Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring is in the air...

We have made our first trip to the beach so it is now, officially, spring in the Shaw household.  On Sunday night after we returned we had a good, old-fashioned thunder / hail storm with a nice green sky accompanying it.  I said it...green.  To anyone not living in an area where tornadoes herald the coming spring, a greenish sky is a bad, bad sign.  Thankfully, all we got was hail and we didn't get nearly as much as people as little as a mile south of us.  That's okay.  We got pictures and video!

Erin came home on Thursday so she could get some laundry done while John and I were at work on Friday.  Within an hour of getting home that afternoon, John and I were ready to hit the road.  Not long after, the car was packed and we were on our way. John had rented a suite for the weekend so that Erin could get away from his (our, really) snoring and hopefully get some sleep.  Nice room, nice place, manager's reception, i.e. a free drink.  Not a bad deal.  Although the weather didn't really cooperate on Saturday morning, our time wasn't wasted.  We saw a movie, did a little shopping, then hit the beach around 3:00 when the sun finally made an appearance.  That's where we got our first real sign of the approaching spring...

Have you ever seen a Portuguese Man-O-War?  Pretty things, really.  These were bright blue and everywhere!  Unlike some tourists, we actually pay attention to the flags.  This weekend they were yellow and purple...dangerous marine life and rough water.  The "dangerous marine life" got me.  Erin had already told us about the pictures she had seen on friends' FB pages of all the jellyfish.  While a Portuguese Man-O-War isn't technically a jellyfish (according to the news....), they can be quite unpleasant.  One man who was on the beach with his two children actually went in to the water to catch one in a net so his children could see it better.  When he was done with it, he left it lying on the sand.  It was a beautiful blue color.  So were the tentacles which trailed behind it for more than a foot.  It happens every year.  When the jellyfish arrive at the beach...spring is here!

The other sign of spring which I had noticed earlier in the week brought back memories for me.  I transferred from Zion Chapel to Kinston the summer after Erin's kindergarten year.  That fall she began riding to school with me every day.  It was that spring that she and I began watching for the "green haze" on the pecan trees at the barn.  It is really one of the miracles of Nature.  You go to school one morning and the tree limbs are bare.  You come home that afternoon and there is a light green haze hovering around the limbs on those very same pecan trees.  Every year when Erin and I would begin to get tired of cold weather, we would begin watching those pecan trees.  For many years, on the days when the miracle had not yet occurred, Erin would sigh, look at me, and say, "Not yet, Mama.  Maybe tomorrow."  Every day the same thing.  On the day the haze was there, she would get so excited; so would I!  It meant that Easter was coming, cold weather was on its way out, sleeping with the windows open was a definite possibility.  Life was good.

Around the same time as the appearance of the "haze" would be the first hummingbirds.  It's funny, but we never begin the hummingbird season with just one.  There is always a pair.  Since my husband absolutely refuses to mow around trees, we have one lonesome tree way out on the edge of our yard in the front of the house.  That means the hummingbirds have a clear shot at the feeders I can see hanging on the porch just outside the kitchen window.  By the end of the season, I'll be able to go out in the mornings to have a cup of coffee on the swing and listen to the hummingbirds on our porch.  Yes, hummingbirds make sounds.  On our porch it sounds like a swarm of bees.  Somewhere we have a picture of one of our feeders several years ago.  You can very easily count 21 birds at one feeder.  When the season is in full swing, we will have five feeders going all the time.  We refill all of them every day.  I think the word has spread along the hummingbird internet that the Shaw household is good for free food.  A few years ago we continued to see two birds long after the others were gone.  With the help of an environmental scientist at John's office, we determined we had a nesting pair spending the winter with us.  We left out food all winter and saw the pair consistently right through until the spring.

Well, spring is here, the haze is here, and the hummingbirds are here.  Erin is not.  We got to spend a nice long weekend with her last weekend, but she is flying out to Omaha tomorrow night and will fly back in late Sunday night.  She is going back the next weekend.  For the first time since she was five we didn't share the miracle of the haze.  When we first moved to Kinston Erin was two.  We lived underneath those pecan trees and I began to teach her to watch the trees so we would know when warm weather was coming.  Now I know what her weather is going to be like from watching the weather channel.  I either look at the map of Alabama or the one for Nebraska.  She's one place or the other. 

Our lives are made up of these little rituals.  Those rituals change as we reach different milestones in our lives.  Until I was Erin's age I was someone's child.  Then I was someone's wife and someone else's mother for about the same period of time.  Now Erin is moving in to that second stage of her life.  So where does that leave me?  What's the next stage?  Just from personal observation, I think I get to be someone's wife again for a little while.  John and I have been talking about the things he and I want to do together.  Trips.  We actually did that during fall break this year and are tossing around a few more ideas.  While moving from one stage to the next can be bittersweet, I am going to have to force myself not to give in to my melancholy tendencies and find what's good in this for me.  I don't have to worry about Erin.  She is excited about her life and it seems to be moving along quite smoothly.  It's me that seems to be drifting aimlessly.  I'll find my way eventually.  But every spring, no matter where she is, when I see the green haze I'll miss her and I'll remember those sweet days when she would look at me and say, "Not yet, Mama.  Maybe tomorrow."  I'll just have to hang on to that promise of tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

They told me . . .

