This is my favorite time of year…the changing of season from summer to fall.
As a young girl fall meant back to school after a long summer. I missed my friends and couldn’t wait to get back into the routine; the anticipation of all things new. I couldn’t wait to learn; to get closer to being what it was I was going to be. Life was a mystery and I wanted to unlock it.
With time that love of learning became lost. It got lost in worrying about the future…in getting the grades, being involved in activities so colleges would take a second look. It became competitive and the power of whom you know versus what you do sometimes got muddled. It was all about the end-goal.
I grew up and got deposited into real life; not the sheltered one I lived in a small, rural coast community. In the city I was a speck in the crowd and found myself getting swept up in the sea of people reaching higher, working harder, running faster.
Surprisingly, love found me in the most unlikely places and I have been fortunate to have our friendship grow into relationship; our shared history binding us over decades. I had hoped to choose a safe, stable and very routine career. I did not aspire to move far away. I did not want a lot of change.
But to grow, to learn, change is what we must do. When stuck at a plateau, we change up our routines to revive our metabolism, boredom and complacency. Some refuse to budge, others choose the other extreme. But the word, change, does not normally have a positive connotation. I often hear that change is good but, really, what I’m feeling is the opposite.
Change. [Full Def.] transitive verb. 1 a : to make different in some particular b : to make radically different c : to give a different position, course, or direction to 2 a : to replace with another b : to make a shift from one to another c : to exchange for an equivalent sum of money (as in smaller denominations or in a foreign currency) d : to undergo a modification of e : to put fresh clothes or covering on. (n.d.). In Merriam Webster Online, Retrieved September 20, 2016, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/change.
With this school year I was loathe to give up my SUV; the hubs and I switching up our school drop-off routines. Car travel time, with my sons, is one of my favorite things. Soon our eldest will be the one behind the wheel; driving himself and his brother to high school. Because they begin earlier, the hubs navigates the craziness of their drop-off en route to work and I use his vehicle to drop-off our youngest.
I miss all of my sons being dropped off from my vehicle.
Out-of-the-box thinking is squashed with years of history. It has always been done this way and why change it? For years, after high school, I chose to sever my old fashioned ideals to embrace the novel. Plato, Einstein, Columbus, Watson & Crick, Wozniak & Jobs, …they chose to question the status quo and discovered new answers. I had many questions and debated them often. But never did I find my answers and I just stopped asking.
In this season of midlife, I begin to question many things. For years I never questioned, always following the herd and wanting to fit the mold to be a good spouse, daughter, mother and friend. I’ve failed many times at all of these things and it’s only with time and experience that I can finally find my way. Severing my ties with my childhood ideals worked against my end-goals. They used to be: a great career, titles, material things and many friends. But quantity never makes up for quality and I recently was reminded of this over the weekend.
I mulled over these thoughts in the hubs’ truck. While most people in my community lease cars and change them every few years to experience new, our household remains with our 1998 and 2002 vehicle models. Now that my son drives my vehicle, I see it anew through his eyes.
Did I realize that my vehicle drives itself? My son is finding things I had never noticed as I drove them to and fro. The seat that folds down into a table. A hidden compartment. I’ve missed all of these things. The youngest notes similar things in the hubs’ truck.
Did I know this button caused my speakers to change tone? I’ve missed the accelerating power of the hubs’ truck; its V8 engine and its deep-throated thrum. Each morning my son and I lean forward each time I brake; forgetting the sensitivity of the pedal. The music gets cranked up as I accelerate onto the freeway.
Slowly I have transitioned between the two cars; remembering the nuances of each and enjoying the amenities of both. I’m hoping to thread through this time of life, as well.
Just as I struggle to let things go for my boys and allow them more independence; so I must also learn to let go of my defining title as the center of my sons’ world as a mother, to an independent adult and attentive spouse.
I am redefining my roles, once again, and hope that I can retain the nuances of each and enjoy the amenities of both. In order to grow I must accept and embrace change. I’ve become complacent.
This past weekend as we celebrated my son’s sixteenth birthday I had been surprised by his request. He asked that gifts NOT be opened publicly; knowing one of his friends’ family struggles financially. Normally this son chooses not to celebrate his birthday with a party and prefers a dinner with just family.
I agreed to honor his request even though our family enjoys watching the reaction of the person opening gifts. I had not anticipated that all of our family or my son’s eight friends could attend.
The hubs and I were just happy that this son chose to invite his friends to celebrate with him.
