Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Season of Falling Away

I did my nails tonight. They still smell of polish, that fresh wet chemical smell that makes me wonder about cancer. Yet, I'm sure that something entirely different will take me out someday. Not even the headache that this nail polish is causing is going to kill me. My nails don't even look that good. I kind of made a mess of them, but I've learned that if I wash my hands in cold water in the morning, the stuff that I painted onto my skin the night before will peel off and it almost looks as if I had them done. Almost.
Nick doesn't want me to smooth his hair any more. Today, he told me that he's old enough to manage his own hair. He is. We see eye to eye when we stand together. At least he still hugs me. He's solid, more like a man hugging and somehow supporting his mother instead of a boy clinging. I can feel him giving something back to me now. He knows that it aches for me to see him grow up so quickly.

"I'm going up, Mom," he says proudly when he sees that look in my eyes.

"I know sweetie," I say and never manage to keep it inside without some tears spilling. I had to wait in the car this morning for a few minutes while he ran into the orthodontists office for his appointment. He got braces today. Afterward, he looked suddenly older, a boy on the cusp, so nearly a man.

I took him to lunch to celebrate, sushi. We sat at the sushi bar and watched food move past on the conveyor and I suddenly felt dizzy, as if I'd fallen out of time for a second. He talked about how he had to enunciate more clearly now. Maybe that's what is making him seem older. He just couldn't stop smiling. Back when I was a girl, kids with braces spent the first three weeks trying to hide their faces. Some really cautious ones, hid their teeth at all times, painfully aware that they looked different every moment until the day they got the braces off and their beautiful new smile was revealed. Now, getting braces is a rite of passage.

After the sushi bar, we were going to buy Nick some new clothes. He needs new clothes. I'm not sure what happened to his old ones. I should know that they gradually ended up on the pile to donate as he grew. But I was suddenly very tired and wanted to go home. I didn't even walk the dog today, poor guy.

Why was today so difficult for me? Oh, Nick said he was too tired to shop, that he'd had enough by 1:30 when we finished lunch. He probably was. Even brushing your teeth when you have braces is an ordeal. Flossing is absolutely impossible. But I was tired too. Why?

Some days, remembering the incredible feeling of connection with my baby, it's excruciating to feel separate again. I had that kind of connection with my grandma, though I only saw her on weekends and later, when I was older, only on vacation time. I so seldom had a whole day with my grandma just to myself to revel in that feeling she gave me. I remember when hugging her turned from something she gave me to something I gave her. I was much older than Nick when it happened. I was technically an adult, but hadn't wanted to let go of being a girl, her girl, for as long as I could.

It's no wonder I don't want my boy to grow up and away. Yet he will only be healthy and in truth, I will only be healthy, as I let him go.

Nick will be driving when he gets his braces off. He will likely experience his first kiss in braces. I never had braces. Oh, I may have needed them, but I didn't have them. I can only watch what will happen next for him and soon, very soon, I won't even see much of his life as it unfolds. I will be given school breaks and vacation days. When Nick was little and I'd talk to him about when he grew up and moved away to college, he'd insist that he'd never leave home, that he'd live here forever. I could not convince him that he'd change his mind.

I can still see that clinging little boy when I look at Nick, but he isn't clinging anymore. I am.

And I'm going to have to let go, at least a little every day until he flies off into his own world and lives his own life. I'm going to have to straighten my back, to walk the dog every day, tired or not, and wait for those precious days when he comes to hug his little mom. At those times, he will give me back what I had given him, something I had learned from the hugs my grandma gave me when I was a little girl.

There's a season in that touch, a longer season than a simple spring turning to summer then fall. It is almost too long a season for me to see, but I see it now, rolling down through time, first holding things together then letting them fall away, over and over.

Oh, the season of falling away makes my bones ache.

Thank you for listening, jules

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