Monday, September 12, 2011

Expanding My Horizons

Millie writes:

Yesterday was a banner occasion at our house – it was Jack’s 17th birthday.  We celebrated with fried chicken and cake, movies and card games, Mochi Balls and lots of laughter.

Privately, Lance and I took a more solemn moment to observe a fact of significance only to us: It was the last “child’s” birthday party we would host for one of our own.

I’ve been noticing that a lot of the recent milestones in my life – at least as they relate to the “parenting” aspect of my life – are “lasts” rather than “firsts.”  The fledglings are trying their wings and will be making longer and longer flights until they’ve left the nest for good.

I’ve spent 26 years amassing wisdom about diapering, colic, schooling, last-minute Halloween costumes and the PTA, and I’m not about to leave that part of me completely behind.  Once a Mama, always a Mama is my motto.

Old tradition speaks of a three-faced goddess who shares the aspects of Maiden, Mother and Crone.  On one hand this division can be explained completely biologically: pre-menarche, fertile and post-menopausal; on the other it’s an emotional progression from girl to woman to – well, there is no other word for it but “crone!”

“Crone” has always been one of my least-favorite words.  Not only does it just sound ugly, it’s derived from the Old Northern French word “caroijne,” meaning “carrion.”  That’s right, gals!  Once we’re no longer in the Breeder category, we’re filed under “the decaying flesh of dead animals!”

Well, I’m taking “Crone” back. 

For one thing, now that someone who’s 50 can reasonably expect to live another 30 years, it’s ludicrous to consider the end of the child-rearing window the end of a woman’s vitality. 

For another, there are a lot of us out here.  I’m near the tag-end of the Baby Boomer generation and there are at least two generations of people before us who are nowhere near finished yet! 

There is no graduation ceremony for a Mom who’s done a good job – no gold watch, no processional, and no speeches.  As with so much else related to motherhood, the only thing people can tell you is that “you’ll know it when it happens.”  I’m not quite ready to join Mollie on the stand as a Mother Emeritus (I’ve got at least another year of hands-on work to do before Jack and Sassy graduate from high school), but I can tell that something’s happening.

I plan to document my journey into Cronehood.  The only thing I know for sure is that (like motherhood) it is not for the faint of heart – nor (me being me) will it be for the timid of ear.

Whether you’re a maiden, a mother or a sister-Crone, won’t you join me?

If we're going anyhow, we may as well have a few laughs along the way!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Millie writes:

Today is my last first day of school.

Oh, sure, there will be First Days during the college years, but those aren't the same somehow. For the last 22 years, each September there has been at least one child who has woken up early one morning soon after Labor Day, thinking, "It's the first day of school!" (with varying inflections depending upon the child).

22 years of new clothes from the skin out, carefully chosen weeks ago and laid out smooth the night before.

22 years of healthy breakfasts and First Day treats (a funky pen, silver pencils, puppy pocket calendars).

22 years of First Day photos, smiling faces rising higher each year against the panels of the door.

22 years of "It's time to go!"

22 years of "Travel as a set! See you after school! Have a great day!"

Half of those 22 years we've had one or more kids in high school; today our last two began their Senior Year. This morning was like 22 others, with oatmeal and holographic pencils, stiff new jeans and sharp new haircuts. In the photos, Jack's head was higher than the wreath on the door; Sassy actually smiled instead of sticking out her tongue.

Oh, sure, it's not over yet. There are 9 months still to enjoy - but (like being pregnant with your last child) this year's events carry the bittersweetness of The Last Time.

The last time we watch Grease with new high school seniors. (Hey, can't send a kid off to school without an earworm or two!) The last time I have to fill out pages and pages of take-home Back to School paperwork. The last time I'll be a member of a PTA. The last Prom, the last speech tournament, the last school concert. (Okay, I might not be too choked up about that final one.)

Oh, well. Sassy and Jack left the house this morning full of good cheer and hope, so I will do the same. I will enjoy my annual Switch the Summer Decor to Fall Decor sweep of the rooms, and make the last first after-school snack of the year. I'll air out the house and then close it up tight (it's supposed to reach nearly 100 degrees today). I'll try to remember just what it is I do with myself during the "normal" months.

I will do whatever it takes to get "Beauty School Dropout" out of my head.

Good luck, Class of 2012!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The REAL New Year

Millie writes:

To quote Jan Struther’s Mrs. Miniver, to my mind September “. . . is the real New Year. That laborious affair in January [is] nothing but a name.”

Going back to school is inextricably bound up with this month, even if we haven’t actually gone back to school for decades. September means a new start, another chance to get it right, to “do better.” September ushers in sweater weather, crisp mornings and trees robed in scarlets, oranges and golds to rival any fireworks display.

In September we’re ready to learn new things, and to see old things in new ways.

Take a moment, as this hectic month unfolds, to look at your family with fresh eyes. You are very familiar with the many ways in which you show your love to them – large or small, everything you do for your family is a mute testimonial to your affection.

How long has it been since you noticed the many unspoken ways in which they show their love for you?

“I love you” can be said in a lot of different ways:

The son who puts “your” cup in the front of the dishwasher when he loads it each night, so your groping hand can find it easily at 6 a.m.;

The daughter who sends you a quick text to let you know she’s arrived at her destination, even though you argued before she left;

The son who tucks you into bed when you’re feeling sickly, complete with a story and a song;

The daughter who gives you beautiful jewelry or art supplies on every occasion, because she recognizes a kindred spirit - even though all she’s ever seen you do is housework, errands and Mom-stuff;

The husband who, knowing you’re on a diet, arranges with a local McDonald’s to make an Atkins-friendly Quarter-Pounder with Cheese for you on Date Night.

A family is a group of people who live together in almost unremitting intimacy. Squabbles, hurt feelings and shouted orders are unavoidable in even the closest families. It’s a mistake to hold onto these hurt feelings; it’s a mistake to concentrate on the irritants rather than the delights. This month, try to notice the small, mute “I love yous” that come your way, and let the petty annoyances roll off your back.

If you can do this, September will not only be the start of a great New Year – it will be Thanksgiving!