Remembering My Father

“I’m sorry,” the words trickled from my mouth, as I gazed at my father’s coffin. These are not words I thought or intended to say, they came from a wellspring deep inside of me, surprising me in many ways but in some ways not. He appeared uncharacteristically sophisticated wearing a navy-blue blazer and tie. He looked like he found peace, after struggling with a body that outlived his mind.

I was sorry for how our family turned out. Like many families, we were broken. When you are part of this kind of family, you see the outside as perfect, families enveloped in two-story homes, with adoring parents and a pet or two. We were broken by fate, illness, bad luck – you choose. It wasn’t the first time, death arrived unannounced like a thunderstorm in early summer, just when you start to exhale and enjoy long evenings outdoors filled with fireflies and you feel all is good with the world.

I was sorry for our losses. This story began with my mother. She was young and radiant growing up as a teen in the 40s, talented and creative. Her aspirations curtailed by society’s expectations and money or lack thereof. She was engaged to a dashing young man, who shared her creativity and passion. She didn’t know, he had an unrepairable heart condition that would leave her widowed with a three-year-old son. Enter my father, waiting for the one. Overjoyed by his great fortune, he married my mother. This was a family of three, then five with the birth of my twin sister and I. Eleven short years, tragedy struck, and my mother was taken by breast cancer. We became a family of four, then three as my brother packed his grief for his own adventures.

I was sorry for all of us. Truth is we weren’t very particularly good at this family of three. There were no playbooks in the 70s on how a man raises two 11-year-old girls. He was lost to us as well, mired in grief. We were like weeds but obedient ones, walking to school, coming home, and doing homework. Most of the familial duties I carried on for my own family were non-existent. Dinner was what my grandmother would make but that didn’t last long. Then dinner was what we could pick up, go out for, and figure out by opening a can of tuna. I learned to cook.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t fix what was wrong or change anything. Yet, I tried. I wanted to make my father happy, the last parent standing. I tried my entire life, and true to my Catholic upbringing I fought hard to make him happy with an unwavering commitment with no endgame or victory in sight. I dodged his moods. I wanted happiness more for him than for myself. I failed.

I’m sorry for feeling the way I did. He was a mix of the most entertaining person in the room to the surliest. You didn’t know what you would get, like cereal boxes or Cracker Jacks, hoping you would find a prized toy but knowing it would be one of the same toys you have plenty of. I loved his entertaining and personable side, ready to converse with anyone and loving all kinds of new friends. I hoarded those times. I loved the jelly donuts he would buy on Sunday mornings and how his warm hugs felt safe.

I’m sorry that when we grew up and left home, he struggled to find a sense of who he was. I carried Catholic guilt the size of a tractor-trailer. The yin and yang of trying to enjoy my accomplishments with the gnawing wonder of how I can enjoy anything while he was unhappy.

I’m not sorry for loving him or for what he taught me. That people are not perfect, that change is hard and sometimes people don’t desire change. That people are complicated and sometimes their best intentions never get off the ground. In the end, most people do the best they can with what they have. I believe that about my father. The only sorry I hold now is I’m sorry he is gone.

Finding Peace On Mother’s Day

When I was 11, I lost my mother. It’s a strange age, you are years from being an adult but the strong grip hold of childhood is beginning to slip away. Yet, you are a child. I forget that sometimes and when I see photos of 11-year-olds, I peer at them to understand who I was when I lost my mother. Losing my mother started two years earlier as she fought an aggressive form of breast cancer that left alarming purple lacerations on her back, which I accidentally glimpsed one day. 1975 was a frightening time to have cancer, although I had no words or understanding of what was happening to my mother. It would take me years to discover what my mother died from. Spirited away by well-meaning relatives, I knew something was going terribly wrong. At 11 you know when the adults around you are acting strange and keeping things from you. I was and still am the most curious person I know, so I knew even what I didn’t know.

