Is there a manual, or even an article on How Not to Make EVERYTHING into The Last Time when my daughter, our youngest of two, is beginning her Senior year in High School? I can’t decide whether to roll around and hold tight the sounds and vignettes, rhythms and fits & starts of daily life — or should I just look away to underscore how normal things still are in our house, even minus her brother who just left for his second year of college two days ago and our dog of ten years who is being held together by the chemical equivalent of duct tape and string.
Right now there are about sixteen girls at our house, she’s the host of her High School Soccer team sleep over. I’m upstairs hearing a quick chopsticks on the piano while OH MY GOD’s screech from the back yard then quiet laughing and hushed talking. I hear voices layered and loud then a quick solo phrase by one person then another. Shortly I predict some serious singing and guitar playing, whispers by the fire then morning stories of who stayed up the latest and who slept through what story.
Cora doesn’t go to the High School she plays soccer for, hers doesn’t have a soccer team so she plays with the Deering Rams and loves these team mates of various ages and skills. Cora’s a good midfielder, hour upon hours of focus on this sport since she was eight. (Seven?) She’s played with the city team, then travel league; premier and high school mean almost year around. She misses sleepovers with friends, and has to be in bed early the night before games. She never complains when she needs to leave a friend’s house early to get to weekend practices or misses day long outings because she needs to be back in time for preseason practice. She’s lost spots on teams and joined other teams, she’s had fantastic inspired coaches and coaches who mostly cared about winning. She works hard every practice and her skills have continued to come together. She wants to play at a D3 college and maybe she will, to be determined.
So how logical is it to wonder about the photographs I never took; beautiful landscapes surround fields I’d drop her off then walk for an hour and a half or read in the car to fill the sideline waiting time. I was usually lost getting to these who-knows-where soccer fields in Maine then NH, MA, NY and NJ for games until we got a car GPS. (Yes, we were on the road searching for some middle school field pre-iphones.) I can’t remember each new clump of sideline parents I had to meet as we all had our own introductions and jockeying games that included my want to not to talk endlessly about our daughters on the field and their brothers or sister’s sports and college searches. Maybe Too-Much-Information needed a hand signal. I often left tournaments wondering why I didn’t know that we had to sign Cora up for some clinic last month or reffing the young kids required annual recertification that happened last week and don’t get me started about the college recruiting merry-go-round.
But still the question: to hold tightly to the Lasts that are in my face or to let them slide by with some martial arts gesture? Because just like the first steps she took there will be a last hard played high school soccer game with Coach Olsen. Like her first day of public school walking in the door at Longfellow Elementary there will be a last day leaving Casco Bay High School, emptying her backpack of that daily life. And tonight, her last soccer team sleep over, coach’s ice cream cake and tents with team mates in the back yard won’t happen again.
And her lasts parallel mine. She’ll shortly be driving herself to her practices while I only sort of wait somewhere that’s not in the car. I’ll vaguely know where she is, I’ll be able to imagine what she’s doing but here comes the subtle shift of independence. The door that’s opening and closing to the back yard, the fridge door, and the zipped up tent flap means they’re on to the next thing and way out of sight. Now all’s quiet.
Maybe the trick is to touch gently and with recognition but not grasp, gasp, and choke hold the listening and noticing, my own version of duct tape and string.