Counting Words and Milestones

500 Words Challenge logo
500 Words Challenge logo

The second day of the New Year, and here I am, churning out words, mainly because I joined Jeff Goins’ 500 Words a Day Challenge for the month of January. What was I thinking? I’m already a day behind!

I’m late for a couple of reasons:

1. I didn’t know about and sign on for this challenge until last night.

2. I took my fourteen-year-old grandson out to lunch, and we did some post-Christmas shopping (he had a gift card to use), and then I dropped him off for his hitting lesson (he’s a baseball player). I had a great time. I think he did, too.

This child (dare I still call him that?) isn’t a stereotypical adolescent.

We talked. A lot.

We talked about cars. And driving, the next big milestone for him, I suppose. On the way to lunch, we passed a very old Ford Explorer parked on the side of the road not far from his house, and I kidded him, said we could probably buy that for a song and save it for when he drives.

We talked football, both college and pro. I learned that he feels bad for Eli Manning because Eli’s having a bad year.

We talked about dogs: about how great his is, and how he thinks I need one, and what kind to get.

We talked about the city where I live (he lives out in the country, sort of) and what it needs in terms of development. Very sophisticated conversation.

And then we talked family. He asked questions about what his dad was like at fourteen. “Was my dad this tall? Was he thin? What did he like to do?” I learned that he likes our big, chaotic family gatherings on holidays. He enjoys his cousins and would like to know them better. We talked about how, as they all get older, they’ll grow into a different kind of relationship. They’ll be more than cousins; they’ll be friends.

What he doesn’t realize is how quickly that time will come. He’ll be driving before we know it. Having lunch with his grandmother probably won’t be cool then. But he promised me a date in a couple of years—when he’ll be the one to pick me up and take me out to lunch.

All in all, it was a fine afternoon, a great way to start the new year. Time spent that I won’t soon forget. I hope he won’t, either.

Milestones

Grandsons in action
Grandsons / Gerry Wilson

They grow up, you see, these children and grandchildren. My sons aren’t children anymore, except in my head and heart. I hear their small voices still, calling out in the night. I hear their laughter. I hear their noisy, rowdy selves thundering down the stairs and running through the house and slamming out the back door. I hear their dueling stereos playing across the hall from each other. Now they tower over me. They wrap me in their arms with big bear hugs and kiss my cheek or the top of my head. It seems to me  they hold on a little longer this year than last, maybe because they’re old enough now to know that time goes all too fast.

The same is true of grandchildren. Mine range in age from four months to seventeen years (four teenagers)! They’re all beautiful/handsome, smart, loving, and kind. My husband and I have devoted two door facings to keeping up with their growth. This grandson had me check his height again today. There’s a bit of competition going on with his cousin who’s two years older. This one wants to outstrip the other in the height department, and he just might do it. Give him a couple of years. Give him a blink of time.

Growing up is the natural course of things; it’s what children are supposed to do; it’s what we want for them. Yet it goes too fast.

So this little piece that has now grown well beyond the 500-word target for today is a tribute to “my kids,” grown and otherwise, who make me proud. It’s also a nod to good times and to making good memories.

Because memories are important. Memories last.

My challenge to you: Recall a meaningful conversation or a rare, shared moment. What made it memorable?

Age Seven: An Awakening

Along about this time, an incident took place that nagged at me for years. It has become a short story, but I won’t print it here. I think the memory suffices.

I may have been younger than seven; I can’t swear to how old I was. I was old enough for what happened to make an impression but not old enough to understand the implications.

From my earliest memories, we always had a maid. Some people had cooks, too, or a woman who could both cook and clean. Our maid was mainly a housekeeper. She came every day, I think, although I can’t imagine why. The incident I’m remembering happened in the summer. The maid–I’ll call her Rose–came to work with her two or maybe three children, all close to my age, in tow. When Rose showed up at the back door, my mother was miffed. Rose explained that she didn’t have anybody to keep the children, and rather than miss work, she had brought them with her. I can hear her voice in my head: “They won’t be no trouble, Miss Carra. They play outside, they be fine.”

Mother had some project underway–making jelly, maybe–so she needed Rose to stay. She told the children to go play in the yard, and Rose came inside and went to work. The trouble was, I wanted to play with them. I nagged at my mother until she gave in, but she lectured me to “keep my distance” and to come in when she called. I wondered aloud why those kids couldn’t come inside to play. I got no answer.

So I went out to play with the black children, and we wound up under the walnut tree where the swing was. I don’t remember if any of us played on the swing. I had a package of balloons in my pocket, precious treasure from a trip to the dime store a day or two before. I brought them out, and we children sat in the dirt and began to blow up balloons. The fun got out of hand when I showed them how to blow them up and let them go so they went buzzing and flying all around us. Hysterical with laughter, we began to swap balloons, blow them up, let them go.

Balloons
Image by jdurham/www.morguefile.com

And then my mother showed up. Red-faced with fury, she demanded to know what we were doing, but I didn’t have to tell her. She had been watching us. She yanked me up by the arm and dragged me into the house. All my balloons were left behind.

I don’t recall what happened after that. I suppose the black children stayed on and played in the yard. In my fictional version, their mother takes her dignity and her children and walks away from that job. I’d like to think that was true, but I doubt it. Whatever happened, I was left with the feeling that something wasn’t right.

In fairness to my mother, she had reason to be concerned about me and “germs.” I was sick a lot in those days. She would not have considered herself a racist. It was all she knew. It was what I learned, too: a cultural context of racism that I wouldn’t unlearn for many years. That day, though, for a little while, we children saw only those brightly colored balloons. The color of our skin didn’t matter.

I wonder how those children felt, having their playmate taken away from them, or if the left-behind balloons were enough. I wonder if they sensed the discrimination at the heart of it and if the story stayed with them the way it has stayed with me.

Monday Discovery—Link to Mixed Metaphor: “Intersections”

Today’s discovery?

I’m keeping it in the family and sharing the link to my daughter-in-law Larissa Parson‘s blog entry, “Intersections,” posted Friday, September 7.  She doesn’t get to post as often as she would like. Here’s why:

Larissa teaches English at a private high school in San Francisco. And she and husband Geoff (my husband’s son) are the proud parents of 20-month-old twin boys!

Busy? 

You bet. But occasionally, she shares her life and wisdom on her Mixed Metaphor blog. In this most recent post, she writes about how her teaching life intersects with her life as a mom–how each experience informs the other. Here’s a taste:

Communicating with our children in a respectful way about what the boundaries and rules are and are not frees them to explore their world. And I’ve seen for myself how amazingly effective this practice is. I’ve become the unhelpful mommy on the playground; if they can’t get on it themselves, they can’t do it (Except for swings. Because swings are so fun.) . . . .

I want to try to bring the same empathy I practice with my kids to my classroom. I want to meet students where they are and understand what’s frustrating about a tough text, and celebrate what’s great about understanding a tough text . . . .

Here are Larissa’s primary “informers” at home.

Twins, wrestling
Photo courtesy of Larissa Parson