In the quiet of the morning I have the house to myself. The trees sway a bit and occasionally the tremendous wind chimes toll their gorgeous and deep notes. It’s peaceful and I find myself, rather than imagining the day’s activities, reflecting upon all the years we’ve been fortunate enough to spend time in this beautiful place.
For seventeen summers we’ve been coming to Cape Cod. My children don’t recall a single summer of their lives when they did not spend some amount of time at the beach. Their growth from infants covered and protected from the sun to young boys slathered in sunscreen sporting (hopefully) life-preserving vests to almost men itching to drive has been breathtaking. I wish I could remember more of the early days, but the memories which do remain are vivid and never fail to elicit a smile. They were exhausting, but good days.
As the children have grown at a furious rate of speed the overall pace of our vacation has decreased. No longer is it necessary to pack multiple bags and coolers in an attempt to anticipate every single need imaginable. Life here has become simple in a new, now more easily appreciated way.
Moving forward isn’t always easy, though. Growth and change can be intimidating and there are scary parts to negotiate as we travel from who we once were to who we are destined to become. And now, over the quiet gong of the wind chimes, I hear feet slap the wood floor. Time to share the day.
In the early aughts,* we rented a house in South Chatham, MA, for 3 or 4 consecutive years. It was a simple Cape with a super comfortable vibe and, once I rolled up and stashed all of the potentially treacherous throw rugs which were scattered about, the perfect place to relax with young children.
There was a tiny TV room where we would gather to watch the Tour de France in the morning and various classic movies in the evening. One year, we caught a young Dustin Hoffman and the beautiful Anne Bancroft in Mike Nichols’ The Graduate. Now maybe this wasn’t quite the ideal “family” movie, but the Simon and Garfunkel tunes were catchy as hell and “Mrs. Robinson” became part of our family soundtrack. Our tradition every year since, as we approach the Bourne Bridge, is to open the sunroof and lower the windows and blast that song as we drive across the canal. It is our signal that vacation has begun.
Two weeks ago, my oldest son graduated from Albany High School. The ceremony was long, but lovely, and he beamed as he walked across the dais and accepted his diploma. Next month he heads to the University of Hartford to study international relations and political science, but before that he’ll be riding shotgun as we head east to the beach.
I’d like to think my son will return from college with more focus than Benjamin Braddock, but regardless, I’m more interested than concerned to see what he does next.
*I can’t believe I’m running “aughts!”
It began with a simple email. I had seen an article recently about an authentic WWII bomber plane coming to visit Albany and knew two of my three sons would be interested in getting up close and personal with a piece of history. I forwarded the story to my 18 y/o and he immediately responded wanting to know if his 10 y/o brother could be taken out of school for the day to visit the airport. Uh, no, but I agreed to take them both in the afternoon after school.
After checking the now updated article, we drove up to Albany International Monday, arriving at approximately 4pm. We immediately saw the plane on the tarmac and a crowd of perhaps 40 or 50 people. I dropped the guys off while I parked, meeting up with them less than 5 minutes later only to learn that there would not be any tours conducted due to a “lack of time to move all the people through before 5pm.” Apparently the plane had arrived late and had then been occupied with providing scenic and
crazy expensive rides meaning we regular folks without $800 a head to spare would only experience the plane from the outside.
I don’t want to sound bitter or overly annoyed, but I sure am glad it only takes me 40 minutes roundtrip from my home to the airport. I would have been pretty damn irritated if I had made a longer trip based upon the promise of being able to actually get on board this WWII relic. The boys were disappointed but cool, in part I think, because they had toured the U.S.S Slater just 2 days earlier and had so enjoyed that experience. FiFi wasn’t a total bomb, but, it would have truly soared if her visit had been better executed.
Did anyone else get there and have their own impressions to share?
Filed under Albany, Boys, Local
With one child headed to college in a few months and another who constantly places clean clothes in the dirty laundry hamper rather than (re)folding it and putting it away in his dresser, I’m thinking it is time for me to allow both of them to enjoy one of adulthood’s greatest responsibilities – laundry. I’m done cajoling them into bringing the dirty clothes to me so I can have the pleasure of sorting, washing, drying and folding their stuff. It’s time.
When did you begin doing your own laundry? If I told you I washed my family’s laundry at the town Laundromat when I was in 3rd grade, would you believe me? Well, it’s true, I did. I have distinct memories of my brother and I walking 2 blocks, carrying baskets of dirty clothes, to the laundromat. I don’t remember complaining about doing it, either. The library was on the other side of the laundromat’s parking lot and I eventually got pretty adept at throwing the wash into the machine, walking to the library for a stack of Nancy Drew books and getting back in time to toss everything into the dryer.
When it came time for folding, the challenge was always the sheets. My 9-year-old arms simply couldn’t extend wide enough to get the nice, crisp fold my mother expected. If I was lucky, there would be some older women nearby who would literally give me a hand, teaching me that complete strangers were willing to help me as I made an effort.
I went downstairs this evening and moved my son’s load of laundry from the washing machine to the dryer so I could throw in a load of my things. A bit later, I
folded neatly placed his clothing into his hamper so I could toss my own stuff into the dryer. Looks like I really did learn a lot from those kind women so many years ago.
