Tiny Shoes Dancing officially launches on August 8. You can mesmerize yourself by staring at the countdown widget in the sidebar to the right.
But this post is about the countdown to an altogether different launch happening less than a week after the book launch:
I’ll be dropping Son #2 off at college.
The second countdown brings to mind the anticipation I remember during pregnancy, when I looked ahead to the day my child would be born. I feel the same sense of approaching a dividing line between before and after, with the after being irrevocably and unknowably different from the before.
I’ve always been a pretty laissez-faire parent so I’m not making many demands during what I’m thinking of as the final summer of my son’s childhood. At his age, I was all too eager to join the world of adults, to get a job, to prove myself capable of self-sufficiency. Now I wish I hadn’t been in such a rush.
Get out the hanky before you watch this six-minute short film if you have any experience sending adult children out into the world.
I’m painfully aware of the momentousness of the approaching launch. And I am coping as I often do, by plowing deeper into work. It’s no accident that I have a book launch and a boy launch within days of one another.
This phase of my life shoulders up against its twin bookends: the birth of my first son at the far end and the departure of my second at this end. I wonder, even as summon the image, how many generations it will be before physical books disappear entirely and the objects intended to hold them in place become merely symbolic.
These days our house is full of awkward glances and deflective shrugs. As the family vessel for emotion, it’s my job to hold a space for the feelings others might rather avoid. So I have set up my summer to focus on the dreams that come, to imagine a future in which my children inhabit worlds that are opaque to me, to honor memories that bubble to the surface.
I remember the first time I left my older son. He was only a few days old. He was born during an El Niño winter and I felt as if it had been raining non-stop for weeks. When the rain let up for a few hours, I wanted to get out of the house. I decided to drive to the local library, just down the street. As I drove away, I felt an overwhelming sensation of emptiness, both inside my body and around me in the car. He’s not here, my senses screamed, this tiny human who was part of me for nine months and then literally attached to me since birth. The awareness took my breath away.
As a toddler, my younger son accompanied us to drop off his older brother at kindergarten. He wore a tiny backpack and a three-year-old-sized button-down shirt. I’ll never forget the look of betrayed disappointment he fired at us when we took his hand and led him home, informing him that he couldn’t stay to attend kindergarten.
I don’t expect college drop-off to leave me quite so physically stunned as the first separation from my older son. And this time, my younger son will get to stay.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose
The more things change, the more they are the same. I don’t believe it. All is mutable. A few weeks from now, I will be on the other side of that dividing line.
But I have—cleverly, I think—set things up to ease myself into my changed state. The day we say goodbye to Son #2 marks the start of my cross-country independent bookstore tour. Follow me on Twitter and like my author page on Facebook for news from my stops along the way.
What has been your most momentous milestone? Did you count down to it or distract yourself from it? Or both?
Before I go
Saturday, July 16, 12 noon-3 p.m.
Authorfest 2018 – San Mateo
Regional authors read from their work
Thursday, August 9, 7 p.m.
Why There Are Words – Sausalito
On the road
Saturday, August 25, 7 p.m.
Why There Are Words – Pittsburgh
Sunday, September 9, 2018
Why There Are Words – New York
…and one last quick note
Today and tomorrow (July 5 and 6) are the last two days to get Dance of Souls at the reduced price of $.99.