Believe it or not, DelSo is nearly ten years old. It’s been a pretty interesting run for me. Writing and sharing my life with people who take in my words, without looking in my eyes, is a sometimes odd experience.
My original concept, an inspired idea without much planning (aka The Silvia Story), was a community blog with neighborhood things and local events. I had birthed the sometimes hated name, DelSo and, for some weird reason, it stuck. I’ll never stop smiling just thinking about “DelSo” appearing in some official city mailings and on Google Maps. Kids, you can make up your own language!
Anyway, my idea was to explore happy hours around town and write about it. Low key, kind of insider foodie stuff. Fun. You know, light.
My life changed and the blog changed. There was a lot of emotion and readers responded. I grew to accept that the stories I shared were, in fact, mine to tell and if my transparency revealed the shadows of others, it wasn’t my intention.
DelSo has been a consistent outlet for nearly a decade, something I never imagined. Since last spring I’ve also been publishing pieces on a new platform, CivMix. Some of the topics are similar to things I’ve written about right here, but they’ve been tweaked a little differently. Truthfully, I sometimes wrestle with where to publish what. It feels like some weirdo writer’s infidelity thing. Whatever.
Here are some recent posts I’ve written over at CivMix. Hope you enjoy them – S
Twenty-five years ago today I got married. It was a beautiful day filled with special moments and memories I will never forget. The photographer complained that the skies were too blue and lacking clouds, yet he still managed to capture images that illustrate what a great day it truly was.
I was 27, nearly 28, on that Labor Day weekend Sunday. I thought of myself as an “older bride.” Friends and family came from miles and miles away to join my groom and me in Washington Park where it seemed that the flower beds had conspired to fit our color scheme, It was everything I had ever imagined my wedding day to be.
The reception was held in a historic Shaker meeting house where guests enjoyed a delicious meal catered by the only restaurant to say “We’re caterers. Tell us what you want and if it’s possible, we’ll do it” instead of “You must have three hot h’or d’oeuvres and three cold h’or d’oeuvres and 2 salads and…” People talked about the food for years. We had so much fun.
But, as you know, a wedding day does not make a marriage. A marriage is hard work under skies that are not always blindingly blue. Learning and growing together takes effort and sacrifice and communication and maybe I wasn’t really as old as I thought I was on that gorgeous summer day.
Somewhere along the way we got lost. Our marriage ended and, while I take no joy in that, I am so very proud of how we’ve together parented the children our love created. We have always been able to put our children and their well being first and avoid the ugliness I’ve seen in far too many divorces.
While I may no longer be in love with the father of my children, I’ll always love the years we shared and that part of my life. It was a really good chapter.
Traveling with my 20 year-old son made for an interesting trip. Because of the time he spent in Thailand last year, he has some experience with having to navigate his way from destination to destination. He may not have the same intuition as my oldest son when it comes to transportation, but he has grown to be helpful and developed some useful skills.
I’ve jokingly remarked a couple of times (maybe even to you, specifically) that the best part of our recent vacation to Greece was having someone with whom to day drink. With some sobering up reflection, I now recognize that what’s going to remain with me, even longer than the 5lbs of feta and dolmas I brought home, are the moments we spent talking, sharing thoughts, making decisions together (rosé or white?) and spending hours and hours outside together, under cloudless blue skies.
Over the years I’ve witnessed too many friends lose a child, most frequently, a son. I grew up in a town where a number of my peers died being physically reckless in a way different than today’s young people. Usually it was a car + alcohol + speed situation, not exactly the same kinds of substances to which our country is experiencing an epidemic of abuse and addiction to currently. Narcotics have always been way too scary to mess around with to me, which initially made overdoses so incredibly shocking. Now, though, it is my presumed cause of death when anyone between the ages of 17 and 30 dies suddenly.
A few former colleagues of mine have lost children suddenly and at least one was directly related to substance abuse. That mom told me something that will always stay with me. In my whole life, I might have experienced two other instances in which words have had the same profound impact on my heart and thoughts. What she said was revelatory:
All you can do is enjoy them while you’ve got them.
During times of frustration with my sons, I’ve reached for that truism frequently. It helped me to accept that I couldn’t make my sons do, or not do, really much of anything. Whether it was attending classes at the High, writing a thank you note or washing their hair, it was on them. No amount of time spent arguing or in disagreement could force any of my children to do what I wanted them to do, if it wasn’t what they wanted to do. They are their own people.
