Monday, August 20, 2012

Ready, I realize

For your convenience, I have posted the italicized back story below to enhance your appreciation for the post which follows.

Sam, somewhere in the
middle of  his
 junior year
A while back, I registered a blog address called Why did I register that address when I already had  Because two years ago I moved, and stopped writing in an attic all the time. Then, I started to re-think  the "everything" nature of my current blog and decided to create a new blog  around a single theme.  I did that, and of course, with Sam leaving soon, I  titled it, "Empty Nest."  I never got past the home page where I posted, "Be here soon! Still sweeping out the nest!"  because when I looked at it later,  even I thought it was tedious.  

 Indeed,  Sam, our fourth and final child  leaves for Elon on Thursday. And how does it feel for the last child to be leaving home? I am asked often, and most often by people ushering first-borns into their senior year. I understand. If I were the parent of a senior and talking to me, I'd ask too, because when a first child leaves for college in only a year, it's a big deal. To imagine the last child leaving is a jumbo-deal.

I have developed an auto-reply, which is this: "I have my moments, but we're ready."   I sometimes say it before I'm asked, the way we say "good," before someone asks how we are.

It doesn't require a therapist to understand that this efficient response is meant to redirect the conversation before I have a chance to babble out a more authentic, but messier response, like this:

Curious Person: "How are you, Susan? How does it feel to have your last child leave the nest?"
Susan:  "Actually, person, I'm struggling. I was putting something in my October calendar the other day when I remembered that life as I know it will have changed by then and then  I had to put the calendar away and be with my feelings for awhile. How are you?"

The "I have my moments, but we're ready" response, economical as it is, is clearly the better choice.

Here is the story of what happened when all the moments formed themselves into an army of moments and resolved to advance. 

Last Monday, I discovered that this blog is being read more often than I thought. So I decided to fix it up, tinker with format, change the template, colors, title and so on. It's a nesting thing, this tidying up of a particular environment before a major change occurs.  Before each child was born, I changed the furniture around. Same thing.

I started by organizing the content of the blog. Since 2008 when I started it, I've written almost 100 posts, but I've been lazy about labeling them. Some are, some aren't, some labels go with only one post like this: 

Label: People Building Snowmen (1).  

But eight of them, written  between the middle of Sam's junior year and today, deal with Sam and the label of "letting go", to wit:

Sam teaching me about rap.
Sam being mortified when I was stopped for speeding near the high school - twice.
Sam learning to drive and getting his license
Sam backing into my car and offering me a decade of birthday money to pay for it.
Sam preparing for and taking the SAT
...submitting the application to Elon
... being accepted and attending orientation
And, finally, Sam graduating.

In these posted accounts of this or that experience, my respect for him is clear, what we mean to each other, obvious. No wonder; it was during this period of our lives together when I learned Sam's expectations of himself were as great as my own, and, when he learned he would earn his independence by not compromising my trust.  Indeed, as I read, I realized that more than he was grateful for my trust, he cherished it. Oh, the things we realize, that we already knew.  

I finished labeling the posts, changed the background eleven or twelve times, changed the font, and font color and font size until it was perfect. I signed out, and signed in as if I were a newcomer.

Then,  I thought, why not use that new sbonifant.blogspot address for the blog instead of atticview.blogspot because, really, I am sbonifant and I don't write in the attic.  I went into the secret labyrinth of blogness and found the "domain redirect" feature. Then I set it up so that would now be replaced by sbonifant@blogspot.   Then I experimented, typing  into the search bar,

Redirecting... it said, before bringing me to

(I wonder how many people know what I'm going to say, now)

Empty Nest. "Be here soon!"

"Huh?" I said this right out loud.

I did it again.

Empty Nest. "Be here soon!"

Atticview.blogspot, I typed.

Empty Nest. "Be here soon!"

Susan Bonifant, I googled, getting nervous.


Empty Nest. "Be here soon!"

I hadn't overwritten Empty Nest with Atticview, I'd done just the opposite.
My blog was nowhere.
And I, as Sam would say, fffrrrreeaakked.
Couldn't be.
Can't be.
Might be.
Probably is.
Four years of writing. Gone?
My book progress, job hunting, accounts of life, children, friends, everything... Gone?
But worse...far perfect, in-the-moment accounts of the high points of Sam's last eighteen months at home.  Gone?

And there they were,  that army of moments, advancing. And here I was with zero defense.  Because with all that I was to let go of, what I needed most, what I could never replace, what I'd put in a place for safekeeping, to look back at when Sam was gone - was lost. And I was not ready anymore.

First, I considered the appointments I would cancel for the day while I recovered. Then, I started clicking randomly, going into pages that meant nothing to me, clicking links for "help" which brought me nowhere, until I found: restore original blog settings. 

I had it back in moments. But I haven't found the word yet to describe the moments when I didn't know I would. 

I knew, and yet have realized a final time, that while our children leave, they leave us with momentos of who they were until they left: the songs they love, the movies they watched over and over, the elderly neighbor who still tells of the day your child cared enough to stop the car and get out to say hello, the cat who curls up on the made bed, the hundreds of baseball caps and all the plaques, neatly placed in a tidied room, the only two ties he ever wore, side by side on an hanger. 

August 19, 2012

In ways we don't realize we find ways to store the memories for safekeeping - to be ready when goodbye comes. For some of us it's a photo album, for others it's our ability to recall a sharp memory, for me it was to document it in a blog.  But when someone asks you, how does it feel to know your child is leaving for college,  always be sure you've kept the best parts of them in a place you can go back to. And then, with authenticity, say:

"I'm ready."

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