She’s Nineteen, And She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Something happened last year. Amidst the swirl of SAT testing, college acceptance letters, pole vaulting and ski racing, something huge changed in our house.

You turned 19, and you don’t live here anymore.

At first it was like peeling layers of an onion. I was so distracted by your brother’s broken leg, our flooded kitchen and the start of the school year that at first, it just seemed like you were off at camp, or spending way too much time at track practice. The house buzzed with construction workers, and your brother kept me occupied with his full leg cast and wheelchair antics.

A few weeks into the school year it started to get quiet- too quiet. And I began to realize the quietness wasn’t going away – you were. I realized that after eighteen years of watching over you, teaching you, and knowing the details of your everyday life, that you don’t live here anymore. 

That hit me hard. Freshman year was easier to dismiss – it was a novelty. You were trying it out, and somehow I believed that things would get back to normal. Someday.

me and my girl

Now it’s year two. I tried to adjust to being your mom from a distance; I’m afraid I haven’t mastered it quite yet.This long distance relationship isn’t exactly what I imagined all those years I was mothering you, years I spent teaching you how to make french toast, or load the washing machine and old your clothes so they don’t wrinkle.

This year, we are into our second round; the new normal of you not living here is punctuated with holidays coming and going like the time change. As the calendar turned November, I began sprucing up your room, knowing that you’ll come back, crawl into your big black iron bed and pull the soft white duvet up for a few nights. I left pink lilies on your bedside table.

All month I told you to get ready to be spoiled – to send me special requests and remind me if you still take your coffee with cream and like to go for long walks right after breakfast.

And when your face rounded the corner at the airport, you had that familiar smile that told me it’s ok to hug you close, but to remember we were in public. To not make too big of a scene, but that you were happy to see me, too. Your blue eyes met mine, and I had to touch your face, just to make sure you were real.

Thank you for indulging me this Thanksgiving. I keep thinking that one day, you’ll understand the exquisite pain and pleasure of being a mom, and all my emotional antics will make sense. I hope that one day, when that thrill hits your heart when you see your baby living their life full of happiness and joy, you’ll understand why I have such trouble letting you go. When you see your child blossom into an adult, when you watch all the lessons you tried to teach unfold in front of you, I hope you understand why I tear up just thinking about you leaving again. It’s these ordinary moments, watching you hang the lights on the Christmas tree, or sip a latte at an outdoor cafe, when I realize how extraordinary you really have become. It’s these ordinary moments that I crave, that I miss, that I want to press into my memory like tiny handprints in cement.

So I have twelve more hours with you today, twelve more chances to soak you in. I’ll help you pack and make sure you’re well fed, chattering away about December plans and encourage you to work hard during finals. So much to do to try to make life as normal as I can before you’re back on the plane – because you’re nineteen, this is our ‘new’ normal, and you don’t live here anymore.

 

 

 

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Thankful She’s Home

Thankful she's home
Thankful she’s home

I went to four grocery stores yesterday. She wanted fresh fruit and raspberry Greek yogurt-things she cannot get in her dorm cafeteria. Lucky we live in California – no struggle finding fresh produce, so I bought a bounty and brought it home. I was a woman on a mission, in search of the perfect pineapple, sweet berries, crispy Pink Lady apples, a juicy mango, ripe kiwis and tender tangerines. I found them all, along with ingredients for tomato tortellini soup and fresh bread. And that’s just for the first night!

She’s home, I’m thankful, and we’re happy. Peace settled over our roof just knowing that both babies were safe, sleeping soundly in their own beds. They’re never too old to have their mom worry about them; never too grown to be my babies. It’s a first for me – having her come back home, from her new home. I’m not sure just how to navigate all this – I kept her room just like it was pre-college, not disturbing her high school photos or clothes left in the closet. I restocked her bathroom, put on her favorite polka dot flannel sheets, and found some deep red lilies to say, “Welcome home”.