11 will always be a significant age for me. My mother’s untimely death catapulted me into an adult overnight. I was just trapped in an 11-year-old body. When I think about who I was, I remember I loved overalls, denim jackets, and swings. I spent hours perfecting my shaky cartwheel. I loved books and fell in love with all kinds of kindred spirits such as Pipi Longstocking and Heidi. The following year, I would be introduced to Holden Caulfield and I thought he was the coolest guy ever. Francie from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn became a friend and I became eternally attached to Oliver Twist and Pip from Great Expectations. I was a loyal reader of the comic strip, Dondi the war orphan. I couldn’t wait for the Sunday paper to come to see what Dondi was up to. Ironically, most of these characters were motherless.

I didn’t define myself as motherless. I never heard of that word, until much later in life. That moniker would have been difficult to own, as I was growing up, since I did my best to avoid any mention of this loss. Mother’s Day was a rough one, this was the one holiday that truly shone a light on our family’s loss. Our anchor was unmoored and every age became a juggling act. The years provided a softer landing but wiped away the few memories I had. My grief was delayed and one day I realized I could talk about her without feeling ashamed. The shame fostered by repression, which was the de facto way of handling death back then.

Then I became a Mom. I found that rhythm pretty easy, for I had been my own mother for half my childhood. My children brought me and continue to bring me unmitigated joy. They allowed me to mourn my loss and gain a better understanding of my mother’s own loss. I’m now 15 years older than my mother was when she died. I spent my 40s in a tailspin wondering when the pendulum would swing. I was convinced I’d die young. When I flitted out of my 40s unscathed, I wondered if I would grow old. I feel, at this point, I have. I have had the privilege of watching my children grow, and graduate high school and college. I’ve had the chance to ponder how my mother must have felt while she was dying and how truly devastating it must have been to her. I still wish I had the chance to grow up with her by my side, have a cup of tea as two adults, and just talk. There’s no replacement or quick fix, there’s only the unfurling of life – no matter how painful. No one knows that better than that 11-year-old girl who still lives deep inside of me. I’m proud of her. She’s there as a reminder of the precariousness of life, and the resilience to face the inconceivable. I never thought I’d be happy on Mother’s Day, and I still experience melancholy, but the paralyzing fear and dread have given way to stillness and peace.

Photo Credit: Robert Barone

The Magic of Mary

Mary Tyler Moore gave me something to dream about. There she was right in my living room, the perfect role model for my aspirations. I loved everything about her but was especially fond of how she swung around and threw caution to the wind, in the form of a striped tam. She was experiencing life her way and on her terms but simultaneously plagued with issues legions of other women were already dealing with –  how to hold on to your dreams in spite of society’s expectations.

As a young girl, my life was devoid of young ambitious women who could serve as role models. I had a mother who was before her time in many ways but her life was cut short by breast cancer when I was 11. I had aunts who were spectacularly talented artists and seamstresses who were held back by financial circumstances and their father a domineering Italian immigrant. In her short time with me my mother would whisper: “Make sure you go to college and work before you get married.” She was a young widow when she met my father and remarried in her early 30s. She carried the injustice and reality of not having the opportunity to attend college and pursue her dreams. Mary Tyler Moore took that dream further for me. I can close my eyes and visualize her entire apartment – the table for two by the window, the sofa Rhoda collapsed on while seeking Mary’s sage advice and the cozy kitchen where she made coffee or tea. The large “M” on the wall crowned the apartment as hers and she was doing it her way. As a 12-year-old who watched her every week I thought she was perfect. She was tall, beautiful and wore clothes my fashionista mother and aunts would approve of and she was articulate and smart. Smart was important in my family and that would be the way out for the next generation who would go on to college and graduate school and work in professions such as teacher, psychologist, veterinarian, writer, business executives and more. Yes, many of my cousins would go on to be moms but the steps had been taken for something more with the message that “we would make it after all” firmly planted in our heads by the brave generation that preceded us.

