When You Were Young

27 August 2010

[I realize, in retrospect, that every person has a story like this and most aren’t nearly as melodramatic as mine. But it is my story, and I’m sticking to it.]

I’m seeing ghosts around every corner.

It’s been two weeks or so since we moved back to my hometown. Well, for this year, we’re not exactly in my hometown. We’re actually living across town and it’s an area I haven’t spent a significant amount of time in these past 10+ years or so. But way back in the day - when My-So-Called-Life and Pearl Jam were on every TV and radio, when the guys from U2 were still in their 30s, and when I wore birkenstocks all year round – I spent nearly every day here. This is where my church was, where my friends lived, where my boyfriend(s) were. I guess I really did kinda grow up here… but being back here is feeling rather odd.

I take the wee ones to the park where I used to play as a preteen, with the old slides and giant animals we would hide out in and tell secrets to. I drive by my old church (where we still visit rather frequently) and feel the butterflies in my belly that I used to feel, driving down that road, anxious for youth group and who would be there and what would happen. I wait in parking lots where I used to wait, in those first old used cars, waiting for friends to get off work, and all of us climbing – we were quite the crew – into the same vehicle, heading off on some mildly dangerous adventure. I drive past the hidden entrance to the rope swing, up and down the hills where we could go hill-jumping, past the restaurants we used to only order coffee or desserts in, past the parks where we would go late at night and laugh and talk and occasionally make out (sorry, Mom). Memories, everywhere. Old, dormant, weird-feeling memories.

And then, of course, like every story – there is a boy. When I was 18 (well, ages 14 through 19, sadly), I loved a boy who didn’t love me back. He lived right down the street from here and I drive past it more than I would care to. We were together really only a year, but being absent for so long and now coming back, strange and sad feelings return as if it was yesterday. Feelings of heartache and regret, and I hate feeling that way.

It took me years to move on and let go of all that. Mostly they were great memories, many old friends still remain great friends. But I was a different person then. At least, I think I was a different person then. I was young, and na├»ve, and infatuated, and running wild. The friends who remain grew with me and know me as who I am now. But still, being here, I wonder if I’ve really changed at all. I’m still longing to belong, trying to fit in, looking for affirmation. I may not be trying to find those things in boys anymore, but the insecurities are – not surprisingly – still there. Every landmark and road that still stands remind me of a time when life was great and carefree, and yet heartbreaking and tragic. They remind me of who I was, and who I still am.

So today, I began making new memories. Maybe not to replace the old – (I’m not sure the bad ones will ever completely go away, and I think I want the good ones to stay; I was young once and there was joy and love and friendship.) – but new memories with my kids and with my man and this weird time of transition we find ourselves in. Memories set to new music and changing landscapes and the laughter of my children.

After all, I do think - if I were to be truly honest - the girl I was then would look at the woman she became with surprise, and be so relieved.

Fussy Mummy

17 August 2010

I'm not sure when it happened. It totally snuck up on me, caught me by surprise, and brought a tear to my eye. I have become that mother.

You know the one: she paces the living room floor waiting for that glimpse of her child after the first day of school. She frets over him making a friend, eating his lunch, getting on the right bus. She chews her nails thinking of the wrong words he may use (Irish words or phrases that are now second nature and stand out in American contexts). She sees him on the bus, leaving for the day, and her heart breaks at his enthusiasm and vulnerability and joy at going to school, knowing that someday - perhaps someday soon - his naivete will be shattered by reality: school sucks. Kids can be mean. Still ten years to go.

Yep, that was me as the boy experienced his first day of American elementary school yesterday. I was a wreck. But the boy was a trooper. I got a little bit sick to my stomach. He ate breakfast and the school lunch AND his brown bag lunch. I cried a little bit. He laughed and jumped and smiled, telling us about his bus adventure and the one girl who wasn't so keen on him hugging her.

Grade Card
The Boy : A+
Mommy : F

The strange thing is, we've always really promoted independence and resourcefulness and thick skins in our little family. We never really worried much about him as a baby or small child. I don't think it was really till we moved overseas - and I saw that he really was just a wee lad and still vulnerable and innocent and prone to heartbreak - that I started to fret. And now that we're back, we're all having to start over. Back in our homeland, where us adults were born and reared and should recognize and remember everything, we're having to relearn the whole system. And that causes me, a fussy mummy and a stressed wife, to worry just a bit more about how everyone is doing and if we'll all succeed.

So far, the first big test of school and boys, my son is a success. His mom, on the other hand, could use some work. Must study and research and give myself a few pop quizzes over the next semester or two. After all, we'll be doing this all over again back in Ireland next year.