Questions at the edge of the abyss

Posted May 15, 2009, at 8:13 p.m.

This week the UPS man dropped a box of graduation announcements on my doorstep and my 17-year-old began pointing at the calendar and talking of marching practice and her graduation party.

This week, my 16-year-old daughter got behind the wheel of a car for the first time and also began her first real job.

Last week our 15-year-old nephew moved in, and this week he started the process of starting at a new school smack in the middle of the final quarter.

He’s trying to find his way around a new house, a new school, new classes, new friends, new guardians and new rules.

This week my husband made a significant career change, and next week he turns 50.

There is also the small matter of my baby boy preparing for his 13th birthday celebration and all that that milestone entails.

Now, I understand the whole concept of spring being a time for new beginnings, but I’m thinking ENOUGH ALREADY!

It would appear that every member of my household is standing on the edge of a great abyss.

Me?

Well, I’m the one in the background not quite sure whether to give them an encouraging nudge or grab them by the collar and haul them all back to a safer and more familiar place.

I know that there is a whole lot happening in the state, country and world around me. I know that General Motors is closing 1,100 dealerships; that there is an emotional debate as to whether to release photos of prisoners in detention in Afghanistan and Iraq; that three groups have gathered the troops to file applications for a statewide referendum they hope will overturn Maine’s newly enacted gay marriage law; and that Thursday night was a real downer for New England sports fans, but it’s all on the periphery.

I’ve been a news junkie since the first day I reported to work at the Pittsfield bureau of the Bangor Daily News nearly 24 years ago. But right now my head and the family’s calendar are turning at such a rapid pace there is little room for any concern if it isn’t showing up on any one of my kids’ faces.

“It’ll all be over sooner than you think.”

That’s what my friends tell me when I show up looking harried and stressed and, to be perfectly honest, a little scary and crazed.

“You’ll miss these days,” they say.

I nod and smile — sort of — and try to appear that I believe them.

I know I’m not alone. I know that right now there are tens of thousands of parents everywhere planning graduation parties, gripping dashboards, saying silent prayers, complaining, fretting and most of all just hoping as their kids navigate through the teenage years.

Last week my soon-to-be teen was cleaning his room. In a box beneath his bed were a pile of toys from when he was “a kid.”

He played with them for a while before relegating them to individual boxes marked “Save,” “Goodwill” or “Trash.”

He was sensing his own maturity.

“It’s a hard thing to give your toys away,” I told him, “but we can’t keep everything. We need to make room for other things.”

Meanwhile, on the next floor up, my niece was going through her things, mostly clothes and shoes and deciding what to give away and what to keep and cram into her car when she heads off in three months to start nursing school in Florida.

Two floors down my nephew was unpacking the last of his suitcases, preparing to camp out temporarily in what used to be the sunroom.

At about the same time my husband was lugging in boxes of pictures and certificates that had been on the walls of the office that he occupied until last week.

There is a childhood game where you had a small square with smaller numbered tiles and there was always one open space. The goal was to move the numbered tiles up and over and down until they were all in order.

I think that’s what our goals are as mothers or fathers or aunts or uncles or guardians of any kind — moving the tiles so that in the end the abyss is not just a leap of faith, but one of opportunity and one that in the end makes some kind of sense.

reneeordway@gmail.com

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