Friday, May 25, 2012

Last Day of School, Anyone?

Some mothers get soo sentimental about the first day of school. There is no shortage of pictures and posts about babies growing up too fast and 'how did we get here' and a few confessionals that include how free a mother feels when her youngest is in school for a full day.

I'm not going to pretend that I don't experience a handful of those emotions. But you know what really gets me? The last day of school. As in a son's last day of high school. Wham! Or my daughter's last day of kindergarten. Double-wham!

I said 'I love you' and before she jumped out of the van, she turned and smiled at me with the slant of her head and the squint of her eyes that said, in a sweet way, "Aw, mom!" I watched her walk fast and focused through the criss-cross of playing children. She knew exactly where she was going. She didn't look back, she didn't look lost. Gone were the 'What-am-I-in-for?' expressions of Day One. See? It's the last day. She's doing exactly what she is supposed to do--learning and gaining confidence and preparing for what comes next. I sit in the van with parents behind me waiting for me to move and I wonder, am I?

And then there is the son. If I can feel the swell of motherly love from witnessing a ten month transformation of my kindergartner, then what is it I'm feeling as I watch my son don his cap and gown? I try to reconcile it with pictures in my mind of the superman PJs he loved to wear as a two-year-old, so much that he wanted them as his Halloween costume. This cap and gown is no costume. It's the authentic rite-of-passage uniform he gets to wear, declaring to the universe, what? That's he's grown up, that's what. And that's what gets me in the back of my throat, in the pit of my stomach, and what sends tears cascading down my cheeks, as he walks, accepts the diploma and the passport to the rest of his life. Swells of love combine with bursts of pride and form waves that pick up pangs of hope. I wonder if anything I've done in the last 18+ years will make any bit of difference for good in his life. 

The graduates march, and like hands on the clock, there is no turning them back. Forward, always forward. 

I feel marvel and wonder, some sadness for mistakes every mother can't help making, mostly gratitude for all the sweet memories swirling.

If it's freedom a mother feels when she sends that young one off to school and returns home to her life, and whatever fills it, what does she feel when that child graduates from school. More freedom?

Not exactly, for me. By the time I take my seat in the bleachers, I realize--I'm the mother. He may leave and live his future any where and any way he wants, but I will always be his mother and I won't be 'freed' from that. That's what gets me. And I'm glad. Happy glad. Wait, I think it's joy. Yes, pinewood derby, first church dance, last piano recital, one-hundredth silly pun, --and one unsolicited 'thanks, mom' hug in his cap and gown, and I feel it. Joy.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Chocolate Chip Memories

I mean cookies. Well, memories of making chocolate chip cookies. You know what I mean? Saturday nights my sister and I would commandeer the kitchen and make Toll House cookies. Okay, she would make the cookies and I would do whatever she ordered,er, instructed. Usually set up and clean up and occasionally I'd get to crack an egg or mix--once she taught me how to make sure none of the flour was left in un-stirred pockets on the bottom of the bowl. I wasn't complaining about the division of duties. She worked her magic and before I knew it there was plate full of six dozen warm, ooey-gooey, perfectly semi-sweet chocolate chip cookies. And no one in the house could eat one until the last one was lifted off the cookie sheet. It was a smart system of labor and rewards. We'd pour tall glasses of milk and devour half the plate.

A few things have changed since then. My sister and I live on separate coasts - so we aren't together on Saturday nights. However, I still LOVE to make chocolate chip cookies. I don't always make them from scratch. This is quite a departure because for years it was hard to use anything but the Nestle Toll House recipe and chocolate chips. It might have had something to do with growing up close to the original Toll House. (Notice the picture is of the sign, not the restaurant? Sorry to disappoint, but the place burned down in 1984. Now there is Wendy's in it's place. *Sigh* ) No question that made-from-scratch cookies are the best.

But as a mom, scratch baking isn't always practical (read-doable!). SO, I admit to using a cookie mix here and there. Right now I like a chocolate-chunk variety and I add white chips. I still use real butter. (Pause the cholesterol lecture. I don't eat two dozen in one sitting anymore!)

And did you know, we have the mistake-slash-improvisation of Ruth Wakefield to thank for the chocolate chip cookie? She worked quite a deal with Nestle after the cookies and recipe became a hit--a lifetime supply of chocolate! Think of that next time you run out of an ingredient and something doesn't go like you planned.

Meanwhile, I'd love to hear about your chocolate chip memories -- or recipes. 


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