June 20, 2006

Eve of the Solstice

It's the last week of school for my boys, the beginning of summer. Boy in Black and his friends graduate this weekend. Shaggy Hair, Blonde Niece, and Skater Boy took their last Statewide Exam this morning. With-a-Why went this morning to his very last school picnic at the small neighborhood school that has been so wonderful for this shy smart child. In the fall, he will go to the big public school, where he will be one of hundreds of children in his grade.

All the spring concerts and piano recitals are over for the year. I've been going to concerts at With-a-Why's school since the early 1960s, since it is the elementary school I attended, and I admit I felt nostalgic as I sat on the bleachers for one last time, watching the kids pull back the worn green curtains. That old brick building, with its big windows full of sunshine, holds so many warm childhood memories for me.

I took With-a-Why to an eye appointment this afternoon – to get the kid contact lenses so he won’t have to look like Harry Potter any more. Because he was worn out from running around at his picnic, he actually sprawled onto my lap in the waiting room, his head cushioned against me, and fell asleep. I looked down at his long black eyelashes and long dangling legs. I know he won't fit on my lap much longer.

When we returned home, I found Boy in Black at the piano, playing and singing a Leonard Cohen song.

And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah


I listened to his deep voice draw out the words: "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah."

When he noticed me standing there listening, he looked up. "Bob Dylan covered this song," he explained. "And the Rufus Wainwright version is pretty popular too because it was in the movie Shrek."

I cannot explain why it happens but certain songs get into my head. For the rest of my life, when I hear that song, I will remember this day on the edge of summer, with sunlight reaching through the windows to touch my son at the piano, my daughter sitting on the stairs tying her running shoes and leaning close to confide in me, the rest of the boys out on the basketball court tossing a ball around -- all of my children living here in my home, safe and carefree, with options still spread before them like dandelions on a spring lawn.

29 comments:

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Thanks for this, jo(e). Your blog is an antidote to all the ... all the crap out there. I can't get that Madras kid out of my head. How will his parents keep on living?

jo(e) said...

I know, Jennifer. It's awful. One kid here came home safely from Iraq -- and then committed suicide a few days later. These are just KIDS we are sending over there. I just can't stand it.

I don't know how a parent could recover from that kind of thing.

Autumn said...

I too have songs and words and phrase and even smells that do that to me.

Thank you for sharing this, it made me tear up.

jayfish said...

let boy in black know jeff buckley did a much better job than rufus...

Phantom Scribbler said...

We were listening to the Rufus Wainwright version right around the time that you posted.

BeachMama said...

What a perfect way to start the summer.

Scrivener said...

I've been listening to different versions of that song a bunch recently. Here is an awfully good collection of versions of it. Buckley's version, of course, is fantastic. For unknown musicians, Arooj Aftab does a very nice job with it too.

MindSpin said...

If I could have only two songs in all the world (a silly thought), I'd want "Hallelujah" and "Dance Me to the End of Love." Those two. You have a beautiful family, and your family has a beautiful mother.

landismom said...

Beautiful post, though I am one of those people who only knows the Shrek version.

jo(e) said...

Thanks for the link, Scrivener. I was putting With-a-Why to bed, and had just opened my laptop for a minute while he was brushing his teeth, and saw your comment. So then while he was snuggling in the bed next to me, we listened to a whole bunch of different versions. Boy in Black heard us and came in to sprawl across the bed and listen with us, offering his comments on the different versions. I had never heard the Dylan version before. I loved the Buckley version and so did Boy in Black, but he says he is still partial to the Rufus Wainwright version. I of course am still partial to the Boy in Black version.

Yankee T said...

I love how you love your kids. And how you write.

zelda1 said...

It's bitter sweet, that growing up. I remember when my children out grew sitting in my lap, when I couldn't lift them and carry them and when I tucked them in at night the good night kiss went from lips and hugs, to cheeks and then to pecks and then to oh mom. Now with the Baby I enjoy every single day as if it will be the last and truthfully it will be, he will never peepee in the potty for the first time again or pet a frog for the first time, or hold a cricket for the first time. It amazes me how much he enjoys those little things. It's those moments in time that through songs or smells or colors will always be there to relive. That's what makes living worth while, that and chocolate.

gracie said...

That is priceless. The moments captured, tucked away... treasured. Hallelujah.
(found you thanks to bobbie!)

kate5kiwis said...

all those Beautiful Moments was the reason i think i kept having babies.. and you write about motherhood so beautifully, jo(e).
i just got a hug from my M4 with the exclamation, "Oh mummy, you are so loving and beeeee-au-ti-ful."

kate5kiwis said...

(but wait, there's more..)
wow, though, that hallelujah song. i think i woulda burst into tears, hearing one of my lads singing that.

Pink Cupcake said...

So beautiful...

Poor Mad Peter said...

"Hallelujah"--in Canada, we also treasure the K.D.Lang version. Funny that it cleans the clock of almost all the mainline church hymnody out there, it says so much, so powerfully.

Our 15-year-old cleaned out her locker yesterday and enumerated for me her findings. It was like listening to an archeological enumeration of a particular site. The clock runs inexorably forward, but don't we wish we could just freeze it--just for a second--and savour those moments with our children, of our children.

Summer begins, and the flow of time becomes a torrent toward the fall.

Happy Solstice, Jo(e).

cloudscome said...

Beautiful... those precious moments. Thank God they keep coming, even when the kids get bigger and bigger...

Jane Dark said...

Hey, speaking of music and Boy in Black, whatever happened to his White Stripes concert wristband? I was assuming we'd hear more about it come graduation...

Mona Buonanotte said...

Jeff Buckley's version just ran through my head and simultaneously gave me goosebumps and teary eyes.

I just hung Girl-child's kindergarten graduation certificate on her bedroom wall, and got a sharp pang in my heart, 'cause I know soon it'll be overtaken with pictures of boy band boys and Escher prints and posters of Europe.

9-year old Boy-child sprawled in my lap last night in the ER, and I instantly felt like a new mother again. Love that!

Sally said...

My youngest leave High School next year, my oldest son has just applied for a job in London, and oldest Daughter graduates University next week with a Bachelors degree in Music, she is palnning her Masters!
And I feel like I am still learning what it is to be a parent!

Teri said...

You capture moments so well, jo(e)!

jo(e) said...

Jane: The White Stripes wrist band did not survive the trip to Florida that Boy in Black took in February. It seemd like being valedictorian is easier to achieve than keeping a wristband on for months and months.

Honeybee said...

The youngest of my sibs, my little brother, is the same age as Boy In Black. His is the only high school graduation I will miss, as I'm 3000 miles away.

That song is haunting. I was surprised that it was in something silly like Shrek, and that was the first time I'd heard it. Now I really must download it. Gives me chills every time. Definitely going to hit up Scrivener's link.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

The song's being going over in my head since I read your post.

KathyR said...

I do like that song (and L. Cohen in general -- see the name of my blog), but I have to say that I thought it horribly misplaced in Shrek. What a weird choice.

Lisa C. said...

I love that song, too. What a beautiful moment for you....

MonkeyPants said...

What a fabulous post, what a fabulous song. Thank you.

Songbird said...

Lovely, lovely. I don't have as much history with our neighborhood school, but I did feel wistful at that last event after 15 years of connection.
I'm with Kathy on the Shrek placement, although I do like Rufus Wainwright's singing. It's such a great song; it always pleases me to contrast Leonard Cohen's sound with the various covers of his work.