Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tire Marks Across my Back

I don't think I can get through this post without waxing cliche-ish. It's just not possible to describe what it feels like to watch your oldest child pack up and move out. As many have pointed out to me, she is only moving 10 minutes away. I know this makes me the biggest wuss on the planet.

So I'm wuss. I don't care. I am what I am. She was my baby. She was my child. She is my daughter.

Let the cliches begin.

I feel like I have been run over by a tractor.

Enjoy it.

It goes so fast.

You turn around and they're gone.

Some day you'll miss the noise.

Your life is forever changed once you become a mother.

You thought you knew what love was, and then you had a child.

Adrienne was born on a humid day in July in Madison, Wisconsin. I was swollen and red as beet. I remember wondering if a person could die from being so incredibly hot, and if that was dangerous for the baby.

The last week of my pregnancy was spent praying that the God of air conditioning would find me and take mercy on me and lying in oatmeal baths to alleviate the itching of the pup rash that had made its home across my stretch marks. When I wasn't in the bath I was lying on the couch watching Wimbledon next to a rotating fan. The days stretched on like a nightmarish movie. My due date, July 3rd, came and went. So did July 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th.

Oh the misery. The swelling, the itching, the stretch marks that ran parallel purple highways down my belly that got bigger every day, the heat, the husband who tried so hard to help, but found that there was no possible way to help. "Just keep bringing in the ice cream and stack it right here," was all I could say to the poor man.

We will induce you, the doctor said on the 11th. Bless you, I cried. Nineteen hours later, on July 12, Adrie was born, yanked out of my body with a vacuum extractor, looking like she'd been through a womb war. She was even redder than me. I was besotted, instantly in love.

The next morning when I called the nursery to ask where MY baby was, they said to please come into the ICU. I called Darren who had gone home to sleep, and we met in the ICU. She has a low body temp, they said, and it is a possible sign of infection. We need to admit her and run a bunch of tests.

A low body temp. In this heat? How was that possible?

So began a week where I went home from the hospital without the baby. A week where I came back every few hours to feed her. A week where I had to wear scrubs to touch her. A week where nothing was wrong with her, but just to be sure, every tests known to human kind was performed on her. A week of poking, prodding and no conclusions. A week of many prayers from friends and relatives all over.

"We're taking her home," Darren and I told the ICU doctor six days later. "She's fine." Her heart rate had dipped in the night and so he wanted to do one more test just to be sure. "We're picking her up in the morning, then" we told him.

Next morning with my Mom trying to keep up, we stormed back to the hospital for the 100th time to get our baby. There was no question that we would not leave without her. Discharge papers, blah, blah, blah. Nothing had ever been wrong with her and I think we knew that from the start. What a ridiculous start to life she had had.

We got home, a week after she was born, and it was so hot that Adrie and I sat sweating on the couch, gazing at each other.

"Go buy an air conditioner," I told Darren.

Darren likes to tell people I locked him out of the house until he bought an air conditioner. I don't think I locked the door, but there was no questioning the seriousness of my request.

An hour later he came home with a window air conditioner. Adrie and I sat in front of it, sweating less, but loving each other more as each moment passed.

And so today, cliches beginning again, we will move her in to her dorm room with her roommate from Georgia and her meal card and with whatever else she has managed to glean (both good and bad) from living with Darren and me for 18 years. We can do nothing now but hope we loved her enough and taught her enough.

I know for sure we loved her enough. I hope the rest will work itself out.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

Dorothy was right. There is no place like home, where you feel good in your skin, where you know where everything is (well, where it's supposed to be), where your body curves into the mattress in just the right way, and the comforter brushes your face with cottony familiarity.

Home is where you know just how much to leave the window open at night for the coolest breeze or how many steps it takes to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Home is where the light switch is the just the right height, and everyone breathing softly in their own beds makes for your own peaceful sleep.

Home is where you fall asleep listening to crickets hum along with the sprinklers.

We are home from the UK. Wow. What a summer. It was a fast-paced, pound-the-pavement, do-everything-you-can kind of trip. A trip where you spent the money because it was a once in a lifetime. A trip where you'd wake up in the morning and say, "I'm in London, yes I'm in London. What's on today's agenda" . . . and then do it all over again the next day.

While in London, Leah memorized all the subway lines and how to get from point A to B. She studied the maps and put stickers on all the sites she's visited. She made more BFFs than a person should ever have. She touched the lives of 40 students by being a cute little girl who celebrated her 8th birthday with college students. She sobbed her eyes out when we had to say goodbye.

Nathan played soccer all the time, and improved his dribbling and passing by playing with the students. He learned all about rugby and went to several games. He learned where to get the best deal on a futbal jersey and how to haggle over it with the shop owner. He learned that it's OK to be bored sometimes, and how to entertain himself. He learned how to talk to adults, and look them in the eye with confidence.

Sammie made 40 new friends who treated her like she was one of them and not a 15-year old who was along for the ride. She saw what it takes to have fun and study for good grades. She had more fun than any one person should ever have in a summer. She learned how to be a loyal, caring friend.

Adrie got a 4.0 in her two classes and learned how to live in a dorm setting. She learned to manage her money well, and budget for what she wanted. She learned that her family is there for her no matter what, and we always have food even if the dorm servery doesn't!

Darren learned that he misses the great outdoors and could never live in a big city like London permanently. He learned that British history is fascinating but not the best subject to try to get through in 6 weeks. He learned that it's probably not the best idea to go abroad when you're chair of a university department. You just pile on your workload without the compensation. And you have so much work you can't get out to do all you want to do.

I learned that I can be a good friend and Mom to college-age students and that I relate well to them. I feel so good I was able to be helpful to them when they were sick, homesick, hormonal and sad. I learned that I love the theater, and that I have never been so moved when the music and theater combine together in just the right way.

It was the kind of experience we won't soon forget.

But there is no way to keep up with that kind of pace, even the most energetic types. No matter how glamorous or exciting the scenery and agenda, there's still nothing like opening up your own humble front door after crossing the ocean from other places. The dents in the wall don't look so big anymore. The carpet that needs cleaning still feels much softer than I remembered. The stairs, which used to seem so daunting, now appear like nothing compared to the 52 I had to climb to get to our flat in London.

Home is where the dishwasher humming means I don't have to wash dishes and the washing machine is always available. Home is where the kids are having water fights in the back yard, euphoric because they're with friends again.

Grocery shopping is easy and cheap. I don't have to carry them home. There is ice in abundance for every drink I want. Tap water doesn't cost money. Darren's garden has more tomatoes than we can ever eat. The raspberries and peaches are coming on. I'm gearing up to make jam.

Home feels good.

Friday, August 7, 2009

England's Lake District

Darren said this hike near Windermere Lake in the Lake District was the best of his life! This is high praise indeed!

Nathan had another idea of how to enjoy the Lake District, even if it meant no clean undies for the rest of the trip! He couldn't stand that the students were jumping in, and would not be told no.

It was BJ, Melissa, Katie, Sammie and Garrett who got the ball rolling, and plunged into the freezing lake. All of the sudden Sammie looks like a college student to me, not a 15-year old, which she is is TODAY!! Happy Birthday darling!

Grassmere in the Lake District is the most charming town I've ever seen. We also visited Dove Cottage, where William Wordsworth lived and wrote. "Daffodils" is perhaps his most famous poem.

"Daffodils" (1804)

I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the Milky Way,

They stretch'd in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

By William Wordsworth (1770-1850).