My Borrowed Year

I am about to enter a new demographic. I wish I felt great about it. I wish it was one you auditioned for, or interviewed for, or longed for…or even really just wanted. I cannot speak for the scores of others that have entered this demographic before me. I can’t track the path of their heart or read back into their thoughts. I can only speak for me as I muddle through the processing of my own heart and thoughts.

I think back to 1994 when this idea birthed and to 1999 when I launched it, when I drew the line in the sand and committed. I held back. I cheated. Could you blame me? My baby boy should have started school in August, 1999. 5 seemed far too young back then to send them off for 8 hours into the care of others. Whose crazy idea was this, to start school at 5? What is so significant about turning 5 that allows you to loosen the apron strings? I couldn’t see it then, anymore than I can see it now. So, I cheated, and I’ve been living in and wallowing in and reveling in my borrowed year.

We must all pay the piper. My dues come up for payment soon. High School graduation is two weeks from tomorrow. Then we begin the whirlwind of “final” senior high trips and closure with all friends and local haunts, amidst the act of walking the tightrope toward college – the high wire act of summer orientation and registration and early enrollment for freshman. I don’t care for this tempest of activity at all. I don’t want to be one of those, one of those mothers of high school graduates and college students.

In my effort to stem the tide, to stay the execution, to defer the payment, I procrastinated on finishing his school days scrapbook. As long as I didn’t look at all the years, they weren’t really acknowledged, right? As long as I didn’t begin the Senior Year in the scrapbook, it couldn’t end, right? This past Friday, able to put it off no longer, I took a vacation day from work and settled my heart and head into a 4-day work weekend on the scrapbook. Two weeks to finish, two weeks. I’ve got to get this done now so I can move on to the party preparations. Two weeks? How can it only be two weeks away?

Thanks to my newfound friend, the Combi patch, my raging hormones cooperated and I focused on the work at hand and ignored the underlying meaning. I paced the work out. I had daily goals. I bought one bag of m&m’s to ration out rewards to myself each day as I hit the 25% completion goal for that day. I drank coffee. I moved around to stay awake. I watched every Audrey Hepburn movie that Netflix could offer me. I moved on to Cary Grant afterwards and followed the cues of recommended watchings at the bottom of the Netflix screen, in a robotic mental state so as not to upset the tender applecart of emotions in my heart. I plowed on through all the pages to do, all the grades to remember, all the stories that sum up a child’s school years.

As Monday wound down, as lunch time passed and dinner time approached, I could put off no longer the finality of the project, the finality of the weekend, the finality of his school years, the finality of my nest being full. And as a trade-off, I have this one souvenir,  one 2″ scrapbook, 40 pages of memories that are called up by pictures and tidbits of stories. I looked at the album cover, thick and full, and somehow felt both a sense of accomplishment and a trickle of devastation. I got it done! I could pass the hallmark test of a scrapping mom – I had spawned a childhood memory book, on time and done. As elated as I could allow myself to feel, I also battled the other side of my heart and head that wanted to just lay my head down and weep over the end of an era.

As I waged my own war of emotions in my heart, my son came in from a friend’s house. My words were limited, as the thick choking sensation in my throat prohibited verbosity. I could merely push the album toward him as some message, some offering, some sense of finality. He said, “That’s it, then? It’s done? It sort of makes it all real now, doesn’t it?” I nodded, unable to say much of anything. I pushed the album toward him and managed to push out, “Would you like to see it?” He slowly said, “Sure” and took the album and settled into a chair, turning the pages at differing rates.

I could not really watch it and turned my back on him to face my computer monitor, fighting for some sense of order and control over my emotions, willing the tears to stay dammed up in my head. I turned at one point to watch him and noticed him taking a picture of a picture with his phone. Kids are so funny these days. We are all instant and prolific photographers. He finished looking at the book and got up and came to me, silently, and just hugged me. I was crying, but I could feel that he, too, was crying. We just sat there, hugging, dealing with our emotions, and weeping over the thoughts we were processing and the facts that continue to present themselves – that he will leave in about 70 days, forever changing the mix of our family life and in one fell swoop eradicating the home and life I have fought to protect for them and offer to them.

Ah, these big ‘ole boys with legs that take them up taller than their mother, with wit that challenges our humor and debates our morals, with eyes that see beyond our own horizon. These big ‘ole boys that want to take on the world. It’s easy to forget that they are in there, too, guarding their hearts, their little soft baby hearts, the heart that you have nurtured for every day of every year of their life.

I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. I wouldn’t trade any of the days. I don’t have any regrets. I’ve loved every minute of it all. But I am most grateful for my borrowed year, the very best year to have.