Tag Archives: Mamma Mia

Slipping Through My Fingers

So many people have asked me about the song lyrics from yesterday’s blog about my son that I decided to post the video here. It’s a scene from the movie “Mamma Mia.”

You’ll note the stage is set differently. That’s Meryl Streep, not me. And it’s her daughter getting married, not her son going away.

If you don’t cry when you watch this, you’ve never left home, or you’ve never had a mommy, or you’ve never had a child leave, or you are carved out of stone and aluminum with a heart fashioned from wrought iron. You know who you are.

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday was that before we left home, my son wandered through the whole house, telling me he just wanted to take it all in and remember it.

It was then that I realized he’d be just fine. He had already balanced on that teeter totter inside himself between knowing he wanted to leave but that leaving changed everything.

Something I couldn’t teach him.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ib-AZ3Sf3kg&feature=related]

If you can’t make the video work, here’s the link straight to YouTube.

The Navy Owns My Son Now

The phone rang at 11:18 last night. I told the operator I’d accept the charges then heard the quiet, composed voice of my nineteen-year-old son. He said, reading from a script, “I have to tell you three things. I arrived safely at Great Lakes. You’ll be getting a package from me in a few days. You’ll hear from me again in about a month. Now I’m supposed to say my goodbyes and I-love-yous. So goodbye and I love you.”

It’s official. He’s begun Navy boot camp.

It feels very indulgent to worry about him when other mothers are sending their kids off to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hotspots around the globe. I’m only sending mine to Illinois ”” for now ”” but I’ve heard it’s a strange and often inhospitable place. Could be they’re only talking about the weather or the Statehouse (it is where Rod Blagojevich hails from, after all), but still.

It’s a bit surreal that my son is actually leaving. He’s been on the Delayed Entry Program since August so he’s been counting down the days. I’ve been counting the days, too, but probably for different reasons.

I don’t come from a military family so this is all very unfamiliar turf for me. New lingo, new protocol, new clothes. The lingo and the protocol I’ll leave to him, but I am looking forward to seeing him in clothes that fit. I’m expecting the Navy to finally get his pants to stay up over his skinny butt. Levi’s and Dockers haven’t been able to lo, these many years, so it’s obviously time for the government to step in.

People have been giving me well-meaning advice about his upcoming departure. One soul, bless her heart, tried to tell me it was no different than when I sent my older daughter off to college clear across the country. I smiled, nodded, accepted her advice in the spirit it was intended. But inside? Disputing her logic with every synapse firing in my brain.

First, I drove my daughter to college and we had a sparkly good road trip. I didn’t offer her up to strangers in front of a hotel at 4:30 am.

Second, I could call her whenever I wanted to hear her voice or give her some last minute advice or ask if she stole my favorite sweater. My son, on the other hand, won’t have regular access to a phone for ten weeks or so. The ten weeks, coincidentally, that he might need to hear friendly voices the most. But I’m fairly certain he didn’t take any of my clothes with him. In fact, he barely took any of his own clothes, and those he’ll ship back home in a few days.

Third, she had 24-hour access to the computer lab ”” even when she studied in London. We were only a couple clicks away from each other. Son? No internet, no computers, no mouse clicks.

Fourth, after she graduates she probably won’t be shot at by snipers or have to dodge laser-guided missiles. And the only pirate she’s likely to see is Johnny Depp as Cap’n Jack Sparrow.

After boot camp he’ll go to school to train as a corpsman, the Navy’s medics. I thought that sounded pretty safe … until I learned that Navy corpsmen follow the Marines. Wherever Marines are deployed, so are corpsmen.

I’m not complaining, though, really I’m not. I’m just pointing out that sending a loved one off to defend our country isn’t the easiest thing to do. In fact, it might be the hardest. So far. For me.

For his part, he’s excited and thrilled by his decision. He’ll get to see the world, he’ll learn real-life skillz, he’ll meet fascinating people, he’ll do honorable work, he’ll become a man.

I know he’s enlisting with mindfulness. He’s hip to what he’s agreed to. I just hope the government keeps their end of the bargain.

For every situation, and because this is BeckyLand, there are appropriate song lyrics, probably many, but these words from ABBA have been twirling around my brain lately. I’ve also posted the video of the song.

Schoolbag in hand
He leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye
With an absent-minded smile
I watch him go
With a surge of that well-known sadness
And I have to sit down for a while
The feeling that I’m losing him forever
And without really entering his world
I’m glad whenever I can share his laughter
That funny little boy

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see what’s in his mind
Each time I think I’m close to knowing
He keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

Sleep in our eyes
Him and me at the breakfast table
Barely awake
I let precious time go by
Then when he’s gone
There’s that old melancholy feeling
And a sense of guilt
I can’t deny
What happened to the wonderful adventures
The places I had planned for us to go
Well some of that we did
But most we didn’t
And why I just don’t know

Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture
And save it from the funny tricks of time
Slipping through my fingers

Godspeed, my love.

Best Present Ever

My daughter certainly outdid herself this holiday.

