There it is, THE door. The one that has shut firmly behind me, signalling the end of an era. I wrote a bit about this back in January (The Bittersweet Year), and now am hearing the swoosh of another door closing, that no amount of effort will re-open or allow re-entry. Childhood has drawn to its final close with graduation tomorrow. Life is full of doors closing and opening, but the door that separates adulthood from childhood at graduation is one that most everyone experiences in a very small window of time. May and June are the traditional graduation months, and as I attended the final at school function last night it really was clear that an era had ended. No more will I call the school to report an absence, buy lunch items, sign permission slips for field trips, or acknowledge the grades on a report card so it can go back to the school office. THE door has shut, and I am now outside the mothering parent stage that stretched from birth to graduation, all the “would have, could have, should have” are on the other side of the glass with all that did get done. I am onto a new stage, where being a mother is less about managing and more about hoping they have internalized what the past stretch of years has been for. Adulthood unrolls ahead, with all the trials and joys it will bring for both my daughters.
They are on the same side of the door I am, we are just getting in different cars to drive off in.
This is a bittersweet year in our house. Often only in hindsight can this be known, but I started 2015 already aware of it. My oldest daughter is home this semester, working and commuting to college to keep more money in her pocket. The younger daughter is in her senior year of high school, and so, these next 6 and a half months are the last ones we will spend as a family unit all residing together. Once the summer draws to a close so will that period of our lives. They will both head off to college dorms for the year. It is both an exciting and poignant time. Time slipped away as it always does, and the days of picture books, playgrounds and parent nights are part of the past. To say it seems like yesterday when I took the above image is not quite accurate, as I was aware of them growing up and away each year. It just doesn’t quite seem possible that they are both set to step out on their own without the return to home that almost every night has brought in the past. The feeling of melancholy come more from the “we will never pass this way again” fact of life than from the passage of childhood and parenting, their childhoods are now fully part of their pasts and the bounty and feelings of limitlessness of the future are on their doorsteps. I look to friends who have grown children to see how they have navigated this time as it is in many ways stranger than becoming a parent. My husband and I will become “just adults” again, with more of ourselves to ourselves, which after 19 years of parenting will be a big shift. Time will acquire a different trajectory, no longer governed by the school calendar or homework assignments to clear off the table. I am trying to savor each part of this fleeting time, even the ones where they are arguing over hair products, bathroom time and music, as all to soon the house will fall quiet, and this bittersweet year will come to an end.
On Wednesday this door will be part of yet another life transition as our daughter heads off to college. As this door closes it will redefine what “home” is to her. Most likely she will not realize it, but I do, knowing that she is stepping out in a way that severs the childhood connection to home. Which is as it should be, the change from child to adult, to childhood home to first apartment, condo house, and what will come after college. And though she might live here again it will have shifted in her mind as her life expands to embrace other possibilities. Home will start to shrink as the world opens up to her. It is a bittersweet week as the days drop to hours and then to minutes. This same door that saw her come in as an infant, and in and out over the intervening years, will see her leave and take flight into the world as she hasn’t done before. We all have had those moments, the last time we walk through our first apartment, childhood home, workplace. I don’t recall my leaving for college day as the end of an era, but I do recall the final stretch in my first apartment. The “this is the last time I will…walk up these steps, see that tree, fix a meal here” and so on that made me so aware of the passage of time. My daughter’s bedroom will not become a study or sewing room, but more of a quasi museum awaiting her visits so she can stand in the door and wonder about the girl she was. It is as it should be.
I passed this old barn on the way home from the shore and had to stop and get a couple of photos as barns are getting few and far between. We had a barn at the side of our property when I was little, the old red type with a silo. It didn’t house any livestock then, but it had in the years before. Pigs, cows and horses all had found shelter there in prior days. The gate along the road was still there and we would swing on it, the loft had some hay remaining in it, but it was too dark and scary to do more than peek at. And the dairy room and pig sty were so completely dark that we never ventured in. The silo came down before my memory. A man stopped and asked if her could buy it for the wood which he wanted to use in his house. I have been told that when he took it down the inside surface of the wood was polished smooth by the years of grain passing over it on its descent. The whole barn eventually was taken down, the huge hand hewn beams off to new homes as decorative elements. The granary went next, years later, and I have no idea what happened to the old equipment it had inside. Only a few people know that a barn ever stood right by the side of Swaggertown Rd, the barnyard has filled in with a variety of trees and the foundation is buried beneath years of leaves and roots. I remember sitting on the roof of the old pig sty, it was an easy clamber if you knew where to place toes and fingers. It allowed a “just above street level” view of the road and a quiet place to think. There was so little traffic in those days a car was something to look at as they passed by the secret spot. There is only 1 photo I know of that shows the barn, I wish there were more taken from all angles and both inside and out. But that is not the case so I have to rely on my memory of it, faulty at best. When I see a barn I often think of the one I knew in childhood, how the bits of hay smelled, how it felt when my brother pulled the big, sliding, door shut behind me saying he had locked it, how the tall grass tickled when we walked through it, the warning to stay away from the old barn well. All of it mixes in my mind like hay dust caught in sunbeams, glinting and spinning as they go by. A barn is a romantic image most of us hold in our minds of an item we revere, but no longer have personal use for in our daily lives. But we are drawn to them nonetheless.
There is something magical about the early days of summer, a feeling of buoyancy from the longer days perhaps. I was lucky enough to get an afternoon in York, Maine the Saturday before last and soaked up as much atmosphere as I could to carry on my way. It had been a gray, yet mild start to the day, but by the afternoon the sun had made an appearance casting light on the lingering clouds. I love to be by the water, in fact I have to make it to the shore at least once every year, a sort of pilgrimage if you will. The lungful of fresh air, the open sky, the water, sand and stones, the sense of timelessness, all renew me. If I can’t get to the shore, a lake, pond or stream will carry me over. At heart I am a water-baby, though I wonder if a sea of grass would have the same effect. But the plains are a bit far away to test that theory easily. As a child I didn’t spend every summer at the shore, though I can remember family trips in that fragmented way of a child’s mind. I spent more time at the lake, though again, less than my memories would lead me to believe. It seemed as if every last day of school was a sunny one, and as soon as my feet hit the pavement as I got off the bus we would head to camp. Yet in reality we went only a few times over the summer. A day here and there, an overnight or two. But those trips loomed larger in my child mind until I got verification to the opposite as an adult. It was just one of those tricks a mind plays on you when some childhood place is special. And that is okay, childhood should be that way, full of special places to roll about in your mind and treasure.
I can understand the enjoyment that would come from the solitude of an ice fishing shack, not so much so for the fishing though. I think we all hear the call for a space of our own regardless of our age. As children it is tree-houses, forts, or tents that are desired. I remember many, many forts built both with friends and on my own, they were magnificent to my child eyes. There was always plenty of scrap wood and cans of sundry nails awaiting use which made it that much easier to start construction. My brother was a fort builder from about age 4 when he turned an old wooden playpen into a space of his own. Yes, he was allowed to use a hammer at that age! Unheard of now in these über child safety days. I can see where as the oldest of 3 siblings he probably needed a space of his own. From there he went on to build wonderful 2 story forts complete with homemade wood stoves, another thing that would be frowned on today! I guess it is no surprise that he went on to expand the garage, and to later build his own house.
For some, the childhood drive to build never really goes away.