They told me it would change my life.  They told me my life would never be the same.  They told me to think carefully before making the decision.  They told me it was a commitment that would last a lifetime.  They were right.

Nineteen years ago today my life took on a whole new twist.  John and I became parents.  And you know what?  They were right.  My life changed.  It hasn't been the same.  I didn't stop to think as carefully as I  probably should have.  Know what else?  It made my life what it is.

I barely remember the first time I saw her.  It was sometime around 3:30 a.m.  I remember knowing she was okay, but that's about all.  The first time I actually got to see her she had been checked over and wrapped comfortably in a blanket.  I do remember, very vividly, what I felt the first time I held her.  I felt fiercely protective.  I was scared to death, overwhelmed, and hopelessly in love.  I knew then that she would be my first priority.  I also knew that making her life as perfect as I could would be more important to me than anything else in my life. 

But let's start at the beginning.  When I first suspected I was pregnant I was so overwhelmed that I sank to the floor.  Then I started laughing!  I was so excited I couldn't contain myself.  I immediately called a doctor to schedule an appointment.  I wanted to be absolutely sure before I told John.  When I was sure, I fixed a nice dinner and tried to come up with the perfect way to tell him.  That night at dinner, before I could tell him, he guessed.  We decided to keep our secret for a little while because we knew once we told our families, the baby would no longer be just ours.  We were right.

Do I regret sharing her?  How could I?  Because of the love of our families, Erin has become the wonderful young woman she is.  She is a composite of all the best parts of all of us.  Because of her my life hasn't been the same...it has been richer, more colorful, more exciting, more intense.  Happier.  I'm not saying my life wouldn't have been full and happy if we didn't have her.  That's not something I could ever know.  What I do know, with absolute certainty, is that when I look back on the last nineteen years I am filled with gratitude. 

This morning was the first birthday of her life that Erin was not home.  I was awake at 5:00 missing her so intensely I could barely breathe.  I made myself get up and get moving, knowing that the quicker I did that, the better I would feel.  I logged on to her Facebook account to leave a note on her wall and realized I wasn't the first to think about her this morning.  Strangely enough, that actually made me feel better.  Just because she isn't with me doesn't mean that someone didn't wake up this morning with her face being the first image on his mind and heart.  I know that she spent the day excited that TJ was flying in tonight to spend her birthday with her.  They will come home on Friday to spend the weekend with us.  Still, we will be sharing her.  Family and friends are gathering here on Saturday night to celebrate her birthday.  I don't know what time TJ flies out, but I'm pretty sure they won't be able to stay late on Sunday afternoon.  She has one more week at school before her spring break, and then she will fly out to spend the week with him and his family in Nebraska. 

Looking back I realize that she hasn't really been just mine and John's since the day she was born.  We were determined to be the best parents we could be to help her become a young woman who could stand on her own...without us.  We knew that as an only child there would come a time when she wouldn't have any immediate family.  We wanted her to be comfortable in her own skin and confident in her ability to go on without us as a safety net.  I believe we have accomplished what we set out to do.  This is Erin's last year as a teenager and surely that is a milestone in itself.  She is on her own, solving her own problems, taking care of herself, and doing quite well.  She has a meaningful relationship with someone who appears to care as much for her as she does for him.  Her life is on track and she has a plan. 

Nineteen years ago I looked into her eyes and saw my future.  She looked at me so seriously that morning, as if she wanted me to understand that everything she would be, whether or not she had the opportunity to pursue her dreams, was totally my responsibility.  I felt the weight of the value of her life settle on my shoulders.  It is a weight I have gladly borne and would do so again. 

Hopefully when she looks back on her life, she will think that her dad and I have provided a life for her that has been nurturing.  I hope she feels that we gave her everything she needs to make her dreams come true.  I hope she knows that wherever she goes, her dad and I will always be available for whatever she needs us to be-that at a moment's notice we will drop our lives to go where she is if she calls. I hope that in talking with her friends, regardless of what might come up in the conversation, that she believes in her heart of hearts that we were good parents.

Happy birthday, Erin.  May today be the first in a long line of happy tomorrows filled with laughter, learning, and love.  May the roads you travel always be smooth.  May the sun always shine softly on your shoulders.  May those who travel with you walk by your side so that you feel free to travel your own path and not feel you have to follow them along theirs.  Should the road ever become rough, rely on your values and they will see you through.  Be willing to lean on those who walk with you and accept offers of help.  Be strong in the belief that you are loved, that you are valued, that you deserve respect.  Never underestimate your own worth.  We love you.