Monday, May 17, 2010
I was driving to my son’s track meet when a familiar song came on the radio. It was a John Mayer tune that immediately took me back to another time in our life. As I drove up I-87 I let myself day dream a bit, remembering those days gone by.
We were living in Northern Utah, by the mountains, and taking a trip to Southern Utah, the desert, to see the famous red rock arches. I had a new leg and was ready to try it out in a real hike. Life was pretty sweet. The surgery had gone well and I was getting stronger every day. The kids were in good places in their lives, three were thriving in elementary school, and one was still at home with me, keeping me busy and making me smile on a regular basis. Jeff was enjoying his new job in this new state. We had a great neighborhood and were quickly making great friends on our quiet little street.
I had just discovered the music of John Mayer. It was hip and fun and, just the fact I was enjoying a mainstream artist, and not my usual back up of hits from the eighties, made me feel young and in tune. It would be a few years before we discovered itunes so I had purchased the CD the old fashioned way, in a music store. The songs appealed to me so much that we listened to the whole CD many times over, permanently searing in my brain the associations with those songs and red rock desert landscapes.
It was not just the scenery that I was brought back to, when I heard the familiar chorus in the car last week. I began to ponder the life place, the season we were in back then, and how much had changed in so few years.
Driving those long dusty roads in Utah, peeking at our four offspring settled in the back of the van, I had no idea what the next handful of years would bring. I could not know that we would not live in Utah until the kids graduated, like we assumed at the time. I could not know I would someday call myself a New Yorker.
I could not know what was on the horizon for our almost teen children. I knew enough to be a bit nervous about the coming adolescent years, but really had no idea what to expect. I couldn’t imagine how teen angst would manifest itself so differently in each of our children, according to their personalities and family birth order.
We survived. And pretty much thrived. But not without some rough patches. The funny thing is, I wonder if I fully comprehended the sweet spot we were in back on that trip to Southern Utah. Did I acknowledge to myself the way our family was in a comfortable place for a spell? No big issues, no big worries yet. Or was I stewing about some minor hiccup, like household budgets or difficult school projects? Did I relax and enjoy that time? I think I did, but I wish, just for a moment, I could realistically go back and revisit that scene.
Because now I am at a new crossroads. About to send one child off to college this year and her brother next year. Our family is rapidly changing again. I don’t want it to fly by without recognizing the good parts . I don’t want to look back and realize I was so caught up in tiny details that I forgot to see the big picture.
No one has life threatening illnesses. The grandparents and step grandparents are healthy and doing well. We are cultivating wonderful friendships, each in our own daily circle of friends. We are all finally beginning to feel like New York is our home.
And yet I find myself worrying about things I cannot control. I wonder what our life, what our children’s lives, will look like just five short years from today. Will my daughter find her passion and be able to make a living at it? Will she find a man to make her as happy as her dad has made me? Will her brother realize his dreams, which are so specific, or will he be forced to take a new path? They are big questions, almost big enough to justify worrying about.
But I have learned a few things in parenting this house full of kids. As much as life today feels like a mess of emotional, physical and mental details, it all works out, whether you stress about it or not. And it’s actually much more fun to sit back and let some of it play out on its own. More good memories can be made when I relax and focus on the good parts.
A good friend of mine became a grandmother for the first time last week. Her children are just about five years ahead of mine. It makes a handy telescope, watching her navigate this new season of their lives, beyond the end of high school worries and onto new kinds of adventures. I saw her this morning and could not ignore how her face lit up as she described her first grandson to me. “A miracle of life.”
The idea of grandchildren seems so far off but I cannot forget the life lessons I learned from John Mayer this week. This season will soon pass, whether I’m paying attention or not. It’s time to take a few deep breaths and take it all in.
Every stage can have a sweet spot, if I’m only alert enough to notice it.