After my friend’s loss and the lesson she gave to me, I remember thinking “if something really horrible happened to my kid, I wouldn’t want his last interaction with me to have been a heated exchange about why he hadn’t handed in a required assignment for school.” I’d much rather it be a quick “love you” at the end of a call or text. I learned I needed to let some things go.
On Naxos Island, my son and I rented bikes for the day and rode about 20 miles to the beach and an abandoned hotel project that had become a destination for graffiti artists. After we were fitted for bikes and provided with helmets, my son clipped the strap on his together and hung it on his handlebars. I said, “you’re not wearing that?” And he said “No.” I bit my tongue, clipped my helmet on and told him to leave his helmet behind if he wasn’t going to wear it. My helmet remained firmly in place on my head for the duration of the ride.
Over the course of the day, I suggested once or twice that my son might want to hit the sunscreen. He declined. I rubbed on my second or third application of the #30 spf I had purchased in Athens without comment. His decision. His eventual sunburn.
There comes a point in a parent’s life when they have to let go in ways that may be frightening, especially when their child’s approach is completely contrary to what they themselves had spent years teaching their offspring was the right or best or appropriate or safe way to conduct the life they had been given. It’s part of the process of separating from one another, isn’t it?
I returned to Albany last week to hear of the death of the child of a neighbor I had when I was in high school. Again, a son. My assumption about the cause of the young man’s death was, unfortunately, correct. My heart hurt for those left behind.
Finding one’s way through life isn’t easy, despite the maps with which we are provided. We hope that our children make good choices, but when they don’t, we can only wish for the consequences to be negligible – a sunburn at worst, certainly not the loss of their young life.
Last weekend my youngest son did something I could never imagine doing – he performed onstage as Prince Charming in his school’s production of Into the Woods.Sitting in the audience and watching him act and sing made me incredibly proud of him. Not just because he was great, which he was, but because he had the confidence to put himself in the spotlight. Middle school years are hard ones and kids are so critical of one another (and themselves), that placing one’s self in a position of vulnerability takes a lot of nerve. It was a great evening, made even better with the presence of my middle son and a couple of other 20-year-olds whom he dragged along to witness his baby brother’s shining moment.
It was a special night to be the mom of these Lilly guys and I hope Q continues to stretch himself and explore newly recognized talents and that G stays as sweetly supportive as he was on Friday. My heart feels full.
There’s been so much talk this spring about the rain. Many people seem to feel that we’ve had an excessive number of stormy and wet days. Until recently, I believe, there hadn’t been more than an instance or two of our stringing more than three rainless days together since March. Or something like that. Rain doesn’t bother me too much, especially since I’m finally having some necessary work done to my house to ensure it remains dry when it rains. The wind, though, is a different story.
I was thinking about wind and why it makes me uncomfortable and I think it’s because wind is 3-D. I mean, if 3-D is defined as being discernible with three different and unique senses, that is. Is that what 3-D means? Wind is audible, visible and physical, which is kind of a lot, don’t you think? I don’t know if it’s a childhood spent watching The Wizard of Oz every year or what, but wind frightens me. It’s powerful.
It’s going to sound completely ridiculous, but I’ve been working on becoming more comfortable with the wind. For a long time, actually. I know wind and change are partners in moving life along and I’ve gotten better at swaying when in a gust, instead of going with my usual response of digging in and refusing to let go. I’m a work in progress. Mid-gust, shall we say?
One recent change that I’m trying to relax into is the diminishment of family dinner nights. I think it’s more a function of the season than a complete breakdown of family time, so I’m tolerating it. Time will tell, but for now I’m going to cook when I feel like it and continue to make an attempt to prepare meals that can be reheated or repurposed. Case in point, last night’s baked ham with scalloped potatoes and broccoli, became the foundation for a pasta with cubed ham, peas, arugula and grated cheese. Tomorrow I plan to eat some leftover scalloped potatoes with poached eggs. Is it morning yet?
Has the rain or wind impacted your mood? How old were you when your parent stopped regularly cooking dinner?
Some of the things I thought about on the day my middle son turned 20…
My pregnancy with him was the least stressful of my three – he went full term and I wasn’t yet considered to be “geriatric” as defined by obstetrics.
When my water broke in the late afternoon, I was scrubbing the grout from our newly tiled bathroom floor as a chicken roasted for dinner. Griffin’s favorite meal growing up was what he called “big chicken,” aka roasted chicken.
Griffin was born the following afternoon. I was not a quick birther.
Delivering him was my proudest physical accomplishment.
He had no hair when he was born, but there was a reddish glow and I was convinced he would be a redhead.
After the horrible circumstances involving my oldest son’s birth and neonatal experience, mothering Griffin gave me confidence in my abilities to take care of a baby.
