Notes From Last Summer
The big boys finished 8th grade a few weeks ago. There was an evening ceremony packed to the edges with families that I had not seen in ages and children who seemed too tall and too wise all of a sudden. I was surprised at how nervous and edgy my boys were. We did not have the right clothes. Parking would be terrible… we would need to get there so early! The little people didn’t really want to go. I was filled with frustration at a year fraught with bad adult behaviour and something akin to educational malpractice. But. I stuffed my bag full of gummy worms. We found great parking. Sam glared at the camera.
Perhaps they would have coped better if hey had been given the gift of a hundred childhood Sunday mornings filled with the same (albeit holier) angst of leaving for church.
We sat with our friends. Truly took off across the gymnasium and lost herself in a throng of families she would rather sit with. The little boys found their people. I loved the gift of attending an event where people talked and yelled and no one shushed them from the stage or asked us to hold our applause. The kids screamed and hollered and collected their candy leis and certificates. When it was over, we took some pictures, hugged the necks of the people who had seen them through, and watched as the rising freshman unleashed themselves on North Portland on their way to a dance at the Oddfellows.
Middle School sets a low bar. I am also convinced that triumphing over it cannot be overstated.
We cancelled the party we had planned to celebrate the boys’ graduation, the beginning of summer vacation and the the big boys’ impending move back to Florida. They had pushed for a celebration BBQ but when it came to the guest list everyone got quiet. All the food would be too much to think about. They started to moan about that kind of cleaning up. No one wanted to answer any questions. In fact, no one wanted to talk about any of this except for the adults, and the adults needed to chill the hell out.
We had planned and negotiated the Florida move on their mom’s terms, which freed us to be passive accomplices. Paperwork. Clean. Pack. It came up more quickly than we had planned, thanks to good friends who were able to take care of the flight home for the boys. We have always maintained that they would be with us “temporarily indefinitely” but after this long, it seemed more the latter than the former. When people ask if we thought it is the best plan, I went to my default “it is just not for us to know right now”. But maybe more accurately: Home is best: wherever and with whomever home feels like home.
The emotional reality on the ground was decidedly less nuanced. The language of loss and mourning can be more bite than bark and living through the lead time can be more agonizing that the change itself. We cancelled the party. We held plans loosely. We celebrated promotion with swimming and a trip to the Hometown Buffet.
The night before their flight, everyone went to bed quietly. The boys would need to be up at 4 am. We hugged. We said goodnight. They were gone.
One of the little boys woke up in a panic when he realized he had slept through their departure. It was like a bad dream and it took him hours to shake it off.
And now I have a child steeling himself for High School, two children in abstention, two children living their best Summer Pool Life, and one learning how to spell new words by the hour. “I miss them”, they say, and I try to explain how lucky they are that their hearts make space so easily.
“How many people in your family?” We are six. We are eight. We are 11.
It has been almost a year. All the answers are the same. “It’s not for us to know right now.” Home is best: wherever and with whomever home feels like home.
Spring is late but it is getting warmer and the house is a constant stream of leggy children in and out and knocking and who’s home and can they come out and oh it smells good in here. Both Paul and I work full time and everyone is mostly fine. People have stopped asking if they are coming back, except for my people who ask about it all the time.