5/12/14

Closing Time: Saying Goodbye To My Daughter's Childhood

Closing Time.

Despite the fact that it's been played billions of times and on countless shows and movies (remember when it was on Friends?), it remains one of my favorite songs, sung by one of my favorite singers. Dan Wilson wrote the words and they have been bouncing around inside my head for fifteen years...they've "fit" a few situations but perhaps never as achingly well as they do right now:

Closing time, open all the doors,
 And let you out into the world,
 Closing time, turn all of the lights on,
 Over every boy and every girl.

My daughter, Molly, has less than a month left before she's done with high school. I'm just beginning to feel the pangs of graduation party psychosis (warning: don't go to Pinterest for grad party ideas unless you are comfortable being in the fetal position for several hours at a time). We've ordered her yearbook, paid her senior fees.

She was accepted into the college she really wanted to attend (she only applied to two, so, phew). The housing deposit has been sent and cashed, financial aid forms filled out and the mental list of "stuff she'll need for the dorm room" is already taking up way too much real estate in my crowded brain.

On a recent Saturday night, she and I hung out together. We were at home, along with two of the boys, which in and of itself is a rarity. That weird stage of life has begun, the one where I often find myself with a quiet house, all my babies scattered hither and yon with their friends. So to have not one, but three of the chicks safely ensconced in the nest was a warm and sweet surprise.

Sweeter, though, and more surprising, was where Molly ended up that night. Not holed up in her room, listening to music or reading or texting her friends, but out in the living room. On the couch. Next to me.

"I'm freezing. Are you cold?" I asked her.
"Kind of. Should I go get my pink blanket?" she replied.

The pink blanket was a favorite Target clearance purchase from several years back. From the esteemed "Shabby Chic" collection, it's like a giant grown up version of a child's security blanket: heavy, pillowy-soft, with satin edging. She brought it out from her room, and proceeded to lay down next to me...practically on top of me, pulling the blanket over both of us. We lay there like that for quite a while, me not saying a word lest I break the spell, that magical moment where it wasn't teen vs mom or daughter tolerating mother: it was me and my girl, cuddling together. Like we used to when she was little and things like college and dorms and FAFSA forms were foreign and so far away.

She isn't my first child to step out of one world, the world of high school, and into a new one. Her older brother, Charlie, made the leap two years ago. And yes, I did just as much looking back with watery eyes then as I'm doing now. But like Charlie is wont to do, he did it in his own special way. He chose to approach college in a different manner, and is knocking out all of the humdrum prerequisites at the community college downtown. He lives here at home, does his homework and is diligently racking up credits. He'll transfer to the big state university here in Minneapolis next year, without any debt and with almost half of the credits he'll need for his degree. He's a smart one, that kid.

But he didn't leave. I think that's the biggie here, the thing that stings. The thing that fills me with so much excitement and at the same time, with so much wistfulness. I still see Charlie every day. Hear his voice, make him meals, nag him about leaving his giant shoes everywhere.

Molly, though....she's leaving. I've seen her pretty much every day of her life. Watched her grow from a fuzzy headed baby to a strong-willed toddler to a shy kindergartner to a tall, funny and self-confident young woman. I know when she's at work and when she's out with friends, I remind her over and over again to not leave her hair on the walls of the shower, I make her favorite dinner because there are some days a girl just needs curry chicken. She's been my little girl for so long, the only other she in a house full of he.

I'm going to miss having her here.

You have these babies, you see, and for a long time all you do is raise them. And then one day, you wake up and realize:

They're raised. You get those 18 years with them, which at first seems like a freaking eternity but, when you get to the end, seems to be nothing more than a wink in time.

Eighteen years to teach them right from wrong, how to bounce back from bad times, how to make friends and hopefully how to keep friends. How to make change, how to deposit checks, how to write an essay and how to cut vegetables. How to scrub a toilet and fold a fitted sheet (okay, the toilet yes but gahh not the fitted sheet). How to keep promises and tell the truth and be kind and not mean.

Then it's over and you're left with piles of photos, a room that's eerily empty, leftover graduation party cake and a knot in your stomach that is comprised of joy and worry. You pray that you did your job well, and that the young adult you're sending out into the wilds of the world won't be a terrible roommate or a crappy friend or the kid barfing in the bushes at a kegger. You hope that they listened to your lectures but also heard your laughter. You wish that they find life and all of its messiness to be good and somewhat pleasant and please oh please not too scary.

So gather up your jackets, move it to the exits,
I hope you have found a friend,
Closing time, every new beginning,
Comes from some other beginning's end.


Rumor has it that Mr. Wilson wrote Closing Time in anticipation of his impending fatherhood, which makes lovely sense when you read the lyrics.

