Many rooms

May 7, 2020

Happy birthday, Mom. I remember you and see you in the peonies growing outside, the green grass, the coffee I sip, the sweets I will eat, and looking back at me in my mirror. Maybe I will make some waffles later today. I still miss you all the time. There would be a million things to tell you now – do you know any of them? Does the veil between us allow any information through? Can you see how tall your grandsons are? Can you see how silver my hair is becoming? Do you know we moved back home and I published a couple books? We went to Norway a few times and New Zealand and Australia. Every place I saw I thought about how you would have loved to see those places, too.

Your things are all scattered now. I have kept so many – your purse, your hairbrush, some dishes, your rings. I still wear your black jacket for the spring and the autumn. If you came back we would have to find you all new things. But I doubt you would want to come back. Norma is gone, your sister is gone – the world changing so much and half mad.

Sometimes I don’t know if I will see you again. I hope so. But I feel you near me less and less. Like a mist slipping away across the fields as the sun rises, so are you slipping away from me. Half the world tells me it’s all over at the last breath. My heart tells me there’s more and that the Father’s house has many rooms and there’s a place for me there, too…and I just hope my room is next to yours.

Brave Little Boy

There was a talent show yesterday at my boys’ elementary school. I had known for the last year that my younger son, Jesse, was interested in singing a song for it. Over the course of the last few months he has changed his mind repeatedly regarding the song he wanted to sing. He would sing along to his favorite songs in the car, on the couch, in the bathroom, and each week tell me a different song he thought he might like to perform. I would encourage him to settle on a song and practice. I said, “the more you practice the less nervous you will be.”  I would think back to when I was in junior high and practicing for speech competitions and how I would practice for hours and hours, wanting to get every detail perfect.

Jesse doesn’t care so much about the details, though. He just loves to sing.

The day of the talent show, he was nervous. I was nervous, too. What if he feels like he messes up? What if the other kids make fun of something that happens? It was like I was reliving all my own fears from my own childhood now through my son. I knew he hadn’t practiced a ton and I wondered if the song he chose was appropriate. Was there something more I could have done to help him prepare? Probably! Catastrophic thinking ensued – I’m a terrible mother! He was going to crash and burn and it would be my fault! Maybe he would never want to sing again!

But then I remembered that part of growing up, of life, is attempting the things we are scared to do. I remind myself of this every day and I was so filled with pride that Jesse would get up in front of his entire student body and sing. When the moment came, he went to grab the microphone and sang, sang, sang. With his heart pounding, he sang. With every eye and all the lights on him, he sang. Only one other boy in that whole school did the same. Lots of girls did, but only two boys.

I could not have been more proud. If he wins a Grammy award or finds the cure for cancer someday, I doubt I could possibly be more proud of him than I was yesterday when he brought his ten year-old self onto that stage and faced down his fears. When he was done, he said, “I’m going to do this every year.”

It was a brilliant end to a school year that has been hard for him. He’s had a rough time academically, he hates sports and we live in a town that tells time by the sports calendar. To see him face his fears and get up there and shine – and to see his little friends be so affirming of him – there is little that could bring more joy to this mom.

It reminded me of this beautiful piece by my friend, Jonathan Rundman: https://www.facebook.com/notes/jonathan-rundman/a-singer-reflects-on-toxic-masculinity-in-trumps-america/10155300717571069/

Keep singing, boys and girls. Music is magic.

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