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Posts Tagged ‘Milton-Freewater’


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…the more they stay the same. At least here in the Magic Dog House they do. Today The Boy got his first college degree. As of this weekend, he’s also a partner in our newly incorporated LLC. All of this sounds very dramatic, but in reality it’s been a slow evolution. He’s been contributing his talents to presentations, to typesetting and laying out books, and to developing data management programs for years now. We’ve just made it official.

Friday, we worked on client stuff. Saturday we played. Today we watched his online graduation. This evening he’s having his socially distanced graduation party–several folks he’s been friends with for more than a decade. When we moved here he was in fourth grade, and nine years old. On the day we bought the house I made a commitment: We would not move again until he was through high school, and possibly college if it was convenient. I wanted him to have a home town, a place where he had roots. We’d moved four times in his first nine years. I didn’t want to yank him up again.

So–here we stopped, and here we stayed. It hasn’t always been perfect, but it’s been very good in a lot of ways. And today? It’s pretty danged wonderful. My house and yard feel full of boys–bringing their wives and girlfriends now. Normally they congregate in the living room; today they’re outside, keeping their distance, and strengthening those connections that have served them so well. Happy Graduation, Patrick. I love you.

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Class of 2015 photo in front of school

Today my son graduates high school at two in the afternoon. It’s the culmination of a week of pretty much non-stop activity–parties, baccalaureate, pictures, marching practice, scholarship award night, tuba practice (he’s playing part of his state solo in the graduation ceremony), his own personal graduation party, the arrival of friends and family, and far too little sleep. In a larger sense, though, this is the culmination of a chapter in our life that started in September, 2002, on the day that I dropped him off for Kindergarten, and then went home and wept because my child was growing up.

A lot has happened since then. The tuba. Allergies. Mold. Moves. Love. Loss. Books, art, music.  Most of all, friends have happened. They happened a lot this week. Megan, Marty, Morris, Dakota, Donnie, Mike, Leatrice, Adam, Jakob, Zack, Colin, Whitney, Olivia, my sisters Sandy and Shirley (because one of the things the years have taught me is that sisters can be friends, too). My mom.

We’re ready for graduation. We’re ready because we worked hard for it, and because we had friends who helped. And because they helped (and because my sister Sandy just emailed me her pictures from the party) I had a minute to see something I otherwise would have missed.

I looked at the pictures. I saw the faces I’ve seen in my living room and my yard, and in some cases my classrooms for the past nine years. And what struck me was what survivors our children are. In all the romanticizing of the teenage years and prom and homecoming and graduation (and in the case of our town, the Noize Parade) and football and soccer and baseball it’s easy to lose sight of how very, very hard it is to turn from a child to an adult. Our children have done it–and mostly they’ve managed to hold onto the best parts of themselves–the parts we saw in the baby hugs, the kisses good night, the wonder of Christmas, the first trips to the zoo, the stories at night, the ball games in the yard, the conversations on the porch while the stars came out, and the conversations in the car–the hard ones, where we could talk about the things that we needed to without having to look at each other. Cars are good places for that. They force us to listen, rather than look, or run away when we don’t like what we’re hearing.

I look at those pictures, and for every person there I see a challenge met, a win, a loss, a change. And so for The Boy, and for his friends, and for his classmates I had the privilege of knowing in my classrooms, let me just say, “I’m immensely proud of all of you. And while you may not know it, I love you all. You’re good people. You’ve enriched my life, and brought out the best in me.” You’ve let me feed you. You’ve listened to my stories. Sometimes you’ve told me yours.  You’ve sat in our living room, and sometimes slept on the floor. Thank you for that. Thank you for sharing your lives with us.

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Let me tell you a few stories.

