For the first time in about two weeks, I am quiet in my own house.
May is a difficult month for me. It is the month of my birth, of celebrations for mothers, and the month my twenty-year-old son comes home to draw breath from one adventure before moving on to the next. Joy would seem the go-to response to such a month and perhaps it should be.
But at the beginning of the month, my son’s clothing and collections of the last year come to roost on my back patio room, giving my house a somewhat transient feel (the house is only about 1,000 square feet); my students finish out the year with standardized tests that leave them and their teachers feeling somewhat diminished, not because their scores are bad but because it all comes down to this; and this particular May, I called halt to a short-lived relationship that although comfortable, I knew would never live to tell tales of tender miles of loving connection.
Too much noise.
And in one form or another, it happens every May. But given that so much is unavoidable, what does a person do? I relish the time with my son, cannot control the corporately motivated aspects of my job, and will NOT stop risking the possibility of enduring tenderness.
My students recently finished a novel about a ghost. Were I to write a review, I’d say there were too many inconsistencies in thematic development and a far too ambiguous ending (though, in general, I like ambiguity). But the novel’s truth that I would embrace might be the beautiful details of life that are lost to worldly distraction–the details that the ghostly protagonist understood only in death.
Last night, celebrating my 52nd birthday, my 16-year-old gave me a card. In it, he wrote, “As one once said, [that would be me], ‘it’s the little things that make someone’s day.’ But congratulations!!! You’re more than halfway dead…” (Don’t try to make connections between thoughts. It’s impossible). Then my older son who gave me a book by Ralph Nader (Unstoppable) with his own tender inscription said, “Dad texted me to ask if we were doing something for you today. I told him we washed your front driver’s side tire and took you to Taco Bell.” Of course we laughed (the boys were sweetly respectful of my values and took me to a LOCAL restaurant), and I can smile today on these moments of appreciation that we shared… for each of our voices and for the many that inform them. A reflection that I found sitting here in this oh-so quiet moment with my elder son’s treasured heaps to the east of me and teenage activity sure to rush in through the front door west of me in about thirty minutes.
Quiet gives me perspective and sweetness and, alas, joy… It is my salvation in a month that could easily pass without, were I to give play to noise and let simple meanings–the sweetest kind–slip away.