Friday, May 30, 2008

Dreams of My Children, Part 13

There's this picture that's been on the dresser in our bedroom for years. It's a snapshot of our kids in the front yard, taken just before our kids were headed off to school, or maybe it was to vacation Bible school, I can't recall. But I do remember that morning, standing barefoot in the damp grass in my bathrobe, my eyes crusty with sleep.
"Go on, give your brother a hug," I said.

Forever since, we've had this frozen moment: under the big maple tree, the girl grinning, her arm thrown around him, her cheek pressed into his shoulder; and the boy, a third-grader in brand-new clothes, squirming, his face screwed up in revulsion. Sisters! Yuck!

How long ago was that? I'm confused. There have been so many moments in this lifetime. I walk out onto the lawn in my bare feet now and I can't tell the years apart.

A few weeks ago, the boy - hardly a boy any longer, but a college graduate - packed most of his belongings into his truck and moved away to another state and another life. His mother and I stood beneath the shade of that same big maple tree and watched him drive out of our lives, toward all those new possibilities.

Today, we pack another car with all the girl's things and take her away to college. I'll take her photo in the morning, by the big maple.

Some time ago, I dreaded this moment. "How will we stand this big, quiet house?" I asked over and over again. We both wondered: What will we do without the distraction of raising children? The idea of an empty nest was haunting, depressing.
But we dread the day no longer. The boy may be gone, but he still calls – more often than he ever did while he was at school. His life is new and exciting, and we are able to share the excitement, even more so because we are free of the responsibility of making decisions for him.

The girl is anxious to go; she's been packed for a week. We share her anxiety and eagerness. We want her to go, too, but not to be rid of her. We're just excited by all her possibilities.

The quiet that I thought might suffocate us will be a nice change. And the telephone will not ring so often. And we will not lie awake in bed each night waiting for the sound of her coming home.

And for a while it will be like it was before we had children. I will walk out into the front yard in my bare feet, and all the memories – as blended and confused as they might be – will still be there.
And we will be alone. But then, there are all the possibilities.

- August 1996


1 comment:

Monique Ringling said...

Thank you, G.O.E.
Thanks for re-publishing these columns and sharing your father-hood with us. Another awesome serial!