Thursday, August 7, 2008

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda by Jenny Gardiner

I know I've talked already about my son heading off to college, and I fear I will be accused of redundancy, but I can't help myself. With less than two weeks before my firstborn flies the coop, I am steeping myself in a tea of sentimentality, and it seems that every thing anyone says or does reminds me of something, some small nugget of parenting past. My emotions are hovering atop the Golden Gate Bridge, teetering over the edge, about to plunge southward, and I just know that the sporadic tears I've shed behind the cover of sunglasses over the past few weeks threaten to engulf my demeanor soon, soon, soon, proving to all how my heart is aching and how powerless I am to do anything about it.

This parenting thing, it's so crazy. As if each of us is inventing it all over again. Hell, how long have humans been raising children? Why does it feel as if I'm the only one to feel like that red-nosed two-dimensional cardboard man on the Operation game board, with everyone using those ham-handed tweezers to pluck my heart out, zapping me again and again and again with the pain of having this heart-ectomy?

I'm certain that during those hormone-saturated early days of motherhood, I sat with my newborn son 18 years ago and projected out nearly two decades, to this day I'm about to face, and I know without a doubt I sobbed like a lunatic. And I don't doubt that my husband laughed at my silliness, what with it being practically 20 years away and all. I simply cannot imagine where the time has gone, how I went from holding this small infant with which I hadn't the slightest idea what to do, to now, of my own volition, even, pushing him out the door, sending him on to the next phase in his life, knowing it's the right thing for him, and really even the right thing for us, but agonizing about it every step of the way.

I haven't known what to do with myself. I don't want to betray my emotions to everyone else. And I don't want to make it harder for him. I want to buck up and be brave. But I want to revisit all of those moments past, and try to savor them one last time, even though I know we can't do that. There's no turning back. The savoring is done at the moment the act is committed, no more.

I threatened all summer, every summer, really, to make the kids sit down with me and read through our favorite children's books. Every summer we never quite got around to it. So yesterday, I forced all of the kids to join me while we read through book after book, my voice choked with emotion, my heart a piece of chewing gum that you stick on your finger and then pull it out and then whirl it around and around till it's all tangled and gummed up and thoroughly useless.

I hate this, I really do. Never could I have projected out 19 years ago when I first found out I was pregnant that some day I would agonize over the loss of the subsequent two decades in this way. I guess I didn't prepare myself for it then. And I certainly am not ready for it now.

And so perhaps it is fitting for this writer to seek the sanctuary of books, books that hold within them tiny little moments of our lives together, memories I can knit together again and again as I mourn the loss of what was, and look ahead to what will be.


Daisy said...

Sniff. I had a hard time when La Petite left for her freshman year, even though I'd been helping her prepare all summer. I hope they're all using the softer tweezers to ease the pain a bit.

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

thanks Daisy. I'm dreading this a lot...