Letting go…

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Somewhere  I have a picture from Connor’s first day of Kindergarten. It was a beautiful day in early fall. The bus drew to a stop before our house and we crossed the road together. Connor stepped up onto that tall, tall bus step and then with the encouragement of the bus driver and me, turned dutifully to have his picture taken, grinning at me. Then he turned, climbed up the remaining steps, and disappeared onto the bus. I crossed the road and the stop sign on the bus rotated in, the red, flashing lights turned off, and the bus slowly pulled away, gathered speed and moved down the road.  I waved and waved as it left, keeping it up as it went up and down the road, then disappeared in a misty yellow blur over the hill.

As this was almost 20 years ago, I wasn’t sure how my pictures would turn out. I deposited my film for development and waited. (My, how times have changed!) When they came back, there he was, my little boy, smiling on the steps of the bus, heading off on a new adventure. And then I noticed his hands. They were clenched tight, knuckles white. My heart cracked. On that day when he pasted that bright smile on his face, clearly he was scared as well. But he stepped up onto that bus, smiled for his picture, and took his seat. And I didn’t notice. I didn’t see his small clenched hands through my tears. I only saw his smile.

Next month Connor graduates from college. It’s hard to think about. As the oldest, he’s always been the one to go first–the one I’ve had to let go of first, little by little. While cleaning out my Inbox recently I found some old e-mails from his early college days, many of them from me to him. Not so many from him to me!  It’s an interesting record of our relationship. Many of mine were filled with variations of this line: I love you and miss you! and So, can you drop me a quick note so that I know you’re alive and hopefully thriving? or  Are you feeling any better?  My maternal radar is on high, trying to pick up incoming signals of your health status.

There are also helpful bits of advice: P.S.  It’s good etiquette to answer your mother’s e-mails, especially around Christmas time.

Or evidence of enabling:  We mailed your package yesterday so keep an eye out for it!  Your glasses are in a case tucked into the middle of all the clothes.  I also sent out your thank you notes today and will hopefully deposit your checks this weekend. 

And a bit of sarcasm: I just love these long, chatty e-mails.  It’s so important to me to feel close to you as you find your way out in the world.  Thanks for taking the time to write and let me know how things are going.  🙂

I also found some snippets of our conversation on our drive up to get textbooks for his first semester:

—“Mama, would you object if I try to set a new land-speed record?”
—-“Connor, slow down. You can’t drive 80 mph.”
“But that’s how fast the rest of the traffic is going.”
“I don’t care.  It’s dangerous to drive so fast.”
“Don’t worry, Mama, I have the reflexes of a bobcat.”
“Connor, they’re endangered animals.  I don’t think their reflexes are that great.”
“No,  they aren’t endangered, only threatened.”
–“50 miles to go.  That should take about 25 minutes.  We’ll need to change things up a bit.”

—“I thought of a new game to play.  It’s called No one Catches Connor.  My first favorite thing about it is the alliteration.  My second favorite thing is that I have to speed really fast so that I always win.”

God, I love that boy. Each of these exchanges are artifacts of the evolution of our relationship. The driving snippets make me laugh even now. He still has a knack for making me crazy and making me laugh simultaneously.  (It can be supremely annoying!) Reading through the collection of e-mails, I see him moving away and creating his own world, one that only intersects with ours. I see myself struggling to support and encourage and to find the balance between loving and letting go. I remember how much I missed him in those early days and realize that I’ve become accustomed to his absence. While that makes me sad, I also know it’s a good thing, the way it should be. He’s on his own, creating his own life and at this moment, happy and fulfilled.

So much has changed since that first day in Kindergarten and I miss that little boy so much but am so proud of the man he’s become. When I look back at that Kindergarten picture, the clenched hands still break my heart, but his smile is still strong. He stepped bravely into that adventure, despite his fears, and has gone on to so many more. On Saturday, May 14th, he’ll mount the steps to the stage to collect his college diploma. I know he’ll be smiling, but you can bet I’ll be checking his hands this time. I’m pretty sure they’ll be relaxed. He’s come a long way. And my face–I’m pretty sure I’ll be smiling through my tears. So, maybe on some levels, not much has changed after all.

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15 thoughts on “Letting go…

  1. jarhartz says:

    What a wonderful reflection on your journey with your boy. The emails made laugh. I have a boy, that same age. Funny about the pictures being developed! I did that too. These words: ” creating his own world, one that only intersects with ours” struck me. Our place changes. That is the hard part, for us. They move on creating their life, while we sit back and admire. Tears!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. danrothermel says:

    Your Connor/Molly story makes me think of Hannah and our son Will. Such a connection. Funny, only saw the smiling face through the bus window on his first day. Never checked his hands. That’s courage. Having faith because Mom believes in me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amy says:

    I relish in finding old memories that are tucked away and then find a way to warm our hearts. I can connect to so many emotions in your post. It brings me to the quote, “Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and a reason to say.” Congratulations on graduating, Connor!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Adrienne says:

    What a beautiful tribute. I hope he gets a chance to read this.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a beautiful slice that reflects the passage of time. You created such a vivid image of him smiling though white-knuckled. Sounds like he’s come a long way since boarding those bus steps 15+ years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Such a lovely post. I can connect to you as a parent and as a writer too. You really do capture the moment so clearly and vividly. I can see Connor smiling on the steps of that bus. Enjoy May 14th.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Bernadette says:

    Congratulations Conner and Momma. Lots of wonderful years and experiences have led to this graduation. May you both share many more thoughts, Experiences, and loads of love for many years to come

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Lori Sheroan says:

    This slice really touched me! My older son is 17; so I’m getting close to this day myself. I loved how you included his clenched fists and your tears at the beginning and end!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Tara Smith says:

    We were on the same proud mama page today – I loved this warm and loving post!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. My boys are still little and I already find myself feeling so sad when I see pictures of them when they were still babes. I have a feeling I will be a complete mess 10, 15 years from now. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Tricia, there’s also an incredible wonder in seeing your children grow into adults and watching them make their own worlds. It’s pretty amazing! But I do miss those long-ago, hand-holding, cuddling days….

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for sharing these sweet memories, Molly. Congratulations to you and Connor!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I still have that picture. I close my eyes and see that little boy in his blue shirt, with his smile and those clenched fists. Aw Molly, where did 20 years go. Needless to say, I have tears in my eyes as I type.

    Liked by 1 person

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