Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunset Over the Hudson

This is the view from the passenger side of my Honda at 4:24 p.m. driving south on the Henry Hudson Parkway, around W160th Street.

I was on the way back from SAR High School in Riverdale to drop off some costumes and props for Little Babe who was in Thoroughly Modern Millie. It was my second of three trips to Riverdale and back today, but that's the life of the parent. And it was exceptionally cool to return at night for the performance which included my youngest hamming it up onstage, acting, dancing, singing and speaking Chinese cribbed directly from Wayne's World.

That, too, is the life of the parent.

With my oldest 26 years old and a working professional, it seems unbelievable to me that I've already done that difficult, demanding, all-enveloping thing: raise kids. Perhaps this incredible fact is brought into sharper focus this year because I am in a graduate program with people who are typically much younger than me. Some are the very ages of my middle and oldest children, or some number between. What they have looming is already behind me. Yet I seem not very much older than them. To myself, at least.

This past Tuesday, I picked up Middle Babe from Goucher College. She is finished with her undergraduate studies, having taken extra classes over the summer. Having started as a musical theatre major, she graduates with a degree in philosophy, invited to present a paper at an academic conference in the spring. On the drive home we listened to Regina Spektor while marveling over this transformation, over the unreal fact that her college experience is over. Spektor's soulful, surreal music seemed the perfect soundtrack for the occasion. Middle Babe and I recalled the hair-raising move to her first dorm room at Goucher; blithely, we hop-scotched through four years' worth of adventures. From the vantage point of 95N, at 80 miles an hour, the time seemed compressed. Four years went by like that. And now, life looms ahead for her. A zillion possibilities tantalize. It is thrilling and anxiety-producing. For the foreseeable future, she has moved back home, to save rent, to chart her course, to be near her friends and job.

In the Urban Bungalow, Middle Babe joins Little Babe, of course, who, at 15, is completely low-maintenance, resourceful and self-sufficient. Once, not very long ago, he demanded the lion's share of my attention and care; I was his sun and moon, the feeder, the nurturer, the pusher of the stroller, the carrier, the soother, the storyteller, the crooner of lullabies, the playmate, the creator of games, the interpreter and advocate when he was inexplicable. Now, he is a talented teen, a dedicated musician with his own agenda and friends and ambitions and a sophisticated sense of humor and a great reserve of cultural references. These days, our time together is a joyride of jamming, singing along with the Talking Heads in the car, watching YouTube videos, talking about our shared favorite groups -- the Talking Heads, the Beatles, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day, Elton John, Pink Floyd -- being amused by the antics of our dogs, sharing life's innumerable ironies.

Tonight, I blog to gather my thoughts, to capture this moment in my life. I am on break from school now through the end of January, a working break, meant to be filled with research and reading and, of course, writing.

Remarkably, my year-long program is half over. How the hell did that happen?

So this post is the briefest of snapshots, clicked hurriedly, rather like the photo taken as my car careened down the Henry Hudson Parkway in the gathering twilight of a mid-December Sunday of my 50th year.

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