With soon-to-be two daughters in college I should have seen this coming, shouldn’t I? All of my angst as a stay-at-home mom facing the future of an empty nest has come down to this one little truth: it costs money to send kids to college.
It’s not as if we haven’t been saving for this for years or that I had not known somewhere in the back of my mind that it would be a good idea to have two incomes for two tuitions; it’s just that I seemed to move from “someday” to already five weeks into a job in a quick hurry. I went from “I should start checking into what it would take to get on the substitute teaching call list so I can start subbing next fall” to starting to work in the local city clerk’s office two days after I casually mentioned to the Clerk that if they ever needed part-time help, they should call me.
I’m on both sides of the fence, really. I feel both lucky that I could find something so close and congenial to my schedule and gobsmacked that I now have a time card and a boss, without having a chance to mourn the loss of my formerly self-scheduled days. All of a sudden I had to scramble to find pants that weren’t jeans and fill out a W-4 form and there has been no chance to look back. Now I find my days melting one into the other and my appreciation of those that have been working all this time growing exponentially.
With so many out of work in this economy, I can’t complain about any of the small annoyances associated with having to wear less comfortable clothes or be in to work by a certain time. Instead, every time I feel myself starting to grouse about having to go to work, I remember how very, very lucky I was to be able to stay home with my kids for so long.
I left work for my children, and now I’ve gone back for the same reason. *whistles*
I keep the change that I periodically empty from my purse in a square glass dish near my desk. I’m sure there are better things to do with my money, and it’s not always convenient to get to on the sill behind my computer. I still do it, though, because every time I drop coins in the dish, I see my father.
My dad was a hard working man who put in long hours in a tool and die shop an hour away from home in order to provide a house that was probably more than he could afford for his family. Sometimes when he came through the door he wouldn’t even speak to us, but I knew he was home from the sound of his change hitting the dish in the junk drawer. He would empty his pockets a few steps away from the garage, releasing his day as he went. Some days it took longer before he spoke to us, but mostly by the time his change and keys and wallet were in the drawer, he was with us again, and work was left behind.
Back then, that was just the shape of the day. Now, I understand a little more of what he was doing; divesting his body as soon as he could of the things he had to have in the outside world. He didn’t need money or identification or keys in his workshop or at his dinner table. He didn’t need to answer to anybody, or punch a time clock. He was home.
The dish was the first thing I salvaged of my dad’s things when my mother moved into an apartment. It’s not good crystal or an interesting shape, or anything more than a storage vessel. It’s thick, sturdy, everyday glass. And every time, even now, the sound of coins dropping into the dish makes me see him standing at the drawer, head bent, making his way back to us.
I never thanked him for what he did, and he didn’t expect me to. I thank him now with each penny.
The sky was fire and tropical ocean and newborn skin this morning. A front is moving in to what has been clear, crisp Autumn weather, and the sun rising east of the clouds made a spectacular display of the bowl over the world as we drove to school this morning.
Ravel’s “Pavane For A Dead Princess” happened to be on the radio, providing a lush soundtrack to what should have been a hectic, little bit late drive, as cars swirled around the school like angry bees. I couldn’t seem to get agitated, though; the world around me made me grateful for the excuse to get up, even after a night with too little sleep. We moved through the streets in a peaceful cocoon, cresting a hill and exhaling as the trees opened and the sky surrounded us.
Sunrises are fleeting, changing with each moment, and by the time I dropped my daughter at the curb at school the sky was just a pale, morning blue with gray clouds moving in. I should have taken a picture when I could, but I simply didn’t think about it. The moment was all there was. It’s a little bit like raising kids, I guess. The beautiful moments are fleeting but change your outlook on the whole endeavor, enriching what otherwise would be an ordinary existence.
Perhaps the weather will turn colder today, perhaps it will rain. It won’t make any difference to me. A little bit of this morning’s skyfire will stay with me throughout the day, simply because I was up and witnessed it.
I was in marching band all through high school, two years of college, and worked with and directed marching bands my whole public school teaching career. I have found it to be a great activity, even the glue that keeps some kids attending school. The members become family, they take care of each other, and they are (usually) a part of the group for their full four years in school, making the friendships they make there very tight and close, lasting over the years long after their participation is done. Band geeks, proud and simple.
I always wanted that opportunity and experience for my daughters, and I was quietly happy that they all chose to play instruments and even seemed cautiously enthusiastic about the rigors of marching. They’ll tell a different story, probably, one in which we made them march for at least a year. Maybe I did say that, but only because I knew what having a band family meant and I knew that once they saw what it was about, they would appreciate it as much as I did. If they had never tried, they would never have known.
High school football games are not my favorite activity to attend. They are often cold, sometimes rainy, always long evenings of a sport which is merely an addendum to why I and many other parents are really there. I have made it to every one that I possibly could, including the band parent’s tailgates before the games to feed the kids, just to be there to watch my daughters perform. Tonight is the last marching band show at a home game for my middle child. This will be Senior Night at the stadium, where all the Seniors in all the activities of the evening will be recognized: football, cheerleading, pom pon squad, and of course, band. Though they have a few more marching competitions to aim for and the season is far from over, that makes this game an ending of sorts, a last.
