Vulnerable

Vulnerable

Do you remember the moment when you knew that Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy weren’t real? Some of you may still believe in them, but I’m talking about that edge of childhood. That place where you no longer feel fully invincible (yes teenagers go back to that place for a while but bear with me). Where sadness or meanness enters your life, a world where children are shot and killed in their own school. In a schoolroom where a mean kid leaves someone out, and won’t let them play the game with the other kids. Or the kid on the climbing wall with the harness on and ropes secured who freezes, can’t go any further, ‘cause they now fear the ropes might not hold?

That’s the edge I’m talking about. That is the place where you leave the complacency of childhood behind. The ability to play full heartedly not thinking about any consequences or things that could go wrong. An unawareness of evil and planes that fly into buildings, killing the passengers, and taking the buildings with them, do you remember that place? It’s one thing to comfort your child from the nightmare that there’s a monster under the bed. How do you tell them it will be OK, as you watch the horror struck faces of runners & spectators as severed limbs are attended, after two young brothers’ casually deposited gym bags of bombs at their victim’s feet?

I remember receiving a phone call from my son, hysterical as he listened to the reports of students gunned down on the Virginia Tech campus. What do I tell him, other than come home; maybe I can keep him safe? Or the call full of tears as my daughter melts down, stressed by life and things she can’t control. Or the way my stomach feels sucker punched, after learning that a mother in my son’s class called all the parents accusing him of being a bully, when it turns out it’s her son.

Helpless.

Yes, as a parent, as human being, as a woman, as a member of society, there is such a short period of time that I can protect my offspring from reality. And I didn’t believe in hovering and I did let them fall, having their share of skinned knees and bruised foreheads. Skin heals pretty fast in the scheme of things. Bruised egos and hurt souls, those are boo-boos that aren’t so easy to cure with a kiss and hug. Sometimes it hurts more to see them suffering than anything else.

But all of these things are part of the human story. Giving them the tools to cope with the harsh realities of this world that we live in, is the only thing I can do. I just hope they can protect their gentle egos and tender souls without closing off to the beauty. My worst fear is that they become bitter and ugly too. Because despite all the ugliness and hatred in the world, there’s still something sublime about the sound of a child’s laugh, the giggling cause by a dog’s lick, a high five when a good play is made, or an “I’m sorry I made a mistake” accompanied by a hug after harsh words.

There is a moment when they cross the line out of childhood innocence. There is also a moment when regardless of all the rest, they rise above and join those creating not destroying. I choose to be part of the 20 percent minority, I hope when they realize that there’s no fairy godmother, they choose to be aware, thoughtful and responsible for themselves. To join those of us who make choices, who do things, build things, and take their lives in their own hands, rather than depending on someone else to re-create the fairy tale of a world that we all once inhabited as small children.

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Harder standing on the curb than getting on the plane…

Photo courtesy of Uncle Jon

Photo courtesy of Uncle Jon

Shane is running a temperature.  No, I don’t know how high, but pretty hot, cause his ears and cheeks are bright red.  His eyes get glassy, he’s not very hungry either, except when the Advil kicks in.  Being sick during a special occasion is even worse, or in some cases better, you can feign tiredness or that you need your rest, rather than do something you don’t want to be doing.

Shane’s big bro Phillip is heading to Panama for 27 months of Peace Corps service…There was  a brunch, then drop-in well wishers, and a despidida”, all in his honor, but it didn’t change how crummy Shane felt.  Shane even asked to be put to bed early, two of the last three evenings, he NEVER makes that request. After his big sister Hillary returned to college, having snuck out for the weekend to say good-bye, things calmed a bit.

We settled into a sick routine that worked for  us, we found goofy movies and planted ourselves on the couch.  Shane and Madison (a FEMALE Boxer rescue, & no, she is not a boy!) snuggled up in the middle, with Shane’s head resting on my lap or shoulder, depending on his mood.  The best part of this arrangement was that Phillip got to lay out all his stuff on he rec room floor.  The area became his launching pad, and he sorted, selected, then packed with us there, but not breathing down his neck.  Periodically he would pause, ask,

“Do you like this shirt, think I should bring it?”

“I have four pairs of slacks, do you think I need one more?”

“Think I’m going to leave the books for now, you can send them if I need them OK?”

The last two days, despite Shane’s fever, were actually perfect.  People had stopped coming by and we were in either of two places, crashed in the basement, or scrounging leftovers for meals.  We did agree to stop the nuclear chili that seemed to give two of the three of us death gas, yes it was pretty darn bad.  We watched inappropriate movies (not always intentionally, just forgetting some of the language or material), kids catch everything you would like them to miss.

