When I woke up this morning a couple of things occurred to me. It actually happened in this order:
Sam is here, sleeping across the hall, at my folks' house.
He came here without his car; he came down from Burlington with me.
Sam left the weekend party scene in Burlington (where he lives in an apartment with two friends) and came here to be with his family because it's his grandmother's birthday. He came here for a quiet weekend with us -- to go to church tomorrow morning and to honor his Nana.
Sam is 20 and he's leaving for school this fall. He took two full years after he graduated from high school to work. And he's worked hard all this time: as a commercial window washer, often getting up before the sun and washing windows all day. There is some glamour to the work, when he's dangling like a superhero from a tall building. There is also a certain grace to what he does, as one of the other guys on the crew moves him across and down a building from the safety apparatus on the roof. But mostly it's just hard and often tedious work. In the winters Sam worked at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, parking cars and hauling guests' luggage to their room. Two years of physical labor. Not a bad idea for a high school graduate with little or no idea about what to do with his life. Not a bad idea for anyone, actually.
During this time, I think it's safe to say, Sam has learned how to be diligent, respectful and punctual; how to power through demanding situations and how to take directions. He has come to be almost entirely self-sufficient. He pays his bills, makes his appointments and keeps them and grocery shops for himself. I'm pretty proud of who Sam has become. Despite an upbringing of relative privilege and ease, Sam has no attitude, no sense that the world is supposed to give him anything. He's not angry about anything and he's not addicted to anything; he is here with us this weekend because he loves his grandmother.
Last night I had one of those perfect Mom moments. I was sitting on the couch with all three of my kids: Sam on my left and Coco and Nate on my right. If you know anything about my life, you know this isn't an easy thing for us to achieve. We watched hockey. Coco's cousin, Ben, plays for the Penguins, so we're especially enthusiastic during playoff season. We sat together watching a hockey game.
All three of my kids sitting on the couch with me on a Friday night. I am so grateful that that is my bliss.
We had just had a late dinner and some birthday pie for Nanny. Nate caught us up on his trip to Montana. He learned earlier in the day that he had gotten into the Honors College at Montana State, and he smiled the sweetest smile as he told me about walking out the door in the morning in Bozeman and "seeing all these huge mountains." He told me how he had talked to engineering students there and how everyone had a bike. Clearly he loved it and is Montana-bound later this summer.
And Sam is ready to go, too. To other mountains out west. His decision came from him alone, when he was ready, to go to Sierra Nevada in Lake Tahoe to study ski area management. They're leaving, these boys. Their horizons expanding infinitely, they are going soon, to see what the world has in store for them. They want to learn things and see things and do new things. I can't believe we have arrived here and that they're leaving at the same time, but I can believe that they've chosen places with mountains and lots of other people who love mountains. I wonder, naturally, if they'll come back to Vermont. "Of course I will," said Sam at dinner last night, "there's no other place BUT Vermont."
Who are these young men and where did they come from? How did we make it through the Sturm und Drang of two divorces and a bunch of upheaval without losing our way? With our heads on straight and our hearts in alignment? How did it come to be that we could all sit at the dinner table, without one single f-ing cellphone in sight, and be happy talking and laughing? What great God is this that presides in and around our lives so that we are all OK? So that we are all happy sitting around Nanny's table eating pie on a Friday night, together?
I don't know. I really don't know, but it breaks my heart every day, the immense beauty of the smallest moments and gestures: how much we love each other and how gorgeous the world is and how great the pie tastes. All of it.