It’s only been recently that I’ve begun feeling the significance of my birthdays. Up until now, they’ve been days in which my loved ones showed me their love with gifts and cake. I never really thought about the numberattached to each birthday celebrated. Turning 30 was no big deal, which surprised me. I’d heard stories of people experiencing some sort of identity crisis — thinking 30 was old. Thinking I’d dodged an emotional bullet, I skipped happily along through the next decade, having a baby at 32, buying a house at 36 — doing the “grown up” thing, but never really feeling my age. In my head, I still felt like I was in my late 20s’.
I figured I’d experience that crisis when I turned 40, but surprisingly, I still felt fine. I celebrated my twelfth wedding anniversary and my daughter turned eight. These were not milestones marked by old people! Even the increasing number of grey hairs I fought with trips to the hair salon were not an indicator — I started getting grey hair at 16 years old. It meant nothing! And at 40, I figured I still hadn’t reached the halfway point of my journey on this earth. With grandparents on both sides that lived well into their 80s’, and a maternal great-grandfather who passed at the age of 103, my calculations had to be right.
Fast forward ten years to 2014. I turned 50, but I had a senior in high school — my own mother was 38 when I graduated from high school, so having a high school graduate at 50 meant I was still young, right? Right?
Yesterday my girl turned 21. Twenty-one. TWENTY-ONE. Her boyfriend (aka “The Tall One”) took her to her favorite restaurant, The Spaghetti Warehouse, where she ordered a glass of wine and was a little miffed they didn’t ask for her ID. Yesterday was the first birthday in 21 years that I did not see my girl or plan her celebration. She went to her classes, went to work, went back to her apartment and got ready for her birthday date with her boy. We chatted on the phone a couple of times during the day and I sent her lots of birthday love via text emojis, but I have to tell you — it was really strange waiting until her daddy got off work today, to drive up to Houston to spend the afternoon together.
Today I think I finally felt my age. I have an adult daughter who makes me so proud. She doesn’t do everything perfectly (said in an effort to appear unbiased), but she puts forth her best effort and she is navigating adulthood very well. We went for an early dinner at Sweet Paris Creperie and then shopped at The British Isles and a lovely stationery shop, Dromgoole’s, that sells Montblanc pens (good heavens, those things are expensive!) and boxes of Crane stationery (so hard to find). As I watched her navigate the aisles of the shops dressed in a cute outfit and heels, she looked so flipping grownup — and I realized she is. I don’t have a little girl or even a teenager anymore. I have a wonderful husband I’ve known and loved for half my life, and I’m mom to a lovely young woman who makes me smile (and sometimes cry, but in a good way) whenever I spend time with her. I think I finally feel my age, and that’s okay.
Do you ever have a day when your best intentions to accomplish great and mighty things are all for naught?
Sure you do.
Today was that day for me. I’ve been fighting allergies for a few days now, not sleeping well, and waiting for the Flonase I picked up to actually make a noticeable difference. I must have been tired last night because I did not wake up until 9:45 am. Thankfully, my daughter’s dog did not make a mess in her kennel before I let her outside! (We are responsible for the “grand-dog” while she is at college during the week.)
I planned on working on a project, but then I got a couple of business calls, one of whom was a potential client. I’d prepared four quotes for her (she is having a difficult time figuring out what she wants to order), but there were a couple of other possibilities she wanted pricing for. So I prepared three more quotes, and now I guess we will wait and see. By the time I got finished with that, it was pretty late in the afternoon, and the project I’d hoped to work on hadn’t been touched for all practical purposes. So I’m going to see if I can get a little done while I wait for laundry to finish.
