I walk around the elementary school of my childhood. Its cracked sidewalk has never changed. This brings me comfort. Old rusty fences that still are marked “1955” are the brave sentinels that somehow let people and dogs through their beleaguered locks. I stare into the old school office- same flesh colored counter, the turnaround where I waited for a ride after Brownie scouts, the old paper bark tree- still there. Pepper tree, jacaranda, smooth eucalyptus with wrinkles in its skin. Still there, old friend. The runway on the playground where I took off in flight. Still providing lift off, but now with a heavier plane. The planter where we circled up and sang whiney old ballads, and the parking lot where we carried cakes to the PTA bake auction, still there. The back stop where Debby Cogley and I “hid” homemade Wonka’s peanut butter chocolate bars from 3rd grade boys, still there. The silver hallway poles, whirling magic sticks as entryways into the Charlotte Anthony Halloween Carnival, still there, the cafeteria, the place where a junior Girl Scout pulled me onto her lap and made this 5 year old feel special, still there. Not much has changed in the hardware. A lot has changed in the soft ware, but the ghosts of kindness, blessing, and memory still haunt and bless the halls.Walking that place makes them feel real once again. I am so glad. So grateful.
Yesterday, our household celebrated two intricately tied events: my son’s 19th birthday and Mother’s Day. It was a chance to both honor the child brought into the world on that fine May afternoon (all nine and some odd pounds of him) and the one that hefted that oversized boy around in the primordial stew of embryo en utero (sounds fancy and French, doesn’t it?)
Such a stars-aligned event brought about another unique opportunity: to make a fairly comprehensive list of appreciations for the united act of motherhood and childhood. To take 15 minutes or so out to carve a personal thank-you note on the stationary of my computer was a worthwhile experience. I find that when creating a list of appreciations, the more detailed the better. Small is beautiful (think petit fours or diamond earrings). Little specifics make the gratitude both palatable and real. Here’s a few of mine. What are yours?
gratitudes when contemplating motherhood:
receiving texts that simply say, “love you, mama. good night.”
my son snuggling up closer to me during a movie because, “it might be a bit scary for you, mom”
my daughter alluding to our favorite children’s book character, Paddinton Bear in a text message sent from her dorm room
on contemplating my son, John, I’m grateful for:
hearing him say, “I have been craving doing math lately” as he responded to a middle school kid’s need to go to him as a tutor for school
paying consistently for the vegetables on our grocery list since he’s procured a job
wanting to catch up with me over a cup of coffee on a fairly regular basis
Simple things . . . but I feel better already recounting them. It’s sort of like a piece of chocolate on my pillow to welcome me back to someplace special . . . .
I first came up with the idea when I thought back to those days in junior high school, and asked myself, “what was I listening to back then?” And then the follow up question, “what do I wish I would have heard back then?”
After pondering those two questions and reliving the experiences related to the answers, I realized that collecting important music in people’s lives helps share the hopes and struggles of a moment in time. I wanted the exploring of music as personal time capsule to be a learning place for Ginny on others’ timelines. This desire eventually became a solid piece in the puzzle of creating a memorable rite of passage for my daughter.
Most of us, I believe, have connected with music at particular times in our lives, and some of us, at almost every moment of our lives. Maybe it was the lyrics: “day after day it reappears, night after night, my heartbeat shows the fear, ghosts appear and fade away . . . (Overkill by Men At Work)” or it could have been the overall message: “love is like oxygen, you get too much, you get too high, not enough and you’re going to die . . . . (Love is Like Oxygen by Sweet).” Regardless, music often had an impact and became a touchstone for a certain transition in our lives, good or bad.
So I invited the women of this first rite of passage to dig into their memories, and pull out songs that had an impact on their lives during their 14th year, or thereabouts. When the songs of both tragedy and triumph were busted out at the event (yes, even “I Have Confidence” from The Sound of Music), there was much laughter, and a few tears, as well as some robust singing along as one of the women d.j.ed the compilation c.d (later given out to guests), as it played out parts of our earlier selves.
We still play that collection six years later, sometimes dancing without reserve and singing with complete abandon into our plastic soup ladles.