Sunday, October 12, 2014

Dear Mom...

Dear Mom,

Since I can't pick up the phone and hear your voice, or get one of your cards in the mail, written in  that unique handwriting I always struggled to read, with paper-clipped coupons attached, I'm just going to send the words I would say to you out into the universe. Why not? 

Every morning, when I come out to the living room, I look at your picture and say, "Good morning, Mom! I miss you." You know the one of you at your 80th birthday party, looking up at someone and smiling with such joy that you look like you're glowing? Next to it is one I took of you at Birch Bay -- you're wearing that soft, lumpy gray sweater you liked so much; the one with the pockets, where you always kept wads of kleenex that could be whipped out at a moment's notice -- your transition lenses are as dark as sunglasses, the water is blue behind you, and you are wearing a grin which makes me think that Foster was probably making rabbit ears behind my head when I was taking the picture. Nothing could make you grin quite as much as your mischievous, loving, complicated youngest grandson, eh? Just so you know, he still talks about you all the time. You had such an influence on him -- You let him know he was loved, completely, even when his behavior wasn't always so lovable, and he was struggling to figure out how to get along in the world. You were so worried that the boys would forget you, but there's not a chance of that, Mom. Every night, we clink our glasses and toast you. The "How Tall Am I" tapestry you and Dad made still hangs on the door of our kitchen, even though Spencer has reached all the way to the title, so we can't really measure his height from it anymore. Pictures of you hang all over our house, and we still say "Pengwich!" when people sneeze, instead of "Gezundheit!" This morning, Spencer made hot chocolate in one of the speckled blue mugs you and Dad kept here for your visits. You are everywhere.

Right now, I've got the card table you and Dad gave me set up in the living room, and we're working on a puzzle. That, too, reminds me of you and of growing up. We work a puzzle the way you and Dad did -- I start with all of the edge pieces, and I can't do any of the rest until the border is complete. John, on the other hand, immediately starts grouping pieces together, randomly. Guess that makes us a great team... Fos will get caught up in it and sit for a long time. Spence comes in and does his one or two pieces, then he's off to his room to create starships, planets, wonderful inventions, and entire adventures with that amazing, imaginative brain of his.

The boys are doing so well this year, Mom. Fos joined the running club, and he's loving it! He's got a lot of natural athletic ability, but he works hard at it, too, so he really excels. It's so nice to see him brimming with confidence. He looped up with the same teacher, so he didn't need to go through that rocky stage of re-establishing a relationship with another adult, testing the boundaries, etc. It's been such a smooth start to the year. He does well, academically, but he doesn't work as hard at it as he could, so he's not getting the results he's truly capable of. But, no major issues with other kids anymore. He seems to have finally learned how to ignore people who are pushing his buttons, instead of reacting. Whew! (Of course, that doesn't apply to his brother!) Spence is SO tall and skinny. His last year of elementary school! How did that happen so fast? He's scientific, writes amazing fiction, is obsessed with both Star Trek and cars, and he's got a nice little bunch of peers who are also a little on the fringe of 5th grade society. But, he notices the "popular" kids, and it affects him, which makes me sad. Other kids have made fun of him, called him "geek" and "nerd," and it hurts him deeply. He doesn't yet know how amazing he is. He'll come in, late at night, and ask me to snuggle with him. That's when he talks about it, and I never feel like I have the right words to say. Kids sure can be cruel, but I know that both of my boys are going to learn tough lessons that will help them be stronger men, someday. I guess that I just need to love them through it all and to be their safe harbor when the storms come...Just like you and Dad have always done for me.

Yesterday, before the girls got here, John made the boys nachos. Thinking I'd be hilarious, I covered up Foster's chip and said, "Put that down, that's nachos!" (You know, as if I was saying "not yours?") Without skipping a beat, Spence looked up and said, "I don't want to taco 'bout it Mom, it's nacho business." We all cracked up laughing...A nice moment. I pictured you sitting at the table with us, cup of coffee in hand, laughing along.