He was not an easy baby. Whereas Liam was placid, Griffin was demanding and would nurse (or cry) for hours. Or so it seemed.
I’ll never forget waking up one night with him in the middle of the bed, his usual spot, and seeing his eyes wide open as he just stared at the ceiling. He looked incredibly wise and peaceful.
He climbed out of his crib at 9 months and was running by 10 months. He remains the most coordinated of my children.
His first word was “Go!,” which he yelled at the car in front of us which did not accelerate fast enough when the light turned green.
Griffin was always aware of his appearance and clothing. He refused to wear a winter parka because it made him look fat, which was weird because we never talked about “looking fat” and he has never been overweight. Or, thank goodness, afflicted with an eating disorder.
He received a classic toy for his second birthday – one of those plastic lawn mowers that “pops” as you push it along. He was playing outside with it with my mother-in-law shortly after receiving it and somehow she lost track of him. We located him about a block away from the house, completely oblivious to our collective panic.
His nickname was “the runner” because he would intentionally take off when he was out in crowds. It was an exhausting phase which caused him to miss a number of special events because no one wanted to take on the responsibility of supervising him.
School and making friends has always come easily to him. This has been good and bad.
One of my biggest worries for him has been that he never really has had to work hard at anything.
I was wildly frustrated with him when he was in high school and not really applying himself.* At the time, I remembered some wisdom I had received from a friend who had tragically lost her young adult son. She said all we can do is enjoy them while we have them. I’ve thought about that often.
We’re down to just one teenager in the family.
While my oldest and youngest sons enjoy traveling and seeing historic sights, all Griffin wants to do on our vacations is “eat and hang out.” I’m really looking forward to doing exactly that with him in Greece in a couple of months.
His awareness of the inequities in our world and his interest in contemporary politics makes me think he’d make a great advocate for the disadvantaged.
I’ve never been prouder, or more frightened, than the day he walked away from me and got on the subway to go to Thailand, solo, for three months.
It doesn’t seem possible that this guy has been my son for two decades. I am so interested to see what he does in the next twenty years.
I saw something on the Facebook the other day on a page I follow. It’s a gardening/flower appreciation sort of page and there was a post about how important it is to prune plants because otherwise the parts which are struggling to stay alive will prevent the healthier parts from flourishing. It’s something that I, of course, have heard before, but for whatever reason it’s been kicking around my head ever since. Why is it such a struggle to eliminate that which no longer holds future promise? Particularly when it comes at the peril of something that demonstrates positive growth?
My relationship with plants is complicated and long. There was a time when I felt incapable of providing enough attention and support to my boys and my plants. In those days I had one plant, a vine-y sort of thing that had become mine when I was about 20 and had been my responsibility for about a dozen years at that point. It was, and continues to be, low maintenance. This plant was joined by a rubber tree, adopted when a friend moved out of town, when my oldest was in kindergarten almost two decades ago. It is a massive plant now and when I relocate it to its summer home on the back deck, I have to tip it at an angle to maneuver it out the sliding glass door. During the months it resides outside, it grows in a remarkably prolific way gaining a new shiny leaf almost every single day. It’s beautiful.
Those two plants were it for me for a long time. Gradually, though, in the last 7 or 8 years I’ve collected quite a few additional ones including a Boston fern that went full circle dead to almost lush to dead, a passion flower that has yet to bloom for me, citronella and lavender plants which I never expected to overwinter and now have done so for two years, a mature jade and an aloe, and an asparagus fern that is finally doing well. My dining room, with its soft yellow walls and dozen plants, brings me joy even on the gloomiest of days. It just feels warm and alive.
Plants aren’t necessarily as challenging to care for as children, but they do require some attention. It feels like I water, rotate and move them around pretty frequently, as I attempt to encourage them to grow. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with trimming them and cutting “off the dead and dying stuff,” as suggested on that Facebook page I referenced above, because I know intellectually that the plant will “put all its energy into keeping that dying leaf alive,” neglecting healthier parts in the process. And, who the hell wants that?
In all honesty, though, I do falter when it comes to completely giving up. That Boston fern I lovingly nurtured for years, responded to my absence at the holidays last year by dying, despite how much I wanted it to live. I don’t have the heart to throw it away, so it’s currently in a purgatory state in my kitchen. It’s either going to come back to life or be replaced in its pot by the baby Boston fern I was given a few weeks ago. Whatever it does, it’s beyond my control. I’m going to just direct my attentions to the plants which are more committed to being alive and do my best to help them grow strong.
What’s your relationship with houseplants? How are they growing?