My mother would be so proud. Oh, not that her first grandchild, the only one she ever knew, and then only for a year, has just graduated from college. That’s a given.
I am in a state of longing. Spring is such a near thing and yet, this morning, the little pot of ivy I left out is rimmed in frost. Frost! I rub salt into my homesick wound by checking the London weather on my computer dashboard: 75 all week. I squeeze lemon into my emotional paper cut by watching the Kings Road web cam obsessively. I can see the school children in their woolly jumpers and tidy lines serpentine along the footpath on their way between playing fields and classrooms. For a moment I am sure I see my own in that line. Perhaps it’s because my photographs of that time are so blurry?
I went to New York City last weekend. I find it an exhausting proposition but I had two very good reasons to visit. More on that in a minute, first a bit of history. I was born in Manhattan and lived in the same zip code for years after college: first in a grand old apartment building on Central Park and next in a brownstone with my future husband just blocks away from that childhood home.
I have had a house guest for the past ten days. This is not the best situation for me. I am a solitary type and when there are others around, even my husband or child, for more than a bit I become slightly frantic. Claustrophobia grips me and my temper is short, my speech terse and unloving. In this small house anyone but a hobbit would find themselves shrinking into a corner at the press of bodies in the kitchen, the trail of shoes at the foot of the stairs, the untidy aspect of every single room.
There is something more than a little heartbreaking about a young girl’s crush on a teen heartthrob (that cannot be the way it’s spelled). My daughter is currently in the throes of just such a thing. In this age of twitter and Facebook, she can feed the fire in her heart with instant updates. I had more than my family-sized share of mooning around when I was growing up. But those pop stars were as distant and unattainable as real ones. At the risk of dating myself–oh, hell we all know how old I am–here they are in so particular order:
The world (oh, fine, a whole bunch of moms in their own little world) has been aflutter the last week or so over Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, a law professor and generally terrifying individual. She begins by establishing what her daughters were never allowed to do in her pursuit of the perfect academic record for them both: sleepovers, school plays, help little old ladies across the street. She then goes on to explain, clearly, pleasantly why A+ grades, concert-worthy piano-playing and throwing little old ladies under a bus if they are between you and your piano are so much more important than macaroni picture frames.
It’s time to put on my reflecto-vision glasses. What? You don’t have a pair? You know, the ones you buy off the back of an Archie comic, right next to the X-ray Specs and the itching powder. Most people go for the X-ray Specs because the picture shows a lady in her undies. But, in case you haven’t wasted that allowance yet, they don’t work. The reflecto-vision glasses, on the other hand, are guaranteed to show you the past with a mixture of insight and nausea. I know, mine are hanging on the chain with my readers. January is as good an excuse as any to take a look through them.
There is a distinctly cyclical nature to my days these days. I am a creature of routine, if not habit, and while I welcome the safety that comes with the “set list” of my life, I find myself saddened by the turn it has taken. Oh sure, there is the natural line that stretches from my own school days to those of my children, and now to the swift shift my oldest takes as he prepares to graduate from college and go to work (read, find a damn job). Of the three, he is the least likely, in temperament, to return home; he couldn’t wait to shake the Mom dust from his heels. And Thing Two? He has surprised me with his eagerness to find his own way, perhaps because he has always seemed so, oh I don’t know, cozy. As for Emma, I can practically hear the sproing as she grows up and away. And this is all fine.
This morning I stood staring at three, clean mismatched socks and felt the unmistakable surge of despair. It’s not the socks, not really. Things go missing all the time in my house. Those AWOL socks, and their brethren are, I am sure, currently being worn by an over-dressed troll who lives behind our washer. Right now he is decked out in a pink sweatshirt, my swim goggles, James’s inhaler, William’s elf suit (including red and green tights) and my old messenger bag. No, nothing new here. But it made me think about a magazine column I read every week when we lived in London. It was called “Boring But Important” and covered the various acts playing out in Parliament or a recent police incident over parking in Kensington or the nicking of the Abbey Road sign (again) in St. John’s Wood.