Mom, you would have LOVED this weekend! I invited the girls to come up and spend the day with us. I try to do that a few times a year, so I can keep our relationship with them strong. Otherwise, I'd only see them once or twice around the holidays, most likely, and that's just not enough. We offer up free babysitting, and Barb and Ken drop them off at our house for a few hours to go hang out with their friends. So, yesterday, we immediately put everybody in our new family car -- a sassy blue Honda Pilot I named Amelia (after Amelia Earhardt, of course). She has HEATED seats! Imagine that! My buns are toasty every morning! -- and off we went to our favorite pumpkin farm.  This place is a wonderland -- Huge pumpkin patch, apple grove, a corn maze you can get lost in for an hour, farm animals, a cozy fire pit, playground, the most amazing fresh apple pie (with ice cream and homemade caramel sauce), tractor rides -- Really a lovely place to spend an afternoon. It was pouring rain first thing in the morning, but the sun came out for our trip, as if it was meant to be. As we drove out into the countryside, the sun lit up the changing leaves and covered the landscape with a blanket of gold. We sang all the way to the farm, and everyone remarked on the beauty all around us. "Look at the leaves!" "Look at the mountain!" "Look at the goats!" "Horses!" All four kids got along famously, and the giggles were nonstop. The boys took turns giving Hailee piggy back rides, and Ella skipped around in little-girl heaven! We saw rabbits and baby chicks, and she did exactly what I used to do when I was little -- She crinkled up her face, clasped her hands to her chest, and said, in that same sort of sad, yet awestruck, tone I used to use, "Ohhhhhh, look at them. They're sooooo cute and little!" John and I both started giggling, because it seemed like she'd pipe in with, "The poor things!" at any second, just like I used to do. She didn't use those words, but, believe me, the tone was the same. You would've cracked up, Mom. The girls are getting so big as well. Hailee reminds me a lot of Fos -- sassy, opinionated, challenging, with a mischievous gleam in her eye! Ella is smart and funny, wants to control everybody around her but is more shy than her little sister, with these big, sensitive blue eyes and a smile that show a depth of feeling below the surface, that I think we'll see a lot more of as she gets older. They're wonderful, and we had such a nice time all together. We were supposed to come home and all make and decorate sugar cookies, but we were having so much fun that we spent the whole time at the farm. I was sad to see them go, although our little home seemed quiet and peaceful with only two kids in it, instead of four...The four of us ended this glorious fall day by making a batch of sugar cookies, cutting them into leaves, pumpkins, and turkeys, (using the cookie cutters you gave me - some of them the exact same ones we used as kids) then cuddling up in the back bedroom to watch an episode of Star Trek before bed. What a wonderful day!

This morning has been so peaceful. I woke up at the crack of dawn, as usual, and came out to the living room to read, snuggling up on the couch. Fos came out and curled up at my feet, playing with cards. Spence was next. He came in, wrapped up like a burrito in his favorite Cars blanket -- the super-soft one Gerry, Austin, and Ali gave him when he was just a little tyke -- and snuggled up on the floor by the couch. We all talked and giggled for a while. Finally, my blurry-eyed, rumpled hubby came down the hall. Now, he and Foster are playing Magic in the kitchen, Spencer is looking through his coin collection, Lucy is sacked out on the floor nearby (her muzzle is gray now, and she's slowing down a lot, but she's still as affectionate as ever...), soft classical music is playing in the background, and the whole house smells like cinnamon and sugar cookies. I am so lucky. Lucky to have been raised by you and Dad. Lucky to have taken the turns in life that brought me to John. Lucky to have these wonderful, growing boys in my life.

I had a nice phone conversation with Dad on Friday night. You know how he always makes boats, whenever we're near a body of water? That hasn't changed. He told me that he just made a boat and wrote on the sail, "For Jean." On the other side, he wrote, "In memory." He's going to take the canoe out to the reservoir very early in the morning -- the best time to see beaver -- and launch your boat when the sun comes up... I picture someone days or weeks from now, walking around the reservoir, finding that boat, and wondering who "Jean" could be and who loves her enough to make a boat with that inscription on the sail. Maybe they'll even relaunch it. It's lovely, really. You are still very much a part of his life, and of our lives, and you always will be...

I love you, Mom. 


No comments:

Post a Comment