Friday, October 18, 2013

Saying Goodbye

From the earliest days of married life, you watched from the window as the Gingerbread Man left.

You watched him as he left to walk to class. You watched him as he got in the car to drive to work -- the Honda, then the Subaru, then the Saturn, then the Ford.

After the Ford became scrap metal, he biked to school. Four years of biking year-round in Michigan -- it's no wonder you watched him back then; he might have returned to you as an icicle. When degrees were granted and school was finished, you watched him drive away in the Toyota as he went to claim the other side of the desk at the university. Sometimes, you watched him commute again by bike, though not in winter.

You've watched all these years, catching a last glimpse as your love went away for the day. Coat on, a skip in his step, car door slammed or a bike helmet clipped on. Sometimes he sees you and smiles and waves. Often he doesn't, and you watch unobserved from the window.

When you've watched until the last wheel is out of sight, you turn to your work of the day.

When the gingerbread boys came along, you began watching them as they left. When you walk the youngest gingerbread boy to school, you leave him at the edge of the school yard and watch him as he walks down the school's sidewalk. On the days he takes the bus carrying his enormous trombone, you watch until the bus is a yellow blur through the trees.

Somehow you feel incomplete if you leave before they do, if you leave before you get to watch them as the school bus drives off. Somewhere deep in your mind, it seems as if your mere presence at their departure is enough to ward off any danger they might chance upon during the day.

You know that's silly, but you remain visually tethered to them until they're gone. You know the day will come when the gingerbread boys will leave for a long time, for college, for travel, for a wife. And when they do, you'll be watching out the window until you can't see anymore.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Why

You find yourself in the midst of a crowd. It's a brilliant fall day, the day of the cross-country middle school league championship. Runners in different color jerseys stretch and mingle while they await the start time.

You are wearing your mom-hat, there to cheer on the oldest gingerbread boy. You find him. He is eating. Nine times out of ten if you were to go looking for the gingerbread boy, he would be eating. Such is the life of a growing boy. You wish him luck and offer him water and carbs.

The girls are scheduled to run first. The course follows a trail through the woods surrounding an immaculate golf course then doubles back to end yards from the starting point.

You and the youngest gingerbread boy follow the crowd of parents as they line up at the edge of the starting point. You cheer for the girls as the gun signals the start, then you follow along to the one-mile mark, the place where the girls emerge from the woods to skirt the edge of the golf green. Someone has a cowbell and shakes it as his runner goes by. You shout their names, encouraging them, clapping. "Go, go, go!" You look for the faces of your friends' children. "Good job!" you cheer. "You're doing great!" You're doing great.

When the runners thin out, the youngest gingerbread boy pulls you towards the finish line. You watch the clock. 11:36. 11:47. 12:04. 12:14. The lead runners are visible. The first one crosses the finish line. 12:42. The next one comes in. There's a trickle, then a flood as girls race to the finish.

You look at these beautiful children, on the cusp of being teenagers, their faces red and sweaty and earnest. Some are triumphant as they cross the finish. Some are clearly in pain. Some are huffing and puffing, steady runners. Some can hardly walk. Some look like they're going to vomit.

They are vulnerable. They are trying so hard. They have pushed themselves to their limit. And you are inspired, moved by their earnest faces, filled with love for these kids you don't even know. As you watch them, the thought comes to you that these are the children you write for. This is your audience.

This is why you write.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Travel Tuesday: Beverly Shores, IN

Beverly Shores, IN, location of much mirth and many writing shenanigans