Friday, January 14, 2011
Slow, Sudden Change
A very important letter showed up in our mailbox this week. My oldest son’s name was right there in the middle of the envelope, with the name of a very special college printed in the top left corner. This was the envelope we’ve been waiting for. It’s the letter we’ve been hoping for since the college application process started almost a year ago.
You have to understand that my son only really wants to go to one college. It’s a beautiful private school set right in the middle of the gorgeous Salt Lake City valley. It would not only put him back in a state he’s missed since we moved away four years ago, but this specific school has the exact, specific degree he wants.
Knowing that he might not get his first choice, he eventually picked some back up schools. He browsed through their websites and read their catalogs with indifference. Because that school in Utah was the only place he really wanted to be.
So when the envelope arrived, with what we knew was the acceptance or rejection letter, we all held our breath. He scanned the first paragraph and broke into a huge grin. He was in. He could officially plan his big move west. We hugged, I cried. He just grinned a whole lot.
We made the calls and sent the emails. Grammy had to know. Aunt Mary (my sister) would be thrilled to know, since she pretty much kept me from jumping off a cliff through the application process. He texted friends and I changed my facebook status. It was all so exciting and unbelievable.
Then slowly it started to sink in. Although I know I won’t feel the full pain of what it means that he’s leaving my nest until August, it started to settle into my soul that my boy was now very much on borrowed time. I’m not the only one who understood what this magical letter would mean to our family.
We went out to dinner as a family to celebrate. On the drive there I began to tease my son, that as excited as he was to move on in life, he might be surprised to find he’d miss us, even just a little bit, once he moved so far away. My other teen son teasingly said, “Oh, don’t worry. I won’t miss you!” Then, quietly from the back seat a small voice piped up. “But I’ll miss you…”
As much as my ten year old complains about his big brothers, there’s something pretty special about the brotherhood of brothers. For every play punch, he also gets a ruffling of his hair when he finishes first in the race at school or brings home a 105 on his spelling test. For as much as my almost college bound boy pushes his baby brother’s buttons, he’s also the one who scoops him up and gives him bear hugs when he’s sad, or sick, or just feeling low. My baby boy will still have a big brother to pick on him, but the dynamic of two brothers is very different than that of three. He might not even realize it yet, but my little guy idolizes that big boy. There’s no question in my mind that he’s going to feel that hole in our family as much as I do, once his biggest brother flies away.
That letter in the mailbox changes us all. In obvious ways it changes the boy whose name was on the envelope. He’s hunkered down into schoolwork again, inspired to get the best grades he can before he jumps into the college level classes. He’s scheming and dreaming about his new life, in the shadow of those mountains where he first learned to ski when he was a much smaller boy. He plans to take full advantage of discounted lift tickets for college kids and spend just about every weekend possible on the slopes. He’s so ready to start that new life. So ready to take his next step.
But that letter also changes us as a family. And it changes every person in our family. He’s been a part of our unit, a part of the pecking order, and a part of the balance we’ve found in our time together. He has a place in our family dinner discussions. He has a place in our van as we drive to see grandparents in New Hampshire. He has a place in every one of our family traditions. And all those parts of our life will have to stretch, constrict, and change, as we find our new order without him.
My biggest boy has been in a great mood since he got the letter. I know he’s still floating on his acceptance high. And we’ve all started treating him differently. I don’t know if it will last, but for now my children (especially my boys) all seem to be getting along very well. They’re making up games to play in the evenings (glow stick wars!), like they used to before two of them turned into teens. I sense a coming together, a unifying while they still have time. They might not even realize it, but I think they all sense the impending change and are eeking out their last moments together as the clock ticks toward a huge change.
Life’s still rushing forward. Now we have forms to fill out, deposits to send in. The list of logistics is long, as we prepare to send our son to a college that’s two thousand miles away. And as I work on every last detail I’m so fully aware of the months, weeks, hours, and minutes I have left with this amazing kid I call my son. We worked so hard to get him to this point. So why does it suddenly feel like the clock has sped up and I’m not as sure anymore that I’m ready for him to go?