Last night I sat at the 100 Days Away Football Kick Off meeting and heard my son referred to for the first time as a “Senior”. I had helped prepare the meeting – so I drifted off when it began …
When the boys were little Eric and I put miles and miles on both our car and our feet. In the late evening, trying to get them to sleep – in an effort to have a few minutes to talk to each other – we walked. We drove. One night – before Jackson was even born – we pulled into the Wacousta Elementary School drive. Eric pulled around and up close to the Dream Depot. This was the elementary school he went to, he still knew many of the teachers there, he’d helped build the Dream Depot (the playground on the west side – the envy of the district) as a high schooler. He has so many good memories in the building. He smiled and looked at a sleeping Cooper in the back seat – all tucked into his car seat (I swear he might not have slept if we didn’t drive for hours. Kids been on go since day one). “This is where you’ll go to school, Cooper Alan” he said.
I felt then, like I did last night. I was taken back. It startled me. I hadn’t expected it. It had not occurred to me in my young-mother-sleep-deprived-stupor that he would … grow up. Go to school. Leave me all day. Last night as I heard Coach Bird refer to him as a Senior – I was sitting in that car seat looking out at the Dream Depot. I imagined him playing on the swings, crawling beneath the tires, investigating the small cubbies and hide outs. He lost two teeth on that playground years later. Knocked them clean out on the slide. He found them in the pea stone, Mrs. Zerbe put them in a glass of milk, we drove to the dentist and he put them back in. He stood on the wall, played football, basketball and four square. He fought with his friends and defended them, too. He made friends and lost some – most of his buddies now, were his buddies then. He grew up on that playground.
I watched him handle himself during the meeting last night. I had to giggle. He’d come from baseball practice – and hadn’t changed. So when Coach asked him to stand and talk to the incoming freshman parents and players he did so in a flat billed Tigers hat, a cut off GL football shirt and his favorite – and by favorite I mean tired, old and needing to be thrown away – shorts. He has bruises on both shoulders that everyone could see the result of a workout he’d done the day before slinging a tire over his shoulder. He looked a mess. But I knew what he’d done that day. He was up at 5. At the gym working out by 5:30, to a Senior Counsel meeting with Coach at 7:30 before school. He had gone to a full day of classes and then gone to two hours of baseball practice. And now he was here – bright eyed, excited about the football season.
I had to speak at the meeting – and when I looked at him sitting in the audience he smiled at me. A smile as sweet as he was in his car seat. When we were done I walked up to him and put my arms out. I have always met my boys with a hug. Whether it’s walking in from school, a sleep over, practice or playing in the yard – I always ask for a hug. I expected a half arm shoulder squeeze in front of everyone – but instead he wrapped me up with both arms encircling my shoulders and rested his chin on my head. I sat there for a moment and breathed him in – every sweaty, perfectly Cooper scent of him. He let me go and bopped on out the door headed home on his own. Not needing me to drive him around to lull him to sleep any longer.
I know I’ve written about how my boys growing up breaks my heart – and there surely will be more posts about the loss I feel when I think of them going off into the world. But last night I felt good. I felt happy and proud and strong when I thought about him moving forward. He is almost ready – we are almost there – he is starting to spread his wings and take small flights on his own. I think there have been more times than not when I felt I couldn’t live without him, that I can’t have him leave me, but last night I felt peace. He isn’t leaving me. It won’t ever be the same, I won’t be the last person he sees before he falls asleep. I won’t get a hug goodbye every morning, and won’t kiss my hand and tap his head as I have every. day. since he was born. But he won’t really leave me. We will change, and for the first time I saw the change as having the potential to bring new joy to me.
I was proud knowing how well he had manged his day yesterday, handled the things on his plate. I was pleased as I saw him comfortable – if not a bit nervously – take on the role of leadership in giving the younger players a few words to think about. I smiled watching him laugh and talk candidly – and comfortably – with past coaches and current ones. Before he left I watched him for a few minutes and I couldn’t help but realize that the boys he was standing with – talking to and laughing with – excitedly dreaming about the upcoming season and what they can accomplish – most were the boys he spent time on the Dream Depot with. That made me smile.
For the last few months his growing up and moving on has been about me. Last night for the first time, I saw it for what it truly is. It’s about him. It’s about his future and his dreams. It’s about his path and his challenges, his mistakes and his successes. How privileged am I to have a front seat view to this kids first 17 years, and a how privileged will I be to enjoy watching him fly on his own.
Don’t get me wrong – he’s not perfect and he isn’t the best kid that ever lived. But he is perfect for me, he’s taught me more about life in his first 17 years than I ever learned on my own. Being his momma has been my greatest blessing – along with his brothers – and that, that is something that stays with us no matter where he flies.