The year is 1996. I have just endured 25 hours of hard labor and given birth, only to discover–much to my dismay–that the pain does not magically end once the baby emerges. It seems unfair–I lie on the too-short bed, flat on my back. I ache everywhere. My son has been whisked away for housekeeping and testing. I have to go to the bathroom, but for some mysterious reason I must remain flat on my back. The logistics of emptying my bladder in this position without resorting to just flooding the bed and the room escape me. And then a woman in scrubs comes in and starts poking and prodding at my poor, abused, aching stomach. I am dazed. I am exhausted. The pain is indescribable. I don’t even think to object. But I don’t need to.

“I’m so sorry,” she says. “I know this hurts, but I have to do it. We have to be sure that everything has been expelled, or you could get an infection.”

And just like that, I go from being a quivering slab of bruised meat to being a person again.

***

Fast forward to 2001. I ride through the urgent care center a block from my house, traveling from the examination room to the x-ray room via stretcher. We have to go through the lobby. People in chairs stare at me accusingly, like they think I’m taunting them–“Ha ha–I’m getting care and you’re not.” But I don’t really care. My lungs ache and I can’t catch my breath. The doctor has just told me I have pneumonia. I’ve been sick for a while; I need a shower. My hair needs a wash.

And then, as the woman pushing my stretcher rolls me through the swinging doors out of the lobby and into the quiet back hallway, she says, “Your hair smells nice.”

And just like that, I go from being a lump of aches and mucus to being a person again.

***

Come with me once more, this time to the dark night a couple months ago when The Boy and I got home and found Leroy lying on the floor. We made the calls. The EMTs arrived, and then the police, and then the coroner. The house filled with people going about the shocking, quiet, confusing business of death. The Boy and I sat on the couch, and then moved to the porch, while all around us men in dark blue uniforms spoke in hushed tones and worked out the logistics of getting a stretcher through my small house and onto the back porch. The Boy and I sat, stunned. I can’t speak for him, but I know that for me no matter where I looked all I could see was Leroy, facedown, his hand curved defenselessly by his side. I knew the men in blue faced this sort of situation often, but for us it was shattering–the sort of thing for which there seems no real help.

But then it started.

“I know you,” said one of the EMTs. “I came to your house for a party.”

And the fog cleared a bit, and I saw his face, and knew he was right. He left me and went out on the porch to where The Boy sat. He squatted by the chair, put his hand on The Boy’s arm, said something quietly.

“Your son and my son played football together.” It was a policeman this time. And then he, too, went out to the porch, and I watched him talking to my son, reaching through the mists for him as he had done for me.

The coroner arrived. He asked the minimum of questions, gathering just enough information so we could do what we were all here to do–take care of Leroy.

The EMTs and the policemen gave me a last minute with Leroy, and then they put him on the stretcher and wheeled him out. And then that EMT, the man who had been to the party at my house, the man who had heard my address and known to say, “Oh, no,” to himself, came back inside carrying rags and cleaning supplies, and he tidied away the inevitable messiness of death, and then he swept the floor, cleaning up the cat food that Leroy had been getting for Nina when the lights went out.

They left us, but they left behind the shining gift of kindness, and final promises. “If you need anything, anything at all, even if you or The Boy just need someone to talk to, call us. We’ll help.”

As I said, this post has been a long time in the making, but it’s time. It’s time that I said “thank you” to these wonderful people who probably don’t even remember what they did, and if I reminded them would probably think I was making too much of it. “I was just doing my job,” they would probably say. “It was no big deal.”

It was a big deal to me. These moments have stuck with me not because these people were acting out of character, but because they were acting out of their characters–they saw my son and me as more than a job to be done–they saw our common humanity, and by their words and actions didn’t pull us out of that dark and frightening place–nothing could do that–but reminded us that we weren’t alone in that dark place. They gave us hands to hang onto. The nurse in the delivery room acknowledged that her actions–though necessary–caused me pain. The nurse in the urgent care center gave me back a bit of self-confidence–I might look a mess, but heck, my hair smelled nice. Those women reminded me that I, too, am a person. The police officers and the EMTs who came to our house the night Leroy died saw us as people. They saw my son and took care to check in and see how it was with him. They offered their ears, and their hands. They saw him as a boy who had just lost one of the most important people in his life, and they offered help not just that night, but for the future. We are not alone.

