I am approaching a season of endings. Or rather, the endings have already begun, mostly in the area of my parenting life. In less than a month, my elder son will graduate from high school and his younger brother will finish middle school. Instead of a summer filled with camp, Boy Scout projects and events, and a family vacation, there will be summer jobs, and an orientation visit, and me working more hours than I usually do in the "off-season" (tuition bills take no holiday!)
In August, the first one starts college in another state, and the second heads to an out-of-town high school, boarding a train each morning as his brother did. And I'll begin…worrying, making adjustments, crying a little, praying a lot, planning, and feeling as if the earth has tilted.
But first, and all along the way, I am taking notes.
Now you know why I am talking about this on my writing site.
Isn't that what all personal essayists and memoir writers do when life shifts, when things end, when things begin? In between the adjusting, crying, worrying, changing, shifting, praying, feeling nostalgic and maybe regretful and certainly grateful and hopeful?
We take notes.
We observe – ourselves and others. We listen.
And we sneak off and write it down. You know, in all those little notebooks we squirrel away – in purses, briefcases, backpacks, cars, laundry rooms, kitchens, bedside tables, gym bags, desk drawers.
You do stash tiny notebooks everywhere, don't you?
Or we send ourselves a text, an email, a voice message if no notebook is available. Or we scribble on receipts, soccer schedules, pizza menus, deposit slips, coupons, junk mail envelopes.
I do, anyway.
We write it down. Or, we forget. Nonfiction writers don't want to forget, because when we forget, if we forget, we are sunk.
We write nonfiction, after all, because we don't forget, and because it's in the not forgetting that we find meaning. Or at least, we try to.
And so, as I begin to stockpile dorm room necessities in big plastic storage tubs, I'll be taking notes. When I have a moment in between the graduation ceremony and the family lunch, I'll be taking notes. If either or both sons sit at the kitchen counter and leaf through their yearbooks with me, I'll disappear right after and take notes. After my husband and I drive away from the college campus, and after we wave goodbye to a departing train, I'll be taking notes.
Better get a new pen with ink that doesn't run.
Update: I wrote this last week and scheduled it to automatically post this morning. Yesterday I got the ultimate call about endings: My mother passed away at age 86. In the last four years, she had four heart attacks, a stroke, and was suffering from kidney disease and congestive heart failure. I wasn't there at the end. Not long after I got the news, I immediately thought of a writer who once wrote about sitting at her dying mother's bedside, and her mother, knowing how much her daughter was comforted and sustained by writing about life's seminal moments, told her daughter, kindly, "take notes." I can't remember right now