To the 12-year-old girl that watched her every week, Mary was perfect. Yet, perfect in an imperfect way and that was the magic of Mary. The wonderful writers, who I know now, consisted of pioneering women, pushed the envelope with many societal issues such as sex, birth control, equal pay and homosexuality but they never crowned her a woman of perfection. Mary was never an ideal. Mary was authentic and when she grappled with issues you could feel her pain. She wanted to be a good friend, a respected journalist and a desired woman. Yet, she struggled to juggle all those aspirations and that was the genius of it all proving how exceptionally talented the show’s writers were. Mary taught me to laugh at myself. My twelve-year-old self spent countless hours thinking, likely the same amount 12 year olds spend on their phones today, about life, about who I was, who I would ultimately be and how I would get there. I never thought about being perfect or beautiful though my mother and aunts were formidable beauties. I did, however, have a desire to be liked. Mary cared about people but didn’t want to be anyone’s doormat. She wanted to do the right thing for the right reasons and grappled with her “good girl” persona. For some reason we seemed to have moved in a different direction today where women are celebrated for their outward perfection and though we know it’s a sham society adores those who look great after having a baby, who don’t sport wrinkles after 40 and appear to have it all. As far as we’ve come, many of the issues Mary grappled with are still issues today. At one of my first jobs I was told about the company’s unfair pay practices toward women. As a young executive, I had sexist remarks made toward me. What did I learn from Mary? I watched as she gracefully picked herself up and held her head up high all with a wonderful sense of humor. She didn’t depend on a man or her looks for approval. When she pounds on Mr. Grant’s door and queries why the former associate producer earned $50 a week more than her she still speaks for women today. Hers, as we can see today, was a timeless message. As long as there are streams of women willing to march in streets, young girls across the globe risking their lives to study in their rooms and Moms who have big dreams for their daughters Mary’s light will shine.

An Imperfect College Goodbye

19137734798_da1b7d2e3a_n-1I’ll admit I’ve been rolling my eyes at all the bittersweet college articles featured on the web this fall showcasing mothers slumped over their offspring’s shoulders! I was beyond that! My daughter will be a junior in college and now I was getting ready to drop off my son for his freshman year. Been there, done that. I’m a pro! This is enough! I thought about how parenting has taken an insane turn from laissez-faire to dictatorial! I thought we need to stop and engage with our own lives, interests, and friends. So, my baby was going off in the fall! No big deal! From shower caddies to bed bug mattress covers I had this covered – until I didn’t.

How could that be? Senior year was filled with so many unbearable unknowns how could I want to go back? How could I not celebrate? My son landed on his feet and is attending a great university. All was going well with the move – after wrangling with bedding paraphernalia that brought visions of Princess or rather Prince and the Pea to my eyes. The room was complete. We had a nice evening and boom the next day I found myself standing in front of my son’s dorm feeling as awkward as a perplexed 14-year-old at her first dance. We had one hour left as the Orientation Advisors cheerfully advised along with their subliminal hints that it was time to go! That’s what the line item said in the orientation pamphlet and though we had one hour until my son had to leave for an orientation session – we left. Standing in front of his dorm my son looked strong and manly, so unlike the child he was four years ago, but still harboring traces of the boy who bounded out of the house on the first day of high school. It was time and unlike those choreographed goodbyes of great movies (think Casablanca) I choked and could feel the tears creep out of my eyes and it was all wrong. Parents brandishing mattress toppers and Bed, Bath & Beyond bags were buzzing around us while the Orientation Advisors were doing their job of trying to vaporize us. I could imagine how school personnel prepped them on how to get rid of lingering parents as professionally as my friendly exterminator. So, a hug that’s all I got. A short hug and a shrug about whether or not we should go back to his room. Who do I have to blame now for the worst goodbye ever? How was my son going to collapse in my arms while surrounded by all of these new potential friends? How was I going to swoon like Scarlet O’Hara and have my quintessential “mother/son” moment? So that was a wrap. One hug each for my husband, daughter and me and that was goodbye! I glanced at his face and to my surprise the waterworks cascaded down my eyes as he looked away and asked us to say goodbye once again to his childhood pet, the furry lab rescue he named after Harry Potter. We adopted him because of his insistence and their brotherhood bond was eternally soldered.

