Endings and Beginnings

Juan and Crystel’s graduation is this week.

There are graduation parties, athletic banquets, Senior party, after grad parties, and bonfires.

I was kicked out of school the last week of 12th grade. I was banned from attending my senior party. I was unpredictable. Impressionable. Dangerous. I never attended a prom. It wasn’t because of COVID.

Juan and Crystel are experiencing life differently than I did at their age. They have more of a life, more joy, more celebration, more love.

It makes me cry.

A different life from what I had is always what I wanted for my kids.

“You have great kids,” a track coach said at their athletic banquet.  “I don’t know what they are like at home but here they are awesome. Polite. Happy.”

I cried some more.

Plaques lining both their walls say, “MVP Award, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Award, Work Horse Award, Most Valuable Distance Runner, Most Valuable Teammate, Spotlight on Scholarship, Eagle Scout.

Jody and I have great kids. We have done a lot of things right. And, when we haven’t, we have apologized and explained why we had the reaction we did.

In middle school, Juan nudged me out of his room when we had a disagreement about his phone. I said words that I’m not proud of. Later that evening, I called a family meeting. I apologized to Juan and I told him that my reaction was because I lived with violence growing up in my house. I told him that our home would not ever be like that. We were never to touch one another in anger.

Jody and I are frequently asked, “How does it feel to be empty nesters?” 

I just shake my head.

My mother made it clear that when you graduated high school you were not to come home, again.

Wherever we are, Juan and Crystel will be.

The porch light is always on.

I always wanted to know what love looked like. I know.

Mom at 62

I’m 62 years old and a mom to two 18-year-olds.

In my mind, this conjures up an old lady parenting two young spirited teens who are placed at a disadvantage. An old lady who could not possibly understand their children’s struggles and desires. An old lady completely out of touch with today’s slang, music, and dress.

I do admit I asked Crystel what ‘Shawty’ meant a couple of weeks ago when she was cheering on Juan and friends who were competing at a Nordic ski meet. I stuck to my tried and true, “Go Spartans! Woo-hoo!!!”

Juan and Crystel are joining with four others to hold a high school graduation party. I was a bit taken aback when discussing appropriate music for the party (preferring an absence of certain words). The six soon-to-be graduates looked back and forth at each other and quickly decided that my playlist of 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s music would be best.

Jody is 58 years old. Unless we’re standing next to other parents at sports events, we usually don’t notice our age difference. Then, Wow those parents look so young, might pop into our heads.

Another time it might occur is when other families are especially active going here and there: winter carnival, parades, ice castles, weekend trips. Jody and I just look at each other and shake our heads. We have no interest. We don’t take it as a sign of slowing down. We have always been that way. Sorry kids. That’s why you have chosen aunts and uncles. Crystel and her Uncle Marty participated in the ALARC ice dive this year on January 1st.

You can find Jody and me volunteering at Juan and Crystel’s school, sports, and scout events. We’re active in the police reserves and often host get-togethers at our house or swimming pool.

The kids never seem embarrassed that we are old. There are so many other ways that I’ve mortified them. Showing up at school unannounced to sit with them in their classroom and walk from one class to another to understand why my student couldn’t make it to the next class without being tardy. Walking into the men’s bathroom to check on my son. In my defense, I did text him and tell him that if he didn’t come out in five minutes that I was coming in. This was at a Taylor Swift concert.

Jody and I believe it’s important to make sure your children have a heartbeat. Cliff jumping, zip gliding, and mountain climbing in Guatemala, helicopter rides over the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore, swimming with dolphins, hot air balloon ride, dog sledding, horse riding, mountain snowmobiling and skiing and more. If we can do it at our age, then they can, too.

At an earlier age, you could find Jody and me sky diving, inline and running marathons, distance biking, and completing the Tough Mudder. Jody continues to run marathons. The kids had their first sky dive on Crystel’s 18th birthday. They’ve yet to complete a marathon. The old people still got it.

Passing The Torch

I pulled the box of camping supplies from the rafters in the garage. Jody and I are veteran tent campers: Boundary Waters, New Zealand, Glacier National Park, Rocky Mountains, Itasca State Park and more. Crystel and a group of her friends were planning their first camping trip without adults over MEA weekend.

Crystel

I asked her their destination. Pattison State Park south of Superior, Wisconsin. Situated on the Black River, the park contains Big Manitou Falls, the highest waterfall in Wisconsin. Besides the waterfalls, this park also featured Interfalls Lake, a beach and over 10 miles of trails for hiking.  The reviews of the park were excellent.

She wasn’t sure if the campground would have electricity or water.  “That would be important to know,” I told her. I pulled out my computer and started googling. Electricity was a definite No. Water could be shut off depending on the temperature.

“Maybe you should get a motel?” I said.

She looked at me horror-struck. “Ah, no.”

I was a bit proud of her. Wanting to go camping instead of staying in a motel. It would be exciting. I thought of my camping trips, cooking around the fire, being surrounded by nature, and dealing with the elements. It’s all part of the adventure.

A fusty smell rose from the storage box of camping supplies. As I began to sort, I started to wonder if I had anything of value left to pass on to her. More was going in the discard pile then the keep pile. It must have been over 20 years since Jody and I had tent camped in the Boundary Waters.

Unpacking the nesting pots and pans was like unwrapping a Christmas gift. I was delighted to pull each pot and pan out and marveled how items could become a plate or bowl depending on your need. After putting the set back together, I placed it next to the blue enamel coffee pot and matching enamel cups in the keep pile.

I was committed to setting Crystel and her friends up for success. Even though we had two camp stoves, I decided to make a quick trip to REI and purchase a new one. Being warm in a tent and having hot food would be essential. I picked a stove that had 2 adjustable burners with wind-blocking panels. Best of all it had a built-in igniter. No flame thrower needed. Even I could do it.

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 Meal ideas, flashlights, kerosene, tent, sleeping bags, mats – I continued to prepare for her trip. I did ask her at one point if I was helping too much.

“Nah,” she said. I think she was beginning to see my value.

Her camping trip plans regressed as hastily as the weather. Cold, below freezing, rain, snow, partial sun, cloudy. Her numbers dwindled. It would be her and two other girls.

During our tent and camp stove demonstration, I mentioned to the girls that they needed to keep their camp food stored in their car so the bears wouldn’t get it.

“Bears?” one friend said.

Was it that comment or other variables that changed their camping trip to a day trip? The next day, when Crystel told me of the new plans, I confess, I choked back a sob. Her adventure was no more.

Last week she said that maybe she and I could go camping up north by ourselves. Hmmm. It could happen. Our camping supplies are already sorted. We have all the equipment. And, a camp stove I can light. What better way to pass the torch?