Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The family way - part one

Being a woman of age, I remember things that my younger human counterparts never heard of...like the term "in the family way". It sounds like a term that describes one way to go on a vacation, or a style of socializing. How do you take a vacation? You go the family way, which entails loading up the Dodge Caravan like the Beverly Hillbillies' jalopy, pack tons of finger food snacks and juice boxes, car games, toys, Raffi tapes to sing along to, and stay at a family friendly establishment that features a cement pond, playground, activities for the kids, etc. Or, how do you socialize with others? The family way is to invite families with kids over, feed the kids early and let them go run around like maniacs on the the slip'n'slide while the grown ups stay inside and have grown up food and er... beverages. (as opposed to the single ways of doing the above, like signing up for Club Med, packing: tube tops, short shorts, bikinis and tight slinky dresses for evenings of bar hopping, plenty of aspirin for the inevitable killer hangovers...) I'm seriously digressing.

When I was younger, the term "in the family way" referred to a pregnant woman - as in "She's not fat, she's in the family way!" (or, she's not in the family way...she's just fat, which is why you never ask a woman if she's pregnant unless you already know, 100%, that she is. I've been on the giving and receiving ends of that little faux pas.) All this blather has come up because I'm feeling wistful for being "in the family way", and I sure as hell don't mean I wish I was pregnant or am missing the days of being kicked internally from here to China on an hourly basis (although that truly is a magnificent sensation I was blessed to experience 3 times). What I am missing is being with my family on a frequent basis...dare I say day to day? My current state of misty wistfulness is the product of a series of circumstances that have combined in this time and place of my human incarnation. So what are these circumstances, and why these, and why now?

First and most obviously, my husband and I are 60 and 56 respectively, so at the age where the kids are mostly grown and beginning to live their own lives. All have graduated high school and left for college. We've been empty nesters twice, and happily so I might add (though for only 4 month stints and not including this time which is what I'm getting to with all this verbal cabbage ). I'm used to them having flown the coop, and though I miss them when they're not around, I'm busy and happy in my life without them. I'm long over (actually never went through) any acute yearning for the days when the kids were little and needed me for every single thing. So why the long face, Mrs. Erickson? And so the sequence unfolds...

At the end of 2008 (before Christmas), #1 son returned from what would have been the first semester of his senior year but was actually the second semester of his Junior year because he'd taken the second semester of his Junior year (last spring) off to recalibrate, establish a new major, figure out what he wanted to do...wait, I'm getting dizzy here. Long story short (I know, too late) he came home for Christmas break and announced he wasn't going back because he just wasn't sure what he wanted to do but he did know that he needed a break from school FOR AT LEAST A YEAR. This didn't come as a huge shock, given his aforementioned semester off the previous year, but it did bring some disquiet to my inner landscape and to hubby's. He's a wonderful kid, a stellar human being with a good heart and an excellent work ethic, and he just wanted to work for awhile and try some new things (jobs, not bungee jumping or building a crystal meth lab). He was willing and desiring to work, but so was half the country and they weren't finding jobs...hence, the disquiet. So he stayed home after Christmas until last week, working at a couple of jobs (phew!) and being very easy to have around 98% of the time. More on him shortly.

2009 has been full of transition and adjustment. First born and only girl Jean, who is 25, left in March for the Dominican Republic to serve in the Peace Corps, the realization of a dream she's had since she was in about the 6th grade. The standard commitment is 2 years and 3 months in Peace Corps service, and in her case 2 years and 3 months in the malaria zone, as well as in the path through which many hurricanes travel, and countless other unforseen possibilities over which I HAVE NO CONTROL. Despite the joy and pride I felt (feel) for her in this endeavor, this threw my navigational momming system for a loop briefly, but after a couple of weeks that included the discovery that she's in the same time zone, breathing, safe and more importantly loving her experience, I came back to kilter a bit. The onset of weekly phone calls and more frequent gmail chats have restored mom equilibrium pretty much completely. (Not to mention this has been a quiet hurricane season to date!)

Around the time my nervous uncertainty peppered with nervous joy and a sprinkling of nervous angst about Jean in a foreign land was replaced by peace and delight for her experience, #2 son surfaced with his own plan to make mommy nervous...

It's now 4 p.m. I started this at 10 this morning, scribbling out a few sentences during lulls at work. Now I'm home and the dog has the audacity to expect a freakin' walk! His momma was such a bitch! So I think I will put this to bed for the time being and return later today or in the morning. The sequence is only half complete...my first cliffhanger.

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