As I drove to a yoga class earlier this week, in a hurry to make it there on time, I slowed down to a snail’s pace when I got to the school zone for a local elementary school. Sure, I had to slow down to 20 miles an hour as this is the speed limit. But, for a brief minute, everything slowed down, not just the speed on my speedometer.
For a brief minute, it was as if my life was frozen in time. I watched the crossing guards channel the children into school and the parents walking with their children, who looked as if they were going to topple over underneath the weight of those heavy backpacks. I stared at one little girl with bright red hair and watched her trying to walk tall and proud with her books in tow. And then, for no more than five seconds, I locked eyes — out of my left driver’s side window — with an attentive father en route to school with his child. I quickly looked back to the road in front of me and then glanced to my left again. He was no longer looking my way but, rather, looking forward as he continued his slow and steady pace toward the school. It was as if he knew what I was thinking: Where did the time go? Wasn’t it just yesterday when I walked my once proud first-grader to school?
I was caught up in a trance-like state, only coming out of it when I realized I was no longer driving through the school zone and it was time to speed up again. But I wasn’t ready for speeding back up. I wanted to slow down again and walk my boys to school. My eyes got teary as I started to drive faster. When I hopped on the highway, I was back at the speed limit but I couldn’t let go of that father. Still can’t.
Today, I was on my way home and my eyes started tearing up again. I looked to my left and saw a large, bright orange sign: “Be Prepared to Stop.” Workmen were on the street doing repairs. But I took it as a sign — my own personal sign. And, in case, I forget what this sign says, I can see it from my yard. Guess the universe wants me to keep seeing this sign.
Today, I drove past the parking lot at Sharon High School. I looked to my left and saw my son’s car (err, my car) parked in its usual spot, covered with dirt. My eyes teared up.
I looked out at the women in my yoga class this week and realized I have lived a whole phase of my life (their lives too) with them. When I started teaching this group, our kids went to Cottage Street Elementary school together. Now our kids are either adults or almost adults. We are empty nesters or almost there. And we sure as heck aren’t meeting at the entrance to school to pick up our children and talk about the upcoming school fair.
One could say I am turning into a sentimental mess. Or, going through a phase. Or, realizing that I’m not 30 anymore and time just sort of sped up while my eyes were closed. Or, all of the above.
In less than a month, my oldest son Ethan is graduating from high school. Next week, he turns 18 and I go get my grey hair covered. He is taking AP tests today so I drove Noah, who just turned 15, to high school. We were talking and I caught him rolling his eyes at me. My first instinct was to say, “Why did you do that? Was that necessary?” But I said nothing. He’s a typical teenage boy and I am a typical teenager’s mom: I think I’m hip and cool (do they even say those words anymore?) but I am really a 46-year-old mom trying hard to hold fast to memories and my little boys.
In yoga, we all talk about “being present” and “living in the present.” Today, it hit home that the “present” goes by way too fast. We get one chance to do it right “in the present” and then that chance is gone, forever. All we have left is the past and future and we’re not supposed to dwell on that, right? But this week I am struggling to let go and thinking of all the things I should have done better. I know — that’s not productive or healthy. But I’m only human.
Here’s the truth. The gosh-darned human truth. My truth……I am afraid to let go. I am scared out of my mind. I write this as my eyes well up with tears. I am afraid to let my son go to Northeastern University in August. I am afraid for him to move out on his own and begin his adult life. And it’s not because I don’t think he’ll succeed or be ok. I know he will do just great in whatever he sets out to do in life.
It’s because I don’t know if I’LL be ok. There, I said it. I wrote it.
Up until this week, I thought I was fine with Ethan graduating and moving on. I couldn’t possibly be more proud of him. But now, I am reduced to a tearful mess. Ethan and I haven’t always got along in his high school years. Maybe it’s because we are so much alike — both headstrong and opinionated but yet we give 100% of ourselves to others. I’ll admit it: there were times when I couldn’t wait for him to move out. But now that this is becoming a reality, I know that I am just not ready to lose him to the world. I’m not ready to walk into his empty room (which will most likely turn into his room/guest suite next fall) and not trip over piles of dirty laundry. I’m not ready to have nothing to remind him about, all the time. I am not ready to be the mother of a college student.
I am not ready for how I will deal with the void.
These next few weeks will be particularly challenging. I will cry tears of joy and sadness. I will do my best, even when it’s not good enough, to stay present and enjoy every moment. I will never get these moments back. That much I know. I will try not to cry hysterically next time I pass a group of elementary school children and their parents walking to school. I will always look for that father with the big brown eyes and all his dark brown hair intact.
He has “30” frozen in time. Take care of that beautiful child weighted under that monstrous backpack. He will be 18 in no time.