Bubbles

Today, my mom would have been sixty-five years old.

Seven years ago, on her fifty-eighth birthday, she sat in a doctor’s office, unable to find a comfortable place in the chair, while she waited to receive the news she did not want to hear — the cancer was back.

I can still remember those nervous, little movements, like the seat was filled with pins, jabbing her into a constant shifting and adjusting, searching for a comfort she would not find in that office on that day.

I think the part she hated the most was leaving us, especially her grandkids. She wanted to stay. She wanted to help us, to protect us, to love us. She wasn’t ready to leave.

And we weren’t ready for her to leave.

But the choice isn’t ours. And shouldn’t be, really.

The office in which I worked during 2011 had a stack of bubble wrap. I don’t remember why — perhaps from a shipment. But I loved to pop the little plastic bubbles and had stashed a few sheets in the truck. Occasionally, I would share with the boys, but Younger was always frustrated by my refusing to allow him to just twist the wrap and pop multiple bubbles at once.

“It’s my stress relief, Younger,” I told him. “Nice and slow, one at a time.”

Because not only was my mother dying of cancer, but the office where I had worked for fifteen years had closed. My new job was only part-time and required that I return to college with the possibility (which they couldn’t guarantee, they told us, with a nudge and a wink) of full-time work when I graduated. I was the mother of two young boys, both in multiple sports. And Younger and his teacher had declared war on each other, and my ten-year-old son, who had previously had meltdowns over a few missed points, now no longer even attempted to earn the highest grade. And, of course, marriage is never easy and sometimes surviving for another day is the best we can do.

But for a few moments each day, I could focus on the small but triumphant sound of plastic bubbles crunching beneath my fingers, one single bubble at a time.

In April of 2011, Mom left us. And as my husband, my boys, and I were settling in the truck parked in my parents’ driveway, preparing to leave after our last few moments with her, I heard a small, soft voice ask, “Mom? Where’s the bubble wrap?”

And the soft pop-pop-pop of the bubbles accompanied us home.

I no longer pop bubble wrap. I can still hear that little voice from the back seat.

Besides, there’s not enough bubble wrap in the world.

 

 

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Love All Your Pieces

Elder turned twenty-one yesterday, so today I thought I would share one of my favorite moments with him when he was only five years old and I could still ignore the fact he would soon grow into a man . . .

Last night as I readied Elder for bed, I gave him a hug and a kiss.  Then I told him, “I love you.”  Without responding, he turned towards the bedroom, so I caught his arm and repeated, “I love you, Elder.”

“Mom,” he said, looking up at me with sincere blue eyes.  “I love you like a balloon that gets too full and pops.”

“Oh,” I murmured, both touched and impressed by his metaphor, not to mention the arms that he had spread wide to indicate the size of the balloon.

“And then,” he continued, dropping his arms and walking away, “I love all your pieces.”

. . . And for twenty-one years my love for him has filled and popped many, many balloons.

And I love all his pieces.

 

 

One Day

Younger has always wanted to be six foot tall and bullet proof. He has somewhat accepted he will never be bullet proof. He still has hope for the six foot tall.

While at the doctor’s office the other day, the nurse indicated for Younger to position himself against the measuring tape. And I grinned because that is the straightest I ever see that young man’s back.

The nurse went up on tiptoes and declared, “Five-eleven.”

And total frustration wrinkled Younger’s face.

I laughed.

But as I went to hug him last night, having to reach up to encircle his shoulders, I said, “I love you, my five-eleven son.”

Grinning, he hung his head a little. “Was I that obvious?”

“You did grow an inch, though,” I encouraged him.

He shrugged. “I think that was my hair.” He tugged at his no-longer-blond locks with his fingers. “It was pouf-y.” Then he frowned. “But she could have rounded up. How hard is that? Just round up, lady.”

One day, he will accept that his height is perfect for him, at whatever inch he stops growing.

And one day, I will accept that he is no longer measured in inches and does not fit in the crook of one arm.

