I stopped into a branch of the library this afternoon to return some books. It wasn’t my usual branch so I felt a bit upended, like when you try shopping in an unfamiliar grocery store: you know what is there, but you’re not sure on which aisle. It seems that it shouldn’t be so in a library, with the Dewey Decimal system and all, but there you have it. I did manage to find my way to the catalog, to the shelves, and last before checkout, the new acquisitions.
It was there that I spotted, in between easy summer beach reads and the latest computer manual, Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott, with Sam Lamott. Lamott is a writer who always makes me laugh, although I don’t always agree with her, and some of her books tire me by the time I get to the last pages even though they are usually quick reads.
I read this on the cover:
…[W]atching Sam changing poopy diapers all the time nearly brings me to tears. My wild son, who like most boys smashed and bashed his way through childhood, with branches and bats and wooden swords who shut down and pulled so far away as a teenager that sometimes I could not find him, ow taking tender care of his own newborn, a miniature who is both unique and reflective. Same is still every age he ever was, from the fetus to the infant to the adolescent to the father. And Einstein would probably say that Jax is already every age he will ever be, but in such super-slow motion relative to our limited perspective that we can’t see the full spiral of him yet…”
I liked this idea of looking at one’s grown child and seeing every age that he has ever been.
A few days ago, while in the midst of one of my cleaning/pitch everything sprees (they don’t happen often, but when they do, I go with it!), I threw a small pocket-sized day planner in the trash can. A few minutes later, I fished it out to see what was in it. Really? I haven’t used a planner this century. What could possibly be in it? A bunch of numbers for old land lines?
I started thumbing through the address book. It didn’t occur to me at first that the only names in it were family. And then I turned to the notebook pages and found a note I wrote to my son July 14, 2001. Why? I wondered, would I not have given it to him?. Then I realized that I had given him the entire planner the first time that he went on an extended trip without any family members. He was 12 when he ventured to Scotland and England on a choir tour.
I read the letter and realized that much of it I could have written to him when he moved half-way across the country last week.
…I am so proud of you. I know that you have worked very hard to be ready for this….I see what a neat kid, a nice young man, you are now and are becoming every day.
I wrote about how he was very observant and that he would observe lots of new things being with a group that was not his family and in a foreign country, but I hoped that he would recognize mostly commonalities, not differences. I was thankful that he had put up with my over-protectiveness and “weirdnesses”. I knew then, apparently, that he must have been aware on some level of my angst about his going. I closed with this:
Have fun. Sing joyfully. Act responsibly. Smile. Be thankful for the blessings in this life. I am proud of you & love you.
I could see then his past ages and glimpse ages to come. Just like last week as he left to start the adult chapters of his life. I could have said the closing paragraph of that letter verbatim and every word would be appropriate. I can see all of the past ages of him — and saw all of the ages to come as the loaded car pulled out of the driveway.
Last night, a few hours after giving him some suggestions over the phone for fixing a error-prone laptop, I received a text: Thanks for the Help Desk advice. I love you. And not just for the computer help but for all of the mom stuff.
Sometimes your child’s current age is easy to see, which is particularly good at this moment in time because I can’t think of him as being a kid anymore. I think this may be a good time to read Lamott’s book.