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.
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.
Last night I earned a few more “Mom Points”. Did I bandage a skinned knee? Find a lost homework assignment? Help with an award-winning diorama? No, I have done all of those things in the past, but I’m talking about one step further: I found a rendition of the Doctor Who theme for tuba.
Admittedly, I was looking online for something else at the time. My youngest plays tuba and is always looking for “cool” stuff to play on an instrument many feel is uncool. When I saw the site with all the TV and movie themes on it, all for tuba, I knew I had hit a goldmine, and when I discovered that it included Doctor Who I took a mental bow and pushed “print”.
Lately our home has become very “Whovian”. Any Saturday night will find my second and third daughters parked in front of BBC America, being wowed by a man in a bow tie and fez who travels through space and time in a bright blue police call box that is much bigger inside than it looks. It’s a wildly creative series, with a history of good writers and surprising twists and turns, and makes for some lively and intelligent discussions on the relative merit of plot direction, plausibility, and possible outcomes. I’m not quite up on all the lingo, so they find that they have to educate me.
“Daaaah-lik, Mom. Not Day-lik! And no, that one’s not a Companion.”
I nod and try to soak it in, if only to seem a little less un-hip to my kids. I am sympathetic to their attachment to it and we have driven in record time from my mother-in-law’s house three counties away in order to catch the mid-season finale, planned a birthday party for a Friday instead of a Saturday to avoid conflicts, and the plan for Halloween this year seems to include some sort of Weeping Angel costume for the both of them. It was a toss-up between that and having to build a plywood dalek they could somehow push around the neighborhood, so I may have dodged the bullet there.
Soon we will be going thrift store shopping for clothes we can paint gray and contemplating the best ways to make skin and hair look like granite or marble. A chance for more “Mom Points”, perhaps?
Words parents are loath to hear: “Mom! The neighbors found a litter of kittens under their back porch… Can we have one?”
For years I have had to be the bad guy. When we pass cute puppies and kittens at the pet store, I don’t have the luxury of oohing and ahhing over the little rascals. Any softening of my demeanor would indicate weakness and the entreaties would start. I appreciate baby animals as much, if not more, than the next guy, but my role is that of The Denyer.
“We already have three cats. There isn’t room for any more pets at our house,” has been my standard reply. It was an easy one. The reasoning couldn’t be disputed, and they came to expect it. That argument was lost in January when our sweet cat died and three quietly became two. His loss took more out of me than I really wanted to admit, and I was hoping they wouldn’t notice the hole in my logic for a while longer. It’s a parent’s job to take the long view, to see past tiny paws and adorable whiskers. When the little kitten that they want reaches the other end of its life my three chicks will be long out of the nest and it will be me left sitting beside the cat as it purrs its last.
When the litter was discovered I knew, deep down, that I was sunk. All of the other cats we have rescued since my daughters were born have been ‘teenagers’; lanky and small, but not a ball of fluff with ears. We have never had a tiny kitten to raise, and the girls began to remind me of that. They chipped away at the chink in my defense and widened it, reminding me that it was now or never for my eldest daughter. Soon she would be heading to college and getting a kitten in the Fall wouldn’t really be fair to her, in spite of the fact that we had joked that we would get one after she moved out and give it her name and room to live in. They wheedled for days and I shut down the topic for as long as possible, but my hold on my objections began to loosen. The girls knew I had relented even before I did and were at the car by the time I said “let’s just go and take a look”.
The inevitable stared me in the eye, and it purred.
So far, we’ve hit all our marks.
We made a quick swing through the mall and had dinner last night, followed by an orientation meeting at the school she will attend next year. We sat through an hour of commentary and a PowerPoint presentation about what it’s going to be like in seventh grade, with the longest segment being how to drop off your child in the parking lot the most efficiently. Curriculum? Different academic targets for older kids? Changing classrooms (finally) hour by hour? New responsibilities? New opportunities? Nope. “Make sure you pull as far forward as you can before you let your student out of your car…” Hope they don’t talk to the kids in the same style, but I’m betting that they do.
Plan for tonight: out for Chinese food and a movie at the local, city-run movie theater. It’s a gem of a little theater called the Civic and is a low price home to the last run of most movies. We figure popcorn should be on our menu, because by then we will be hungry again. We plan to wander in town a little bit too, just to poke around.
Tomorrow, martial arts meeting and softball practice, but the rest of the day is ours to spend. We probably will review our options tonight over jasmine tea and fortune cookies; all suggestions cheerfully considered.