Tuesday, September 3, 2013

In my rear view mirror

My essay, The Truth Is, is featured Mamalode today, along with the work of some really fabulous writers. Click here to visit me over there. 

We can’t return
We can only look behind 
From where we came 
And go round and round and round
In the circle game. – Joni Mitchell, The Circle Game

No matter where we are going, no matter the length of our travels, my passenger’s side rear view mirror contains the image of my girl’s scrunched face trying to prick my attention to solicit a beam in reply. If it’s warm, she rolls down the window and leans her chin out like a puppy lapping up the breeze, hair flying wild. Childhood in a snapshot. It’s swiftly getting left behind in the rear view mirror. With Princess Commando entering 6th grade, Henry beginning his freshman year of high school, First Born Son closing out his high school stay in senior year, and a three year old who overnight has grown legs and lost her baby face, I have been gazing into that slip of glass more frequently lately. Lingering in sweet comforts of the way we were- moving forward with butterflies in my stomach.

I took Princess Commando to visit her former school which houses grades Pre-K- 4. The building recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation. She marveled at the new wing with its floor-to-ceiling windows, a dedicated Art room (instead of Art on a Cart), a full sized gymnasium. She was amused by the cosmetic upgrades and the arrangement of the classrooms. She ran her fingers over her former locker number. Her shoulders sank.

“I wish I could go back.” It was so much simpler then.

We walked down the same hallway we traveled on the first morning of kindergarten 7 years ago. It was only yesterday that I twisted her honey highlighted hair into two jaunty ponytails on the top of her head, helped her pull on her colorful tights and slip on her suede moccasins.  The corridor is brighter now and at the end of it, there is a wall papered in a life sized black and white picture of a tree-lined promenade-a blown up photograph of a parkway designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the school’s namesake. The lane unfurled through time and space. I stood before it focusing on the point where the perspective narrows. The future and past locked hands in a bittersweet waltz. Zephyrs of hope and longing spilled off the print. My 11 year old standing on my right and her 5 year old essence on my left. 

No matter where we are going, no matter the length of our travels, no matter the physical or emotional distance between us, I will seek their faces-  eyes wide with wonder, hungry to learn, yearning to become the people they are today- in that slip of glass.

First Born Son on his first day of Pre-K, 14 years ago. It seems like 100 years ago. It seems like yesterday.


  1. I really enjoyed reading your article on Mamalode with an undeniable lump in my throat. I deal with my 12 year old boy battles of depression almost daily. I say me because I get him and he is my hero. His issue is that he feels like he is the only one. he is that class of kids that writes and reads above his level and thinks too much. He got bullied often in his last two schools. We had to move the state eventually to find a place he would be happy. A better school does not make problems go away although he is better.Thanks giving light to this issue I find hard to find the words to write about.
    I also love your illustrations!

    1. Alma, thank you so much for sharing your son's experience, your experience. I am so sorry that he, too, is has struggled. He sounds a lot like my 14 year old. Henry is an introvert and very shy, very quiet (he gets that from me). On the outside, aside from his inclination to stay in the periphery of his group, he fits in well. But in his head, he is constantly at battle with the fact that he would rather be in his room, thinking- figuring the world out, than be thrust into any type of social situation. At 11-12 years old, his shyness made him a target for bullies. We switched schools in 7th grade and despite the typical middle school woes, he has done so much better because he is in a truly supportive environment (which makes all the difference in the world). By the end of last year, he was able to joke with his teachers and was more relaxed around his classmates. I am vigilant-every day continuing to support who he is, watching out for signs that he is withdrawing again, and encouraging him to keep trying to step just a small way out of his boundaries so that he can find opportunity for pleasure, for success, for peace.

      Middle school is just such a difficult time. I am facing it now with my 6th grader and I have one more to go after that! If I did not have an older son who survived the whole experience- unscathed and stronger than when he entered it- I probably would not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hang in there! Feel free to contact me any time- if you need some extra support, or if you just need someone to listen. Thanks again for your kind words.

    2. Like you I am a classic introvert as well and that is why I get him.
      My son has friends now and is starting to open up more. His grades have never suffered and I am thankful for that.
      I can say we have spent less nights crying together and more time sharing.
      Much love to you and your 6th grader :)
      Thanks you for your supportive words. I will reach out when I need it.