Thursday, January 28, 2010

Do something you are proud of

Over 30 years ago, my aunt gave me a calendar for Christmas. It was the kind you keep on the refrigerator, and each date contains a simple instruction, that if followed, will improve your mental health throughout the year.  Put out by the Mental Health Association of Oregon, the calendar was evergreen — as applicable in 1978 when it was published, as it was some years later when I posted it eye-high to my children. Then we would look at the calendar together and see what we were supposed to do for the day. And try it. 
Here's a sampling from January:
• Enjoy Silence
• Answer a letter

• Break a habit
• Get to know a neighbor's dog
Who couldn't (or shouldn't) do things like this every day?
Eventually, I packed it away in a drawer, thinking I'd pull it out again if I ever have grandchildren. 

A few weeks ago, in the middle of a day-long winter cleaning frenzy, (sort through things, I think was the task of the day) I found it again. And I posted it on my fridge in the middle of the clutter there.
I wish I could say I have followed the instructions this year. I am re-reading a classic (Jan 16), have fed the birds (Jan. 8,) try to get some exercise (Jan. 27). But I have not lost a pound (Jan.6), imagined myself living 100 years ago or really looked at the sky. (Jan. 20)
Today's entry, for Jan. 28 says this: Do something you are proud of. Well. When I read that last night before I headed to bed, the corners of my eyes got just a tad bit damp. It is my son's 23rd birthday today. And he is easily one of two things I ever did that I am most proud of. (The other, of course, is the Princess Pea.)
Graham was born a year after the explosion of the space shuttle. I remember, watching that launch with a friend as our toddler daughters scurried around us, wondering where I would be when that sad anniversary came around.
I was, in fact, scurrying around my house in my bathrobe with my alarm clock in my pocket. My daughter played in my closet, trying on all my high-heeled shoes, as I wiped up the floor in my bathroom and changed the sheets on the bed.  My mother would be coming, and everything had to be clean for her!
By the time my favorite soap aired at 3, I was heavily in labor. I remember worrying that I would not have enough love in me for another child, I loved my daughter so much. And then, there he was, a slick and wiry boy whose feet reached over half the length of his tiny leg. And my heart burst, making room for him in it.

We brought him home — already nuzzling a blanket that is now simply yarn — and brought him up, all 6 feet 2.5 inches of him, if he is not stretching (Jan. 1) to be a young man with integrity and a biting sense of humor, a guy who can fix just about anything he sets his mind to, and who can at least help bake bread (Jan. 31). A man who is a loyal friend, and he can even eat with chopsticks (Jan. 29). He is often the silent, but creative type, who sorts through things (Jan. 9,) and much to my frustration, does not always share his thoughts — or life — with me.
Oh, but I am proud of him. Fiercely so. 
One of my favorite comic strips is Zits. About a mother who drives her son crazy, and a boy, all arms and legs and angles, with his own peculiar view of the world. This week I cut a strip out and handed it to him, about mom asking son his plan for the day, but he didn't have one. This is so us. Hits a little too close to home, as my son reads the want ads (Jan. 24), and I share in the task (Jan. 14) scouring the web hoping to find just the perfect fit for him.

He tolerates me. I sing to him badly in the morning if I wake him up (not on the Jan.calendar, but it should be); I can't hear anything he says; and I play with his hair (another thing not on this month's list, though the princess pea loves that.) We are alike in some things. He looks like me (isn't that supposed to be good luck for sons?); neither of us give away things we don't use (Jan. 11). We both love to nap. We can take a pretty good picture when we feel like it (Jan. 26), those his are way better than mine. Neither of us is without fault.
And we are both ponderers. I just share my ponderings much more often than he does.
Mothers know their children's gifts, I think, and we don't do our job if we don't encourage them to daydream (Jan. 12) about what they might be when they grow up, to imagine their corner of the world in 100 years (to rephrase Jan. 3). I am trying to do that with him, and even though he is as resistant to my nudgings as he was to my rendition of Happy Birthday Baby this morning, I am trying to resist the temptation to criticize. (Jan. 22).
My wish for him, on his 23rd birthday— though to him the future might not look so bright right now, economy being what it is — is that he spend some time enjoying the silence (Jan. 2), and really, really look at that sky.
Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday baby, I love you so!