The Newlyweds

Banking left, in swoops and glides, He silently settles on the right most branch next to his mate. He’s brought another nest offering, a twig larger than his wingspan, and plops it atop their cloud-height home. She looks at him over her shoulder, with a cockeyed crane of her white neck as if waiting for this one to drop, too. But somehow it stays, wedged at an awkward angle. He stands on it, opens his wings and lifts his beak. Success.

At the base of our front yard pine there are dozens upon dozens of such twigs and sticks from the previous nest attempts. My husband and I have determined that our new yard mates, and national treasures, are most likely newlyweds. Only an ignorant young couple would attempt to make a home mid-windstorm one day and mid-spring snowstorm the next, and not get the hint. Or maybe they are just extremely determined, under a time crunch and she is ready to plop out their next generation.

I’ve googled these creatures, who have made their new abode right above our bedroom window, pooped on our front stoop and rooftop, and dropped rabbit carcasses in our side yard. I have emailed the raptor center at the University of Minnesota in complete concern of the fact that in less than 2 months we will be having a hundred people in our yard for my son’s grad party, and although I know pigeons in Rome have “good-luck” excrement, what about Minnesotan bald eagles? I picture putting a “poop guard” under our front tree — and handing out slickers (blue and gold, of course) to everyone as party favors. But will our guests appreciate the fact that the school’s mascot might bring fresh meat to our BBQ?

I discovered there are laws in place that might keep us from doing anything to scare these lovely creatures from leaving their nest once they settle. So we may not be able to get our storm-damaged fence fixed and our new patio paved before June, or blast our son’s favorite music over the loud speaker for the inevitable dance mob of seniors, if they drop eggs first. Eagles mate for life, live for around 28 years, and return to raise their children every spring after their winter stay in the Mississippi River Valley. These new neighbors of ours, and this Discovery Channel reality show, might out-live my husband and me.

So it’s a love, not-so-much love, relationship.

When I was little, I coveted visits to the Montanan mountains where my mom grew up and vacations in the Tetons with my family. We’d take raft trips down the Yellowstone, peering through binoculars in search of uncommon wildlife. Awestruck, we’d find a rare eagle’s nest in the trees along the river banks and watch the beautiful creatures come and go like ethereal ghosts from the Wild, Wild West. Last summer, my husband and I discovered that the area around our lake had such beauties. They’d circle overhead and dive the water’s surface in the summer and scoop up fish, or duck, like a National Geographic special. It was rumored that for decades an eagle pair and its extended family have nested in the neighborhood north and only occasionally dined on our waterfront.

I blame my husband for changing the natural order of things.

We are a pet-less family, and since we moved into our new home a year and a half ago, he’s been feeding all the squirrels with handfuls of grain and cobs of corn secured on special “squirrel” tree seats so they can eat in style. He has embraced our suburban lake home with the enthusiasm of St. Francis. He also fed the geese kibbutz and the flock of ducks that took over our lawn last summer. So why wouldn’t the eagles relocate to where the buffet was?

I had a talk with them today, He and She. Yes, I realize we will probably have to name them soon. I told them of my concerns over their messiness, and scolded them at their careless nest making. Being a parent, I worry for their offspring. I fantasize faceting a special eagle “bin” and training them to poop and drop their meal remains in something I can discard with our weekly garbage. Yes, I know this is highly unlikely.

My husband just sent me the emailed plans for our new patio, the paver design, the depth of soil to be dug out by diggers. Perhaps the newlyweds will appreciate our attempts at “fancifying”our home, maybe they will stay even when the fence pounding starts, the cement is poured and the fire pit gets delivered. And maybe, their ultimate plan is to hang out with us on summer nights and listen to John Mayer over my son’s bluetooth speaker and watch the fading sunsets.

Graduating Me

Both my children are graduating this coming June. My son, basketball captain and student body president, and his petite older sister with Down syndrome and hearing loss will don on their caps and gowns, walk the stage and receive their final high school diplomas only one week apart. And I have already started practicing. I’ve practiced multiple scenarios: surviving the ceremonies without meltdowns, bestowing words of wisdom on my son, and prayers to ease my daughter’s fear of attention. But since I get misty whenever I receive emails from my son’s counselor about the upcoming Senior Breakfast, and panic with notice from my daughter’s social worker on Adult Day Programming options, I am certain I will not live through the next few months.

Certainly, as a mom I knew this was coming. It was an inevitable part of this mothering journey. But to have two at once, and such different circumstances, I can hardly process my thoughts from moment to moment. Such pride, oh my son, his multiple successes, servant-leader heart, the offers of scholarships from colleges, so many choices before him. And my daughter, her innocent unknowingness, my fear of what the big world will do to her shy nature and her non-verbal voice. One child will be catapulted into a world of possibilities while I search to find even one possibility for the other. Joy, pathos…yep.

My husband and I visit campuses with my son, talk dorms and celiac-friendly cafeterias, and dread the loss of him living across the hall. All the while, I reject day program after day program (none offer sign language para support) and contemplate the potential permanency of my daughter by my side day in and day out. Then I wake from dreams of me, disappearing.

I’ve been one woman the past 21 years, since my Sarah came into this world, and another when Jacob entered nearly three after that. I’ve worn the motherhood cloak like a second skin, it was natural, warrior-like in its armor, if a little tattered and haphazardly fashioned. I really believe to the core of who I am, that I was meant to be a mom. From the days of lining up all my dolls on the couch and naming each one, it was my destiny. So when motherhood usurped my dance career and changed my personal goals, I was able to justify the loss of the “me” before. But now, when I see my role as mother change completely, I can hardly breathe.

No longer are the daily lunch bags, uniform washings, coercing my kids awake and out the door, counselor meetings and homework reminders. No more are the days where I know my daughter is safe and tended to, familiarity of staff and texts from teachers that truly care, safe bus drivers, educational plans that just might get Sarah to communicate in full sentences, someday. Now, Jacob will write his papers late at night alone, and Sarah will only learn something if I teach her.

After a senior parent meeting last fall, where we were guided on the steps toward my son’s graduation day (the deadlines for yearbook photos and parent dedications, and the importance of encouraging a tame senior skip day), I joked with the principal that they should provide therapy for us “graduating moms”. There were at least four of us who had our last kid graduating and then the umbilical chord to school life would be severed. What were we to do without months of basketball games and the seasonal band concert, quarterly parent-teacher communication and possibilities of snow days. How could we survive without weekly News Notes and planning for the next parent volunteer event.

It’s not a completely self-absorbed thing to assert that, come June, I will be forced to graduate. Yet, I will not don a cap with a gold tassel – or move it from one metaphorical side to the other. No certificate will be placed in my hand and no one will shake the other. Definitely no photo of me will be put on the mantle, showing my motherly accomplishment of the past two decades. Yet as I break down in sobs twice in one week, smearing my makeup with tissues, I will remember that as I get tossed out into the real world that the valedictorian’s well-planned speech will be talking to me, too.