Tomorrow is an exciting day — my sister and I are going to a film viewing at my niece’s college, about three hours away. My niece loves movies. She doesn’t just love to watch them, though. She analyzes them, studies them, critiques them. (If you like to watch a movie without thinking about it too hard, she is not the movie buddy for you.) Anyway, Tara wants to make movies, and so she is attending college to do so. When I first heard about this dream, I kind of poo-pooed it (to myself, of course), because I didn’t realize how truly passionate she was about this dream. I’m really glad my sister is her mom, rather than me (although a lot of people have said my niece and I look more like mom/daughter than they do). My sister never doubted her kid’s dream and so she has gone the distance to make sure Tara has a chance of fulfilling that dream. Like I said, Tara’s lucky to have such a great mom, and she has really appreciated the opportunity she’s been blessed with.
She’s worked so hard in her classes that her advisor recommended upper level classes her sophomore year. She takes extra care when working at the film house (an old house used for filming class assignments), always making sure she leaves things better than they were when she arrived. Because of her diligence, she’s been granted additional responsibility and favor. Probably the most exciting thing to happen thus far is this: she is attending the Cannes Film Festival this year! Her college is taking six students, all of whom had to apply to and be chosen by a committee in California. She wrote essays, had her advisors review them before submitting them to California, and then she had to go through a telephone interview. And she was the first chosen of the group from her college, and has received scholarships that will cover half of her travel expenses!
The students will be working during the two weeks they are in France, as baristas and such, serving the movie industry professionals in attendance (directors, actors, etc.), and if I remember correctly, attend workshops. Work ends at 5:00 pm, though, and then they are able to enjoy the festival. They will earn college credit for this experience, plus memories to last a lifetime. I’m so proud of her and can’t wait to see her dream become reality. She is working so hard, I have no doubts she will succeed.
But I digress with the back story. Tomorrow’s excitement is the film school equivalent of a piano recital. The documentary class students will be presenting their 15 minute films for viewing and we are going to cheer for my niece. I can’t wait to see her work!
With a bit of a delay, thanks to an unexpected battle with pneumonia and some additional drama, the College Girl (formerly known as the Teen Girl) is finally settled into THE apartment at the University of Houston.
In the days leading up to August 19th (also known as Move-In Day), we started making lists of things needed to set up housekeeping away from home. Since the College Girl is living in a college apartment, rather than a dorm, she needed furniture. After seeing the one bedroom “model” apartment, it was clear that we would have to be mindful of furniture size because she is sharing a bedroom with another college girl. We had an extra twin bed to send with her, but she needed a desk, so we went to the place where all in need of cheap, DIY, flat-boxed furniture go: IKEA.
Thanks to their website, we’d already done some reconnaissance and knew which desk would allow for the most storage and the smallest footprint at a reasonable price. She tried out some chairs and selected a desk chair conducive to sitting “criss-cross applesauce” that was on sale, hallelujah! We also picked up bedding (high thread count, but on sale FTW!), a table top ironing board, canisters for coffee beans, and a few other things.
When we got to the checkout, we were all chattering until the cashier mumbled the total. I swiped my debit card and then glanced at the total again:
WHAT? I was pretty sure that we had NOT purchased enough cheap, DIY, flat-boxed furniture to achieve that lofty total. The young man started going through the list and discovered the plain jane, wire paper towel holder my husband had dropped in the cart — the paper towel holder with a $1.99 tag — had scanned for over $1,000. Corrections were made, I scanned my card again, and we were on our way.
The week before Move-In Day, the College Girl had one of her dearest friends fly down from upstate New York for a visit. We had a wonderful time (I love this girl and want her to move to Texas — Powerpoint promotions are being designed to convince her husband that Texas is their destiny)! The visit ended much too soon, and the College Girl and I took my new daughter to the airport to fly home.
A few miles from the airport, my girl became increasingly quiet and by the time we reached Pearland, she was feeling very poorly.
I felt her forehead and she was burning up. Because I’ve always let fevers do their thing (kill the bad guys) unless they get too high, I didn’t give her any Tylenol or Advil. By the time we got home, she was running between 101 and 102 temp. It was shocking because she had been blowing and going with her friend for five days without any sign of impending illness. When her temp went up to 102.3, I gave her some Tylenol to control it through the night, and we headed to the Altus Emergency Center the next morning since it was Sunday. They checked for flu and strep which were negative, said it was viral and to use Tylenol and Advil to control the fever and make her comfortable. So we did.