England’s not the mythical land of Madame George and roses
It’s the home of police who kill blacks boys on mopeds
And I love my boy and that’s why I’m leaving
I don’t want him to be aware that there’s
Any such thing as grieving.
I’ve had these lyrics from an old Sinead O’Connor song kicking around in my head recently. It would be easy enough, and equally accurate, to substitute America for England, wouldn’t it? When my middle son asked me last night why police officers keep killing young black men, I was at a loss. The only response I could articulate was this – Because they’ve done it one way or another for years and continue to get away with it.
I don’t know what it’s like to be the mother of black boys, but I do understand that parenting black children, particularly males, involves issues, that will probably never impact my children. Is this just or fair? Absolutely not. Has it been the reality of our society for generations? Without a doubt, yes.
I suspect that involved and proactive black parents have discussions with their children about how to respond to law enforcement officers to avoid becoming the next Michael Brown or Tamir Rice, a topic I’ve never felt the need to broach with my sons. I very much doubt that a video produced by a young white man would resonate as deeply as this recent viral video created by Will Stack did. The reason? My sons, by virtue of their skin color and not necessarily their behavior, are at far less risk of being approached by police officers than male black teens, a truth that is well documented here.
It’s clear that we have a serious and pervasive problem in our country when it comes to law officers and their interactions with black citizens. There’s another issue, though, that we as a nation need to address – gun violence. According to this report “Firearm homicide alone, and by extension firearm violence, was the leading cause of death for Black men ages 15–34 in 2012…” Just this week in Albany, two teenagers (the same ages as my own two teenagers) and a third male were arrested for shooting three people, one a 27-year-old man, who died of his injuries.
Where are these guns coming from? Where are the parents of those two teenaged boys who have effectively ruined their lives, as well as the lives of the 6 children now left fatherless? Those two teenagers presumably went to the same high school as my sons. Where did they learn that guns were a solution to conflict?
Like Sinead said “These are dangerous times.”
There are books that I read which are impossible to put down, a recent example being The Girl on the Train. I was so eager to find out what really happened that I refused to stop reading until I finished the book. I was neither disappointed, nor regretful of my decision to push on until I reached that final page and felt a welcome sense of resolution. It was a really good read.
The book I’m reading now though, is, if you’ll pardon the pun, a whole different story. Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime by NPR newsman, Scott Simon, is a work that I don’t want to finish. You see, if I finish it, the story will end and I so want the story (and Scott’s mother’s life) to continue. Simon’s book, a memoir of his mother, and their life together, originated as a series of Tweets during his mother’s time in the intensive care unit at the end of her life. The time Simon and his mother shared together in the hospital was a quilt of memories, thoughts, laughter and songs that provided comfort and solace to them both as they faced their final days together.
Below are some my favorite nuggets of wisdom. Simon’s Tweets appear, as in the book, in bold text. Quotes are the words of his mother, Patricia.
- I just realized: she once had to let me go into the big wide world. Now I have to let her go the same way.
- “You tell your children something a hundred times…You’re lucky if they remember one or two. Dos, don’ts, count for almost nothing. All they remember is what you do. Whether you want them to or not.”
- I love holding my mother’s hand. Haven’t held it like this since I was 9. Why did I stop? I thought it unmanly? What crap.
- “Show children the best people and places. Let them know they belong.”
- She will make the face of heaven shine so fine that all the world will be in love with night.
There’s so much wisdom in this book, so much love and laughter that I wish it went beyond the mere 244 print pages, that Patricia’s life went beyond only 84 years. As a mom to three sons, I can’t help but read this and hope that at the end of my life my “boys” will honor me with an iota of the respect and appreciation that Scott shows his mother. I don’t need one of them to write a book or anything, but I love the picture I’ve drawn in my head of my children sharing the memories and moments that have woven us together forever.
Mother’s Day is coming. Buy this book.
Last evening, after finally coming to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to take a run, I decided to take a walk instead with Jeter. I made my usual offer to the boys to see if they cared to join me but was met by their usual response – no, thanks. I got myself warmly dressed and cued up a Pandora station of standards/vocal jazz and popped my earbuds in. Just as I reached for the doorknob, Quinn had a change of heart and decided to accompany me. Faster than I’ve ever seen him move, he had shoes and coat on and off we went.
There was something about walking in the foggy night that made for a cozy, not creepy experience. As we walked along Whitehall Road, we talked quietly, sharing my earbuds as we listened together to Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. Our conversation was filled with talk of which houses we admired, how challenging Jeter could be at times and how cool his new clip-on flashing light is. Funnily, I thought the light was shaped like a heart,* while Quinn thought it was a bone. He was correct but I was graciously given permission to think it was a heart if I wanted to. Sweet.
We stopped at his school’s primary grades playground and Quinn shared memories of playing there “years ago.” We talked about how in just a couple of years he’ll moving on to middle school and how fast time goes. As we neared the end of our walk, he found a series of puddles irresistible and made an attempt to leap them, with mixed success. His landing perfectly illustrated why so many of his pants have blown out knees. He is adorable.
Once home, after suggesting that we “do this again soon,” he continued to charm me with all that he had to say. Like: “What do you want to do? Watch a movie and sit on the couch eating ice cream?” and “Why does everything happen when you’re three? Grandma Sheila died when I was 3. I made a lot of my life decisions when I was three.”
I am so looking forward to our next walk.
*probably because of my love for the person who gave it to Jeter