I stand . . . er . . . sit corrected.
Concerning yesterday's post, several of you (very nicely) left comments saying that numbers could be every bit as wonderful as words and just as evocative. And then you left excellent examples to prove your point.
And I really do see what you’re saying; I just had never pictured it all that way before.
Although I suspect that some of us are born tuned in to numbers, and others are born tuned in to words, this “words girl” is going to try and give numbers a second chance. Because when you think about it, we’d have a really chaotic, unlivable world without the precise order that numbers provide.
If you think, for instance, about a zip code, which is so important in getting our mail delivered. Switching out those numbers for words would be just a wee bit ridiculous. And phone numbers? And ATM passwords? We’d be in a pretty pickle without a few digits to plug into those spaces.
So I hereby do forthwith go publicly on record saying that I, Rebecca Campbell Smith, am committed to developing a greater love and respect for the Numbers that appear in my life. I may never love them as much as words, but I am happy to admit that I am mistaken in underestimating their importance and yes, even their ability to create memories.
I just hope that Numbers will accept this apology in the spirit in which it was offered and will promise to take pity on me the next time I attempt to do a math problem!
Since Nathan is headed home for Thanksgiving in just a couple weeks (hooray!), I’m finding myself falling into Reminiscing Mom Mode. Because when a grown up guy named Nathan walks through the front door of our house who so closely resembles a little boy that I used to know--well, I just get a little sentimental, that’s all.
And with that in mind, I want to re-post something I wrote in 2006, when Nathan was a High School Senior and Sarah was in 5th grade. (She had relapsed in June of that year so it was a traumatic chapter of life, cancer-wise.)
Anyway, here’s the post (followed by pictures), replete with all the challenges and changes that raising children brings.
Thursday, October 5, 2006
OATMEAL AND ECUADOR
That’s a long way away. And that’s where our son is going on a missions trip. In just three short weeks.
Am I just a tad bit nervous? Anxious? Afraid? Excited? Thrilled? Proud?
Is it possible he’s even old enough to go gallivanting around the world?
In my mind, he’s still a tousle-headed toddler, full of mischief and high spirits. Now it seems he’s turned into a tousle-headed teenager—but still full of mischief and high spirits.
I’m just not sure I’m ready for him to be as old as he is.
Two nights ago, we attended his last soccer game. At the end of the game, the annual rite of dumping the ice chest over the two seniors (Nathan being one of them) was performed, and then everyone cheered for them as they came off the field.
I took a dozen pictures and surreptitiously wiped away tears--tears that were brought on by the sight of a rapidly diminishing childhood taking place right before my eyes.
I thought, “If I get THIS emotional over a soccer game, I am going to be a major basket case at his High School graduation.
And when he goes to college. And when he gets married.
And when he flies to Ecuador.
I guess I’ve just been appreciating him more lately because I know he’ll be gone so soon. And lately, he’s given me even more to appreciate.
Last week I was lying on the couch, still fighting a fever and cough and looking pretty pitiful. Nathan came in, took one look at me and without a word, went and found a blanket and carefully spread it over me with his vintage boyish blend of love and awkwardness.
And then last Sunday night after our church service, I was still sick, on top of feeling stressed from too many challenges and too little rest. I slouched down at the kitchen table and was pondering my choices for a post-church repast when Nathan came in and beheld my weariness.
He said, “Can I make you something to eat, Mom?”
Well, I’ve always liked oatmeal as a soothing, comforting mini-meal so I made my Oatmeal Request. Off he trotted to the cupboard, microwave, and refrigerator, fixing it just the way I like it with some brown sugar stirred in, topped with French vanilla creamer and some yogurt. He placed the concoction in front of me and then looked at me worriedly inquiring, “Does it look okay, Mom?”
Of course all you mothers out there already know that I thought it was the most beautiful, the most delicious, the most impressive oatmeal that has ever been cooked by human hands.
Because my teenage son had volunteered to made it and had cooked it with love.