For two days we followed their advice, but every time the medicine wore off her temperature would go back up. On Tuesday night it went up to 104.3, scaring us pretty badly. The Tall One advised a cool bath in addition to the Tylenol/Advil regimen, and so after conferring with my sister, The Nurse, who agreed, we convinced the College Girl to put on her swimsuit and take a “swim” in the tub. She hated us for making her get in that cool water because it was so uncomfortable, but it brought her temperature down until we could see the real doctor the next morning.
Thank goodness we went — after blood work and chest x-rays, we learned she had pneumonia in half her right lung. The doctor prescribed TWO antibiotics, and within twenty-four hours she was running a normal temperature again without any Tylenol or Advil. She was exhausted, though, and not in any shape to take care of last-minute shopping or move to THE Apartment.
What in the world did we do before smartphones? While she rested at home, I ran errands to find the last few things she needed. I probably took at least a dozen or more photos of things, sending them to her in text messages: “Do you want the purple or the blue toothbrush holder?” “Is this shower curtain okay?” “Do you need a butter dish?” Thankfully I managed to get everything she needed before my phone battery died!
Because she was still feeling pretty rough on Move-In Day (August 19th), College Dad, the Tall One, and I took her furniture up to THE Apartment. I am SO GLAD she was not with us, because I would hate for what we found to be her first impression of her first apartment. We walked into THE Apartment and almost gagged. The previous resident had apparently had cats… and based on the smell, no litter box. It was just terrible. Considering the residents of this two bedroom apartment are paying a combined total of almost $2,000 monthly, there was no way we were going to allow our daughter (or these other young women) live in that filth. After filling out the condition sheet with “filthy,” “filthy,” “filthy,” “broken,” “broken,” “filthy” — I marched down to the laundry building to turn the sheet in and get the College Girl’s gate key. But I did not just hand the sheet in and take the key. When I walked up to the table and the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed student helping out asked if she could assist me, I said “Yes. You can send someone to THE Apartment to see the cesspool you expect these young women to live in.” She looked a little startled and then directed me to the woman sitting next to her, who apparently had some authority.
The condensed story is: by the next morning THE Apartment had a fresh coat of paint and they were in the process of installing new carpet. Before they put the carpet padding down, I sprayed the concrete slab with an enzyme to break down the cat pee that had soaked through the old padding. And throughout the day we stayed on their case about other things that needed to be addressed. I still have a couple of things I’m nagging them about (like the non-GFI rated outlet under the kitchen sink next to the pipe that was leaking before the College Dad fixed it with some tools he brought). But for the most part, THE Apartment is livable and the College Girl and her roommates have settled in and seem pretty happy.
So why do I call it THE Apartment, rather than “her” apartment? Because as exciting as this adventure is, as anxious and excited as she has been to move on to this new part of life, every time she refers to THE Apartment at the University of Houston, she refuses to call it “home” or even “my apartment.” I told her it was okay to call it “home,” but she disagreed. And I have to say that meant a lot to this College Mommy’s heart — it’s good to know that she is enjoying her weekdays at the university, but she looks forward to coming home on the weekends. We’ll still have Sunday lunches with the Tall One and the Texan Who Claims to be from Oklahoma, we’ll still have Brew-n-Bake coffee dates, and when time and studies permit, we’ll marathon our favorite shows like Alias, Doctor Who, Friends, and Warehouse 13 while we do cross stitch and embroidery.
No matter how many things in life change, she’ll always be our girl. ❤
An odd title for a scribbler’s blog post, I suppose. As I sat down to compose this post, I discovered a scarcity of words that surprised even me. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am rarely, if ever, at a loss for words. Fortunately I rediscovered my words, so here we go:
I’m full of emotions right now. Emotions threaten to knock me off my feet the same way a wave knocks you on your backside when you venture too far off shore when the Gulf is choppy chocolate soup. The emotions vying for my attention spring from what seems a multitude of sources: preparing my childhood home for sale, readying my daughter to move into her first apartment away from home, and observing the first anniversary of my mama’s passing.
