Tag Archives: Clare

A Memorable Walk

Our blogging group settled on a favorite walk for our latest topic. I could not think of a favorite, but I did remember a memorable one.

As much as I claim to love the out-of-doors I am a homebody and tend to stay inside much more than is good for me. Dean likes going out and doing things so he was pleasantly surprised when, eleven years ago, I requested a family hike on the Trillium Trail at the G R Thompson Wildlife Management Area in the Shenandoah Valley for my Mother’s Day gift.

I’d not heard of trilliums until high school when, for my birthday, my friend Cindy gave me a green suede choker with a single white trillium on the front. I’d not seen one in person, until college when my botany 101 professor, Mr. Steinboch, took us on a field trip to a local park. The next time I saw them was in Pittsburgh when a friend and I visited the Trillium trail there (now a subdivision). I was ready to see more trilliums.

We were going to have to get up early to get to the trail and hike before we ate lunch. A small roadblock was the fact that Clare was spending the night with some friends. We warned her that we were stopping by early to pick her up. Andrew was fine with everything, as far as I recall — he always made sure any special day (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays) were special for the person being celebrated.

The morning of the walk we got up early, ate breakfast and picked up Clare. She was unhappy about having to get up early and very grumpy. We let her sleep in the car. When we got to the park she continued her grumpiness, but Andrew was energetic and happy so that was good.

The hike was beautiful and those of us who’d had a decent sleep were good. I saw trilliums, skunk cabbage, lady slippers, May apples and even an eastern towhee or two.

We had a mid-morning snack on a rock, Andrew rested on a branch, Dean took one of my favorite photos ever of me. Clare continued to be grumpy.

I don’t remember if I was upset that Clare was grumpy the entire day. I probably was and I might be to this day except for one thing — years later she explained to me why she was grumpy all day and apologized for it. The night before she’d been drinking with her friends (apparently the parents were okay with it) and the next day she had her first hangover. While I don’t condone her drinking at age 17, I understand why she was grumpy and realized that she was doing her best to make my day a happy one just by being there.

Clare’s drawing #1

I have a bunch of notebooks under my worktop. I pulled one out to use the other day and saw illustrations Clare drew in the notebook. The first is of a dog-like creature wearing, is it clothes of a jester? and balancing a hat on its tail which is actually the head of a snake.

The creature has pointed teeth and sharp claws. This is not something I’d like to encounter anywhere at all. It’s a nightmare creature.

7-22-04: Three accounts of one day

Nearly thirteen years ago the kids and I set out on a drive to Illinois. Dean must have been on a business trip. For one reason or another, the kids and I each wrote our account of the day on Holiday Inn stationery. We really didn’t need to write down the part about the seatbelt — none of us will ever forget that.

My view:

7-22-04

Left home at 11:10 this morning. Had hoped to get an earlier start but no luck. The kids were fine. Great first few hours then they began watching LOTR-FOTR. Stopped in good old Breezewood for lunch and gas. Bought too much food.

Arrived at motel in Fremont, Ohio around 7:30. Checked in. Kids wanted to stay in the car.

When I got back Clare was doing something to Andrew’s back. I jokingly asked Clare what did she do to Andrew. Then I saw that he had the seatbelt all tangled up and round his belly. I helped him escape and was on the verge of calling 911 to get him out. He finally did a backward somersault and slipped free. Dinner was good.

Kids watching TV now.

Dona

Andrew’s view (he was 11)

7-22-04

We left a lot later than I wanted to but we had TV. Then we ate lunch at a fine place. Then I had to go to the bathroom really really bad. Then we went to a place we went last time. Then stuff happened. And then…I got stuck in my seatbelt and I got to do a somersault. It was weird.

Clare’s view (she was nearly 13)

Today was funny…Halloween woke me up. Awwwww. Mom was mad. Dad left blah blah blah. OK later, Andrew got stuck in the seatbelt. Umm, I have no clue how. He had to do a backward somersault. errr.. Dinner was odd… umm mom probably told you. A cute kid (adorable) waved. He was 2. Then a thunderstorm came. I went to our room and am watching TV now. The seatbelt disappeared in his tummy. GTG ~*Clare*~

Clare goes to College

Those of you who read my blog or are my friends on Facebook or read my tweets or talk to me in person know that this has been a rough summer / year for me regarding my relationship with my daughter. For many years Clare and I were uncommonly close — she told me pretty much everything about her life and we did things together more than I think the average mom and teenage daughter did. Suddenly, and I cannot pinpoint exactly when it happened, Clare stopped sharing things with me and chose to hang out with me less and less often. I knew that this was perfectly normal behavior and that I was lucky to have had the close relationship with her for as long as I did, but it still felt like a slap in the face. I still felt like I was breaking-up with someone. I didn’t handle it well.

