Monday, October 6, 2008

A Day to Reminisce

The juxtaposition of life’s events can create a complex stir of thoughts and emotions. It seems that my life is offering up a potpourri of events and feelings, and I have yet to figure out what the mix is supposed to be creating and offering for me. As I write this, I realize that at almost any point in the last several years, I could probably begin an essay with these couple of sentences.

Took a big exam a few days ago that, should I pass, will legitimize some of my big energy expenditures of the last nearly eight years. Traveled the first half of this past weekend following my exam, with a mission to deliver a cello to a violinmaker. Not sure these events have much to do with each other, but both mark endings and beginnings, and so in some abstruse way they seem appropriately connected.

The cello offered two of my children an opportunity for some portion of their musical education which, to my disappointment, neither of them have been keen on continuing. As fate would allow, however, their full size cello is a beautiful instrument with some value. This is an important piece that I am realizing now also: Musical instruments don’t generally depreciate in value like most other material possessions! And, as I have a potential serious buyer for this beautiful cello, it turns out that before it can be sold, it will need a repair or two from the violinmaker who sold it to me, who is now in Boston, giving rise to the need and opportunity for this trip from Central New York to Boston, as well as my extended imaginative travels.

Which is also the exam connection. All that wild pre-exam imagining that so effectively puts an end to any level of efficiency of day-to-day living!! What is being offered up as I expose my anxious self to 200 multiple-choice questions? Every time one takes a BIG exam it is the culmination of years of preparation that seem to be at stake. How could I possibly put on the table the better half of the last decade of my life in a mere four hours???

OK, back to my actual trip: After depositing the cello with the violinmaker, I got back in my car, turned around and headed west right away, but decided that on this beautiful early autumn day, I would take the scenic route back. I took myself home traveling across northern Massachusetts via Rt. 2. As I got close to Walden Pond, it seemed that both my head and my car at the same moment decided that I should pay a visit. I spent five important years of my earliest “mommy-ing” in the greater Boston area, and Walden Pond was one of our old haunts from those days. It has been nearly 20 years since we had last been there. The recollections that it brought up were of my 2 older children, both in their mid 20’s now, who were between the ages of two and five or six when I discovered and visited Walden Pond with them. Those visits then were very different from this visit. I actually walked around the entire lake this time! With toddling kids, that simple hour-long walk would not have been a pretty sight. My current visit also is well past the heat of summer. We always came on warm summer days, with sand pails and shovels, beach towels, bathing suits, and sunscreen. We splashed some in the water, but swimming was less important than playing in the sand. Here I was now however, by myself, in the same place where I had come to play with my young children so many years ago. At first it did not feel like all those many years, and yet there is undeniable history that has spanned those years. As those memories flowed, all of a sudden the time was more poignantly felt. The pail and shovel, sandcastle-making-kids today are both working their first serious real jobs. Their next younger sibling, too young to get into sandcastle creations before we left Boston is now a junior in college. Baby of the family, not yet even a twinkle in my eye when we left Mass., is now looking forward to college next year. I am feeling my years and the nurturance of all those intense mommy-ing days. Every time I come back to one of these places near and around our old stomping grounds, I sink into the recollection of that time when life was both complicated and simple, busy, hectic, scheduled, but with no difficult questions about what needs to be done next. Diapers and dinner, walks to the park and naps, grocery shopping, art classes, their first piano lessons, and pre-school.

In the interim 20 or so years the family structure has changed, there have been a number of graduations, including my own from graduate school. And, lots of complexity as well as routine, keeping our lives both mundane and storied. Stopping along the way to take in Walden Pond, and the gorgeous colors along the winding road and hills of Rt. 2 offered tender opportunity to slow down for a day, ponder the intersection of my and my children’s past with current time and space. Opportunity to reflect on how I got to be standing and walking this space where I mixed my own early adult years with my children’s impressionable years of sucking everything in. As I now ponder my sentimentality at this juncture, I recognize the tear in my eye and throat as another coming of age. I, like so many others, granted myself wisdom as I stepped into parenting full steam ahead. One of life’s many lessons, that we don’t really “get”, until an opportunity to step back and away offers itself. Tears of my own youthful innocence, offering the best I could to my children. Forgiving my parents for the best they could offer me, which of course is never adequate. Moving forward, I continue my job of my own re-parenting, and guiding my children when and if invited, as they now enter the stage of their lives not so far from where I was 20 years ago.

I make no predictions for anything at all. There is no knowing or predicting. There is only the offering of love, and being present to what is.