It came on Christmas Eve - weeks earlier than we'd expected to see it. When my son pulled an envelope out of the pile of mail he'd just dropped on the kitchen table I turned away - I couldn't look.
The Christmas tree at the other end of the room was a distraction - for all of two seconds - then I had to know.
My son's widening smile confirmed what we'd been hoping for months: he'd been accepted to MassArt. This was his dream college, his number one and ONLY choice. He knew it was a reach, but never once gave up the goal that would ultimately seduce him over the Sagamore Bridge and into a life all his own.
I'm not sure who screamed first, or who jumped the highest. It was literally a movie moment. Exactly how I'd imagined it to be: stunning, thrilling, exciting and terrifying all at once. We both felt it so loudly that my younger son flew up the basement stairs, where he'd been plugged into the X-Box all morning, to see what had happened to raise the roof off of our little home.
I was hugged so tightly I pulled a muscle in my neck. It took me three attempts to read the words through eyes that couldn't stay focused. This was it - my son was going to leave me - and soon.
I published as a blog entry (below) an article I'd written for the Fall 2010 issue of CapeWomenOnline.com about a trip I'd taken last summer to the Grand Canyon. I'm still peering over that cliff edge. Still wondering if it's okay to let my sons walk ahead, run ahead, disappear behind a rock I'm too afraid to climb over myself.
This is where I've been these last six months, and why getting back here, to write about not writing, has been impossible.
The funny thing is that I HAVE been writing, or rather rewriting the novel that I began this blog to discuss in the first place. From last June to late December, I was in a fabulous routine of driving my son to his figure drawing class (see an article about Sarah Holl in the Holiday issue of CapeWomenOnline) then heading off to the haunted back room of the Hyannis Public Library to work on my novel in a blissful silence that only exists in such a space.
I was on a roll - editing, rewriting, filling in the gaps of storylines that had eluded me for years. It was so easy to just 'show up at the page'. To drop into the lives of the characters that had begun to communicate with me on a daily basis. The light at the end of the tunnel was in sight - then the art classes ended.
My library time became lost in a blur of days stuffed with dirty dishes and laundry again, endless trips to Trader Joe's for MORE milk - how much milk can one child drink, for god sakes? Time to rearrange the kitchen - toss out old appliances and order new (red) ones online - time to open brown boxes filled with new "stuff" that would make life simpler, give me more time to write...
Time to do anything but dwell on the contents of the letter that had arrived on Christmas Eve.
Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled for my son. He's talked about going to MassArt for years. My struggle has been with the push-and-pull of being his mother; of celebrating his success while quietly grieving the loss of the child that is perched on the very edge of the cliff he plans to jump off.
Stepping into the shadows to get out of his way goes against every instinct in my body. I want to at least stand beside him, talk him through the jump, but he doesn't need me there. He needs me to let go.
So that's what I've been practicing...the delicate art of balancing on the edge of my own cliff, where the view from here is probably a lot scarier than the edge he is peering over. Perhaps that's because I know how it feels to fall, and to discover that sometimes, the safety net isn't there afterall.
If I've done my job, however, my son's wings will be strong enough to safely carry him forward, to wherever he decides to go, even if it's just over the Sagamore Bridge to Boston.