When my hubbie and I were in college 27 years ago, we studied (and I use the term loosely) for the Fall semester at King Alfred’s College in Winchester, England, about an hour south of London. She just returned from almost the same experience, but she attended St Mary’s University College in Twickenham.

The week before she came home, she took a day trip to Winchester and saw where we lived for those months we still talk and reminisce about. She ate at our favorite pub, wandered around town, and took some pictures. But what she didn’t tell us was that she went into the King Alfred’s bookstore looking for some trinkets or memorabilia for us. She and the clerk started chatting and she told him her story, and it turned out to be a guy we went to school with there! Pictures and hilarity ensued and he showed her this book about the history of Winchester written by one of our professors! So she bought the book and went over to the college to try and track him down. People were scurrying around trying to find this guy so he could sign her book. Finally, they told her they couldn’t find him AND HE WALKED IN THE DOOR! He doesn’t teach there anymore but does occasional student advising. He’s rarely on campus anymore. So he signed her book, and more pictures and hilarity ensued.

Can you believe that?! She knew she couldn’t post any pictures on Facebook or say anything to any of us until we opened the gift on Christmas morning, so as she’s walking to the train station to leave Winchester she had to ask a lady for directions. Apparently it was complicated, so the lady just offered to walk her there. As they’re walking, my daughter, bursting at the seams to talk about her day, said, “Can I tell you something really fabulous and amazing?” And in that polite British way, the lady allowed her to tell the entire story. She agreed it was pretty amazing.

She also gave her 16-year-old brother his most thoughtful gift ”” probably ever! Before she even left for England in September, she took an old stuffed monkey of his. Then when she was out-and-about in her travels, she took a photo of the monkey at different landmarks and made a Monopoly board ”” sorry, Monkey-opoly board ”” for him out of the photographs. For the “Go To Gaol” space she got a security guard at the British Museum or somewhere to hold the monkey in one hand and pretend to send him to jail. For the “chance” spaces she put the monkey on the “Mamma Mia” sign in front of the theatre. He didn’t understand the connection, so she had to explain that one of the songs has the lyric “take a chance on me.” Which he didn’t REALLY get until he heard me play Abba’s Greatest Hits CD over and over and over and over and over and over … well, you get it … on Christmas.

We actually played Monkey-opoly the other night, but she realized she didn’t label the property squares. She didn’t think she needed to, but saw we had trouble figuring out whether we were buying and building hotels on St-Martins-in-the-Field or the National Portrait Gallery.

Very clever, my girl, but she’s really going to have to conjure up some magic next year to top this one! And, of course, she puts us all to shame.

What was your most thoughtful gift, given or received?

Empty Nests and Baby Birds

Recently a friend was sad about sending her firstborn off to college. I think she used the word “abandoning.” As someone who abandoned my firstborn halfway across the country two years ago and took all of a minute-and-a-half to start using her room for storage, I felt like I could offer some mature, possibly smug, advice.

I reminded her of all the good things about a child moving out. You’ll never worry about her when she gets sick or stays out late because you won’t hear about it until afterward. You won’t worry about her driving in a blizzard because she walks everywhere. You might even find they make good decisions without your advice. My daughter stayed at college and worked all summer which I didn’t think was a good idea until she made gazoodles of money ”” not anywhere near what she could have made if she’d come home. But most importantly, she’s exactly where she needs to be, doing what she wants to do, meeting scads of fascinating people, seeing a part of the world very different from where she grew up while heading nose-first into her future.

That’s what we wanted them to do. Remember?

I told my friend, “Trust me, it gets easier. As soon as you’re confident she’s safe and happy you’ll miss her, but in a good way.”

And I absolutely believe that. But I’ve never really understood the weepy Empty Nesters and have always felt the teensiest bit superior.

Until yesterday.

My daughter is home for a couple weeks before she heads to London for a semester so we went to see the movie “Mamma Mia.” There’s a lovely scene where Meryl Streep’s character is getting her daughter ready for her wedding with a song all about our children slipping through our fingers.

I sobbed.

I wanted to grab my daughter’s arm and yank her back to age three where her busy life consisted of “reading” Smithsonian Magazine to her doll and coloring. There were no meanies in her life, no term paper stress, no overseas travel, no Homeland Security, no money worries.

But I didn’t grab her or get hysterical. You’d be proud of me. No emotional scene in the movie theater THIS time. (Full disclosure: I’ve made emotional scenes in theaters before. Anyone see “Shoot the Moon” a hundred years ago? As people were filing out, they asked my friends, “Is she okay?” At the time, I accepted it as concern, but I’ve since been told it was more like incredulity. Picture someone sobbing, unable to leave the theater, at the end of “Caddyshack.” Yeah. That was me.)

So I did what all weepy moms do …. I pulled out the photo albums. Perfect infants. Adorable toddlers. Proud daddy. Enormously pregnant me. Enormously. Pregnant.

Tell me stories about your pregnancy or that of your wife, girlfriend, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, neighbor, niece, co-worker.

Or tell me stories of any Empty Nest angst you’ve had or anticipate.

As a bonus, maybe my friend George will tell the story of going to see “Shoot the Moon” with me.