The house is coming together finally. Now that it’s been almost completely emptied of all the things that made it “home,” I don’t get quite as sad when I walk through the front door. I still have vivid memories though, and I remember lying on the green 70s’ carpet in my bedroom — a first grader trying to stay out-of-the-way while my parents moved all our worldly possessions into our brand-new house. Lying on my stomach, I read fairy tale after fairy tale from the hardcover copy of The Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales my mother had given me. It was protected by a glassine dust jacket that still allowed the colorful illustration centered on the front of the navy cloth binding to show through. A companion volume of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, bound in burgundy cloth, completed the set. For some reason, I always preferred the Grimm Brothers. They were a little darker, a little more melancholy.
My college girl is scheduled to move into her apartment two weeks from Friday. Two weeks. How did the time fly so quickly??? Yesterday we went to IKEA, where we bought a small desk, swivel chair, bedding, and a few other small things. After grabbing a late lunch at Buff Burger, we stopped at Homegoods and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Truthfully, I think she has just about everything she needs for now. We have the luxury of only being an hour down the road, so if she forgets something or gets in a bind, it won’t be too difficult to help out if she wants our help. The challenge will be leaving her alone to figure things out herself. It’s part of the process, and so I’m going to sit on my hands, hide my keys from myself, and resist the temptation to call three times a day to see how things are going. Isn’t this what we’ve been preparing her (and ourselves) for the last 20 years?
I’m dreading tomorrow. Actually, today because it’s after midnight. So it’s August 3.
A year ago today, mid-morning, I got a phone call from my sister. She thought our mama had a stroke. Because our mama didn’t like the hospital in Clear Lake and any EMS that served her area would take her there, we drove her to the hospital in Pearland, at her request. The initial symptoms that we thought were symptoms of stroke must have been related to the cancer that had metastasized to her brain several months before, because after a little time passed, the symptoms were gone. Sitting in the triage area at Pearland, we made little jokes and she requested that they allow her to keep her underwear when they helped her into a hospital gown. As doctors and nurses came and went, she asked when she could go home, and they explained that they needed to send her to a hospital with a neurologist consult. So they made arrangements to transfer her to Memorial Hermann. I wish I’d known that would be the last time I saw her awake and cognizant of her surroundings. I wish I’d made sure to hug her before they took her in the ambulance to Memorial Hermann. Little did my sister or I know that around 4:25 am the morning of August 4, we would say our final goodbyes to our mama.
Truly, our mama had very definite ideas about the way things should be done, and as I’ve spent the last year going through things from the house — reading letters, mementos and the like — I’ve come to the conclusion that some of the high standards she set for us were rooted in her own heart-felt desire to be better than she believed herself to be. Growing up in a small east Texas town, her family lived on land leased out around the South Liberty oil fields. Her parents were good, hardworking folk who loved and did well for their kids, especially considering neither of them went past grade school. We knew our mama was sharp and talented because of the things we witnessed her do for us throughout our childhoods — she was very active in our classrooms when we were small and she eventually worked hard to establish a library (properly organized by the Dewey Decimal System, no less) at the private school my sister attended.
Surprising things we’ve learned this year or so:
Our mama was a member of the homecoming court when she was a freshman in high school.
Our mama was president of the library club at Liberty High School, and she served as regional president when she attended the state convention of high school library clubs.
Our mama wore ladies’ dress gloves (we found white and black gloves, elbow and wrist length), beautiful heels with thin spike heels, and she had a black cashmere coat with a detachable mink collar that makes me think of Audrey Hepburn.
We found a snapshot of our teenage mama standing in front of the Christmas tree at our grandparents’ home — Mama wore a Norwegian style sweater with black pants. In my entire life, I never saw my mama wear pants.
