juan Islands, in WA state! Not San Juan, Puerto Rico!! :-p I’m not there yet… The whole purpose of the weekend, was to write– writing retreat. But, trust me… we had plenty of fun! 😉

      Enjoy these four years you have with your boys, Carrie… they can be so challenging, but they do go by so fast! Thanks so much for your wonderful comment.


  10. This is so beautiful, Dawn – especially that line.


  11. Lynnette Jensen says:

    You do a great job articulating the highs and lows of being a Mother. You validated my feelings. Thanks for a great read!


  12. DCTdesigns says:

    Dawn the San Juans are deadly distracting. But after reading this I’d say you pushed through valiantly. I have no doubt you’ll do the same when your last little one flies from the nest.What a beautiful tribute to motherhood, growing up and new beginnings.


  13. susanissima says:

    Nice the way your carried your memories with you to the island. You love your kiddies so much…they are a huge part of who you are. We are so lucky to have been/to be mommies. Just wait until you become a “Gooma” and your little grandperson looks into your eyes and you see your child and yourself in one gorgeous little body!


  14. Ruth Lerner says:

    Dawn dear, This is you at your best. I was very touched by it, and brought a lot of my own “stuff” to it. It’s really a wonderful piece of writing…. loved it! Ruth

    Ruth Lerner


  15. Valery says:

    Sure do love the way you write when you’re having trouble writing! 😉
    If you really want a tear-jerker, play some old videos from when they were little. Someone did that for me recently and I was quite unprepared for the waterworks! I remember the last time my son reached for my hand. He didn’t give it a second thought, but I silently bubble-wrapped that precious moment. I knew he was just about at that age.
    Someday they will wish they had more time to spend with us – and we’ll quietly do a little happy dance!


  16. Definitely bitter and sweet.


  17. Pingback: Saturday Feature: Tales From The Motherland | From Casinos To Castles

  18. Pingback: Gray on Gray… | LAB

  19. Reblogged this on TALES FROM THE MOTHERLAND and commented:

    I posted this five years ago, and while so much has changed in the lives of my three kids, the feelings I wrote here are just as strong, just as real. I now have two grandchildren–– something I could barely fathom then. My life has settled into one of reconnecting with my kids, not being tied to them or living with or near them.

    It is also striking and interesting to read through the comments again, and realize which connections I’ve sustained and which I’ve lost… thru’ my less than active blogging. Some of the folks who read this then and commented, have now seen their wee ones fledge as well. Oh, the earth just continues to turn. And we survive it.



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