Saturday, September 15, 2012

Paying it Forward


That's my sweet boy helping his Grandma get seated in her chair on the verandah in St. Lucia a little over a month ago. From there she could watch the comings and goings as the kids and their dad went back and forth to the beach, and neighbors came by to sit with her and drink tea, and the minister came to read with her and debate the meaning of what they had read, and she was in the place where she had schooled her grandchildren every summer when they were growing up, schooled them in faith and humor and compassion and manners and cookery, schooled them in love and kindness and family loyalty. Her grandchildren are the people they are because they had her. I don't doubt this for a minute. She has been instrumental in their becoming.

Speaking of my children, they seem to be fine. My daughter has a lot of work and is battling, she says, "the impostor syndrome," the feeling that Cornell made a mistake admitting her. It seems many of her fellow freshmen are feeling the same way, so apparently it's normal. The professors, handing back mediocre grades to these children who have been accustomed to getting better, have assured them that this is how it begins, they will figure it out. I know my girl will. For one thing, she has begun reading teacher comments on her papers and projects, something I tried to get her to do in high school. But mostly she would get a paper back and toss it onto her desk, and I would say, "But how will you improve if you don't read what your teachers have to say," and she'd smile at me and do a little shrug. Well, now she's reading the comments. Finally.

In other news I have recently managed to stop texting her obsessively. I find that the less I get in touch, the more often she does. It worked that way with my son, too, when he was a freshman. Funny thing is, he calls all the time now that he is a senior, and I love getting those calls more than anything. He calls to discuss family finances (yes, this boy is very money conscious and patiently explained to me why we can't afford to get him a car this year) or to tell me he's picking up sports psychology as a minor. "It's so great to still be excited about learning something new in my senior year," he said. "And don't get me wrong I still want to be a firefighter, but if that doesn't pan out, who knows, I  might get my masters in sports psych."

He's always been a good boy. He has become such a good man, even if he still has to work on managing that impatient streak he and I share. But we get on so well over the phone. I have to keep telling him, though, not to worry about his college bills. That's our job, I tell him. Your job is to work hard and get good grades. One day you will pay it forward to my grandchildren. But he still sends me money from his paycheck. I'm not quite sure where he learned this fiscal vigilance. I do know it wasn't from me. Probably from his dad, or maybe it's just innate.

Meanwhile my love and I are figuring out this empty nest thing. It really is odd, after twenty years of raising children, of being as child centered as we both were, to have the evenings stretch out before us with nothing that we have to do. I'm starting to appreciate it more. Last night, after a tough day at work, my husband decided it was time for pina coladas and tapas. He made plates of olives and onions, dates stuffed with gouda, smoked sausage links, and we ate and drank our frozen cocktails and watched a movie and I thought, This empty nest thing has possibilities.



16 comments:

  1. Love catching up with your life! I am always so encouraged to hear those stories about your mother, confirming to me the most important thing I can ever do in this lifetime is nurture my children.....and when the time comes, my children's' children. Cocktails for two sounds divine!

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    1. Kathleen! How are you, dear woman? How is the family doing?

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  2. This whole post made me smile -- the "imposter syndrome," the joyful thought that your son wants to be a fireman (my god, I hope one of my sons wants to be a fireman!), your son's fiscal restraint (I am so not this person!), and then the image of you and your man, drinking and eating and a tiny chink entering your mind that it will be good. It will be good, Angella. It will be.

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    1. Elizabeth, your smile made me laugh out loud because you so get it, the chink. Love.

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  3. My oldest daughter had to learn to pay attention to the comments when she went from our not too good local high school to Northwestern University. She had a tough 1st year but graduated with good grades. Your daughter should be even more ready.

    I don't think I had the empty next problem but when my 2nd youngest was 5 and there was no baby in the house, that was a strange situation and I didn't like it. We adopted my youngest son and in the time we were waiting I was just about getting to where it was okay not to have a baby in the house. And then, there he was ;-)

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    1. Kristin. you often make me think we should have had more children. My husband is the consummate father, so good in that role, but alas, the pocket was weak! I love thinking of the wonderfully large family gatherings you now have.

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    2. Obviously we didn't think about the cost. And we didn't realize the cost of a college education would sky rocket from the time we were in college in the 1960s.

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  4. You know, you've handed me a new thought with this essay. Oh, sure, you raised them right. They're good, compassionate; they know what's right, and they do it. But, on top of all that, they're likable!

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    1. Glenn, you made me laugh, too. What exactly was it that made you find them likable here?

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  5. I don't know why but this post just raised a huge lump in my throat and my eyes are tearing up. Beautiful growth and roots and new sproutings and the tree just keeps on growing into that deep blue sky.
    Love you, girl. I do.

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    1. Ms Moon, maybe the lump is because you know how hard won this all is. I play your voice in my head as I get through this to the other side. I love you too. Sure do.

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  6. I love your comment, "This empty nest thing has possibilities" :)

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    1. Andrea, you are many years away from this, but it does indeed have possibilities. Always good to see you.

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  7. He wants to be a firefighter? Did I miss this earlier on? Well, I'm not surprised and am greatly impressed, very very impressed. One of my friends out here married a firefighter, he's one of the only black ones at his hood in Brooklyn and he matters. I have so much, so much respect.
    Also, have you heard from Mark?
    And I know it takes time to find your new marks as a mother of grown kids, we're all here listening. I feel like I'm learning so much about mothering from you.
    Anyway, hugs!

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