How had I forgotten the language was so bad in that movie, despite the slap stick bathroom humor–that people of all ages love, it didn’t redeem our poor selection. We turned that movie off.

Less difficult to maneuver but still some adult themes in Footloose (it’s a dancing movie right, don’t forget the death and sexual innuendo),

“Why DOESN’T he want to kiss her now, he likes her right? asked Shane confused.

“Now why is it OK to kiss?!” even more confused.

“He wanted the kiss to be special and mean something, not just to be one of the many boys she kissed,” I tried to explain.  How to explain promiscuous girl stops acting out and now really likes just one boy?

Easier to field, was the dancing, and how the kid who wouldn’t dance was just uncomfortable,

“See, to be good at anything you need to practice, see his hard work paid off.  It can for you too, when you practice soccer, or drawing or whatever you want to learn, get it Shane?  Feel like dancing with them?”

“Mom, I’m sick, I don’t feel good, remember?”

So hard to know what kind of questions will be generated by a kid.  Regardless, the movies were just an excuse to hang with Phillip while he packed.  Still with fever as he went to sleep last night,  this meant no school today  for Shane.  It also secured Shane the right to drive his brother to the Peace Corps Orientation in DC.  The morning started slow, I ran out for fresh bagels, got Phillip his favorite of the moment, whole wheat toasted with tofu spread (damn dairy intolerance) with lox and onion.  Shane ate a 1/2, of the 1/2, of his whole wheat ET with egg, bacon and cheddar, forgot to get the Advil in his system early enough for his appetite to return.

Then we were running short of time, travelers insurance hadn’t been secured yet, the cell phone still needed to be unlocked, which papers were important and which could be left, had yet to be determined, printing the Google map of travel to DC for reimbursement by PC, but it all got done.

The drive in the freezing rain down to Dupont was pretty uneventful.  Our new blue Mini Cooper Countryman’s ride was smooth, higher up, and just plain more comfortable than the earlier model Clubman.  And no dog or sock stink, yet.  Parking karma continued and there was a spot right in front of the hotel, with 25 minutes on the meter to boot.

“Do you want us to help you get your stuff inside?

Phillip said, “Sure!”

We helped unload his two bags, both over-sized for carry-on, but back pack like that he could carry them himself when needed.  As we arrived at the front desk, another young man was checking in,

“Yes, I’m with the Peace Corps group,” we overheard.

He wasn’t as tall as Phillip, lighter hair but they both sported the same short trimmed beard look.  As we waited our turn, the door man chatted with us,

“Are you here with Peace Corps too?”

“Yes,” Phillip replied.

“Is it the luggage that gives it away?”  I asked.  The man smiled and nodded his head, yes.

Then Adam turned to Phillip and introduced himself,

“Hey man, are you with Peace Corps too?”

A conversation started.  “Yeah, I’m from here, but was living in Seattle this past year.”

“Very cool, I just came in from Portland, myself,” said Adam.

Standing behind Phillip, I wondered if he meant Oregon or Maine, but they were talking.  I realized it was time for us to say our good byes.  Didn’t want to interrupt, Phillip was busy making a friend, but wow, it was a little harder than I imagined, saying good-bye for two years.

“Hey Phillip, Shane and I are going to head out,” trying to keep a smile on my face and no tears in my voice.

He turned and gave me a bear hug, and said, “Mom, love you,”

I couldn’t respond safely.

Shane jumped in with a huge hug burying his face in Phillip’s midriff.  He ruffled Shane’s hair.  We didn’t say anything else, I waved, he blew a kiss and we walked out.  My first-born, 24 years old, was meeting new people, and heading off on an adventure, it was all good.

Didn’t make it any easier, and as we stood on the corner waiting for the light to change, Shane hugged me and we both cried.  The gray drippy sky reflected my feelings perfectly, and mirrored the tears running down my cheeks.   I didn’t want to make Shane any sadder, he said, “Two years is a long time mom, he said he would come visit.”

“Don’t worry Shane, we will Skype with him and we are going to visit him!”

I shouldn’t have worried, within moments, Shane was challenging me, “What letter were you on Mom?  I need to find a letter Jay”.

We returned to our Alphabet game, seeking words that start with the letters, in order, for the drive home.  He’s busy with Madden now, I’m still processing and crying, but now that I’m reading this, I feel much better.  Can’t wait to see if Phillip gets his blog up and running so we can read about his adventures!