Sorry for the posting delay. Equation of excuse: ice storm plus power outage plus sick children.
Three children in the family means a one-to-one child-parent ratio is fairly rare, unless you're the baby, who tends to be my constant extra appendage (a welcome one. Mostly.). But Sunday night T and I braved sleety rain, billowing curtains of snow, and roads of steely glare during our drive to and from Vermont to see dearest b - the other writer of this blog - graduate, an event all the sweeter for its allowance of time alone with my oldest son.
The last time T and I were alone for anything other than our nightly few minutes reading together before bed, the movie Ratatouille was in the theaters and I declared date afternoon with my first born. It was warm, it was raining. We were late. Shocking, I know. We ran from the car to the Nugget Theatre, T riding on my back and giggling in a purely kid-like way that he doesn't often do, that he has never often done even when he was younger. We sat right up front, him on my lap, and ate our weight in Reeses Pieces, and afterward walked slowly back to our car in air that was darker and dryer. “I hope we do this a lot when you grow up,” I told him. “When I live in New York City we can go to movies all the time,” he told me. Back then he wanted to live in New York City; now he wants to live in Ancient Greece. “I hope you remember this,” I told him. He didn't answer; I remember that he didn't answer.
I haven't asked him if he remembers that afternoon. If he doesn't I'll have to remind him of it with all my own interpretive phrasing.
Sunday night we arrived home late, tired, soggy. Happy, and somehow proud of our admittedly stunted journey to Vermont. We retired our boots on the mat and even though it was way past bedtime we spent a few minutes reading together in bed. We may not have traveled all that far, but being together made the trip broad and lingering. I'll remember it. I'll remember T reading his book during the welcoming reception, leaning against me through long happy speeches, and remarking that the french fries he ate with dinner on our way home made him feel "strangely sad." I hope T will remember, too. But we don't quite get to choose what our children remember, what they forget from their concentrated time with us. We just have to hope the lasting images aren't all chores, homework and time outs.
From the first page of Eleanor Brown's “The Weird Sisters”: 'These [letters] were the kind you save, folded into a memory box, to be opened years later with fingers against crackling age, heart pounding with the sick desire to be possessed by memory.'
This is what I will remember. Inspiring words. Hugs. Tears. Poems read aloud. The tuneful melody of a song being performed by a band of friends. Cheers. Shouts. The campus called a Narnia. Smiling husbands and exuberant sons. A room full of intense emotions. Love.
I gave my presentation to a roomful of family, friends and interested students on Sunday; followed by our graduation ceremony. It all passed by in a blur, as much as I tried to sear certain moments into my memory. I knew I could not capture it all, but I made every attempt to claim as much as I could and call it my own.
The day itself started out rainy, but turned to snow in the afternoon. As soon as the ceremony was over my family departed for home. The ride took all of them much longer than anticipated, such is their reward for their commitment to attending my special day. I was left to spend the night on campus, which was my original intent, all in the hopes of saying a gradual goodbye. But the snow continued to fall throughout the night, enclosing us the campus in a white, gauzy cocoon. It snowed for more than 24 hours, delaying my departure. Because of this, I was inadvertently given the chance to spend more time with my friends with no agenda, deadlines or specific intent. It became a gift, one of the nicest I've ever received. We sat, talked, ate, laughed and stretched my time here to its very limits. Walking back to my room as the day came to a close, I saw that someone had written in the snowbank--as one might write into the sand-- “You say goodbye and I say hello...” I do not want to say goodbye; not to friends, advisors, nor to my room or anyone, anything here. But I will try to keep it all safe in my memory, this special place and my time out of time. I will cram it all into my memory box. Shut the lid tight to prevent it all from spilling over, though the memories threaten to leak out and drift away from me. It will mix and mingle with the other Significant Events kept there: first date, first kiss, wedding, birth, first steps, and christmas on the beach. I will seek solace and pleasure from these thoughts, when I too am possessed by the desire to remember.