A single fuse is lit. A gust of gunpowder soars into the sky as one and pops into a sprinkling of sparkling, bright fireworks. It’s not a vision of the 4th of July. It’s the explosion of everyone’s spring activities. Post-spring break. Well-choreographed are the questions. “Where are you supposed to be tonight?” “Who should you send these pictures to?” “Is this a practice or a game?” “What day does your flight leave?” “Where is your uniform?” “Which baseball shoes are mine?” “Do you have a white shirt and black pants for me?” “What time do you need to be there?” “What you do you want to do for Mother’s Day?” “How many more days are left of school?” And it’s me asking that last question. 21.
Families who have kids in elementary school are riding on the same combustive fuselage.
... All of that might sound familiar: I wrote it May 13th in 2014.
It was a deja vu moment when I tried to write the Hump Day Short this week. A couple year's ago, a friend and I were talking about how we liked change, and I told her that I loved the change of seasons. To which she replied, "But it's the same change every year!" So it's a predictable change. That's what this post-spring break era is.
Thursday was the mid-show big firework display. I sketched out my second eight hours of the day on a yellow sticky in half-hour increments. I would be leaving the house at 2:00 to drop off Liam's drum at school for band. Then I would scamper around dropping off and picking up until 7:00 p.m. when all four of us would land at the same spot, Will's spring concert at school.
As chauffeur for the day, I decided to dress as a professional driver. I slipped over my head the only dress I own. In low, comfortable heels, I packed a snare drum case, a golf bag, a baseball bag, and a trumpet, then loaded them into the van, together with three changes of clothes and three pairs of shoes. The back of my van looked like the backstage of a production about to go live on stage. I bought sunflower seeds for baseball and Cheeze-its for on-the-road snacks and deodorant and Static Guard for me, the chauffeur. My mind was in the game.
As I weaved my way through the scheduled drop-offs and pick-ups, my spirits were high. I landed at the concert a bit smug with the success of my polished five-hour drive. And, while watching my 7th-grader's concert, I counted up to 12. Just five years until Will's last spring concert.
There are a finite number of these days remaining. In a few years, I will be dressed as a spring chauffeur with no place to go. The patterned seasonal changes I so look forward to will take a drastic change.
This morning, a twinge of foreseen pain accompanies my footsteps to the dryer to retrieve Liam's baseball uniform for today's game.
…And if all of that sounds familiar, I wrote it May 24th in 2016.
Now, the era has shifted: we are a family with kids in middle school and high school.
I notice that I’m more or less looking Will in the eye and looking down only slightly into Liam’s eyes. I march the boys to the door of the office – the room that used to be the toy room. I pull out my skinny Sharpie and back each of them up to the door and draw a level line from the tops of their heads onto the door. Liam is three-quarters of an inch taller than he was in the fall. And, I must concede that Will is now taller than me. He marked my height on the door as well; then looked at me with a Cheshire cat smile that said, “Finally.”
We’re at that awkward age where Will can hug me with his independent arms over my shoulders, but I still want to hug him with my protective arms over his shoulders. We alternate between the two. Will’s just finishing his freshman year in high school. I know we are nearing that time where all hugs will be those of an independent young man.
While Will is quiet and contemplative, most of Liam’s thoughts are on the table. He’s the boy that still leaves the bar stool under the high cupboard where we keep the candy, and the door is left wide open. His uniform pants always have a rustling piece of plastic in the pockets, either from his juice box straw or a piece of candy acquired during the school day. His compassion continues to grow and his empathy is maturing. If I sit on the couch, he is there in a flash to cover me with a soft blanket and pat my shoulder. Much the way I tuck him into bed every night.
We’re maneuvering the spring chaos with a bit more grace every year. Last night before I went to bed, I pulled Liam’s once-worn shorts out of the dirty clothes, gave them a shake, and pushed the wrinkles out of them before hanging them on the stair railing. This morning, Will pulled a rumpled school uniform out of this gymnastics bag and was about to put it on when I asked, “Would you like me to iron those for you?”
“That would be great, thanks, Mom,” he replied in that deep 14-year-old voice.
Neither of us was in a panic. I took the shirt and trousers upstairs and set up the ironing board and plugged in the iron. I made the wrinkles disappear from the shirt and the trousers. I ironed the chalk dust and dirt as well. They weren’t perfect, just pressed.
And earlier this spring I made a decision not to replace the trousers that are about an inch and a half shorter than they were in the fall. I watch many of the other boys walk into school wearing the same style. It’s what a year older looks like.