The truth is I couldn’t look at his face or I would have been way, way worse than “those” moms I’ve been mocking all summer and fall clinging to their freshman. He said something about seeing us tomorrow, since we were staying one more night, but we said he would be too busy. I turned my head because there it was, visible to only me I saw the expression he had when I whisked him to the emergency room at just three years old for stitches, the look he had the first day I left him at nursery school, his middle school malaise frown and “when am I ever getting out of high school?” face. I could see them all. Yet, there was also a hint of anticipation and a nod that it would be ok. So, I walked away. I shocked my daughter as we strolled to the car in the trail of another mom dabbing her eyes and I laughed a little because that’s what us moms do. We cover up the heartbreak and move on even though I cried again in the car and while writing this blog post. In solidarity to all you moms out there who feel the heartbreak of this goodbye I’m with you all heart and soul.  The raising of a child is not for the faint of heart, so let your heart ride the wave of emotions even ugly cry if you need to and then pat yourself on the back and remember you’re braver than you think are – remember you survived high school. You’re also stronger than you thought possible, think of how many times you’ve held it together! I’m proud of my restraint; I didn’t ugly cry in front of my son’s potential friends and destroy any chance of him having a social life – and lastly perhaps you’re just a tad softer than you thought but that will be just our little secret!

photo credit: garciadiego769 <a href=”″>New horizons</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>

College: No Happy Face Required

5403270_565b97272a_m“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

In the age of helicopter parenting where no stone goes unturned in the raising of a successful, passionate, perfect child the one tenet that has failed to be conquered is that the world will often not comply with all of little Johnny or Sally’s wants and needs. Little Johnny or Sally’s feelings will get hurt, they will fail a test or their heart will be broken. When they are young, most of these areas are covered by the best of helicopter parenting. Social engineering ensures that little Johnny or Sally has the right friends, tutors will be hired to assuage learning impediments and cash will be thrown at hobbies because Carnegie Hall or Shea Stadium is on the horizon.

It’s no wonder that many students suffer from anxiety or are unsure of what path to pursue in college. The yellow brick road to college is filled with endless nights of tutoring, practices and extracurriculars – flying monkeys and houses have been swatted away by well-intentioned parents. The acceptance letter to the “right” school is the denouement to success. Once you arrive on campus, you have one goal that is to be happy. Why wouldn’t you be happy? You’ve landed a spot at a coveted institution; you are the pride and joy of your family and friends. Your parents have scrimped for years for you to be happy at college. There’s no dearth of articles either with lofty titles such as “The 50 Colleges With the Happiest Freshmen.”

So why are parents suddenly taken for a loop when they hear undertones of dissatisfaction from their esteemed offspring?  A recent New York Magazine article chronicled the pressure so many college students are under to appear “perfect.” There’s even a moniker for it at some universities. At the University of Pennsylvania, it’s known as “Penn Face.” That’s the happy face plastered all over social media and the one parents flash at the relatives to let them know how happy their child is. At Stanford, it’s called the “Duck Syndrome” in homage to the way ducks hide their feet when they swim.

From a social context, happiness has upped its game. I don’t recall anyone ever investing in my happiness as a college student. I doubt I’m alone. As a boomer, I also ran my own show, picked my own major and made my own mistakes and lucky me no one was waiting in the wings to hear all about it. It was also a slow journey sprinkled with happenstance and lots of serendipity. Social media was not even on the horizon. The pressure to showcase your latest accomplishment is a growing cancer for our children. Clearly, the “Emperor” has no clothes on but who will be the first one to admit it? Times have changed but one thing that hasn’t is growing up isn’t easy. In some ways kids have it easier than they did 50 years ago and in many ways it’s a lot harder. Our kids have access to a much wider audience and the constant ping on their phones shouting out another peers’ accomplishments can cause an undercurrent of anxiety.

When you get that call from college and hear, “I’m not happy” do not send in the clowns. The struggle to grow up and figure yourself out is not sunshine and daisies. Land that helicopter, walk off the tarmac and show your kids who you truly are. Provide them the tools and observations from your own life experience to help them figure out what’s next. Teach them to laugh at the endless stream of self-promoted posts on their newsfeeds. There is no college in the world that will make a student happy, sorry not even you Harvard. Let’s stop selling college as the “promised land” or “nirvana.” College is wonderful but the bountiful experience has one person driving. It’s up to students to turn their experience into what they want it to be and a little struggle often goes a long way. On point, the orientation program for my son’s college began with this appropriate e.e. cummings quote: “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

An Empty Nester’s Next Stop

Thoughts on change…


Artwork by Melissa Morgan

I wouldn’t trade the moments of beauty I’ve had as a parent. The first time I laid eyes on my two children will always be the most perfect moments of my life. My daughters’ eyes as big as saucers absorbing the world around her and my son’s instinctive nursing confirmed for me the power of the maternal bond and the existence of a higher being.

