By Amy Abbott of amyabbottwrites.com
I’m guilty of waxing nostalgic about autumn—the smell of campfires, the crunch of leaves underfoot, the sound of the high school band practicing in the distance. Our son graduated from high school 10 years ago, so we’ve had an empty nest for a decade.
But there are some situations I do not miss.
I don’t miss trying to wake up a teenager who needs more sleep. Ironic that high school students, who need as much sleep as an infant, must be at school before 7 a.m. Elementary students, many rising before parents, have an 8:25 a.m. start time. What sense does this make? Has any school superintendent dealt with her own sleepy child at the crack of dawn? If a tree falls in a wood, does anyone hear it? If a phone alarm goes off in a high school student’s room, does anyone hear it? In either case, the answer is no. Nothing moves without brute force at 6 a.m.
I don’t miss the early morning chaos of getting a child out the door. I stopped making breakfast when our son stopped wanting it. If he ate an untoasted Pop-Tart on the way to school and arrived on time, that was a success.
I don’t miss the raiding of my wallet on short notice.
“Mom, today the Student Council is raising money for children in Haiti, and I need five dollars. And it has to be in ones.”
Better than in second grade when our son needed a pineapple upside down cake on short notice. Short notice defined: he tells me at 8 p.m. for a 7 a.m. deadline. The 24-hour grocery didn’t sell premade pineapple upside down cake. Had his father not whipped up Grandma’s famous pineapple cake, our son’s classmates would have enjoyed untoasted Brown Sugar Pop Tarts.
I don’t miss the team projects. Somehow my son and one or two other students always built the Antietam diorama or created the osmosis poster. Does every parent believe her child carries the load? Project deadlines creep up on students, as they do for adults at work. Who will make the late-night run to Walgreens for a lime green piece of poster board?
I don’t miss school picture day. Senior pictures now demand the trappings of a movie shoot. Not an athlete with a colorful uniform or equipment, my son struggled over making his senior picture special. He dressed like a Senator and leaned on a stack of history books. This photo session was less challenging for me than the preceding 12 years. There are few choices in boy’s shirts, and I believe no new patterns have been created since 1960. Look at my husband’s school pictures. You’ll swear father and son wear the same Montgomery Wards or Sears red, blue, and yellow plaid, or green and black stripes.
I don’t miss our son driving the ancient Honda, a once-red Accord faded an ugly pink, to God knows where with God knows who.
I don’t miss waiting for him to come home, pretending sleep next to my husband, also feigning sleep. Finally, sweet relief when the garage door goes up, and we both fall asleep.
Now I sleep through the school bus, unaware of the school year’s beginning or ending. With hotter weather, we keep our windows closed and don’t hear the band practicing. Our phone rings less. The laundry is quickly completed. The ancient Honda was long ago sold to a family who needed it for a teenage boy. Our son’s Eagle Scout paraphernalia hangs alone in a closet in what was once his room, now my reading room.
When I was a teenager, a friend’s mother told me I wouldn’t appreciate the swiftness of time until I was much older. Bea Sheeler was correct. Time passes as if the hands of the clock propel forward at rocket speed. Perhaps I do miss the kitchen door slamming at 6:50 a.m. as our son hastily exits to the bus stop. I might even miss the heart-stopping relief of the garage door rising at midnight when he returns from a night with friends.
Luck on the universe’s roulette wheel gives the gift of nostalgia. I’m convinced any parental control goes out the door when the child goes to kindergarten. When your child is still at home, you have a window view into their lives. Unless your adult child lives with you, there’s no such perspective. I choose to stay in the bliss of memory because the present reality is so difficult. Commuters are shot and robbed every day on the trains my son uses daily. There is a myriad of issues, local and global, over which to stew. I trust our son’s sound judgment and common sense, but I have no control over the vast world. So I’ll think about a grinning six-year-old in plaid shorts who just lost a tooth.
About the Author
Amy McVay Abbott is a Midwestern writer who has recently been featured on Grown and Flown and Scary Mommy. She’s one of 40 female humorists in “Laugh Out Loud,” the first anthology published by the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, University of Dayton, 2018. Her online home is HTTP://amyabbottwrites.com. Find her on Twitter @ravensenior and Instagram as iamtheravenlunatic.