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Who Is Feeling Autumnal? Or, Saturday Morning at 8:20am

Feeling autumnal?

Wait, what does that term even mean? In California, a cooler sun, a hope of rain. More brown than green, more red than pink, no yellow in sight.

We use “autumnal” to talk about our lives, too, right? We can feel autumnal, even in the bright sun. Particularly as we age. Here’s what Shakespeare thought. I’ve always loved those first four lines.

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

But I’m not ready for ashes. Birds still sing, leaves in place albeit visibly veined.

This personal autumn most importantly means that my children, both of them, have reached adulthood. My son is 26, my daughter 29. And they have, in some ways, outgrown my life experience. At 26 I’d started an MBA at Columbia – making a choice that took me in revealing, difficult, and life-changing directions. At 29 I married my first husband, again, life-changing. My kids are taking different courses, all for the better, I think.

Now that I can’t give my kids advice directly from my life, I’m considering, what is my role when I’ve exhausted knowledge but feel sure of wisdom?

The nurturing part of motherhood is pretty easy. Cook breakfast burrito, but new lipstick, nothing but love. Clean sheets for a visit, money for a trip. Our authority, however, is more difficult, and suffers more shifts. My mother had to abdicate so early. The societal rupture of the 1960s, and its impact on women, meant that by the time I turned 14 I was already on a completely different path than hers. By 16 I understood our separation, by 25 I’d resigned myself to a life without maternal oversight.

I now find myself reluctant to give up my old place as leader. I imagine a hike, through the seasonal forest. But mothers and children move from monarchy to democracy. Nature doesn’t guide us.

We just keep doing the best we can.

The other day I was visiting my mother. She looked at me, in one of her moments of remembered behaviors, and asked, “What are you doing these days?” I told her I was worrying about my children. She looked down, and then up, and asked, “Are your children worried about themselves?” “Ah,” I thought. “I never worried about my children, unless they were worried. Because of the kind of people they were,” she said.

Maybe I did have a guide. Or maybe I am my own, from here.

Have a wonderful weekend.

52 Responses

  1. It is pouring rain here…the skies are grey, leaves are turning and it feels very autumnal.
    Going to get soaking wet when I go for my walk today but I will have to soldier on…

    Your mothers observation is quite wonderful…those moments of lucidity are encouraging and make us sit up and take notice.

    Hope you have a lovely weekend Lisa.

  2. Your mother is wise. Worrying about my children, and now my grandson, too, is what I do. I feel like I’ve recently entered the autumn of my life and I’d better start enjoying my days more and worrying less. Or, at least, practicing gratitude. Have a good Saturday :D

  3. Hello Lisa, Although our lives are separated in many ways, I still get lots of valuable insight and advice from my mother. From cooking matters to business questions to handling people, her advice is pretty sound. Also, it often helps to talk things over with someone, and who else is willing to listen in detail other than a parent? (My father’s advice and experience were equally treasured; although he died a number a years ago, I still follow his counsel when I can.)

  4. Crisp air and leaves starting to turn, both here in Truckee and back home. Yes, autumnal.

    I try to be mostly a listening ear for my children who are also adults.

  5. What a bittersweet and poignant post…on so many levels. Beautifully written and lovely metaphors.

    I think what your mom said was wise, but perhaps “generational” – all of the mothers I know worry about their grown children, even if their children don’t seem worried.

    Your wisdom will come through when it’s needed, and asked for, of that I’m sure.

    1. @Kathy, Thank you. And maybe it was generational – she perhaps had to take that approach, given the gap. In any case, I took her to mean that since she knew she had raised us to make good decisions, and since she thought we were all intelligent, she’d trust us. Which is something that struck me as so important.

  6. Your mothers comment was really wise, I need to take that to heart. There was also wisdom in the comments – to listen more and to attempting to solve less. Thank you for sharing, and inspiring sharing comments.

  7. I love the Bard.
    Saturday here was sunny,30°C,now the rain is trying to rinse all our summer memories
    I could quite understand your feelings-parents to take care of and 25 years old son who finished his masters (one of them abroad) and started to work this summer-abroad. He has chosen different path from me,I could offer only universal advices and I started to accept some of his thoughts years ago…It is work in progress
    I worry to much,a lot of mothers do(how happy you must feel when your mother is herself,for a moment :-)). I am training myself to worry less-it is a hard work and it takes some time
    Your kids are so great
    Yes,to listen is the answer,not only the words,but the signs. Our little birds are flown away but their place in our hearts and their nest is waiting for visits.

  8. It has not yet felt autumnal here, physically at least, although we may be on the cusp of a change. Personally, my landscape has been somewhat different; it has been a week of reflection although ending up in a completely different place than initially anticipated.

    Your mother’s words are very wise; allowing our children to fly also involves relinquishing some level of worry, or at least not burdening ourselves and them. Care is eternal however I think. I don’t think one ever completely loses the fierceness of that love for one’s children, even as one has to step back into the shadows, moving from “monarchy to democracy”. It is a difficult path, but I think the rewards are even greater.

    1. @Mardel, I look forward to hearing about your week of reflection. And no, I don’t expect the fierceness will ever go. Even now my mother, although she doesn’t know me, will ask me, “Why do I love you so?”

