Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Graduation

Life in my college town follows an annual rhythm that, although predictable, can still catch one unawares. In May, it's the opposite of that first fall morning when you walk outside and know from now on you'll need a sweater: something is just off, and then you realize there is a distinct decline in traffic, specifically of tricked-out F350s and BMWs driven at inadvisable speed by blondes wearing Prada sunglasses with Nike shorts and t-shirts from sorority rush. 

The Hot Chicks in the pretty house at the end of the street have moved out.  I've harbored a middle-age grudge against them since I moved in a year ago.  They are nubile, with perfectly highlighted hair and clothes I am not ashamed to say I covet. Their handbags cost a mortgage payment.  Two of them have new X5s.  The third, poor thing, had to settle for her mom's five year-old Lexus SUV.  They have cleaning ladies and yard guys.  Did I mention they were, in the time they lived here, college students?  For a while I let the dog take care of major business on their lawn--proving one can be sophomoric at any age--until I realized they weren't the ones who had to pick it up.

And yet, when I saw the moving van, I realized they were graduating.  I know they are all heading off to New York or London or wherever that sort of young woman goes to find a hedge fund manager to marry, but it made me wistful, as did the general quiet in my part of the city.  Right now I don't have to wait in line at the Kroger behind obnoxious and entitled young men buying beer, and I can put gas in my car without being blinded by the glare of a Tiffany engagement ring on a senior filling up her own tank with her Platinum card.  But I feel sad that a whole class has moved on, and not just because they keep the local economy going. 

This is not unrelated to the fact that my own babies are moving on, too.  The Boy is leaving our darling elementary school for the trials of sixth grade, and his sister will be in high school next year.  How on earth this happened, I am not sure.  All I know is that I cry at the drop of a hat lately, especially during that Subaru ad with the little girl who is really the teenager and her dad is telling her to be careful driving. 

Because that's what it's like at this stage.  When they are toddlers, the days seem to go on forever and they want to be with you all the time.  Now I don't really remember the time in between and often feel relegated to the role of chauffeur and bank, and my presence is generally tolerated but not embraced.  Time has suddenly accelerated: I have four short years with my firstborn, shared every other week with her father and stepmom, before she heads out the door for college, God willing.  I'll have her brother for another three years, though I'll be sharing him not only with other parents, but with girls and cars and sports. 

Good parents do themselves out of a job.  As mothers in our circle go, I consider myself  laissez-faire, with full-time work and co-parenting serving as barriers to intense involvement. We still have plenty of teenage territory to cover, which from what I understand from other parents makes it much easier to let them go.  But not really, once the moment arrives. 

It will not surprise me if both of my kids wind up living in Fort Worth for the rest of their lives, but we've talked about how important it is for them to get away for few years.  Texas Christian University, fine institution though it is to attend and grow up beside, should not be on their list of schools, in their mother's opinion.  For one, we're not rich enough.  "But what if I get a scholarship?" the Boy asks.  We'd still have to get you a fifty-thousand dollar pick up truck, I reply.  Still a few more seasons before we get there, and  I've resolved to enjoy them while they last.

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