It is only recently that I have begun to fully understand the unselfish love and the unshed tears of anguish that my Mom must have contained as she hugged and waved her "good-byes" from the platform of the railroad station in Omaha one January morning in 1948 and as I waved back, California bound. (In many areas of life, I am a late bloomer!)
The last of her children to leave the confines of a warm kitchen that constantly gave off aromas of freshly baked bread, pot roasts and Navy Bean Soup in those "good old days," I gave little heed to what my absence might mean to her in the days that loomed ahead. The lure of warm winter days and nights with an occasional dip in the blue Pacific Ocean had seduced this CountryCal, big time!
Not completely heartless, however, I rationalized that there were other family members living close by to 210 Birch so it wasn't as if I was deserting my Mom; BUT, I was the "baby of the family" and a certain amount of residual responsibility resonated just from just being a member of this closely-knit family. We definitely "hung" together, come hell or high water, Mom's gingham printed apron strings being the tie that binds, wiping tears away and keeping our powder and noses dry...and the general feeling was that "those crazy kids would soon tire of California and head back home any day now."
The "days" turned into years as Del and I put down roots in South Arcadia Park, as it was known for several years; Mom weathered the cold winter days remaining to her without our daily presence, and never once laid a guilt trip on her youngest for leaving the nest and moving to that place on the map that I had marked with an "X" during my year in First Grade at Grant School when asked where I would like to spend my summer vacation. (Sunnyside Pool was my second choice and that worked out well if you really want to know, Dr. Phil!)
In fact, Mom made several trips to visit, enough times to shakily experence a rolling earthquake on a warm December day, bet money on a couple of horses at Santa Anita, dip a toe in the Blue Pacific Ocean, walk the Street of Stars in Hollywood, ride past several Hollywood studios and taste that first bite of an avocado she thought rather bland until the day we slathered it with mayonnaise and bacon between two slices of toast.
The sweet smell of orange blossoms she breathed in on our way to Knott's Berry Farm was one of the clinchers when it came to her becoming a ardent fan of our California lifestyle. Another was Knott's famous Chicken Dinner that was almost as good as Mom's Every Sunday Fried Chicken fresh from Frank Auerbach's farm just west of town. Disneyland came later, of course, as did meeting Willie Shoemaker!
Her unselfish gift of love...cutting me loose to chase after what the small town of Atlantic, Iowa, could not offer at that time proved to be the catalyst that has helped me loosen those proverbial apron strings when it wasn't always the easiest parental skill to learn or put into play. There is a "Chihuahua for Dummies" on my book shelf, why not a "Parenting for Dummies" on the shelf at Office Depot?
So it is in my 87th year that I seem to have come "full circle" with a better understanding of the act of "separation" and another type of love that is right up there with "Agape" to my way of thinking. And that would be called "Letting Go!" and/or "Cutting Loose."
As of today on Facebook, daughter Dana has posted pictures of her oldest son's Graduation Ceremony and the Celebratory Party that ensued this past Sunday evening, a time-honored ritual that means it's time for her and Brad and youngest son, Cole, to begin "cutting loose" this handsome and smart young lad known far and wide as Casey.
Casey will enter Southern Methodist University this Fall, and that is in TEXAS! and where it is a law that all college rooms be air-conditioned. Sure: sparkling clean Dallas is easily accessed from campus; and I hear Laura and George W. walk the campus upon occasion so it has to be fairly secured, and he will have a friend or two from home with whom to share an Arby's and he will be just FINE!
Casey's August leave-taking is typical of what will be happening in countless homes as parents issue words of wisdom to their young son or daughter as each prepares to take that first step out into this great big wonderful world. Or will be once the Class of 2012 takes over the reins of leadership...as promised by a couple of enthusiastic Valedictorians in my proximity.
I like what Dana wrote to her son and which was shared with us at his Celebratory Party:
"The little boy has grown up. We have loved you, guided you, and done our best to prepare you for whatever may lie ahead. Your future is now in your hands, and we trust that the integrity, fortitude and kindness that define your character will serve you well."
My Mom could not have said it better....
'Til the next time,