These were connections that started in the heart but ended up becoming my core, my essential being and my purpose in life. Yes, I’ve done a million things besides parent but for nearly 20 years nothing came close, nothing was more important and nothing could stop the locomotive.

The locomotive that’s been slowing down and making fewer stops will be making its last stop this August. I know I will still be needed but I also know that I need a new course and a new track. I’ve been thinking lately, “Who am I?” I’m not sure if it’s an identity crisis or the inner workings of my mind trying to sort out a home without children. I’ve always had hobbies, freelance work and passions outside of motherhood so I’m surprised by this feeling. It’s not unlike the feeling I had when I stopped working full time to stay home with my children. I was plagued with disbelief that I was walking away from a career that was just ripening for a position I felt I was sorely unqualified for. I had never changed a diaper, barely ever held a baby or even babysat. I waited months before I cleaned out my office and I took a leave of absence. There was a mourning period, moments when I felt so lonely, inept and shocked at some of the mundane tasks of motherhood that I felt as though I had traveled back in time to an alternate universe. When I finally disposed of my outdated professional clothes it was another assault, another loss and another goodbye. I mourned all these stops in my life.

The difference now is that I see the erosion of time for what it is. I have a lot less time than I did as a young mom in my early 30s. I often consider I’m at midlife but I’m probably a little overdue, since 104 doesn’t sound so appealing. As parents when we exclaim our surprise at how old are children are getting, those years have ticked off for us as well. I recently read an article about the available time most of us have complemented by a visual of how many books you can actually read, how many more summers you have, etc. It was sobering. It is likely I’ll never read all the books I’ve been meaning to read, or travel to all the destinations I’ve dreamed of or write all of the stories that keep house in my head. The aging parents in our family are another reminder of my place in the universe. My train is moving to the next station where there are consolations – I’m wiser than my younger self, more self-assured and less likely to care about the minutia of it all. I know I’ll never do anything as important as raising children but I’m hearing a tiny little voice in my head saying, “don’t succumb to the goodbyes but look toward new beginnings for all of us.”

This beautiful piece of artwork is by artist, Melissa Morgan. You can view her work on her Facebook Page: Melissa Morgan’s Art Page and her website:

If I Could Turn Back Time

27541009_8135904918_nThere are moments in your life when the years seem infinite…

The New Year reminds me of the relentless passage of time. When my kids were young I played a game in my head imagining their next year, what they would look like, what new interests they would acquire and how their personalities would change. Having two children 22 months apart I played out their ages using the two times table musing, “I wonder what it will be like when they are two and four, four and six, eight and ten, and so on.”

The fondest memory I have of this game was when they were two and four. We rented a cottage in Montauk. We’ve done a lot of traveling since then, but it’s still one of my most treasured vacations, one which they likely don’t recall. Simple, serene and still, the cozy cottage spilled out into a grassy knoll and a small bay. We would barbecue or get take-out and then run down to the still water and throw stones or watch my husband skip rocks. He skillfully made the small pebbles by the bay come alive. I can close my eyes and see their clothes, the striped earth tone colors of my son’s t-shirt, the navy blue and white bathing suit my four year old daughter lived in. We were on our way to no diapers, high-chairs and strollers. Plus, just a drive to the ocean, the park and ice cream turned a simple vacation into paradise. I miss that.

I stopped playing the time game at the intersection of hormones and double digits. The joy, wonder and awe of what’s next seemed to be burned out by time sucking activities, school demands, the minutia of everyday life and sometimes even fear. The sweet spot of that little vacation, when time seemed to be all we had has been usurped by the passage of time. I suspect my game is not uncommon among parents, the hopeful dreams, the wonder and awe of how your children will grow up, what will they excel at and maybe even how tall will they be. The ride has been exhilarating, exhausting and gone by too fast. You suspect the clock has a sneaky way of cheating, how has the time passed so quickly? Do I even remember the ages of eight and 10? Was I too busy getting dinner on the table, washing clothes, worrying about trivial details I don’t even remember? Have I missed some of the best parts of their childhood?