As I drove the hubs’ vehicle to work, in traffic, I remembered this same son wailing inconsolably in the infant carseat; the visiting bff trapped in the truck with us for five hours. I gripped the steering wheel teary eyed. I wouldn’t trade this truck in for a newer model. Not ever. The memories and history that is told in each fold, scratch and dent were reminders of the growth and changes that life has brought.
History is important.
On Sunday I stared at the cake before me while my sister-in-law counted guests. It was not enough. The silver lining in her words wasn’t lost on me…at least you won’t have leftovers.
My son relented to his friends’ requests to OPEN all of his gifts in front of everyone. And so he did, as he has many birthdays before.
When the remaining Victoria’s Secret gift bag remained; the family and friends jeered and cheered for him to look at what was inside. What kind of gag gift did these friends decide to gift to this boy on his sixteenth birthday?! As pink tissue paper crinkled we all waited…
I stood alongside and watched his friends’ faces before looking at my own son. They had looks of anticipation and when I heard him gasp I finally looked at what he held in his hand.
This son has begged for us to purchase this electronic gaming item for the past two years and the hubs and I have refused to purchase it. His friends, of their own accord, chose to pitch in money to give this to him. They hoped I didn’t mind.
I gaped in shock, knowing this wasn’t something small, and I quickly snatched the camera to distract myself from crying right then and there. The picture of nine teens placing their hands in a Victoria’s Secret bag, grinning from ear-to-ear, was priceless.
Later that same night, after a high school community jazz performance, our son sat quietly at the table with the hubs and I. The middle son plopped himself into a chair and announced, “Dude. My friends wouldn’t do that for me. You’ve got some really good friends.”
In response, the older one shared how he had been shocked and embarrassed and didn’t know how to react when opening the present. He had been happy that these friends merely were present.
It was the idea that these boys pooled their resources together and gave a thoughtful gift all on their own. They couldn’t wait for him to open it and shared these sentiments on their online chatroom.
That mattered more to him than the gift. He had been humbled.
The very next night I found these parents in a high school stadium. Did they realize what their boys had done?
A mom bluntly shared her sentiments. She had refused to pay for the gift but if, these boys figured it out on their own, she’d purchase it with their money. Each of the parents agreed that the money issue wasn’t a deterrent. They all were encouraged that their sons worked collaboratively to get through obstacles and to selflessly give.
It’s the history these guys share with one another that’s important; their relationships solidifying year-after-year. I hugged each of the parents and saw the joy mirrored in their eyes; even the dads.
I’d become complacent in my relationships with my fellow humans; believing the worst and losing sight of what is good. I stayed within the status quo and just did. I focused on my sons and my family; forgetting about the bigger picture.
But life constantly changes with transitions. While sitting at a funeral mass for a dear friend’s mother; I heard family members share memories of their beloved. It wasn’t in the things she gave them that kept this family together. It was in the relationships she forged with her children and grandchildren, that mattered. It impacted who they all had become.
Why search for new and better things when the best things in life are steeped in history? Our evolution as a species, as a people, relies on our ability to navigate through transitions and obstacles and progress. To pass these traits on to the next generation, I must embody them in myself.
This is the end-goal; to strive to be better. To change. To grow.
Being married to the hubs brought many opportunities to experience change. He brought varying views into my life. Travel. Our sons. He taught me the strength in doing things on my own. With constant military deployments I was left to my own devices. And I could weather life’s storms knowing that, even though he wasn’t always physically near, our ideals and values were the same; his love unwavering.
My unlikely partner, quite opposite from myself, has anchored me. We continue to make history together; hopefully for many more decades.
On the harvest moon I stood alongside fellow friends, experiencing mooncakes for the very first time and appreciating their endless hospitality.
Life never ceases to amaze me, there are so many new things to learn. I am open now to new friendships and experiences; stepping out of my box and comfort zones.
I am remembering this gift of hospitality, handed down to me from generations past. As my birthday came and went I finally realized the greatest birthday gifts I’ve received. Get-togethers with various groups of friends; just to celebrate being together. No presents; just presence.
The overbearing mama bear in me is learning to let go.
The eldest son is always the one who’s struggled to find a friend and it was only on his birthday that my worries for his future were needless. He is capable of finding friends all on his own. His changes, both physically and emotionally, are okay. He doesn’t need to reinvent himself or try to conform.
I’m getting comfortable sitting in the passenger seat; ceding control and the wheel to him, to drive.
The waning moon is still bright. I roll down the windows, hair flying, and enjoy the ride.