One day.

 

 

A Night in the Life

I cannot connect my laptop to the Internet today, so I am writing this post on my phone. That’s my excuse for the errors. I usually have no excuse to offer, but today I do.

Tonight I will give you a peek at a usual night in the Grown Up household . . .

My husband is stressed from his day at work and has decided to complete a puzzle to “release his frustration.” And raising mine as the sorted piles consume every corner of my table. 

Elder’s best friend told him he couldn’t write a poem on nature. So, now, he is researching poetry. He doesn’t like poetry. He likes losing a challenge even less apparently.

Younger is using his Jedi mind tricks to convince me I do not want my portion of the bread with dinner. Even Obi-Wan Kanobi was not that talented. This is the bread that I want with my dinner.

And I am listening to all the chaos with quiet contentment.

I am blessed.

Blow Me Over

My computer crashed.

And burned.

Elder managed to help us save a majority of the files.

But . . .

The older the files the less luck we had in retrieving them.

So . . .

All my old stories on the boys.

Gone.

Except I had sent one of my files to a cousin. She sent me a copy.

So, I have a tragedy but not as tragic as I could have had. And in the midst of the tragedy, I had one moment of joy when I found an unremembered file containing stories on the boys just before and right after Younger started kindergarten and Elder third grade. And today I thought I would share my favorite . . .

My mom called our house the other day and, by chance, which means I didn’t get there quick enough, Younger answered the phone.  And in the course of the conversation, Mom asked him where Elder was.

“Well, blow me over,” Younger responded.  “I don’t know.”

Which was an answer that amused my mother endlessly.

Now, she and Younger have a game in which they argue over who loves me the most.  Younger has at times requested, “Can you call Grandma Songbird?  I have something I gotta tell her.”  So, I dial the numbers then Younger takes the phone and announces in response to Mom’s greeting, “I love my Mommy more than you do.”

And he just cackles.  And when Mom threatens to reach through the phone and pop him in the nose, he makes me hold the receiver and yells from a distance, “I love my Mommy more than you do.”  And he cackles some more.

So, the last time Mom called, she told me, “You tell Younger that I said, ‘Well, blow me over but I love you more than he does.”

So, later, I dutifully repeated, “Grandma Songbird says, ‘Blow her over, but she loves me more than you do.’ ”

“Well,” Younger said, puffing up.  “I can tell you, she is definitely mistaken.”  And then he added in a mutter, “And she can just blow her ownself over.”

Which was an answer that amused his mother endlessly.

 

 

Life Without Parole

Sunday is my — I always have to do the subtraction in my head, which is never a great idea — twenty-third anniversary.

In one of my classes today, as we were introducing ourselves, I admitted — after doing math in my head in public, which I usually avoid — to the number of years.

“Wow,” one student breathed. “You must have married young.”

Yeah, I was like twelve.

Except I was actually almost twenty-one.

So, we were young, but we didn’t know we were young. I have studied Elder, amazed that in less than a year he will be the age I was when I married. And I silently threaten to shake the sense back into him if he even considers marriage until whatever age I decide he is adult enough to be adulting.

Yet, twenty-three years after exchanging vows, and my husband and I have survived. And we understand that twenty-three years is really just the start.

I mean, at this point, some prison sentences for murder are shorter than our marriage.

Not to imply that I’ve considered murder as a legitimate option.

Because that would just be wrong.

According to society.

Besides, I kind of like him most of the time.

So, we will live and love and cry and yell and forgive and laugh for another day . . . another month . . . another year.

Life without parole.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Not?

As I was preparing to retreat upstairs at bedtime last night, I hugged Younger and told him, “Love you.”

And my not-so-blonde, not-so-little boy cocked his head to the side and gave me the same grin accompanied by the same twinkling eyes he would offer at the age of two. “Of course, you do. Why wouldn’t you?”

And you know what?

He’s right.

Of course, I do.

Why wouldn’t I?