But I think it works just as well for those of us who are letting our boys and girls out into the world as the closing time of childhood quickly approaches.














22 comments:

  1. Love this! My son is turning nine this summer and I still mourn for the toddler years. I know that college will be here in no time!

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    1. Thanks Kelly! Good news, and bad news: yes college will be here before you know it. But some of those years between then and now go pretty slowly ;) BTW, 9-13 are absolutely magical boy years. RELISH THEM. (14 and up are fine, too. They just roll their eyes at you a lot more).

      Thank you so much for reading!

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  2. Jenny, you are absolutely freaking KILLING me. (And also proving me right about what I said about your awesome kids.)

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    1. Aww thanks, girl. And yes. These kids are pretty damn awesome. Thank you!

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  3. Jenny - I think you and I were telepathically connected this week, for I wrote a blog of a very similar nature. Your tribute to your daughter was beautiful! I have one child, a daughter, who is 2 years away from college, and I am dreading it! If you have a free moment, I hope you'll take a look and my "daughter don't leave me" blog this week. So glad I found your blog, All the best! Lisa http://www.themixedupbrains.com/2014/05/you-cant-go-to-disney-without-me-three.html

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    Replies
    1. Lisa! YES. I read your post and you are correct. How funny! Must be something in the air this time of year ;)

      Thank you so much for reading, and for taking the time to say hello. I am enjoying your blog.

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  4. DW did write this about his daughter's impending birth, as well as about last call. Also about the end of the time of last call and the beginning of nights at home. I like the idea of this played out writ large for every transition in life. Thanks Jenny.

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    1. Hey, if you are as emotional and cuckoo as I am, pretty much any song can be molded to fit any transition in life. For instance, I was about to call this post "Blurred Lines: Saying Goodbye To My Daughter's Childhood" but DW won out. Eww. I just gave myself a case of the Robick Icky creeps.

      Thank you for reading, and for confirming the rumor ;)

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  5. When they leave, I always feel as if this huge GAME OVER sign is flashing in front of me. That's it? Wait, I'm not done yet.

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    1. AUGH. YES! Game Over. Now that would make a great title...hint, hint, SC.

      Are we ever done? I guess according to them, we are. But it probably never ends for us.

      Thank you for reading!

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  6. Dreading my first baby leaving in two years. Good post, Mama.

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    1. Thank you, Mama. I'm going to need someone to hold me come August.

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  7. I'm right there with you lady. The song that does it for me is Landslide.

    "You get those 18 years with them, which at first seems like a freaking eternity but, when you get to the end, seems to be nothing more than a wink in time." <-- exactly right!

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    1. OMG. I cannot even LISTEN to that song anymore. Nope!

      "Well I've been afraid of changing, cause I've built my life around you. But time makes you bolder, even children get older (INSERT SOBBING SOUNDS HERE)..I'm getting older, too"

      Damn you Stevie Nicks.

      Thanks for reading, friend :)

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  8. (insert guttural sob of happiness right here!!) Jenny you have done so well!!! I NEVER would have graduated college if it was left up to my mother. My (our??) HS Guidance Counselor Paul Peterson filled out all of my financial aid forms with me. I had some motivation but was lacking in the MOM department...that guy gave me the courage to just TRY. Reading this post made me soooo happy. You have made it OK to struggle. You have made it OK to be poor....You have shown the upswing. The sun DOES come out tomorrow!!

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    1. Well thanks for making me cry at 5:58 a.m., Beth! Ha..I didn't have Paul, it was some other guy. He suggested I work retail (insert Debbie Downer music here). Maybe I should have had Paul!

      The sun does indeed come out. I'm so sorry you didn't have the support you needed at home. I feel the same way. Maybe that's why I try so hard with my kids. And why Gigi is so well taken care of ;)

      Thank you for this lovely comment.

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  9. Oh Jenny you're killing me. I shouldn't be crying this early in the morning. I haven't even had my coffee yet. <3

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  10. I'm fully convinced that NO ONE knows how to fold a fitted sheet. If they do, they have way too much time on their hands.

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  11. This was so moving. I will think about it when I'm whining a bit (in my head) during the bedtime routine tomorrow. I'm serious.

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  12. Wonderfully written. I bet Jeff will be a Charlie (home at least the first couple of years). I am preparing to be completely wrong, though, just in case.

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  13. This, oh God, *this* perfectly captures where my family is.

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  14. My kids are 7 and 10 and I already think ahead to the bittersweet time when they move on to the next stage in their lives. Beautiful post Jenny. Congratulations to your daughter and to her momma for doing such a wonderful job raising her. Hugs to you. I'm going to wipe my tears now and go hug my kiddos.

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