Summer is winding down. I am in denial. Still, I can't ignore the familiar pleasant feelings of late August: the evening breeze that turns heavy and cool, with islands of white masses moving swifter than usual through a darkening blue sky.
Isaac and I stood outside in the driveway last night watching the clouds open and close like stage curtains. Every now and again we would see flashes of bright stars, and then the "curtains" would close and we would patiently wait.
I looked at Isaac as he stared at the sky. In a moment's time I replayed his growth in time-lapse through my mind's eye: a newborn, full of potential, the future broad and gleaming...a toddler, hitting every milestone, a joy...2 1/2, throwing all into reverse and feeling like starting over, only with questions unanswerable, fears mounting, language crumbling, inside ourselves and beside ourselves...preschool, with hope again--with tenacity, with grace, with tireless focus on goals as a team...grade school, progress that has no words to describe, and set-backs that seemed to crack the foundations of what we have done thus far...repairing cracks and building, stronger. I flashed back to the driveway, coming to with a tug on my arm from the 8 year old boy going into 3rd grade beside me, jumping up and down.
I pulled him close to me and he smiled with his tight-lipped smile that has replaced his broad toothy grin. I noticed how tall he had grown in the past couple of months, and for a split second, I saw into the future...
A young man, much taller than his Momma, with azure baby blues that bounced when he talked: busy hands shifting in his pockets, feet shuffling back and forth as he runs a hand through his disheveled hair. His clothes match and are correct for the season, thank God. He smiles that tight-lipped smile, only with a face that no longer has the look of a little boy. He hugs me and my head rests against his chest. He loves the smell of coffee, but doesn't drink any with me. He chooses Root Beer. We have a conversation on a topic of his choosing, and I listen and watch in amazement...like I am watching the skies open to reveal a stage of shining stars, and the most brilliant one is telling me one of his many adventures.
"Mom, can we let the balloon go now?" I snap back to the present. Earlier that day, Isaac and I had taken a "date" for frozen yogurt and then stopped at the Dollar Store for a couple of last minute back to school items. I had let him buy a plastic Orca Whale for the bathtub, and a yellow smiley faced balloon. "Are you sure you want to let your balloon go, Boo?" I made sure to ask because often, I need to remind Isaac of the next step in his decision. "Once you let it go, it's not coming back, remember..." Isaac looked at me in the dim light of the evening, and with a serious face and non-chalant voice he said, "I know, Mom."
The wind had picked up, and deeper, darker clouds were flying in overhead. I waited for Isaac to let the balloon go. This was unusual for him. He didn't like to let things go. Broken toys, even deflated balloons that had sat, undisturbed in the playroom for weeks and had sadly shriveled up weren't to be thrown away.
I joined Isaac in a dramatic countdown: "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!" Without hesitation, he launched the balloon into the navy sky. We watched it elevate until it was a black speck in the distance. We talked about how it might travel over the ocean, or hopefully, to another state. Then, as the balloon was almost invisible Isaac sighed and said, "Have fun on your journey, balloon. Your eyes were creepy anyway."
I laughed outloud, and Isaac turned to me with a serious face, "It's true, Mom, I didn't tell you, but that smiley face made me nervous. I only bought it because you liked it so much, and well, because the string got tangled around my Orca's tail in the store."
I admire my son's ability to hold onto the things that matter--to be cherished and enjoyed. I also admire his truth, to a fault, because I saw that evening in our driveway, that he can love outside of himself. He can give and take without being caught up in selfishness. He also is very, very good at wanting to please others, but still knowing when to draw the line in what makes him uncomfortable. Isaac has a gift for being authentic.
We had a great day. But as the clouds rolled in for the final curtain-call of the night sky, Isaac and I raced to the back door, giggling.
Clouds or stars; the stage of life is full.