Heir 1 graduates from high school Friday, an event causing a cloud of clichés to float over my head and threaten to spill into my writing. I just know before I’m done with this piece, “taking the first step on the path to his future” will fly out of my fingers and land with a syrupy slap into my pithy prose. Okay, maybe not pithy, but sardonic.
I’ve never considered myself especially sentimental and most of my maternal weepiness has been reserved for incidents involving the threat to life and limb.
I’m also aware of the propensity for those of my Italian heritage to fall into puddles of emotion during the most innocuous of occasions. My Aunt Angelina would spend a good half hour before every event guessing what sort of histrionics would be demonstrated by my Aunt Theresa, who never failed to deliver and who, as family legend goes, surpassed everyone’s expectations at her surprise baby shower by actually falling into a dramatic faint, accompanied by a wide-eyed awakening and, “Wh-Wh-Where am I?”
So I try to keep the extremes of emotion at bay lest I come down with the vapors and have to be revived with smelling salts.
I am not immune to the lump in the throat and this is one of those milestone events that may annihilate my resolve. Already, as I walk about during the day, flashes of Heir 1’s childhood pop into my mind in spite of my inner scolding. We’ve seen him through illnesses, triumphs and disappointments and I relive these all with a very controlled sense of irony; but it is the memory of his childhood sleep toy, a stuffed rabbit, that sends me over the edge and blurs my vision. What’s up with that?
The thing is, while I’d love it if he’d always consider his parents’ point of view when making decisions, I realize that this is actually the end of our reign as his primary advisors. In Heir 1’s life we’re now relegated the power of ex-presidents: called on for a snappy quote or advice as a nod to our former glory, but basically only trotted out of our library for funerals.
Besides, he’s been making more and more of his own decisions as he’s gone through his teen years. I can handle this. And I still have his brother around to listen to my pontifications.
Perhaps the blow would be lessened if he weren’t in so much of a hurry to get it all “over with.”
“I want to get on with my life,” he told me when he turned down the offer of a large party the Saturday after graduation, opting instead for a small gathering after the ceremony. On Saturday, he said, he is job hunting and signing the lease on an apartment close to where he will go to school. He’s got a plan, he says and proceeds to outline the next year for me, watching expectantly for what he is so sure will be my deflating comments.
I want to add to his tidy outline, create entries called “Unforeseen Circumstances” and “Stuff I Wish I Knew Ahead of Time.” And all those parental predictions of doom are on the tip of my tongue: “You’ve never saved a penny in your life,” “You think living here is hard, wait until you have to put up with a roommate,” “You can’t even get yourself out of bed in the morning,” and “Who are you going to call for a $20 hand-out?”
I hear them all in my head, mostly in my own mother’s voice (only she would have added, “I’m selling the house. I’ll take your father and we’ll go live in a hovel somewhere…”).
“Looks like you’re going to be pretty busy,” I say lightly. Well of course it’s breaking my heart, but that’s not his problem, is it?
He looks bewildered for a moment, unused to my lack of opinion. Then I guess it occurs to him that his “plan” might actually be do-able and he grins widely, with just a trace of my little boy in his expression.
Puffy. That was the rabbit’s name.
I turn away quickly, back to what I was doing when we started the conversation, because there are those damn tears again.
“Well, me and my friends are going to a movie,” he says, taking out his car keys.
I give him a cheerful goodbye and he walks away…on the path to his future…