You Don’t Have To Let Go Of Everything At Once

Are you kidding me, Colorado?

For two decades now, we have gone to the corn maze with our sons before Halloween. It started in 2001, when we took four month old Joe to Anderson Farms. We have been when it was 80 and sunny. We have been when the temperature dropped and we were finishing the maze in the snow. We have been when we had the boys in Baby Bjorn carriers, then in wagons, and then when we raced as teams (boys versus us) to see who would emerge triumphant. It is one of the traditions we made and kept over the years. It was definitely different this year with Joe off at college, but we decided we weren’t ready to let this go.

The map Luke used

It was about 60 degrees at 10:10 a.m. when we entered the maze. The sky was full of cirrus clouds, and the leaves on the cottonwoods were amazing. Luke has a crazy good ability to read maps, so he told us we could finish both sections of the maze in 15 minutes. I told him it would take at least 30. With this challenge, he started leading us through the maze. In five minutes he had us through the smaller section of the maze. I was a little shocked. I knew he was good, but this was a little over the top. I started to suspect that this is why he and his brother have beaten us through the maze three years running. We did get close one year, but not close enough. I thought it was because Steve and I were old and slow. It was actually because Luke was Magellan in his former life.

Luke leading the way

Luke raced us through the second part of the maze. I kept complaining that although there are seven miles of paths in this maze, I was going to get in less than one mile of walking because he was so damn efficient. In the end, I wasn’t half wrong. We reached the exit for the second part of the maze at 10:36. I tried to explain to Luke that corn mazes aren’t about speed, but Luke told me I didn’t raise quitters. He thinks successfully navigating corn mazes it is about efficiency and speed. I tend to disagree. I think corn mazes are meant to be wandered through in awe, with a plan of escaping at some point but not until you’ve sucked every last bit of glory out of fall before dreaded winter arrives. But I was not going to complain about our difference of opinion because any time with our high school senior is a good thing.

I think that when both boys are gone next year, Steve and I will still work to keep this tradition alive, even if it is just the two of us. I can’t see giving this up. At its worst, it’s a cold, wet day in a muddy cornfield. At its best, it’s a beautiful morning walk in nature under a glorious fall sky.

You can’t keep your kids from growing up and leaving you, but you can keep some things in tact so that if they ever return (maybe with their own children) they know where to find you.

Thing Two and I

I’ll Carry My Own Wine, Thanks

Something occurred to me this morning. The purpose of this trek was to deliver Thing One to Washington to begin his first full year of college. Everything I’ve done the past twenty years led to these moments. And as much as I’ve enjoyed bringing Joe here and helping him get set up, one thing has finally sunk in. My work here is finished. Maybe not completely, as I’m sure soon enough he will be asking me to edit a paper or send him something he forgot. But I can’t pretend any longer that life as I have known it is the same. It’s not. I’ve spent the past twenty years laser focused on my children. Now it’s time to shift my focus. I imagine it’s like the day after the retirement party. You wake up and think to yourself, “Well, now what?”

The beauty of eastern Washington with her eye on the Blues

Joe and I had tentative plans to have dinner together today, but I woke up this morning with not one other thing on my agenda. I sat in my hotel room and took a deep breath. What the hell do I want to do? Not what do I have to do, but what do I want to do? I haven’t had many occasions to ask myself that for a long time. I decided that rather than sit in bed and feel sad and lonely, I had best get showered, do something with myself, and get some coffee. Seeking something new but still in my heart needing something that felt like the life I have known, I decided to drive out to Target in Richland because Richland is new to me but Target is my normal.

At Target, I wandered aimlessly to kill time. I knew Joe needed hangers and a small fan and I needed some water, so I took care of those things. I would pick an item up, thinking Joe could use it in his dorm room, and then I would remember that it’s not my job to decorate his room anymore and move on. I quickly realized that, although on most days Target can cheer me up, today was not going to be that kind of day.

I decided I needed to regroup. I bought myself a green tea from Starbucks and sat in my car thinking about what else I could do. I began researching a winery I had driven by on my way out to Richland. Going to a wine tasting solo sounded awkward, but I needed to get comfortable being uncomfortable. I’m starting over. Everything is going to feel weird for a while until it doesn’t anymore. Be brave. Be bold. Go big or go home. I booked a 2:15 tasting and went to grab some food. I ate lunch at a picnic table near the Columbia River and enjoyed the shade before heading back towards Walla Walla.

Nice day on the Columbia

I had driven past the L’Ecole No. 41 winery a few times on previous trips. I found my way up the stairs and into the main sales area and told them I had a reservation. I was seated on the back deck at a table with just one chair, which immediately made me feel at ease. Nothing can make you feel more obviously alone than being a single at a table meant for two. I made small talk with the server as he poured my wine. And then I was there alone, sipping delicious wine, enjoying the sunny day in eastern Washington, the wasps swirling around a tree and some children playing on an old seesaw on the grassy yard below. As each pour came and went, I started to relax a tiny bit more. I allowed myself to envision a life where I have fewer demands on my time and greater freedom to be conscious about how I choose to spend that time. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all?

I did eventually meet up with Joe to give him the last few items he needed, to see the finished dorm room, and to grab a bite to eat. We enjoyed Indian food from the same restaurant we ate takeout from when we arrived in Walla Walla in January. Joe told me about his past, solo 24 hours. He told me he nearly had trouble assembling the storage unit we bought for his room until he remembered his bike tool had a screwdriver he could use. He told me his new section mates seemed like a quiet group and he was glad. He thanked me for bringing the final items. I told him about my trip to Richland and the winery. I told him how an older gentleman (yes…older than me) asked if I needed help carrying my wine to my car. I complimented him on his dorm room. Before I knew it, we were discussing when to meet up in the morning for my departure.

Lovely downtown Walla Walla urging me Forward

I know this is going to be a process. I’m creating a new normal, but I can do it. It was a new normal when Joe came into the world weeks early and weighing only 5 pounds. I survived that and then doubled down and spent years doing a pretty good job at Mom. I bet if you give me a few years, I’ll be doing a pretty good job at Justine too.

Do I need help carrying my wine? Jesus, man. I raised two kickass sons and dropped one off at college yesterday. Can’t you see how goddamn strong I am? I’ll carry my own wine, thanks.

I bet this dog carries his own wine too