The idea of time travel has also been fascinating. Most fictional characters who grab a ride back in time have some sort of epiphany along the way, like Scrooge’s foray to the past. There are moments in your life when the years ahead seem infinite. The summer when my children were two and four was one of those years. I can still see their beaming faces as they watched the skipping stones leap up, dance, fall down and reappear again. I miss the anticipation and the wonder of those magical moments of childhood.

photo credit: <a href=”″>skipping stones</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>d.



Saving The Baccala Salad Of Christmas Past

Screen shot 2014-07-05 at 8.50.36 PM

Lucys’ hands – the masterful creators of homemade Italian food for over 70 years.

Sometimes food is well…more than food

I should be the last person to save the baccala salad. I had never even heard of baccala salad until I met my husband’s family. Though I’m of Italian descent the family traditions my grandparents brought back from Italy which included making fresh fettuccine and laying it out on a bed to dry faded with the next generation. My mother who referenced a dog-eared New York Times cookbook and favored Jacques Pepin endeared herself to a more American palette. Her mother was a good baker but her culinary skills were limited and she subscribed to a minimalist approach to eating. Whether it was the hardscrabble life in the Italian mountains or the immigrant experience they did not revel in excess. My paternal grandmother was a better cook but she too knew her way around stretching dinner, with a family of six to feed. Since our family typically ended up as guests, my sister and I married without the holy grail of foodstuffs that define holidays. Enter my husband’s family, this is a clan that doesn’t fool around and the calendar year represents a tour de force of indispensable holiday dishes.

Christmas Eve is the feast of the seven fishes which means the menu must feature seven kinds of fish. What it doesn’t mean is that you can get away with a simmering bouillabaisse or paella. The feast includes baked clams, shrimp cocktail followed by your choice of linguini with white clam or lobster sauce. The courses continue with fish salad a melange of calamari, shrimp, scallops, mussels, polpo, olives and celery in the correct proportion as well as baccala salad. Baccala salad is a light concoction of escarole leaves, lemony dressing and savory baccala and Greek olives. The dish strikes a perfect balance apropos for any nouveau restaurant menu, so when my sister-in-law told me we were skipping the baccala salad I spoke up.

I’d like to say this is all about the baccala salad as I’m feeling triumphant about reprising its role in our seven fish fete, but it’s about so much more. My mother-in-law Lucy’s traditions are sacred to her and she’s passed the baton to her family. Lucy has sensed the tides of change, we’ve scrapped homemade lasagna on Christmas day, citing its heftiness and vetoed cardoon the stalks of the artichoke on Thanksgiving. We are holding the torch for the next generation but also trying to shed some of the labor and calories of Christmas past. However, this year Lucy is not well. We’ve taken jobs away from her and the changing menu is unearthing fears we all bury and some of it with food. Italians do a wonderful job of washing down fear with a finely fried zeppola. It’s brilliant and though we believe we have struck a delicate balance of preserving tradition and our sanity, we ordered fish salad to save the washing of seven different pots, Lucy will make baccala salad and its presence will serve as a resounding reminder of the importance of tradition, family and love.


Getting Real About My Empty Nest

photo-20For some it’s the concerts, plays, sports or parent teacher conferences they miss most – I miss reading children’s books…

I miss reading children’s books. Recently I found myself pining for Corduroy, Sandra Boynton’s The Going To Bed Book crew and The Velveteen Rabbit. I’ll often ask my children, “Do you remember Mooncake? My son and I still reminisce about Goodnight Moon, a story about nothing and everything that matters in a child’s life – routine, consistency and love.

I read every Madeline book created, including all the spinoffs. At three years old, my daughter could recite the lines to an entire Madeline book. Yet, secretly I knew I loved the story more than she did, I swooned over the rhyming, the symmetry and the charming Parisian scenes. I still remember the night I read The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes. When I finished reading, tears streaming down my face, I turned to see my daughter’s reaction and she was fast asleep. What a beautiful timeless story of tolerance and redemption.

