Monday, October 9, 2017

What did I know about anything?

I was in Spokane this past weekend, visiting with Henry for Family Weekend at his university. It was fall in Spokane, and the colors were brilliant.

I don't know what I felt -- joy, certainly, in seeing my son again, but there was something else, something faint and melancholy and in-between.

You know very well what it is. Was. That lonely feeling. There's not much time between now and then. I remember what it felt like, to be so new.

The hotel where I stayed had paper-thin walls. I drifted toward them in the morning, a ghost with a toothbrush I held still in my mouth, breath held, the lovers on the other side breath less.

It only takes a few trees on fire, sun-dappled leaves, just so, to make me eighteen again and wistful. The word hesitant. The word restless. The word yearn.

I'm a mother now, watching my son move forward.

Here's a poem that I can't get out of my mind.

The Five Spot

There’s always a lesson to be learned,
whether in a hotel bar
or over tea in a teahouse,
no matter which way it goes,
for you or against,
what you want to hear or what you don’t.

Seeing Roland Kirk, for example,
with two then three saxophones
in his mouth at once
and a kazoo, no less,
hanging from his neck at the ready.

Even in my youth I saw
this not as a lesson in keeping busy
with one thing or another,
but as a joyous impossible lesson
in how to do it all at once,

pleasing and displeasing yourself
with harmony here and discord there.
But what else did I know
as the waitress lit the candle
on my round table in the dark?
What did I know about anything?

Billy Collins


  1. That is a beautiful Poem, and Autumn where your Son is looks breath taking, I'm Glad you got to spend some time with him and experience the full range of emotion you felt. So long as I am 'feeling' anything it is a good thing.

  2. Would I do it again? Only as someone else, I guess...

    Beautiful post.

  3. please keep writing about this time in life with our launching children/young adults. i am in the same place and you keep hitting the nail on the head. so beautiful. thank you.

  4. My middle daughter was here this weekend with her boyfriend, for Thanksgiving. It was wonderful to see her and she's happy which is even better. But I do miss her. She lives in Vancouver and I want to tell her to move back home but I can't because she has a life and she has to live it. I lived mine. But I miss her so. Our children, they come disguised as babies but in reality they are people.

  5. Autumn is a wistful time, even without the new separations that come with a son going off to college. I can see how you would be wistful on many levels. Beautiful pictures! I hope Henry is settling in well.

  6. Ah, Elizabeth, I know intimately what you mean here. I felt it as a kind of nostalgia, a yearning for a time that was lost, a self that was almost forgotten, regret that I understood so little of what I had before me then. The feeling doesn't really go away, at least not for me. We relive our own youths in mind as we watch our children live theirs. We know how short, how fleeting it is. I think that makes us sad.

  7. Also, their beauty. Sometimes it makes me ache. I'm not completely sure why.

  8. When I went away to college I entered the first huge depression of my life and did not really get out of it for a few years. I didn't realize that then, but looking back, that's what was happening. I can remember listening endlessly to Joni Mitchell and embroidering a shirt for the boyfriend I'd left behind, trying to convince myself that what I was feeling was simply what maturing felt like. So there is no wistfulness for me about that time. None at all. I may as well have been on the surface of the moon as in Denver, Colorado, so far from the south. Sometimes it is hard for me to actually realize that some people, maybe most! look back on those days of college with fondness, with memories which invoke nostalgia and not pure pain.
    You and Henry are beautiful.
    And Billy Collins, always.

  9. I feel you. Autumn. Even here in Sunny California, it arrives and there is no escaping the melancholia. That poem...

  10. I'm always amazed at the power of memories. Sweet and sour all at once.

  11. That perspective that only time, experience and love can give you. Love and awareness of loss. and possibility. our lives circumscribed and metered, his more open, more improvisational. And so we beat on.

  12. I love that you don't just motor through these experiences and bring your "mom" self, but that you really stop and inhabit them with your whole self. Thank you for inspiring me to do the same. And thank you for the gorgeous photos. Love to you and Henry.

  13. Perfect.

  14. "It only takes a few trees on fire, sun-dappled leaves, just so, to make me eighteen again and wistful. The word hesitant. The word restless. The word yearn". --- I loved that passage so much that I cut and paste it into an email to myself. So, I can read it again tmw - in the morning light with a cup of coffee in my hand. ❤️



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