Grey areas

Christmas Day 2015, its celebration, is now a memory. We hope to carry what Christmas Day is and means, as Charles Dickens said, “all throughout the year”.  My anticipation of this day was heightened by the arrival of my son and his live-in. It would be so easy to say I discount her because she is never going to measure up because no one is as good as my perfect son deserves. That is what most misconceptions are of a mother’s thoughts of her son’s love-interest.

In my case I hope against hope each time that this will be the time this young woman has a light dancing in her eyes indicating she clearly understands how hard this is for both of us. She knows since we both love and adore my son/her boyfriend this will all work itself out, that there are comedies of error around every sticky and difficult situation.

Not this year.

She smiled a bit more at the outset of the visit but as we saw more of each other rather than become warmer and friendlier she became quieter and more distanced. Yes, we have differences of opinion but isn’t that normal?? Yes, she is 28-29 (? I really don’t have a clue, just know she is over 25) and I am some 30 or 40 years her senior, but should that daunt anyone? I truly want to like this girl, to embrace her as a healthy dimension to my son’s life but cannot seem to break down the walls. Whether or not he put them up or she or both did I may never know. I just know that they are there and if I cannot melt their iciness with warmth then it is they who must do the work. Or not.

My sister-in-law chided me that she sees a great fondness for my son from his girlfriend. She also reminded me of what I already well know, that her parents adore him. They have comfortably enfolded him into their routines. I know all of this. Easier for them to have a relationship with him in that they all live in the same city while I am 5 states away.  Sunday night dinners. Visits back and forth.  All I can do is try my best to somehow find a way to fit into their lives. Unless my son decides to cut me out of his life entirely which I recently mentioned to a friend I hope to find some way to be in this picture without having to completely deny who I am.  I am industrious and resourceful enough to manage should there not be a place for me but the sadness will be overwhelming!

I’ll survive, black, white or grey, one way or another.



Not normally one to like surprises I am of a mixed mind over this one.

My son’s live-in and I have never managed to connect. On any level. First my son said she is terrified of me. Made me laugh, then feel very sorry, then wondered if perhaps she ought to feel so? After all, my son is no longer the free-thinking spontaneous joy-filled young man I not so long ago knew. She has morphed and twisted him into a dour, somber, walking-on-eggshells house boy, either with criticism, manipulation or some other feminine affectation by which I am not familiar or amused at this contortion.

A few days ago running errands, taking my husky-mix rescue dog Lily for her well visit to her vet and delivering some Christmas presents I noticed my son had tried to call. I normally do not know where my cell phone is but had left it in the car this time. It has since again gone missing. So I called him back. Small talk. Weather reports. Bombshell. “Are you going to be home? We have plane tickets, we are arriving Christmas Eve.” Silence. Normally I get a couple more weeks’ notice than 10 days. Normally it is a relaxed interchange where I get to squeal delightedly. This time I felt cornered. Like this is something that has to fit in the picture of some badly illustrated bedtime story.

And I had been savoring my flexibility here. Maybe I’d go back to Texas to see my brother again. Maybe I’d spend my first Christmas by myself, enjoying its meaning, walking along my sandy beach letting the sound of the tide lull me into a summery rest in wintertime.

No. Harshness, insistence, as if someone is pulling his puppet strings which, prior to now he has never had.

So I am beginning to think this also may involve a wedding date. I hope it is also my son’s wish. So far I have not seen or felt the love there.

Maybe I will take that trip to Italy…

Clearing cobwebs

Last week I revisited a shard from a past life.

My dad retired when I was almost finished high school and bought a business in bankruptcy. My freshman year in college I found myself many weekends on a bus headed from Greensboro to Charlotte to help Dad become familiar with the small newspaper and the components that made it run.

A year later my brother graduated prep school in NJ and our family moved back south. That summer before Jon and I went to college our whole family threw ourselves into strengthening this company. We had nothing to lose so we had a blast. Our first office was in a dingy, tiny store-front place with grey-brown plywood-paneled walls, a couple of dusty desks and chairs. One weekend as I sat comfortably in a wing chair at home reading a good book Dad casually tossed a typesetting manual in my lap saying, “Read this. Monday you’re our typesetter.”

Dad moved us right away to a much nicer, well-lit space across from a military recruiting office. Mom, our accounting executive, loved the stories the sergeant regaled her with of potential recruits and their puffed up prowess. Even though the office was larger than the former one I remember one strange afternoon Dad interviewed an insurance salesman. I guess he got tired of all the little pitchers and their big ears listening in because at one point he paused saying, “Here, let’s talk in here,” and he and the gentleman moved into a small closet. Very strange.

Anyway, move forward 30 years. Dad is 95, still running this business up to the day he passed away. My brother and I kept it on until we realized without Dad this was simply too much for us. He had built the little limping business into a solid, strong company and it needed someone far more experienced than I to manage it, so a buyer happened along (who Dad had known and respected inasmuch as Dad, himself a force to be reckoned with, could respect anyone) and the business was sold.

The financial records and sales information have languished in a cold, remote storage facility for eight years. A month or so ago I decided the time had come to go through whatever we had there and decide what to do. Our accountants assured me that we were well past the legal requirement for maintenance of tax documents and records and it could all be disposed of.

So I stood in that enormous warehouse looking at my smallish pile of 12-14 banker’s boxes where I had hastily written the contents on each box. Recalling so much of what Dad had taught me, things I had learned about people and working with them, things I learned about myself, deadlines that stretched into many hours waiting for the last pages of a court calendar, discrepancies resolved, and the year I tearfully realized if I wanted to maintain a healthy relationship with my father I would have to find employment elsewhere. Thus I became a librarian, eventually, after walking through many doors and closing many others.

I distilled what remained into one box which I brought home with me. Nowhere near big enough to hold my memories and certainly not enough to contain the largeness of my father, all he knew and all he did. But somehow I can’t quite let go of it all.

Not just yet.


One of the places my husky-dog rescue mix Lily likes to go for her walks is a pond about 2 miles from our house. There is a paved pathway around it which is interesting enough, but Lily much prefers to  go off-road so to speak. She has found several wooded paths that lead above this pond into a thicket where some neighborhood atv-drivers have carved sandy roadways.

The smells are better up there. She often chases a lizard or stops to inspect a deer hoof-print. She dives into the brambles after –? a rabbit? fox? something that always manages to evade her.

Not long ago we noticed surveyor’s stakes, so I asked a fellow-walker what that was about.

“Likely an extension of the greenway,” replied one. “Probably just clearing underbrush,” mused another.

Neither is true. After a few days out of town recently we returned to find everything cleared. Probably 5 or so acres denuded of trees, saplings, wild blueberries, underbrush where we heard a covey of quail last summer amiably whistling to each other… bob-white? bob-white?

Development. Progress. Civilization.

We much prefer wilderness.