Monday, August 31, 2015

The Quiet Sense of Something Lost

The quiet sense of something lost.  -- Alfred Lord Tennyson

The world is too quiet without you nearby.  -- Lemony Snicket


The house is empty, quiet. The squeak of loose boards on the stairs and the floor caused by the inconsiderate footfalls of boys has disappeared. The endless rain of endless showers has stopped. Their doors are solidly shut to keep a thieving, grieving, dog from stealing the socks without mates that were left behind.

My boys have returned to college. The only sounds I hear are the ones I make.

It is the last Monday in August, the last day of the month and the last day, I have read, of meteorological summer.  Yet the electronic thermometer above my desk tells me it is ninety degrees outside.  So much for the end of summer and the beginning of school. The weather is conspiring to make the return to academics feel wrong somehow.

Of the twelve months in a year, my boys are home for just four of them now. They spend two-thirds of their year living elsewhere. From now until the end of the college year, they will be home for just about one month - a week at Thanksgiving, two at Christmas and another sometime in the spring. Not enough time to get used to their inconsiderate footfalls late at night and their endless showers in the morning. Not enough time to get used to buying cold cuts, cartons that hold two dozen eggs, and two boxes of cereal each week.

I won't need any of those things when next I shop for groceries. The receipt will be shorter. The cost will be half of what it was just last week. The refrigerator will have no leftover sandwiches from the deli.  The cupboard will have no Nutella or M&M's. Deciding the dinner menu will be infinitely easier. Cleaning up will take half the time. The dishwasher will be empty of glasses and he counters will be free of wrappers and boxes.

The tidiness of silence.

Ended, though, are the debates about who will take out the trash, walk the dog, haul the recycling to the curb. We will have to do those thing now although there will be less trash and far less recycling. Ended are the tussles about shoes left all over the house for the dog to steal, rearranged furniture, and laundry washed, but forgotten in the machine. There will be no more appeals for a couple of dollars for pizza or mini golf or the movies, no more fights about who gets the car and complaints about who has to park the cars one or the other left on the street. The car went with them back to college.

So, for now, there is only the silence cut by the hum of the ceiling fan and the occasional whimper of a dreaming dog or the slamming of the mailbox with the daily delivery. The phone has not even broken the silence of this last Monday in August, this last day of a once noisy month. 

These boys, well, these men, have gone back to college, back to their books, their friends, and the life we know nothing about - and probably don't want to know about. They have taken their noise - and my heart - with them, but we have text messages and email and telephone calls to hold back the tide until they return. 

After all, home is the place, when you have to go there, we have to take you in.

And this shall always be home, but they shall not fill it with their noise soon enough. 

Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in. -- Robert Frost.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Growing Up

Well, my feet they finally took root in the earth, but I got me a nice little place in the stars
And I swear I found the key to the universe in the engine of an old parked car
I hid in the mother breast of the crowd, but when they said "Pull down," I pulled up
Ooh . . . growin' up

 - - Bruce Springsteen, Growin' Up

My younger son went back to college just yesterday while my older one endlessly debates about the day he will return. The older one, though, did something yesterday that made Bruce Springsteen's song, Growin' Up, pop into my head.

I came to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band later than I should have. As a college junior, we rewrote the words to the unofficial anthem of the state of New Jersey, Born to Run, for our Junior Show. I had never heard it before (I know - shocking and embarrassing) and, even now, it is those lyrics that I recall, not the real ones. After that, Bruce faded from my memory.  

But not for long.

In law school, I met - and later married - a Springsteen super fan. He had been to dozens of concerts and now I, too, have been to a a score of concerts in the band's home turf - the New Jersey Meadowlands, at either the stadium (the old one that has been hideously replaced) or the arena (which is now closed and sits idle). We yell "Bruce," sounding as if we are booing him. I sing along as best I can like everyone else and wait for Thunder Road and Born to Run and Born in the U.S.A. My kids have been a few times themselves and my younger son and I went together once without my husband. We left before it ended as it was a school night and as we walked to the parking lot, Thunder Road echoed from the stadium.  I had missed my favorite song.

