Preparing to Launch
It’s 8:22pm on a Monday evening and I was resting my eyes on the couch (okay fine, I was taking a nap) as my husband practiced the piano. As he worked through various passages of a highly challenging piece, the sharp pangs of multiple flats pierced my heart. This wasn’t for his choir pieces at school where he teaches. He was practicing for our son Ben’s college audition. He’ll primarily be applying to the Berklee College of Music and our alma mater, Belmont University. His first choice is Berklee. I was roused from my catnap by the sudden urge to write through the flood of feelings I am experiencing (often) as I prepare to launch my firstborn from the nest in less than a year.
I’ve been hyper-aware that every moment is a moment I may not remember, and so I must cherish each one in its time. They say the nights are long, but the years are fast, and when my baby boy was small enough to be snuggled tightly in my arms, I remember thinking, “yes, but these nights are so long.” It seemed years would never pass. But pass they did and 17 and a half years, one month, and 12 days later, here we are.
Earlier today I heard Ben practicing his scales on his alto saxophone. Tonight, his father practices the accompany part as if it were his own audition. I began to imagine the scene in the audition room. Ben would introduce his father as his accompaniment partner. I wonder if they might be impressed that father and son can play so magnificently together. I smile to myself as Ben has now joined in the practicing, and it’s truly a magnificent sound.
Before our children were born, we asked all those fun questions – “you think he’ll take after us and get into music?” People asked us if we’d be upset if we didn’t have musicians in the family. Such a ludicrous question to ask. Of course not. We’d be so proud of the hobbies and gifts our children had even if music wasn’t among them, just as we are of our other children who don’t share the same level of enthusiasm for music. But now that we have an amazing young musician to share these passions with, I can only tell you it is a joy unlike any other. But not because it’s what we also do, although that certainly has some sway in our feelings. It’s because he has worked so hard for so long to come as far as he has. He found something he loved at an early age in the 4th grade thanks to an introduction to band instruments, and he pursued it with the vigor and loyalty we have come to appreciate about our firstborn. Ben is nothing if not passionate and loyal, and his music demonstrates these qualities even in practice. I absolutely love watching him blossom as a musician.
What makes my heart twinge is realizing these gifts will soon be leaving my home. I only have maybe 10-11 more months to have a TV show interrupted with the singing of his saxophone drifting down the stairs from his studio he created in our guest bedroom. Less than a year to be serenaded while we set the table for dinner. Only the blink of an eye before he latches his saxophone it its leather case one last time, not to head to band practice or to put it away like I’ve been telling him to do for three days now, but to permanently set off for a new adventure. Sure, he’ll be home for college breaks, but it won’t be the same. It’ll be the end of an era.
I’m not ready. I have what seems to be all this time to prepare these next several months, and it’s not enough.
I feel now as if someone is surgically removing my heart, one incision at a time. One cut here tonight listening to him practice for his college audition. Another cut tomorrow when he says something funny, and we laugh together. And more and more cuts, deeper and deeper as we escort him onto the field for senior night, or he performs in the musical at school, or we have silly arguments at the dinner table, or learns of his college acceptance, or he finally walks across a stage to accept his hard-earned diploma. Little by little, time is slipping away quietly and painfully but quickly, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Except to enjoy the moments. Moments with laughter that hurt so much that I can’t breathe. Moments with (his) snarky comments and (our) raised eyebrows. Enjoying his guacamole on Taco Tuesday because he seriously makes the best guac. These are the moments that happen while the second-hand gently ticks by.
The thing is, I really like him. I’ve talked to all kinds of parents over the years, and frankly, not everyone truly enjoys their kid. If Benjamin weren’t my son, I’m pretty sure I would want to be his friend. I’d want to hang out with him. It’s just a bonus that, for now, I still get to tell him what to do… and pay for all his stuff. But really, I love just being with him. His presence in our house is unique, as is that of each of our children. But they’ll get their own blog post one day. Whenever he’s not here, the dynamic changes, though not in a bad way. It’s just different. It’ll be hard to get used to on a regular basis. So sometimes when he’s at band practice or galivanting with friends while the rest of the four of us instead of five are eating dinner together, I imagine that’s what it’ll be like. And my wounded heart kind of jumps a bit.
“Not yet,” it whispers. “Please… just not yet.”