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Today is the first day of school for Chuckie. He’s now a fourth grader. Kate and Laura started the new year at the University of Maine on Monday. They are both sophomores. Annie is beginning work for her PH.D at Boston University and Jamie and his wife, Marianne, are entering Florida State University. So, within a large span of years, all my beloved school kids are back at the books.
I was never one of those, “Thank Goodness it’s September and school will start,” mothers. Summertime was glorious for my kids and me. They were happy to be free from routine and restraint and I was happy for and with them.
None of us wore shoes and wore minimal clothing from June to September. There was always a pool in the backyard and a beach 20 minutes away. We spent a lot of time in both places.
Every afternoon there was reading time with me reading aloud and they stretched out on big towels on the deck. It was there that we all enjoyed books by Charles Dickens and Tolkien. I, being the biggest ham in the Western Hemisphere, could indulge in using accents – cockney and other British dialects being my favorite.
Today, Adele has the pleasure of a second go-round with Chuckie, having been there and done that with her first two. She’s done Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, and Harry Potter – all with proper accents.
The coming of autumn and the going of summer still are poignant to me. I find myself talking to trees, telling them to get ready for wintry blasts. When the wind rustles their leaves, it’s as if they are sighing. This is not an indication of my losing my wits. I have talked to trees since childhood. Chalk it up to my Welsh and Native American blood, if you will.
Last Saturday I was privileged to repeat an end of summer ritual, the purchase of school clothes and new lunch box, for Chuckie. He was good natured about trying on jeans, but did come out from the dressing room to mutter in my ear, “Boy, Grammie, I hate shopping for clothes.” He knows I feel the same way.
Shopping for a new Mario TV video game however, was another matter. He and his sister went hand in hand to the proper department, emerging a while later with a game they both wanted. Since they are on the verge of birthdays, I gave them an early present. Chuckie reached into his pocket and came up with a badly crumpled dollar bill and eight quarters, which he insisted I take to pay the tax on my purchase.
Adele had only one pair of pants to shorten, Chuckie’s height having caught up with his width. I can empathize with this. I spent years shortening jeans for two of my boys, and cutting inches off bottoms of dresses for my daughter. For a number of years I had a next-door neighbor who helped me. She had a grown, married daughter, but no grandchildren and enjoyed my four to the point of sharing some of the tedious aspects of parenting.
My third boy had a different problem. He was very skinny and tall, so it was difficult finding him jeans with tiny waists and long legs. He had been a chubby baby, but when he slimmed down he shot up. When he was 15 I became alarmed at his lack of weight. I took him to a doctor I’d never met. When we walked into his office and I saw he was six foot four and thin as a rail, I knew he wouldn’t understand nor appreciate my concern. His first words to my son told the tale, “I’ll bet your mother is always at you about eating more. Mine always was.” I didn’t get a lot of help, just assurances that Will would survive and thrive. He survived, but is still tall and extremely thin, and I’m still fretting.
It’s a pleasure to be able to have another generation to love and a chance to relive some of the best moments of parenting. It’s also good to be free of some of the worst – like measuring, cutting, and sewing multiple pairs of jeans, and thinking about filling lunch boxes.
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