Clay and I are sharply divided on the best way to use the library - he goes online and searches for and requests The Exact Book that he wants to read. I, on the other hand, prefer to wander through the place, shovelling every book that looks remotely interesting into my reusable grocery bag. I'm a sucker for the "Staff Picks" displays. Clays thinks I'm clearly in the wrong here because I end up returning half my books without reading them, after an exploratory poke into the first chapter or two. I think he's clearly in the wrong because his system leaves no room for the joy of discovery.
However, he may have a point in a way, because right now I'm reading a book that I blindly grabbed on my last library trip, and it is torturing me. It's about a woman on a road trip to drop off her daughter, her only child, at college. On the way, she's working on a quilt for her daughter, incorporating fabrics from all the significant events in her life. She is simultaneously paging through the memories of her daughter's life and trying to look ahead to see what her life will be now. She's often awash in panic and grief.
I'm hating this book, because when I'm reading it, I can barely breathe. I have no child headed for college right now, but I identify, and I hate it.
Tre barely has the dregs of his junior year left. Max will be going to school in the fall, a first for him. He's gotten into an expeditionary learning school, which seems like an excellent fit for him. There's a still in the air about him that feels like he's approaching the top of the first hill of a roller coaster. And Raphael swings back and forth daily about what he wants to do next for school. Some days he wants no part of an education that requires him to wear shoes, other days he angrily demands to be sent to school TODAY. I think he will be home one more year, but not much more than that. And Sophia will be off to kindergarten in a year. It seems that that day? When I'll have to decide what to be when I grow up? Is coming.
This mom in the book has these memories of her daughter that were executed so carefully. Here is the dress she wore to her first piano recital, here is the fabric from her first Brownie uniform. I look back on my own mothering memories, and the events look like a whirlwind. Any mementos that I took away with me were snagged, almost by accident, by one finger, as we spun past. I'm afraid that when they do leave home, my kids' primary memories of me will be of the things I never quite managed to do. They'll shrug when asked who their mother was, and say something like, "Well...when she did the laundry, it was never finished. There was always a basket with orphaned socks in her closet."
I wish I was better at life. I wish my closets didn't hide so many things that I can never find a home for. It's become clear that all those days of plans that didn't come together, crafts that never got finished (or started), wait-a-minute-let-me-finish-this, and wanting just a moment's peace? Those days WERE their childhoods. And they're running through my fingers and I'm still no better at any of it.
But then again, in the chaos, I suppose there's also room for surprise. Today, at the end of Mass, the choir sang the Hallelujah Chorus. They were supposed to burst into song, but there was some confusion with the organist, so instead their hallelujahs started small, then swelled over the chatter of the crowd. Max is in the choir this year. He sings bass, which is a delight to his heart. When he started, back in the fall, he never knew from week to week if his traitorous voice would land him in the tenors or the bass section. I stood in the pews, and listened to my son's voice join in weaving a tapestry of praise.
I feel like there is a larger truth here, perhaps even a finger hold on the reality of the Resurrection. But I am feeble hearted sometimes, and today I'm keeping my vision small. Today I was just grateful for a moment that rose above the chaos and failures of life and was beautiful.