These foolish things remind me of you

What hits you first is the silence.

There are different qualities of silence. And the silence of absence has a hollowness about it. An emptiness. An absence of life, an absence of movement, of noise and Mickey Mouse voices and disorder… of mess… of unending impingements on one’s wavering line of concentration, on one’s ongoing efforts of adulting and housekeeping and parenting.

The living room floor is eerily empty, save for a spare school packing list, lying forlornly on its own, unneeded.

Each boy had close to a hundred separate items, to be procured, labelled, and packed in various receptacles.

Until this morning it looked like a bomb site, albeit in various decreasing degrees of entropy. And all that – is suddenly, markedly, no. longer. there.

I’ve read other accounts of grief – I’ve just started Sheryl Sandberg’s Option B – that bear the same trajectory. All this activity; a milestone; then the conspicuous silence, of cessation.

Who says silence isn’t loud?

Letting go was always going to be hard.

I watched them both this morning, having breakfast in the same empty kitchen I was now standing in. First time I laid eyes on Conrad in his new uniform, gleaming. Blake had laid it out for him the night before, next to his own. Both sported smart new haircuts. I sat across them both, sipped my tea, looked from one to the other and back again.

“You boys look so smart.”

“Finally, Mama!” Blake and his figures of speech. “Conrad is starting to grow into a man.”


I’ll post pics from the dropoff later. They were so happy to be driving down the now-familiar country path to Cothill. “Great, they’ve put the goals up! Football season is OPEN!” Both sighed sighs of excitement. A sea of cars, people marching purposefully or ambling by, a few faces starting to get familiar to me, two of Blake’s best friends are welcomed with a smile from all of us. New teachers, classrooms, dorms. Conrad and Blake have happily been placed next to each other – both dorms and classrooms. They will be there for each other. (“Of course we will, Papa;” said Conrad on the way up. “We’re brothers!” πŸ’ž Not a given. To hear him say so with such self-evidentiality is manna for his mother’s soul.)

Right now, it’s me, surrounded by the fluffies they had left behind, drained from all that activity and prep, nine long weeks of summer, all the goodbyeing and sharing of long tight hugs already from the past weeks. Seraphine is all back to chipper equilibrium now; but this morning saying goodbye her face was like a little cherry red with tears.

For me it was the coming back to an empty house. The abandoned list, the bermudas hanging dry that Conrad wore all summer.

The football boots that were the only thing out of all that which I forgot to bring, which I’ll have to post tomorrow. The box of laundry spilling over with the kids’ weekend clothes, normally just another chore, now loud with resonance. Holidays over; era over; there will be no more of these for a while, now. And, over the years, the trousers get longer, as does the unseen cord that stretches from mother’s heart to child’s.

For this, for now, though, for the happiness and adventure and growth and goodness that lie ahead of them – this is a good loss. A beautiful grief.

Eudaimonia. These lie at the heart of life’s meaning itself. I don’t just believe this. I know this.

The song that floated into me, while looking at these things suddenly made poignant by their wearers’ absence, was “These Foolish Things”.

Recorded in my empty kitchen, needless to say raw and unprepped. As always, for me – music is a balm.

And though the song attests to the loss of a romantic love, the sentiment spoke clearly enough to me anyway for the singing of the song to feel like it made sense to me. Feelings and experiences like these are universal enough.


(Oh! Will you never let me be?

Oh! Will you never set me free?

The ties that bound us

Are still around us

There’s no escape that I can see

And still those little things remain

That bring me happiness or pain)

A cigarette that bears a lipstick’s traces

An airline ticket to romantic places

And still my heart has wings

These foolish things remind me of you

A tinkling piano in the next apartment

Those stumbling words that told you what my heart meant

A fairground’s painted swings

These foolish things remind me of you

You came you saw you conquer’d me

When you did that to me

I knew somehow this had to be

The winds of March that make my heart a dancer

A telephone that rings but who’s to answer?

Oh, how the ghost of you clings!

These foolish things remind me of you

How strange how sweet to find you still

These things are dear to me

They seem to bring you near to me

The scent of smould’ring leaves, the wail of steamers

Two lovers on the street who walk like dreamers

Oh, how the ghost of you clings!

These foolish things remind me of you.

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