It seems like only yesterday I sat diligently picking nits from my daughters’ hair and sterilizing lice combs.
Yet a few months ago, my focus shifted to a different pest. As I searched for a suitable New York hotel, I discovered that there is a national bedbug registry that enables you to track the scourge in cities and in hotels. We were heading to New York for a family milestone. Daughter #1, who was in middle school and already done with lice when I started this blog, was headed to college.
I don’t have to tell you about the summer attempts to grab every last sweet bit of family time (tricky, since D#1 worked three jobs and had an active social life), the nest-spoiling moments (thankfully there were few of them), or the obligatory online, yet still overwhelming, visits to Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Thanks to the Internet, no one need experience a milestone or Shark Week alone. There’s plenty that has been said about launching kids. My favorite college pieces this summer were this ode to move-in day written by Caitlin Flanagan, this take on the impending empty nest, and now that college has started, Frank Bruni’s Op Ed about college loneliness.
Every summer, I delight in seeing my friends’ vacation pictures on Facebook. This year, I enjoyed the college move-in day photos of kids I’d known since Kindergarten and the kids of my far-flung friends, real and virtual. As a friend pointed out in a comment thread, we’ve peppered our kids all over the country. Some of them might even end up meeting each other.
Several months ago, in preparation for our eventual empty nest (Daughter #2 is two years behind her sister), I suggested to Jeff that we follow the lead of TV maven Shonda Rhimes and practice “The Year of Saying Yes.” Anytime anyone invited the two of us to do something, we’d do it. Anytime we noticed an intriguing, yet intimidating possibility, we’d seize it.
Jeff and I are relatively sedate people, so don’t expect tales of bungee jumping or Bacchanalian decadence to follow. Yes, we got tickets to Here Lies Love, but deterred by the review of a gay former club-goer, who said he got tired of standing, we opted to sit in the balcony rather than experience the show on the dance floor (mistake). Jeff took a very well-received stab at live storytelling. I helped organize media for the Seattle Womxns March. We got closer to selling our house and our moving fantasies expanded to include the serious prospect of island life (note that we still live in our residence of 21 years).
Despite a badly sprained ankle that had me in a boot for much of the summer, we and our dog did a lot of stand-up paddle boarding.
We saw Michael Che perform stand-up comedy. I accepted several spontaneous invitations to author readings, and took on a new civic-focused volunteer role. We said Si! to a Bomba Estero concert, saw the play Fun Home, and spent hours standing in line to see the Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum.
I rode the Coney Island Cyclone.
Jeff rode the Coney Island Thunderbolt.
We started having impromptu dinner parties again and the other night… wait for it… we watched a movie and ate ice cream in bed.
I just received an email advertising Cannabis Gummie Bears.
Under our noses, in preparation for the tough separation from her sister and the horror of being the sole object under the parental microscope, Daughter #2 was experiencing her own seismic shift. Without much fanfare, she got her drivers license (her older sister is convinced that Uber, transit, and the advent of self-driving cars will spare her that need), got a job, and started thinking about her own college search. Something shifted in the way we dealt with her. Mindful of how fleeting the next two years will be, we started cramming in every bit of advice, enjoyment, and exasperation, savoring almost every bit.
Then, came the eclipse.
Stay busy enough and you can forget things are about to irrevocably change. Do I stretch metaphor too far if I tell you that the day before D #1’s departure, as I donned my glasses and stole peeks at the ever receding sun in between bouts of packing, it was like experiencing a total eclipse of the heart?
And then, before I knew it came an almost perfect week of family time in New York, which included Jeff’s birthday trip to the Storm King Art Center and dinner on the Hudson, the chaos that is move-in day, and a long airplane ride home.
Honestly, thanks to well honed texting habits, we hardly notice that D#1 is gone, but we are counting down the weeks till parents weekend. I have become quite fond of New York.
Labor Day is over and, as has been my tradition for the past few years, today, my birthday, I am writing this blog for the first time in many months and baking myself a birthday cake. Since my lemon curd buddy is away at college, I’ve opted for a September classic — Marion Burros’ famous plum torte.
This is my new year and the time of year when I traditionally make my resolutions.
Many of us feel vulnerable now because of the state of our country and of the world, the ash that is raining down from the Seattle sky, the fact that our children are scattered to the winds, and that we are getting older and some of us are battling illness and sadness and the kind of change that is not cause for celebration.
Today, a friend who I met on my birthday, 27 years ago in Thailand, served me coffee, croissants, and fruit. Another brought me flowers and freshly caught crab.
The most important thing to say yes to, now more than ever, is each other.