Another time, just a couple of years ago, my husband, younger son and I had magnificent seats in the new stadium and dined in the swanky area reserved for special guests. (We weren't special guests - those tickets just happened to be available.) Had it rained, we would have remained dry as we were lucky enough be under a roof. We watched in amazement as a couple in our direct line of vision two rows ahead did everything but make out right there in front of all of us to see. More than a few people murmured that they needed to get a room.

But I digress. I don't know the lyrics to Growin' Up and had to find them on an internet site.  It was the refrain that ran around in my head after my older son, now 21, but still my baby, asked if I wanted him to help me empty the dishwasher.  He had been doing that quite frequently this summer, asking if he could help with the laundry, with setting the table, with the trash. He took full responsibility for walking the dog this entire summer so when he leaves in a couple of days, I will have to get back in the habit of doing so myself.

I suddenly realized that he had grown up. Sure, he is 21 and lives in an apartment and has to shave (infrequently, but still) and drives a car and had a summer job. So, I obviously knew he had grown up.

And, yet, I didn't. He was still the little boy who would let me put temporary tattoos on his face for the Independence Day Parade and go to the Central Park Zoo to see the penguins. Not until that moment when the song popped into my head, a song I had probably not heard in several years, did I really know. 

Growing up.  

Grown up. 

Yes, my son, a college senior, responsible for his own life in most respects, has grown up.

And, frankly, I do not like it.  Not one bit.  

Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. -- Chili Davis

Thursday, August 20, 2015

These Last Golden Hours

Lost, yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever -- Horace Mann

We have returned from my beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee and are now in the waiting time, the time between the end of  vacation and the beginning of school. They are days of mourning the wonderful time just passed and awaiting the empty nest that is soon to come.

These days, about two-weeks of them, are an odd sort of limbo. We prepare for the return to college, making lists, shopping at IKEA, buying new toothbrushes and bottles of shampoo, rewashing the sheets and towels grown musty in summer storage, and wishing for time to stand still.  Despite this flurry of activity, we feel like we are treading water, like we are getting nowhere fast since it has all been done before with the same result - you work hard, shop often, pack everything and then send the children you have raised for 18 years or so away with all those things you spent those last precious days accumulating.

The house becomes empty of their noise, their detritus, and their smelly socks the dog so enjoys dragging around to every room. 

The house becomes empty of them.

And, suddenly, you realize that every moment with them is a golden one.  Golden moments, hours and days that you would repeat in a heartbeat, no matter how contentious they might have been, no matter how dull or ordinary or unremarkable they might have seemed at the time.

I am alone in my house right now. My husband is at a baseball game.The boys have gone off with friends to play some video game or stop for ice cream or pizza one last time at their favorite place in town. They have but one week before they head south. I relish these few stolen moments alone - they, too, are golden during the crowded summer months - but know they will be less golden come the shortening days of fall when alone is commonplace.

It is then that I will miss the late night-noises, the arguments about who is to take out the trash, even the smelly socks. Until that day, I shall hold on to the few golden moments left in this waning summer and be glad for the collection of linens, lamps, and clean laundry that is beginning to accumulate in the living room.

Who would have thought that even smelly socks could be golden?

I would have let him go one finger at a time, until, without his realizing, he'd be floating without me. and then I thought, perhaps that is what it means to be a [parent] - to teach your child to live without you. - - Nicole Kraus

Friday, August 14, 2015


Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let thing flow naturally forward in whatever way they life. --  Lao Tzu

To imporve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. -- Winston Churchill

When I started this blog back whenever that was, I envisioned scrapbook layouts, tutorials, glory and fame.  Well, not really, but I did think posting scans of layouts and talking about them would be great fun.

