Monday, May 23, 2011
Parachutes and Tiger Lilies
As the final hours of my son's senior year ebb away, I find myself waxing a little misty-eyed.
I can see the regret roiling in him and it brings my own regrets to the fore. He regrets stuffing all of his extra character-building, rounding-out efforts into his final year of high school. I know that he feels badly that he never got faster than a 29 second 100 fly on the swim team. He feels badly that he didn't even know he had any potential as a tenor until they begged him to join choir this year. He regrets just missing going to State by a hair's breadth. He wishes he'd done more in musical theater. Perhaps he even regrets not having run track in high school.
I feel the yearning in my son as he watches the last events of his childhood unfold, inexorably dragging him closer to that precipice of the unknown. He sees his friends taking that leap into the wild and terrifying abyss and wonders if his chute was packed well and will open.
H's regrets trigger my own, both for him, and for myself. I wish I had somehow done more; more for him, and more with him. As he tests his chute in preparation to take to the wind, I find myself already missing him. Why didn't I ever go and meet his Russian teacher? Why didn't I take him along to church choir with me when he was a freshman? Why didn't I ride him more to get better grades? Why didn't I talk to his English teacher and see if he could really write? He never showed me his papers after he hit high school. I can't imagine why I didn't go ASK except at conferences.
I remember my own failings in high school--my own wastes of time and energy. I spent too many hours anguishing over the fact that I was a weed, not a lily. Too many thoughts were centered on why I never seemed to measure up. There was always some much cuter girl hogging all the hunky boys. There was always someone less clumsy, or better at German (my dad was the teacher), or less clumsy, or more intelligent or less clumsy. I struggled in math and struggled in P.E. (I couldn't keep the stupid tennis ball in the stupid court. I don't know how many times I set off car alarms hitting cars.)
I forget the fact that I was on toe as a dancer, making stellar grades, beginning to sweep the art world in our school, touring Europe at 16, punching cards for the one computer in school, learning to climb and rappel, and cementing life-long friendships. I look back, now, and wish that I had danced more and worried less. I suppose that I was simply doing what every teen does at some point--dealing with the angst of finding out exactly who I am and what I am worth.
Now I am still evaluating the worth question. I am at the middle of my life, now. Somehow it feels like the end. Why does it feel like the previous half means more than the next? Why am I constantly feeling like my potential wanes with the seconds? Where is my capacity to break out of the dark, cramping earth and burst into bloom?
My boy may perceive that he is just one of those lilies which was caught slumbering still in the Spring loam, his potential still latent. He thinks that all of his friends have bloomed and he is doomed to fall bloom-less. I, on the other hand, have seen him blaze forth in all his tiger lily splendor. His talents, though somewhat un-honed, are there in abundance. He fills the air with riotous, flamboyant color. The infectiousness of his grin, his bright wit, the intensity of his dedication, and the will to do the right thing have all bloomed in him, auguring a fine career as a human being.
What of me? There is no going back, whatever regrets I have for not having seen or done everything. I stand, now, at the same kind of precipice as does Hunter. Ahead, only empty air. Have I checked my chute? Or will there be a very messy squashing sound as I hit the ground?
Will I be a weed or a lily? Will I rise above the earth, tuck my head into the sky, and see the face of the Son? Will it matter all of my life that I'm a dandelion or a tiger lily to other people? Or will I shuck off all of that angst and nonsense and just blaze?
I guess it's up to me. And It's up to me to show H. that same truth.
He is my bright, beautiful tiger lily.