Wednesday, October 6, 2010

one more of Maria

This was Dan's last year of homeschool, and he spent it making Malt O Meal and carrying Maria around, hanging out, watching Northern Exposure at noon. I enjoyed his company very much. Just like now, at 14, he was sarcastically astute, generally quite kind, and easy to be around.

The last year they spent in homeschool is always how it is. I wrote about it once, though maybe I've shared this here before:

"We’re back into the routines of fall, and a deep quiet has come over this house. The oldest boys have returned to their dorms at college and our oldest daughter is away at school all day. This is Kirsten’s last year of home school and I’ve noticed how quiet she has become too.

The oldest child grew quiet during his eighth grade year; he only dressed if he had to, spent most of his time in pajamas or sweats, and he did all his schoolwork in his bed. He slept a lot and lacked interest in arguing with his siblings or going with us anywhere. I worried that he was depressed.

Then our second son also became introspective and peaceful in the year before he left our home school. He got up early, showered and dressed, did his schoolwork by himself, was finished by noon, watched Northern Exposure, carried Baby Maria around, cooked a lot of Malt O Meal and wouldn’t go with the rest of us anywhere.

When the third child behaved this way in eighth grade, it was no surprise to me then, and now I see it in Kirsten just as she is turning fourteen. It’s as though the disorganized, emotional, feisty state of a person at thirteen evolves into something else at fourteen.

Nobody told me this—that the introspection and quiet are normal, that the kids are storing up energy before they head out into the world, but I can see it now.

The girl I am spending my days with is not the scrappy, sassy child she’s been, with freckles and a long braid down her back and teeth too big for her mouth. She wears her hair in a bun these days and her teeth fit just fine. Cross-country running this fall has changed her body in the same way it did her older sister. She’s still tiny, only five feet tall, but she’s become leaner; her neck looks longer.

I’ve been watching her lie on the floor enjoying Kari crawling all over her. I see her baking and leading art projects for the little kids. I hear her playing her oboe just for the pleasure of it, and even in the tone—it used to sound like a bad, honking clarinet that made me scrunch up my eyes on the high notes. Now it sounds lustrous. It sounds like Kirsten becoming.

Are there are other times in life we go inward like this in preparation to take flight? We live in such an overly busy world, I wonder if we even get the chance, most of us, to do this when it’s right. It’s something I have to think about."

Kirsten's life is becoming again right now in ways that amaze me.

Anyway, Dan was brilliant in child diplomacy. He'd give Baby Jay a video game controller that wasn't actually hooked up and let him go nuts. Later, Jay was too smart for this, but it worked at the time. John was talking about it the other night how Jay always had to be First Player and Yoshi, or he'd bawl and carry on, and it still brings back memories every time. (True, some racket is unforgettable.)

Well. I don't doubt this. But looking at how cute Baby Jay was, I see how it happened. We called him Napoleon behind his back. (The Little Dictator, get it?) Yeah.

Now he's an extremely considerate and pleasant adult. Wow, that worked out, eh? Kind of like how Maria evolved from "a little round lump, bump, bump," to this elegant woman.

Okay, time for bed. Hug your kids tight. Things are finer than you ever imagined. love, Val


  1. When I read your blog lately, I feel a tinge of saddness that I wasn't around to know you all back then. How ridiculous is that?!

    I love the old pictures, and your last post about Maria made me cry. And this one... well my husband is a gem, he really is. Such a good man who used to be such a sweet boy. I feel very lucky to be able to know that boy through your stories. :)

  2. Awww, don't be cryin'! You know, it kind of feels like you've always been here. Maybe that's why when I get a chance, I always stop and take a long, long look at that picture of you and your brothers in the stairway at your parents, taking in the fact of how that grinning little girl was someone I didn't even know yet.

    It sounded like today was a very good day. Jay even managed a session of Couch Potato Grandpa with the child. love you, Val ps. Dan's lucky to have you too.