Mama worked at the Liberty County courthouse after she graduated high school, but before she got married, and her supervisor liked her to fill out the marriage licenses because she had such beautiful handwriting.
Mama was a stickler for honesty — she disliked untruthfulness with a passion, so we were a little amused to discover our mama had sticky fingers, at least as a teenager, when it came to hotel souvenirs. The Library Club attended a couple of conventions and we found a shoe box with odds and ends from a hotel in San Antonio, the name of which escapes my memory. The mother lode was a cache of goodies from the Shamrock Hilton in Houston, Texas. We are now the proud “owners” of an ashtray, a seafood fork, a teaspoon, and a room key with brass Shamrock Hilton key chain attached.
There was something entertaining, reassuring, and comforting in realizing our mama had been a silly teenager, just like us. I can almost imagine my mama, who I always thought of as very prim and proper, getting excited over Elvis’ latest song.
Today, when I’m tempted to be sad, I’m going to focus on that teenage girl growing up in Liberty, Texas — getting dressed up, with hat and gloves to shop at Foley’s Downtown and eat apple pie with rum sauce at the Azalea Terrace upstairs.
I miss you, Mama. Thank you for everything, including the stories and the seafood fork. I love you.
I was on pins and needles the first part of the day. My college girl, my beautiful girl whom I love more than anyone (except maybe her daddy) informed me a couple of days ago,
“I’m going to visit Tara on Tuesday. I’ll be back on Thursday.”
She’s twenty now, she certainly doesn’t have to ask permission. But my heart did a little pitter-patter at her announcement, because her cousin lives three hours away and she would have to drive through Houston to get there. My college girl had never driven in Houston before today.
Her daddy told her yesterday to run her car by Firestone to get it checked out before she hit the road. So she set her alarm early enough to be there when they opened at 7:00 am. Good thing she did, because she needed two new tires. Everything else checked out fine, she ran back to the house to gather up her things, and then it was time for her to leave.
I hugged her really tight, told her to be careful, to get all her stuff situated before she hit the road — no playing with the radio or iPhone while the car is in motion.
She laughed and promised she would be careful. I hugged her again and when she started to pull away, I said, “I’m not done yet.” God has granted that college girl an abundance of patience with this mommy, because she hugged me back and then I was done. Out the door she went.
I sat down at the table, staring at my computer screen, trying to organize my thoughts and all I could think of was my BABY on the Houston freeways.
“Forgot my sleeping bag,” she laughed, dashing through the kitchen to the closet where such things are kept. Hooray! A chance for another hug, but then I realized how ridiculous I am. I kept myself firmly planted in the chair, despite the irresistible urge to hug her again.
And then she was gone.
An hour and a half later, the phone rang and it was my girl letting me know she’d made it to the gas/convenience store on the other side of Houston. We’d agreed it was a good midway point to stop, top off the tank, grab a snack. She sounded so bubbly, so excited to be navigating her solo road trip with success.
“Gotta’ get gasoline, Mommy. Then get back on the road.”
“Okay, Jami-girl. Call me when you get there.”
About the time I should have gotten a phone call, I got a Snapchat instead. A photo of my college girl and her college cousin, with huge grins on their faces, so I knew she made it just fine.
I just checked Snapchat again. Those crazy kids! To quote my college girl,
“In a sudden turn of events, we found ourselves in Louisiana!”
1985 — It’s a hot summer day in Huntsville. The a/c in our dorm on the third floor of White Hall is not working and we’re glistening — which is a pretty way of saying we’re sweaty. I look at Karen and she looks at me, and we both say, “We’ve got to get out of here!”
