A toast to American Thanksgiving and Kids Coming Home

In honour of American Thanksgiving and the tradition of young adults coming home for the first long weekend from college, I wanted to share a glimpse into our household during the Canadian November reading break and the first time my eldest returned to the noisy house of siblings she’d left behind.  So I give you this from Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest – only the nest wasn’t empty yet – just reeling from the departure of the eldest…

And so we had Zoë with us for her short fall reading break.  On the Friday and Saturday nights the house filled up with family and three or four of her best friends.  But Sunday, close to dusk, each of my four kids trickled back home from separate outings.   From upstairs I could hear them talking softly in the living room.  Coming down I found them in the dark – the boys showing their affection for their sisters in their odd boy way.  They had dog piled on Zoë and Lily.  It was reassuring to witness them that way, like a big pile of puppies heaped on top of each other.

One of my few friends with children older than mine had warned me that Zoë would have changed.  “I know it hasn’t been long,” she said, “but trust me, she’ll be different, more grown-up.  You’ll see.”  I had been nervous.  I didn’t want her to change, or even grow up particularly.  I would still rather spend a small part of my evenings driving her to piano lessons or to her girlfriends’ houses instead of e-mailing her in Vancouver or fighting for phone time with her long distance boyfriend.  But my friend was right.  My eldest daughter was different.  Oh, she didn’t have a total epiphany or anything.  She didn’t say, “Mommy I’ve realized how burdened you’ve been looking after us four kids.  Put your feet up and let me vacuum up the nacho crumbs before I massage your tired shoulders.”

But she was different.  I noticed that the first evening she was back as we lingered around the table after dinner, bombarding her with questions. It was a look on her face, a quality it was hard to put my finger on, except to say that she had drifted away a little bit.  I had gazed around the room at the others, Cole and Hudson and Lily, and imagined us all reuniting after future ventures.  Zoë swore that she would travel to the far north someday, being captivated by the notion of a trip to Yellowknife of even Inuvik, whereas Cole insisted he was going to snowboard in the southern hemisphere in Queenstown, New Zealand.  Hudson was harder to pin down –I think he aspired to travel back and forth in time, and back then I wrongly viewed Lily as a home body.

christmas bird-1In the upcoming Christmas season I would be happy to imagine them all staying put.  I was going to pretend for the three weeks that Zoë would be home that she had never left.  We would decorate a too tall, slightly lope-sided tree together and Will would insist once more on putting up the pissed-off looking angel Zoë made in kindergarten.  I wanted it to be a holiday season full of my kids dog piling on top of one another, and watching Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, all of us singing aloud to the Sisters’ song –

All kinds of weatherWe stick togetherThe same in the rain or sunTwo diff’rent facesBut in tight placesWe think and we act as one[1]

I intended to encourage Zoë to humor Lily and I, and come skating with us on the lake near their grandparent’s property, after which we three would go for steamers, before coming home to whip up a batch of date-filled butter tarts for Christmas Eve.  She’d be impatient to go hang with her friends, (who would happily devour the butter tarts), but I hoped I could convince her to indulge us with a skate around the lake first.  I’d ask, but I promised myself to be a grown-up about it and not harass her to join us – just to ask.  She needed time to reconnect with her same-age peers.  At ages eighteen and thirteen my daughters couldn’t really act as one, but I knew that on Christmas Eve they would raise their voices together and happily sing about it.wooden santa

You hear it both ways.  Some people say girls are easier than boys.  “Oh, no, no, no,” others will tell you, “boys are easier”.  I’m not sure what exactly easier encompasses.  Easier to get along with?  Easier to discipline?  Easier to lose your mind worrying over? I do know that when Zoë went off to study art at Emily Carr – I thought a mother must only feel this out of sorts once.  But a year later I had to launch, as they say in those swishy mother circles, her exuberant brother, Cole.  Kids being kids, no two alike, and all that, there was hardly an ounce of knowledge I could borrow from Zoë leaving our nest when Cole decided to follow suit…

Happy Thanksgiving from your Canadian friends and if you want to read more of Text Me, Love Mom and the rest of all that …please check out http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

[1] Berlin, Irving. “Sisters.” Lyrics. White Christmas. The Movie. 1954

A Different Kind of September with Hugs To Last Until Thanksgiving

It’s that time of year again – when the first cool August night makes us think of  September and autumn plans and all the changes that time of year brings. On December 31st we party long and celebrate a new year, but I’ve always felt that more new beginnings take place in the first crisp days of autumn – vacations end, summer jobs draw to a close, cottages are deserted, pencils sharpened and smart outfits bought for children to greet new teachers and classmates.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When it wasn’t new teachers, but rather professors, and the classrooms were at universities far across the country, and the biggest change was that another of my four kids was flying off with belongings packed and rooms left oddly clean, Septembers brought a pang to my heart.  But there were days heady with adventure, and new cities to find the very best sushi and pizza shops in, and funny stories to be texted and copied and pasted to each other.IMG_4192

When my youngest, Lily, did an exchange in her third year to the University of San Francisco State I flew down with her to help with the move into her apartment and kick around that city for a week.  I was there to calm her on the first day when she had to start classes with red spots over her fresh face.  We were never sure if they were mosquito bites from a broken screen or hives from nerves. The fire station down the road from her place had a drop box for unwanted babies and I told my baby to go there if she needed help.   How could they refuse her?

Lily is a bold girl and was anxious to explore  Haight Ashbury and skateboard through Golden Gate Park on her own.  But on a particular Sunday she called home in tears to say that her  phone was missing and with it the numbers of new contacts and friends.  I told her that her friends would catch up with her.  “No Mom,” she told me through her tears, “I’m the new one here.  I still had to be the one to contact them.  I feel so lonely again.”  Afterward she  had some sad days, but she made it through them. This year’s students new to college will all make it through – not necessarily by finishing a school year – some of my four had false starts.  Still, I understand the September mood that will come over  family homes as kids set off on grand new journeys and moms and dads and younger siblings adjust to not having that one kid there – coming in late, messing up the kitchen, misplacing car keys, drinking the last of the milk – and how, oh how that will be missed.  IMG_3675

Try out Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest  – the story of Zoë, Cole, Hudson and Lily leaving home – it is a feel better book.  Recommend it to a mom you know, or dad, sister, auntie …  It’s at http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712 .