“Do your best. Be kind.”
The words flew out of my mouth as I was hugging our youngest son. My husband and I were in the parking lot of the dude’s new apartment building, trying not to linger too long.
As a couple, we’re light lingerers, probably because my better half is a road trip key jangler. (Itinerary!) We were about to head off on the long drive home after helping the kid move back to college.
And earlier this summer we experienced a different kind of address book edit. Our firstborn packed up again, but this time without textbooks. In what seemed like just a few breaths, he traded his graduation mortar board for a business card. He’s working in his field, whew. We are beyond thankful.
“Do your best. Be kind.”
I uttered similar words, if not these exact ones, to Career Boy after we U-Hauled him to his new grown-up life.
There are so many gems a mom or dad envisions sharing at these asphalt departures. But it seems while the hugging muscles are activated, the words bottleneck in the throat.
As parents, we want to gush out an infinite list of reminders and advice: Look both ways when you cross the street. Get enough sleep. Don’t let your clothes wrinkle in the dryer. Eat apples. Trust your gut. Dazzle your professors/bosses. Never drive over moving water, especially by that creek we just noticed a mile south of here. Check “use by” dates on food packages. Love thy neighbor.
Yes, especially that last one.
Somehow, at these parting scenes, my husband and I tumble into the car too quickly (for me). We find ourselves waving at our guys through the windshield as we roll away, one hand gesturing goodbye for now, the other reaching for the seat belt. We buckle up.
Oh, August. Just when the garden tomatoes are plump and red and ready for too many BLTs, there are fewer sandwiches to make. The busy cicadas drown out our sighs as we look to September. I like September. It’s a fresh, blank spiral notebook of a month.
Aside from the endless moments when we choose the wrong grocery line or hit a red light at an overbuilt intersection, time does not stand still. I know that, and I’m thankful for any kind of footing our young dudes can get in this mixed bag of a world.
Both sons camped home in brief, opposite shifts this summer. Only two days overlapped when we were “the four of us” again. Even after having basically one regrouping at a time, it took a while to stop pulling out too many plates for the table. I’m still making too much salad.
And yet all of this is OK. How do I know? The legendary Floribunda rose bush by the driveway gave me a clue.
It served as a backdrop in every single first day of school photo from kindergarten through mid-college years. Despite all the summers of nudging it along with fertilizers and pruners, one day we looked at it with clear eyes. We decided it looked spent, pathetic, sputtered out. It became a scraggly eyesore. We ripped out its bare stalks. Just like that.
I always thought I’d cry if the “picture bush” fizzled. I didn’t. What a surprise.
Maybe I feel more lasting, ethereal blooms have taken root. August is a good time to check the harvest, which for now has shifted from scenes of backpacks and roses to moments of hugs and waves in apartment parking lots.
As far as we can see, our guys are doing their best, and they’re being kind. What more could we want?
Reach Denise Snodell at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DeniseSnodell