Saturday, December 3, 2011

What a Difference A Year Makes

The holidays are upon us, which means it’s also the season of family; the season of homecomings and reunions.

Just a month ago, eight of Spray’s ten puppies came to Cambridge for a family reunion, which Jan Devereux covered in her blog Cambridge Canine, which was then picked up by The Cambridge Chronicle. I couldn’t agree more with Jan’s adept observations about how the dog reunion reminded her of human familial reunions.

This reunion, the second we’ve had however, was multi-layered for me. Not only were the dogs having their own get-together, I was seeing the dogs, their families and my own daughter Maggie, home from college for the weekend to see Ellie’s play and the puppies.

On Sunday morning before returning Maggie to college, we took Spray, Ezzie and even grumpy old Splash to the dog park at Danehy to wait for the pups to arrive.

“There’s Zazu.” I pointed as he proudly walked up with his owner.

“Oh my God, it’s Charlie,” said Maggie as he bounded up through the parking lot accompanied by his two owners.

And so it went as we spotted each dog before they entered the gated park. We watched them to see how they moved, to see how they’d grown. The difference from a year ago was noticeable.

Not only had they matured physically, the dogs were solidly part of their families now. There was no question as to whom they belonged. I don’t know which was more fun – watching the dogs cavorting around with each other or watching the owners laughing and smiling at their dogs’ antics and hearing them compare notes about their dogs.

The dogs weren’t the only ones to change in a year. I’d changed too. I didn’t feel as possessive of the dogs or of Maggie. A year earlier, I still missed the puppies and all the busyness they had created in our lives and I was bereft at Maggie’s departure and fumbled around with how to spend my time.

While I still miss Maggie and the pups, I often miss what we had – ten little puppies as opposed to ten full grown dogs. I really wouldn’t want ten dogs running around my house. Three is bad enough. I miss the old family construct we had – the four of us going to Saturday soccer games, planning our lives around the girls’ schedules. When Maggie’s home, she often makes her own plans with her friends or her boyfriend.

Even though the puppies started their lives with us and Spray, they belong to their families. And as much as I enjoy Maggie’s visits home when we watch silly TV shows and eat bad food, her life is bursting forth with her boyfriend and at school with her friends, professors, classes and field hockey.

I was sad saying good-bye when the puppies started to leave the gigantic play date. I wanted to linger a little longer with each one, hear one more story about them, hug them one more time, but I was also relieved that the energy level was coming down a notch at a time. I was tired.

When I say good-bye to Maggie after her visits, I’m sad too. The house is quieter, the energy is definitely subdued, and I wander around for a bit not knowing what to do with my time. But I quickly fill up that empty pit in my stomach with laundry or papers that need to be corrected or I work on a quilt project.

I shake my head like Ezzie and I move forward, something I wasn’t able to do so well a year ago.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Goings and Comings

The end of the academic year is here and with it my nostalgia sets in. This time of year is always sad for me. The end of every semester is sad as I say good-bye to my students and wonder which ones I might see again in another class or around campus, but the end of Spring semester is especially sad because when it’s over, the seniors leave and I know I won’t see them again.

I’ve never been to an Emerson graduation – I didn’t even go to my graduation from graduate school and I’ve never been to one as an instructor. As an adjunct I would feel odd walking with the full-timers in their regalia and I’ve never asked to get a ticket and sit with the families.

In the past few years the students started a great tradition of having a lunch where faculty are invited to say good-bye to them. I’ve been to that almost every year. Sometimes I see students I know well, other times I don’t see many. This year I didn’t go. I had a conflict – a class I signed up for as a student was at the same time and I decided I should focus on my own writing.

My nostalgia for my old family patterns haunts me because Maggie is coming home after her freshman year. I can’t believe it’s over. The fall and winter were slow while I was bereft with her departure, but surprisingly the spring went fast and believe it or not, I’m used to her being gone. I actually got used to her empty room and space at the kitchen counter at dinner. I got used to getting phone calls as she walked between buildings. I got used to following her lead.

As excited as I am for her to come home, I’m also a tad apprehensive. Just as she’s gotten used to being on her own, I’ve gotten used to not worrying about her. Family dynamics will shift again when I drive her home. We can’t pretend she never left.

On my last class, I listened to students talk about how much they wish they could stay in Boston for the summer, how they didn’t want to go home, how boring home is, and how much more fun college was. I looked out across the room. “You’re killing me here,” I said. My students laughed. I didn’t see the humor.

I know this could be her last summer living at home. Soon, she’ll be looking for internships, traveling with friends, branching out. And she should.

I’ve been in her room, neatening it because we have company coming before she comes home and her room is more comfortable than our dog room downstairs. I also like the idea of her coming home to a neat room, but I’ve pocketed all the change I picked up off the floor in there - my price for straightening up what was left behind after Spring Break.

I know she’s enjoyed her independence; will she enjoy being home again?