I gladly ditched all the colorful plastic in my home years ago, you won’t find a Lego anywhere in sight. Thomas the trains are packed away in the attic and American Girl doesn’t live here anymore. Yet, the books are still here and hold my most cherished memories. I’ll never forget the excitement in my children’s faces when Edward Tulane fell overboard in The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane or when Corduroy, ripped overalls and all, was finally loved.

For some it’s the concerts, plays, sports or parent teacher conferences – nope won’t miss any of that. My nest will be empty next year and passing by their bookcases gives me the most pause. In Barnes and Noble I want to jump up and down in the children’s section, where I spent so much time, but now I begrudgingly pass by. I didn’t cry a river when I dropped my daughter off at college last year but show me a Madeline book and I can make it happen. My kids have outgrown bears that come alive in department stores and talking rabbits. Reading to my kids will always be the most magical and treasured moments of my life. These characters filled up rainy days, sick days, good days and bad – days of exhaustion when reading was the last thing I wanted to do and days I had limitless energy. So they’ve long outgrown the wonder of childhood books but I hope they’ll always honor the hope, wonder, reflection and joy a great story can bring. I couldn’t say it better myself, so here’s a favorite passage from The Velveteen Rabbit:

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

I’ll always be a parent but the path of parenting children is nearing its end for me and I do feel “Real.”

One More Ride


Radio Flyer in the back yard. Strobist Info: Just the sun.

I apologize to the “Helicopter Mom Police” but today I was one of “those” moms.  I trailed behind my son, in my own car, as he drove to school. No need to gasp, it was his first solo expedition and he had his license for a little over an hour. Of course, he’s been driving to school with me as a passenger for quite some time. He completed Driver’s Education and has been practicing for about a year. Yet, there was something monumental about today. The day he could finally legally drive to school. As I watched his car move farther away, his childhood flashed before my eyes.

I’ve been his cheerleader for every milestone serving as a precursor for this day. A beautiful fall morning with leaves dancing in the street punctuated this momentous event and the ever changing, fleeting and final year ahead. He’s 17 and a senior and I know this was the first of many goodbyes.

Goodbye to driving to school, since he was two and a half and in nursery school this has been my job. My minivan was filled with giggling boys, sticky juice cups and lollipop sticks. I was usually half conscious, sleep deprived and happy. Yes, there were years he took the bus but then I was driving to practice, a friend’s house and a million other places.

As I watched him pull out, I traveled back to the day he took his first step. He was enthralled with walking and joining his sister. Sitting was no longer an option and at two years old he told me flat out, “No more stroller, no more highchair, no more nap.” I was devastated, he was only two but he liked his mobility and he wasn’t wasting any time. I also remembered his first set of wheels, his beloved red wagon. Of course the fuel behind the wagon was me but he loved canvassing the same neighborhood he was driving through today to collect leaves, rocks and sticks. He loved the wind in his face, the speed four wheels provided and the thrill of the ride. I also saw his second set of wheels, his first tricycle, then his training wheels and the day the training wheels came off. He learned along with his older sister and his determination was amplified by his love of movement. I remember jumping and screaming hooray as he plowed into a bush, but he was riding his bike. When he passed his road test, I jumped as well as he eyed me with a “come on Mom get in the car” look.

There were other wheels, skate boards and wave boards and bikes and as he drove along the streets he slowly transformed from little boy to young man. I watched as he maneuvered the car and for every move forward I said my silent goodbye. Goodbye to the one year old who made his first step, goodbye to the two year old who ditched his stroller, goodbye to toddler in the wagon, goodbye to the boy on the tricycle and the little guy who gladly said good riddance to training wheels, goodbye to the middle schooler who sailed away on his bike. I said my goodbyes but I’ll never stop worrying, never stop celebrating his victories by jumping up and down and I know I’ll always be behind him the way I was today.

photo credit: <a href=”″>Day 256 – Red Wagon</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>

%d bloggers like this: