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Entries in Parenting (42)

Monday
Jun242013

The Long Goodbye

popsicles and abandon on the back porch last summerEzra started calling Ed my brother when they were three.  Ezra and Ed, and later, Ed's sister Reece, converged on the sidewalk in front of our houses innumerable afternoons over the past four years, learning to  toddle, tricycle, scooter, ride bikes.  We parents sat in the shade of the giant old maple tree watching the kids wear a groove in the sidewalk. When I found out last month that Ed and his family were moving, I went into a tailspin. 

I was supposed to have another baby and I forgot and now it's too late and Ed's moving and now Ezra is going to be alone forever!

That hysteria mostly waned in the ensuing weeks, but it helped if I tried not to notice the growing tower of packed boxes through their dining room window.  It's not fair to say I'm so sad every time you run into your neighbors on the sidewalk.

I want a brother, Ezra told me recently.  Apparently he knows which button to push to send me into paroxysms of self-reproach. 

Do you want a brother like Cooper? I asked him later, as our friend's three-month-old played on the floor.

No, Ezra said.  I want Eddie to live with me.  Like me, Ezra doesn't relish the thought of a baby around here.  Like me, he wants the insta-fun of developmentally appropriate friends.  Is it too much to ask for the new mystery neighbors to have a five-year-old boy?

A windstorm last October brought a huge piece of their old maple crashing into our yard.  A tree service took the rest of it a few days later.  No more meeting place.  No more shelter from the hot summer sun.  Maybe that old tree was the ballast and without it, it was inevitable that one of our families would fly off into space. 

During our last-hurrah gathering, all the grown-ups tried to huddle in the shade of the small Catalpa that's left.  We gave up and moved the party into the back yard where the space was shadier, if less communal.  The kids stripped down completely, tearing through the house and yard with unselfconscious abandon for hours.  They partied like it was their last night together, and maybe it was. 

We adults don't have that kind of freedom, but we have beer and sappy speeches, and wiped-away tears.  We have all the customary things to say: We'll stay in touch.  I hope your new commute is easy and your new neighbors are great.  We'll come crash your pool some time. 

What we mean is

Don't forget us.

We'll miss you.

Thank you for growing up with us.

I hope we're not alone forever.

Wednesday
Jun192013

Death in Summer

The geese at the lake are aggressive at this time of year.  They hiss and squawk at the dog and me when we run by in the morning, warning us not to come any closer.  Downy little goslings toddle in line behind their fearful mamas.

A June Friday night calls us to the lake on our bikes, three in a row.  Will rides the funny swing bike he just found on Craigslist, the one Ezra giggles at and calls the wiggly bike.  Ezra just proudly sized up to his Big Bike, 16 inches of rolling speed demon, and I ride the beach cruiser gifted to me last year.  Every time I ride it - often this time of year - I think of Jackie in her new life on the West coast, and Dylan, gone too soon.

Freedom hangs in the lake air on Friday evening.  No cars to avoid on the bike path.  The smoke from the nearby wildfires has cleared in the summer breeze.  Swings that go higher on demand, 'til your stomach drops out, your hair blows back, and you squeal.  The weight of another week lifts away in the clear golden light.

On the ride home toward dinner and a date with the DVD player we stop under a tree.  I notice first the several geese nervously shifting their weight back and forth, huddling near their goslings.  One goose honks plaintively, hovering over a baby convulsing on the ground.  Will and I urge Ezra onward, but he can't be pulled away.

Ez, let's go!

Rooted.

I don't want to get a first-hand look at life and death on Friday night at the park, but I guess that's what's happening.  I park my bike and go crouch by him.  From here I can see the baby gosling's intestines in the dirt, the plaintive mother goose and the baby's last twitches.

Why does that baby have a hole in him? Ezra wants to know.

I think an animal got his mouth on him, I say, probably a dog.  You know how animals have predators?  Well I think one hurt that baby goose.

The mama goose honks and squawks.

Why is that big bird doing that?

That's the mama and she's so sad because her baby got hurt, I say and the baby's twitching slows.   That's what mamas do.  If you ever got hurt I would cry and cry and I wouldn't be able to go on, I add, before realizing I don't want him to identify too closely with the disemboweled chick.  But I won't let anything happen to you.  I silently pray that this is true.  Let's extend for a while longer the fiction that mamas have the power to protect our children from pain.

Isn't there a doctor that can fix the hole in him?

Ummm, I don't know of any goose doctor.