Racing down to her car, we hop in and take off in no particular direction. We just drive. Somehow we end up on Highway 19 and at one point see a sign for Crockett, Texas. Neither of us has been there, so why not? We cross the Trinity River, not far from where it pours into Lake Livingston, and then continues southward toward the east Texas town where I was born. I’ve always been intrigued by proximity of things — it amuses me that I’m driving across a bridge across water that will flow within miles of the place where I was born twenty-one years before. In Trinity, I buy an IBC Root Beer, more for the old-timey looking bottle than for a irresistible desire for root beer. It tastes pretty good!
I don’t remember much more about that day, other than driving around Crockett, checking out the sights. But I do remember wind in our hair and loud, energizing music pouring from the car speakers. I remember feeling free and without obligation, even if just for the day.
I totally get how my college girl ended up in Louisiana this evening.
Change is on the horizon for us. Our girl is planning on transferring to the University of Houston this fall. She could commute, but she wants the experience of living on her own, even if it’s in the slightly more protected environment of a dorm, rather than an apartment.
It’s so strange thinking of her being somewhere else, rather than down the hall from our room. I can remember going into her room at night when she was a little thing. I’d stand next to her crib, and later her bed, holding my breath so I could see the gentle rise and fall of her little back as she slept. When she was a toddler and a little older, she would sleep with us sometimes. I remember wrapping my arms around her and pulling her close to me, because I knew then that time passes quickly and opportunities to snuggle with my only child would eventually disappear.
Now she is a good three or four inches taller than me, and those opportunities have long passed. Sometimes when she walks past me, I grab her for a hug and hold on tight. She laughs and starts to pull away and I say, “I’m not done yet.” So she lets me hug her a little longer and for that split moment, I remember what it felt like to snuggle with my baby girl on those quiet nights years ago.
We have always loved our furry babies. In the 24 years that my husband and I have been married, we have never been without pets. Our babies have added so much joy and laughter to our family. It’s never easy when our journey together ends.
The photo above was taken about five years ago. I love it, though, because it’s such a perfect illustration of our dogs and their relationships with each other. Hurley Monroe, the golden, is my husband’s baby and this shows her laid-back, even tempered nature. She just goes with the flow and doesn’t let anything upset her. Sweetie, the chihuahua, is mine. She’s independent, and her pose in this photo shows that. What she doesn’t let on is that she’s actually very affectionate and loves attention, in spite of her independence. Sweetie will turn eleven in June, and Hurley will turn eleven in September. It’s hard to believe they’ve been part of our family for so many years.
The little girl lying across Hurley’s back, though. That little girl is who I hope to honor today. Evelyn May was Sweetie’s daughter, but her father was a Yorkshire Terrier. Evelyn inherited her mama’s big ears and soulful eyes. Her fur was this crazy long/short business – long yorkie hairs randomly popping up from shorter chihuahua-like hairs, and all yorkie markings. Her birth was a science lesson – our daughter watching her come into this world, and immediately wanting to keep her. We couldn’t say no to the roly-poly little pudge ball.
Sweetie was a good mama, and Hurley would fill in for her in a pinch. I can still see Evelyn rolling over on her back so Hurley could groom her if Sweetie wasn’t nearby. It was the craziest thing I’d ever seen. The pups truly seemed to love each other, playing with each other and on more than one occasion, I’d discover Evelyn using Hurley like a bed, and Hurley peacefully obliging.
My girl adored that spoiled little dog and they had the joy of each other’s love for almost nine years. A few weeks ago, though, Evelyn began to have some health problems and preliminary tests indicated an enlarged heart and issues with her spleen. If that weren’t bad enough, there were also indicators of cancer. We hoped, really hoped she would get better, even if to have her with us just a little longer, but when she couldn’t keep her food down, we knew our time with her was at an end.
I was incredibly proud when my girl made the hard, but right decision. She let her beloved Evelyn go. She was with her when she was born, and she loved her as she left this world. I don’t have any scriptural backup for it, but I just can’t help but think that our beloved pets are waiting for us in heaven. I’d like to think Evelyn and my Australian shepherd, Sydney, are waiting for us – running in a spring meadow with lots of other dogs waiting for their families, too.