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.
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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