I realize this could be the last time she’s home for Thanksgiving; it seems to be one holiday that is easily discarded during the college years, too close to winter break to make the drive or purchase the plane tickets. I know home will likely shift with time, as she creates her new life and relationships and creates spaces for the world to wrap its arms around her in comfort. I’m aware that these fleeting moments are all we have, these fragments of our lives that come together, enfolding us in the safety and gratitude and love of home.

p.s. – It’s never a bad time to reflect on all we have, the richness of our lives, and the gratitude for all the memories we have. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d love to share some past thoughts on giving thanks, the comfort of home and pumpkin bread, the perfect dog buddy, baking bread,  and gratitudes that last over time, 

Sending love and thanks to all on this special day, and hoping you all revel in the precious moments spent at home with those you love.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Dear Family, Love J

Dear Family,
Last night, as we slumped around the table, bellies full and wine glasses empty, I took my turn and shared two words of gratitude.  Surprised, you asked if that was all.  The truth is, it wasn’t, but at the time, those were the only words I could say out loud.  Now, hours later in the light of day, I have the rest.
I am grateful for the dawn over the Sierras inching up, pale pink to my left, golden yellow to my right, unveiling my angels sleeping in the back seat.
I am grateful for the dark roast with cream warming next to me as I type, helping me greet every morning with a smile.
I am grateful for the new and the old, the memories that push me forward into the future and those that ground me in the past.
I am grateful for air conditioning, Bintang beer and chocolate-center Cotton Buns.  You saw me through some challenging times last summer.
I am grateful for friends I’ve made and lost, friends I’ve seen and those I have only thought of.  You may not know it, but I listen to you and learn more about myself from your presence.
I’m grateful for curiosity, challenge and conflict.  From them, I grow into a better human.
I’m grateful for brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, uncles and aunts, grandmothers and grandfathers.  Your eyes help create my vision, even when they don’t see in the same direction.
I’m grateful for simplicity, complication, and everything in between.  It always seems to come at just the wrong, yet just the right time.
I’m grateful for the 6,000,000-plus like-minded people who turned left, not right, and helped me see a future.
I’m grateful for the wind whistling through the trees.  Some say it’s the spirit talking.  I’m thankful I believe them.
I’m grateful for language.  The words I write, the sounds I hear, and the letters I read teach me in a way I learn best.
I’m grateful for faith, wavering in and out, back and forth, between the sky, the spirits, and the universe.  Sometimes, you’re all I’ve got.
I’m grateful for June 29, 1985.  Our worlds collided then, and life has been a doozy ever since.
Now, I’m back to where I began.  Two words.  Two spirits.  Two reasons to face each day, to walk the talk, to take a step forward when what I really want to do is stay right where I am.  Because when the pink glow is gone, replaced by a blaze of red, or orange, or a blanket of black, those two words are all that matter.
And that, dear family, is what I’m grateful for.
Love,
J

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Friday Photo: Giving Thanks

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Yes, I know it’s the first week of December, not the third Thursday in November.  Today’s Friday Photo has no turkeys, pumpkins, corn or cranberries.  There’s nothing here that looks similar to a traditional thanks-giving post.  But that’s exactly what it is.  These photos of my son were taken by my dear uncle the day before Thanksgiving as we walked around our neighborhood, looking for nothing in particular.  What makes them so special to me are the memories that lie within them.  You see, this year my son anticipated the arrival of our out-of-town family members like it was the night before Christmas.  He couldn’t stop talking about how much fun it was on Thanksgiving because everyone was together, it was warm, cozy, and just felt great.  He couldn’t wait to go geocaching with his aunts, uncles and cousins.  He knew board games in front of the fire were a sure thing.  And of course, the dogs.  Lots of new dogs to cuddle made him a very happy guy.
So today, I’m giving thanks for all that and more.  I’m giving thanks for family that likes to be together and feels comfortable around each other.  I’m giving thanks for a safe and peaceful home where everyone gathers.  I’m giving thanks for abundant feelings of love and support from people near by and far away.  And I’m giving thanks for C-Fly, who teaches me every day that it doesn’t take a holiday to remember what a lucky mom I truly am.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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