Why can't Daddy fix him?

Daddy's really good at a lot of things, but I don't think he knows how to fix that goose, I say.

The goose is still.

Ezra is quiet for a minute and then asks, When it dies, is it dead forever?

Exhale.  Yes.

Why?

Because that's how it works when you die, I say, wondering if this is really true.  I am mystified by this last breath, this single moment that is the fulcrum between being and no longer being, the tipping point from which there is no return.  You can be so alive and then... not, with barely a warning.

Sit down, my friend Chuck said when he called me four years ago.  Dylan died last night.  And suddenly I couldn't breathe.

My brother's friend went dirt biking in the desert last weekend and never came home.  Search crews found his bike, wrecked, and followed his footprints for a mile.  They found his body lying peacefully, hand on his heart, his brilliant blue eyes open to the vast sky.  He was so alive, and then he wasn't, his last breath scoured by the hot desert winds.

Ezra watches the still bird at the foot of the tree carefully.  The honking has died down too.

Do you want to say a little blessing for him?

We are both puzzled about how this works, but I try.

Great Spirit, I offer, please help guide this baby goose through the transition.  Please help him find a place with lots of water and no dogs and no pain, forever.

Somehow it is enough for Ezra and we get back on our bikes.  The evening caresses us on the rest of the ride home.  It is the perfect night to be alive.

Monday
May132013

Fluid Dynamics

I came home from the airport to discover a for-sale sign in the neighbors' yard.  They moved in when their first-born and Ezra were both infants and since then we've spent countless summer afternoons on the sidewalk in front of our houses watching them crawl, then toddle, then bike back and forth.  They have a million good reasons to move and I understand them all.  But I still feel short of breath thinking of them going.

This week Ezra and I will walk into the school where he will start Kindergarten for our first family meet-and-greet.  Will and I agonized over whether to move him from the school he's attended since he was 8 months old but determined that he is ready for the challenge of a new environment.  I get weak in the knees when I think of school supplies and new sneakers and the rhythm of the school year.

Whispers in the halls at the office, growing in volume over weeks to a deafening white noise that underlies everything else, about mergers and acqusitions.  We were a smallish business when I started here but no more.  If we have fattened into the kind of tasty morsel that looks irresistible to a deep-pocketed corporate investor, that's a win I suppose, but not without attendant anxiety. 

Suddenly it seems currents of change swirl around me, and I wonder if I can park myself in an eddy and wait it out.  It's strange, because for some time I've felt the tension of a powerful surge growing up behind the dam of my life's predictability.  Feeling it would break and unleash some kind of furious shift in the world as I know it.  Now I suffocate in the unknowing. 

I am deeply unsettled.  I hone to a razor's edge my hardest questions about whether I've made the right choices and hold them to the light.  It's strange that even these predictable things - neighbors move, children grow, businesses do business - trigger shifts that feel seismic.  My wish: to befriend the unknowing, to call in synchronicity, to breathe.

Thursday
May022013

Freedom Rider

This happened this week.  Sunday morning Ezra said I want my bike.

And when I brought it out, he said I want to take the training wheels off.  So I got a wrench.

We removed two extra wheels, and Ezra grew wings.

Last night Ezra asked me what is "independent"?

I think he already knows.

Monday
Jul302012

Reunion

In the end the whole visit came together so simply it was as if we all lived in the same neighborhood instead of three different states.  The seed of the plan hatched, innocently enough, over a bottle of bourbon during a hurricane in Brooklyn last fall and took root even after the hangover had passed and the planes started flying again.  The last piece fell into place when, somewhere in Memphis, the sensible realization arose that a weekend in the mountains with our small tribe would be far more entertaining than a high school reunion.  

The four of us hadn't all been together at once since Stacy's wedding nine years ago, but the easy familiarity of old friends fell over us and we wove back and forth between college memories and filling in the blanks of the intervening years.  Our spouses fit in like of course you two married, it just makes so much sense, and look at us all here making sense together.  If it weren't for the hordes of short people who insisted on calling us Mom and Dad all weekend I could have imagined that little had changed.

Of course, a lot changes in 20 years.  But not, thankfully, our affection for each other.  I admire the lives my friends have built, the beautiful families they are nurturing, and the fact that they still make me smile so much my cheeks hurt, and the discovery that we can all laugh together when our children get caught in a mountain rainstorm and end up looking like this: 

Stacy, Lee, Brent, Dara, Will and Sarah, you guys are sick. And I love you.