This summer was the worst — she was rarely home between 2 pm and 1 am and slept until at least noon most days. Again, I knew this was normal behavior — after all, this was the last time she’d see her friends for a while. On top of that she began working at a part time job and started seeing a young man she’d met through some friends. I felt like one of the parents in the Peanuts cartoon strip. Never seen and only heard as an indistinguishable and annoying noise.

Buildings at SLC
Building at Sarah Lawrence College

So, dropping her off at college yesterday shouldn’t have been a traumatic experience for either of us. She was clearly ready to try out her wings and I was ready to not wake up at midnight wondering where she was and who she was with and when she was planning on coming home. I’d long since stopped saving up things I wanted to tell her — little tidbits from my day or thoughts I’d had about something I read — because by the time we were able to talk whatever I wanted to say lost its importance to me and rarely seemed of interest to her anyway.

Moving Day
The Highlander was packed

We’d not read the dropping-off-your-student-at-Sarah-Lawrence-College information — Clare read it but most of it didn’t register with her. I think I just didn’t want to think about it so didn’t see that we were actually supposed to arrive at 8 am for a day of orientation etc. We saw that she’d be able to move into her dorm at 11 so shot for that time of arrival. We also didn’t anticipate an accident on the New Jersey Turnpike that caused 15 miles of stop-and-go traffic. We got to the school around 2:30 and annoyed school officials handed Clare her registration materials and room key. Not a good way to start out at college. Lesson learned — don’t expect your teenage child to read important registration information. I’m not sure we actually got the information ourselves — I think Clare got it in an email from the school.

First look at Dorm room
Before

When we finally got to the dorm, her roommate was waiting for her outside. Clare’s known her roommate for most of her high school years, if not longer. She showed us to their room — on the lower level of the dorm. I was shocked to see such a dreary room considering the price we are paying for the school (now officially the most expensive college in the country). There was one dim light in the room, not counting the lights by the girls’ mirrors. The beds were metal with plastic covered mattresses. Sarah’s bed was already made — she’d arrived on time — but Clare’s looked so depressing. We unpacked the truck (full to the brim) and brought her belongings into the room she’d call home for the next year, at least.

Better
After

Clare and Sarah had to go to a mandatory meeting so Sarah’s parents, Dean and I stayed in the dorm and tried to fix the room up a bit. I didn’t want to do too much because I knew Clare would want to make the room hers, so I simply made the bed. Sarah’s parents set up a bedside table they’d just purchased and Dean put light bulbs in the colorful lamp that Sarah brought. Those few changes made the room much more cozy.

Clare and her roommate
Clare and her roommate

The college had the day tightly scheduled with meetings and a set “Goodbye” time. We were scheduled to say goodbye to Clare between 5 and 5:30. She came back from her 4:30 meeting at 5:15, commented on the bed being made, then told us it was time to say goodbye. She looked, to me, a little more unsure of herself than she had all summer — more vulnerable, but perhaps that was me, projecting my feelings on her. I certainly was not feeling strong, but she’d earlier begged me not to cry and I didn’t cry. We hugged her goodbye, snapped a few photos and left.

Go home Mom and Dad
Go home Mom and Dad

The crying didn’t start until we stopped for dinner at a service plaza on the New Jersey Turnpike where I sat in a stall the ladies room and shed the first tears of the day. I’d been thinking all the way back how I’d not really prepared her for this day. How I’d neglected to read the registration day information, how I’d forgotten to buy her laundry detergent. How I’d not insisted we shop for some dorm things together even though she was adamant that she and Sarah would do it. I worried that she’d not get enough to eat since her meal plan didn’t include breakfast (her choice). I kicked myself for not buying that mini fridge for Clare because I was upset that she’d not found the time to go to Costco with me. By the time we’d reached the service plaza I’d pretty much decided I was the world’s worst mother and I felt bad for Clare that she had me as a mother. That is what I cried about in the ladies’ room.

When we got back home and went to bed I cried for myself. I cried because that always awake inner ear that mothers have would not be used to listen for Clare anymore. That if she needed me and called for me in the night I’d not hear her because she was 4 hours away. I cried, remembering the infant we brought home from the hospital a little over 18 years ago. I cried because I felt that part of my soul was now elsewhere.

I also thought about some of you — you who’ve lost children or wanted children and were unable to have them. I thought how selfish I was being and that she was only in college — a natural part of growing up.

Is suspect that the next few days will be rough, but I’ll eventually get used to her being gone. We’ll see her in two months if not sooner, and she’ll be back for Thanksgiving (although, if my friends are correct, won’t stay home much when she’s back).

Clare’s grown up to be a remarkable young woman (despite my shortcomings) and I’m very proud of her. I’m just in a new stage of parenthood with her. And of course, we have two more years before our son goes off to college. Wait until that blog post.