Category Archives: Looking Back

Unchanged


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.

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Filed under Family Relationships, Looking Back, Reflection, Traditions

Last Game


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.

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Filed under Accomplishments, Friends, Looking Back, Parenting, Traditions

Alpha and Omega


This is it. My eldest daughter’s last day of public school.  How could that be? I remember so well her first day of kindergarten, and if I was organized enough I would be able to find one of the many pictures I took that morning.

I couldn’t understand the mothers who went to Tea and Tissues with the principal after teary goodbyes, reluctantly allowing their children to finally enter the classroom, some of the kids crying too.  This was a milestone!  School was what we had been preparing for and working toward for the past five years, ever since the little bundle met us.  She attended preschool for a couple of years, to gradually get her ready.  We happily helped her learn her letters and colors, so she wouldn’t go in at a disadvantage.  She was a social child, so no worries there.  The day arrived and she went to her new classroom with curiosity and a smile and I pushed her sister’s stroller home, a bounce in my step.

There have been a few rough patches between that day and this.  I have been disappointed in grades at times, but never in my child.  Teachers have been great and not so great.  Friendships have come and gone, hearts have been hurt, more lessons have been learned than were in the school curriculum.  Triumphs and tragedies; all were so important in the moment and forgotten in the blur now.

Today was a little different in tone than that day so long ago.  Instead of picking out her outfit and helping her dress, brushing her hair and assisting her as she loaded her new backpack, I stood in a quiet kitchen making the last school lunch that I ever would for her.  She breezed down the stairs and packed it up and was out the door and driving away before I could snap one picture.

Maybe my Tea and Tissues day was just delayed thirteen years.

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Filed under Accomplishments, Changes, empty nest, Looking Back, Parenting

Mea Culpa


Today would have been my mother’s ninety-first birthday.  You would think I would be reminiscing about old times, remembering how well she took care of me whenever I was sick, calling the doctor for a house call and hovering over his shoulder in my fevered memory.  The food she spent all day making for us, or how she was a do-er; how she could get “drunk” and giddy on just a Coca-Cola, or how she lost her first husband at the very end of World War II yet was strong enough to build a different life with my father and us.

Instead, I am spending the day wishing I could apologize.  As my daughter approaches her last day of high school this week, I find myself understanding more and more about my relationship with my mom during our contentious years, discovering what she was trying to do.  Time and experience wipe the bull-headedness of youth out of the picture, and I can see her more clearly.

I used to get so frustrated, so irritated that last year before I went away to college.  She seemed to be holding even tighter to me, and I only wanted to take flight.  As my girl does the same thing, I struggle to not want to hold her to my chest for as long as I possibly can.  My mother would tell me things I already knew, give me advice I thought I didn’t need, and treat me like a child.  I fought like a toddler wanting to be put down, trying to get away, only looking forward.

Mama, I understand.  And thank you.

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Filed under empty nest, Family Relationships, Gratitude, Growth, Looking Back, Parenting, Self-realization

Reentry


The travelers will be home today, and the two bachelorettes will be back to everyday life in mere hours.  A few things picked up and put away, a spit and a polish, and we will be done and ready for the weary tourists to drop their bags in the entryway.  It’s been a relaxing, fun weekend, and though I enjoyed every moment of it, I look forward to hearing tales from the road and getting back to the whirlwind that is my full life.

The older girls are coming home from the last school trip they will take before college.  I wonder if they appreciated it in that light?  There will be other outings, with family and friends, colleagues, even jaunts for university groups if they are lucky, but this is the last band trip with friends that will so soon be scattered to the winds.  I hope it has been a fun, eventful journey that they will look back upon fondly.

A little deviation from the normal routine lets us all look at things from a different perspective and perhaps appreciate it all a bit more.  Number three and I got a sneak-peek at what life might be like in a few years, and numbers one and two got special time to spend with both their dad and high school friends – things that will be in a little shorter supply soon.

More lasts; then on to another round of firsts.

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Filed under Changes, empty nest, Excursions, Looking Ahead, Looking Back, Parenting

Yes, My Darling Daughter


Parenting advice has certainly changed over the years.  I have been having a great time discovering and rediscovering some old songs with the swing band I sometimes rehearse with; songs with titles that would never fly these days.  “Back Door Stuff”, “At The Fat Man’s”, “Beat Me, Daddy, Eight To The Bar”, “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby”,  “Tail End Charlie”,  “Alibi Baby”, “How Come You Do Me Like You Do”, “Queer Street”, “Dodgin’ a Divorcee”, “Flinging A Whing-Ding”, “One Night Stand”.  Vintage music doesn’t have a monopoly on odd names, but sometimes it just illustrates what a different world it was back then.

We rehearsed one a couple of weeks ago that spoke directly to me, with my three daughters.  Be sure to click on the title of the following song and get the YouTube link to listen along.  In spite of the questionable advice that we don’t dare give to our girls, it’s a fun tune:

Yes, My Darling Daughter – Glenn Miller Orchestra  (1941)

Mother, may I go out dancing?
Yes, my darling daughter
Mother, may I try romancing?
Yes, my darling daughter
What if there’s a moon, mama darling, and it’s shining on the water
Mother, must I keep on dancing?
Yes, my darling daughter
What if he’ll propose, mama darling, when the night is growing shorter?
Mother, what should be my answer?
Yes, my darling daughter

Mother, will it be exciting?
Mother, do I look inviting?
What if he holds me tight & my knees just turn to water
Mama, what should I do?
What if there’s a moon, my mama darling, and it’s shining on the water
Mother, must I keep on dancing?
Yes, my darling daughter
What if he’ll propose, my mama darling, when the night is growing shorter?
Mother, what’cha think should be my answer?
Yes, my darling daughter

Oh mama darling, what if he holds my hand & then says, “Come just a little closer?”
Mother dear, what should be my answer?
Oh yes, my darling daughter

I love my girls, but the last thing I would advise them to say is “Yes, yes, yes!”  Welcome back to the year 2011.

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Filed under Changes, Looking Back, Parenting

More Corners Turned


Well, it’s set.  We have decided on a date for the Graduation open house.  The invitation to the Senior All Night Party has been sent back in.  Cap and gown have been ordered.  Immediate relatives have been given the date for the official graduation ceremony.  As her father says, all my eldest has to do now is actually graduate.

Senior year is such a tough time in any person’s life.  It’s a time of some firsts but many more lasts.  It’s hard for them to concentrate on what they are finishing because there is this big, new, shiny thing hung there in front of them: college and finally living away from home.  I don’t really remember my Senior year other than as a time of impatient waiting.  I was so ready to move on that the last year seemed a waste.

That made it easier to leave behind all the familiar and friendly, all of the people and places I had been around for all my life.  Without the chafing feeling of needing to move on, perhaps it would have been just too sad to end my childhood.  I don’t remember moving from child to adult, myself.  If I had it to do again, I might savor the many things I would never be able to do again in the same way.  Adulthood is so tantalizing, so desired, so coveted by the young, and my daughter is now the one ready to move on.  I see it in her, and so keep silent about my small regrets; she would probably politely discount my words anyway.  I am older, how can I understand?

I am left here, mourning it for her.  Quietly.

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Filed under Changes, Growth, Looking Ahead, Looking Back, Parenting