I could go on, but that’s all I really have to say. No matter how flawed our institutions are, they are also filled with people who see those of us they serve not as problems, but as people in pain that is all too often beyond fixing. And the wonder of it is that reach out, they offer what they can–words, a hand on the arm, a rag and cleaning supplies–not because they “should,” but because that is who they are. And they do it over and over.

So for all of you in the blue uniforms–and the scrubs–thank you.

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…and we’ve made it as easy as possible to do so. Presenting The Mac-Hi Pioneers 2013 Football Team Roster and Cookbook (with Cheerleaders!) Buy one for yourself. Buy a couple for the grandparents. Don’t forget the aunts and uncles. The neighbors. The nice people at your church. This is your chance to score a great keepsake and support the football and cheerleading programs at McLoughlin High School, all in one easy step. Jam-packed with stunning photos of the Pioneers and cheerleaders in action as well as tasty recipes donated by the team, this beautiful, fun little book makes a perfect keepsake for your very own Pioneer—and anyone who loves him (or her). 

bookfaceThis is probably one of the less expected fundraising ideas you’ll see for a football team.  And yet it should really be a no-brainer. Anyone who has ever watched a football player power through a meal after a hard practice will understand exactly how the idea for this book happened. Football players:  Food. They just go together.

So that’s one part of the reason behind this book. Here’s the second: Helmets. Football players wear helmets, which is where those big numbers come in that you’ll find on each player’s page. Those numbers allow us proud parents in the stands to know when our precious child, the child who (as I frequently remind my own precious child) we mothers labored for hours to bring into the world, is being Badly Done By by boys who are far, far too large to be playing against our sons. Opposing teams are, by definition, Too Big. Always. Helmets make it both easier and harder because while we depend on the numbers to tell us which boys are ours, we all know that the boys on the field are far more than numbers. They are our sons. And they have faces.

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Which is why, for each player for whom it was humanly possible, we included a close-up as well as an action image based on as one of Sharon Herndon Harwood’s fabulous game photographs. These are our sons. Here are their faces. These are the foods they like. And these are their friends, the boys with whom they train, and then, on game days, walk onto the field, and then, win or lose, the boys with whom they walk off the field.

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By now you’re probably wondering why a mother who has such very mixed feelings about football would go to the trouble of putting together a book like this, particularly since my son isn’t even playing football this year (he’s in band, where the competitions take place in music halls rather than on muddy fields). I’ll be honest: when my son came home in middle school and said he was going to go out for football I came very, very close to telling him ‘no.’ But I didn’t, and now I’m glad.

Over the years, I’ve come to see that football is about a lot more than just what happens on game days. It’s about learning to adopt and keep a regimen. It’s about training, training, training. It’s about honing a skill, about pushing yourself beyond where you think you can go. It’s about learning to lose–and win–with grace, honor, dignity, and honesty. Not that it always happens that way; football is a discipline, and football players are works in progress. But when I watch the games I see that that’s the key: they do progress. They get better.

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But football is more than just a regimen; it’s also a brotherhood (our team is all boys, so I can use that term without fear of political incorrectness). And that brotherhood survives. Though my son doesn’t play this year, he wanted to keep the annual Birthday Pizza Party we’ve had each October because though he’s not playing, football is still an important part of his life.

cheerleaderspread2

And that right there is why this book happened–because though my son isn’t on the field this year, boys he has played beside for the last few years are. Football is important–sports in general are important. They’re worth supporting. Because those are our children out there.

And so this book, to give us parents a chance to gloat over our beautiful children, to marvel at the pageantry of a game–and it is a pageant–and to try out a whole teamful of recipes. Books are available from CreateSpace now, and will be available locally after October 16 (Lord willing and the creek don’t rise), and on Amazon. This makes a great gift for grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends–and since the book can be purchased online delivery is simple. Christmas is coming, folks–get a book…feed the team…

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