It wasn't.  That just wasn't my thing.  I wasn't good at it and I did not enjoy it. So, it evolved into telling the stories behind the layouts which I found much more satisfying. And so I went along merrily for a year or so sharing layouts and stories and photographs.  Some people read them, but not too many. Then, for no reason in particular, eight months went by without a post - until last week while my family was away on vacation on my little slice of heaven on this earth - New Hamphire.

In December, however, I listened to a set of podcasts on NPR - Serial.  It told the story behind the murder of a teenage girl in Baltimore and the boyfriend found guilty of the crime. About the same time, I found a mysterious sweater in the trash.  It did not belong to me or anyone I know.  I was inspired to write my own "podcast" serial on Facebook about the investigation into the source of the sweater (a cleaning service employee tossed it after another client had given it to her, but it didn't fit.  I know - weird.) My Facebook friends enjoyed it and I discovered that I really liked the writing, especially when a bit of humor was involved.  In fact, the most successful blog posts were the funny ones about my dogs.

So, not my blog will be evolving again - with more stories and ruminatings and musings.  There will still be photos and maybe even layouts.  I won't be changing the title as that is just way too much work and I don't want to lose what came before.

Even if no one reads this or anything that may follow, it will be here for me, my kids, whoever.  And maybe, someday, I will do something more substantial with what I have written, something involving ink and paper and bindings. I mean, you never know where life may take you.

And does it really matter how long it takes for anyone to find what one really wants to do?

Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most. --  Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Don't Cry Because It's Over - Smile Because It Happened

Time flies when you're having fun.

They say in the end, it's the wink of an eye. -- Billy Joel

Carpe diem.

It all went by so fast. -- Dar Williams

Eight months have passed since last I took pen to paper, so to speak, but the days seem to fly by faster and faster with each passing year.  It seems only moments since my older son went off to college and yet he is about to begin his senior year. My younger son has joined a fraternity and is, for all intents and purposes, off on his own as well. I vividly remember their first days of kindergarten.

For the moment, however, we are together on vacation in New Hampshire, the one place I truly call home.  It is a place for doing nothing although there is so very much one could do.  We debate various activites each day and reject them in favor of simply sitting and staring at water and sky.

Today is our last full day. The week that passed flew by, so quickly that it almost feels as if it never really happened.  I look forward to these days at the lake, but the leaving is so incredibly difficult that I sometimes think it would be better never to have come at all. While the day we depart from New Jersey and head north is the best day of the year, the day we pack up the dirty clothes, used sheets and towels, cameras filled with photos and souvenirs we do not need, but already love is easily the worst.

But I know, really, that I would shrivel up and die without these days, however few, at this lake. There have been summers when our trek north has lasted for thirty days all told, when children were small and excursions were exciting. Gondola rides, amusement parks, nature centers, cruises around the lake, the penny-candy store. These were the fun, exciting and interesting ways for us and our little ones to pass the mornings while we spent the afternoons on beach chairs in the sun or floats on the waves, small though they may be. We had watermelon spitting contests. We slathered each other in sunscreen. We made sand castles on the shore.

Time has left all that in the rearview mirror. Now,  porch sitting and, sadly, smart phones and television are what keep college boys entertained now. A day will come, however, when they will again be making such trips to the gondola rides, amusement parks, nature centers and penny candy stores. They will have become the ones behind the wheel and the ones taking the photographs while watching their little ones laugh, having the time of their lives. Those days have passed for me and mine . . . for now.

Until then, I take photographs of sky and water, trees and old buildings, boats and dragonflies. New Hampshire is such a wealth of photo opportunities. I play around with the frozen moments in Photoshop and other photo programs, hoping to create images that make these lovely, but too-short days last well into the winter and beyond.

But all the photographs in the world will not make taking that last look of the lake before it slips into memory any easier.

Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all-- Shakespeare

Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened. -- Dr. Seuss, of course.