And its not just his oatmeal making that warms my heart. Last week toward the end of a soccer game, our young goalie allowed three or four goals to get by him in a short period of time. After the whistle blew and everyone was heading toward the bench, he remained standing forlornly by himself out in the field. When Nathan turned and saw him there, alone and discouraged, he went over, put a hand on his shoulder, and walked by his side back to the bench.
It was such a seemingly small thing to do but I told Nathan later, “If the day ever comes when you score thirty-five points in a basketball game, I will not be as proud of you then as I was when you took the time to encourage your soccer buddy.”
So many memories. So many things that make me proud. It just doesn’t seem possible that the toddler days are gone and the “spreading the wings” days have arrived.
And not just for Nathan.
I look at Sarah and see her growing and blossoming before my eyes. Her face has lost its little girl roundness and her body is taking on the contours of a young lady. Her cute hair, pre-teen clothes, instant messaging and long phone conversations have wrested her from the confines of childhood and set her on the cusp of a whole new chapter of life where she is starting to take those first small steps away from Mom, and dependence, and little girlhood.
But you know what?
Five years ago when she was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma, no one thought that she would ever even get to this point. Her chances of surviving long enough to ever grace the years of pre-teen hood were miniscule. She had a cancer that few children survived longer than a year or two, at the very most.
So I rejoice in the passing of the years. I rejoice that she gets up every morning and rushes out the door to school. I rejoice when the phone rings and it’s for her. I rejoice when she has friends over and she goes to birthday parties and sleepovers. I rejoice in health and happiness and a growing up little girl.
But I also miss the days when I was everything to her, when she was a toddler and I was Super Mom, able to make her laugh and kiss away every owie. I also reminisce about the days when she was a cancer patient and I helped bear her pain, and brought her comfort the best way I could, all the while knowing that cancer was an owie no mommy could ever kiss away.
And so I sit here today, pondering a half-lived life and two half grown children.
Truthfully, I think the thing I fear the most at this point is that I will be wrenched from this precious, busy season of life and be transported unwillingly to an unthinkable place where Nathan has gone to college and Sarah has gone to heaven.
I know it’s probably a strange thing to be writing about, just one week after hearing that Sarah is back in remission after her relapse. Even though I rejoice in that wondrous news, the harsh statistics of Neuroblastoma survival are never far from my mind. I think about the fact that in a year or two, I could have an empty nest; I could go from where I am now to a place that I can’t even imagine.
And so when my son heads off to Ecuador, and when my daughter heads off to a friend’s house, I realize afresh that each goodbye is precious and each homecoming is priceless.
For right now though, they are both still very much here, very much full of noise and activity, very much in need of their mother to provide clean underwear, hugs, brownies, lunch money, advice, bedtime prayers and mashed potatoes.
With each happy, busy day that passes, I revel anew in the joyous challenges of motherhood; I revel in one of the dearest and most important callings of my lifetime.
And I know that a day will come when I will make a bowl of oatmeal and sit down to eat it with tears on my face, remembering a cool October night when a precious 17-year old teenager placed a fragrant bowl in front of me and asked, “Does this look okay, mom?”
Yes, sweet Nathan, it does.
You know I can’t possibly write about my children without including a few pictures; in fact, it is statistically improbable. (Hey! I just used a “number reference” in a sentence without breaking out in hives. I’m making progress!)
This was taken at our Annual Decorating the Christmas Tree Pancake Dinner. Even though we always hold hands when we pray before a meal, Nathan and Sarah thought they’d be all dramatic about it. Love their faces.
On the first day of Nathan’s senior year of High School; this is about what they looked like when the above post was written.
And lastly . . .
I can’t even look at this picture without tearing up. We were on our way from North Carolina to Florida to take Nathan to his first year of college. This picture is such a poignant summation of endings and beginnings. Those two had rarely been apart since the day Sarah was born and to know that good-bye was hanging in the air between them? Well, it just sort of does me in every time I look at it.