Tonight I get to be a peripheral part of her high school band family again, and it seems like I should be sad to see the end of something that has played a big part in her life for the past four years. Instead, I’ll get my picture taken with my tall Senior, and I’ll be the one beaming.
People who have to drive their kid to school must, by that very act, disconnect a part of their brain. Don’t get me wrong; I understand this because I drive the same route, though I hope I do not occasionally suffer the same loss of logic, patience, and sense of fair play.
Last year my eldest took the responsibility of chauffeuring her sister to the high school and I got the luxury of driving the youngest to her bus stop and hanging out with her there, sharing a little quiet time and having the sense that she was away and on track. I could get back to my chores and projects at home with a clear mind. This year, due to scheduling and the fact that my second daughter is younger than her classmates, she hasn’t quite gotten her driver’s license. That, coupled with the fact that daughter number three is at a new, earlier school that is further away, means that I pass on the easy bus run and get to jockey for position every morning at the high school.
I have observed this morning phenomenon for many years, from the earliest tiny and poorly laid out elementary school parking lots through middle school and high school circle drives. People who are otherwise caring, considerate, and rule abiding individuals turn cutthroat and conniving. There are some stereotypes I have observed, from my place far back in line: the princess (or prince), who MUST be dropped off exactly at the door and cannot walk a few steps beyond; the parents who think their kids are invincible, dropping them off in the pass-through lane and letting them cross the drop off lane; the kids who get out of the car and go around back to the trunk and get out twelve things to carry in, all in slow motion; the “clown car”, spewing out more kids than you thought a normal car could hold; the race car drivers, in a hurry when of course, no one else is; those that try to beat the buses; and the moms in jammies with zombie-like stares.
This morning I stopped off at the local coffeehouse to pick up a quick bagel on my way home. From the me first attitude and bad parking in the lot to the shifty looks of my fellow patrons in line, I think I’ve found where all those folks go after dropping off their kids.
My oldest chick moved to the dorm without too much fanfare at the end of this summer. She’s doing well and seems to be integrating into campus life; she’s not a source of worry for me. Though I miss her, I feel okay with it all. Time will tell how each of us will react to being separated, but I am hopeful we’ll grow both closer and more independent of each other. That’s the way life is, and a pretty good definition of parenting success.
Since she now lives two hours away from us, visits are further apart, though not non-existent. I got the chance to drive up there by myself last month for a day of visiting, and she got to show me around and introduce me to her roommates and new habitat. We shopped and ate, and I hunkered down in a corner of the dorm lobby and read while she went to a class. It was good for both of us.
With the dust settling on that change, I am finding that having fewer people in the house means more time for me to spend with the two remaining chicks. The way school day mornings work out the younger two leave at different times, not even crossing paths most days. I get to spend breakfast time with the youngest, and then roust the next oldest in time to drive her to school. That provides at least a few minutes to chat and make sure all is well before her day crashes in, full force. Separate activities allow us to have separate time with both, and I’ve been making a more conscious effort to do things individually with each one.
I’m not the only one that is getting more one on one time with other family members. The two youngest girls seem to be enjoying each other more as well, and though we still have moments of friction, they may be realizing that they only have each other now. Their elder sister is missed, and so perhaps their bond is more appreciated. It’s nice to see them actually sharing and spending down time together. It wasn’t always like that.
When the five of us are back together to go up to the Inn for Thanksgiving it may feel a little strange, and I didn’t really anticipate that twist. Our current duet will become a trio again; I hope it remains harmonious.
The kitten we adopted in May had his requisite session under the knife two weeks ago, and though he certainly still acts like a baby, I can’t really continue to call him one. After our big cat died in January, I wasn’t sure how we would ever cope with having another animal to care for and watch over. After the rigmarole involved with deciding upon a kitten and making the house and family ready for his integration, I was still shaking my head. The fluffball came to live with us, staying on the back porch until we were sure he wouldn’t bring any dangerous diseases to our grown cats, and then, kaboom.
He’s taken over the house.
He has a definite swagger to his walk, though it’s a charming one. He has made pacts with both older cats, though they vary wildly from “I’ll attack you whenever I want; as long as you wrestle with me, we’ll get along just fine” to “I’ll bow and look down whenever we meet, though I’ll never give up trying to get a rise out of you”. Hear a big crash or a muffled thump? Better go look. Stepping out of any room with a formerly closed door? Better look down because more often than not, he’s stretched out at the sill, waiting for you. Arriving home after five hours (or even five minutes) away? He comes running with a growly meow and a purr strong enough to jumpstart your heart.
As long as we don’t feed him after midnight, we’ll be okay. Yes, his name is Gizmo. At least we named him after the friendly and cuddly Mogwai and not the destructive Gremlins – though there always seems to be a mysterious gleam in his eye that makes me think the gremlin part of him is not really that far away.