  9. A wise woman once told me that the only thing you can have with your adult children is a relationship. I have thought of that comment often since my oldest (of 3)is now 32. We are at the stage of making our relationship reciprocal. That stage is difficult for 2 of my 3 but very necessary for me. I am pondering your mother’s comment. I will remember it. Thanks for here and sharing. Some days your blog is just what I need.

  10. It’s turned drizzly in Tacoma, and the leaves are just beginning to put on their autumn finery before the big drop. I’m relishing the cool air and the patter of rain on my roof.

    That particular sonnet is very apt. The turning of the wheel of the year is noticeable not–impossible not to notice as the leaves brightly flag the coming winter. So many of life’s delights are fleeting, but that knowledge can make push a wise person to enjoy them all the more now.

    I’ll try to keep your mother’s advice in mind as my daughter makes some major life changes. She still seeks my advice, but she’s facing some tough choices that she’ll have to figure out on her own.

    I wish you a golden autumn.

  11. In her confusion your mother managed a very profound statement…
    “Inever worried about my children, unless they were worried.”
    Isn’t that the truth? When your kids are confident and on their path, happily moving along, what is there to worry about?!
    Looking forward to fall and also feeling the shift from parent as authority to parent as sounding board. Also the shift from child to parent to MY parents is happening. Ugh.

    1. @Nelson Bartley, She was more profound than in her fully functioning days, when she was more prone to casual chatting. Sorry you are entering the phase of parenting your parents. It can be very demanding, albeit surprisingly rewarding.

  12. Lisa, I think your mother’s remark is something we readers also will remember a long time. It was a precious moment on another level: that it came spontaneously in a flash of lucidity, breaking through the limiting prison of severe dementia, which makes it even more of a treasure. What more might she have said about, “…because of the kind of people they were”? If she could explain her observations about that it would be a blessing. Trust she thought kindly.

  13. How lovely to read as I rose to an uncommon foggy morning here in southern California. Your post directly reflected the mood here. Soft and full of gentleness. I am reminded not to worry about my grown daughters with your mother’s words “because of who they are.” Wisdom in her fog.

    1. @holly, Sorry on the misquote – I guess it was the feeling I got but her words are best “Because of the kind of people they were.”

  14. I turn 60 today and have officially become an Elder Babe. I am indeed feeling autumnal. How fortunate for me, I love autumn.

  15. “Because of the kind of people they were.” I am so grateful to your mom for saying this, and to you for repeating it. Not just for myself, as I adjust to nurturing, willy nilly, a grown woman however I can on these days just before her marriage, but for you, because of this lovely, validating compliment that is perhaps even more meaningful coming from someone you can truly trust to speak the truth at this point in her life and illness. My own mother had similar flashes of clarity, perhaps even made possible by the disease, her remarks made then have made such a difference to me in the years since. There is something terribly important about knowing that one’s parents have, or had, a sense of the kind of person one was/is, the kind that needn’t be worried about in the deep way that young children elicit – true adulthood achieved, and acknowledged.

  16. I turned 57 today and your post felt like one of the gifts in my day…no real Autumn here in Florida, though:-( Ugh.
    Your mother’s words were so special because they were in no way contrived or even “thought” by her, so much as they just spontaneously came out as a butterfly from a cocoon…

  17. I’m so impressed by your mother’s lucidity — not just that it came out of the cloud that otherwise surrounds dementia sufferers, but that it’s a distillation out of life’s clouds, really. Seems a gem worth having taken a lifetime to arrive at, somehow.

    Also, I often note, when you post these wonderfully articulate, lyrical pieces on your reflections on maternity at this stage, that much as I love mine, worry over them, enjoy (and am often greedy for) their company, I feel as if we’re at very different stages in our relationship with our adult children (and damn! I so hate the language for not yet having come up with a gender-neutral term for that relationship, other than a goofy oxymoron). At least, I don’t want to believe I’m just more reserved or more distant with mine than you are by personality. . . instead, I wonder if there’s something big that changes when one’s children become parents. You and I are only a few years apart in age, but with my children being considerably older (31 to 40, the 4 of them), I feel I’ve had to step myself back out of the circle and watch. This might also have to do with the fact that mine have all had Very Significant Others for at least four years (my oldest just had a 13th wedding anniversary, but has lived with our son-in-law for 20 years!).
    I’m especially struck by you saying that this fall, yours are both adults, now that your son is 26. Do you think this is a class difference between us as well? Might High Wasps defer adulthood longer? In my background, that hasn’t been a privilege traditionally available, and I’m curious to know if this was an offhand remark with some writer’s poetic licence or is this quite deeply felt. . . But perhaps this is all too much for a Monday morning when you’re plunged back into parental care responsibilities. Oh, I do wish we could have that glass of wine soon! (and were you and Sue just teasing? ;-)

    1. @Frances/Materfamilias, First, no, I don’t think Sue and I were teasing. I don’t want to speak for her but I think I can say that it’s not impossible that we will come to visit:).

      As for my children, and adulthood, maybe it is a High WASP thing, or maybe it’s biological, or probably both. I’ve read that the brain doesn’t become fully adult until we reach 25. And in my family, the assumption of post-graduate degrees, combined with (for some of us) a late-developing physiology, late 20s really does feel like adulthood and early 20s does not.

      We all marry late too – I married at 29 and my siblings all later than that.

      Ah, and perhaps significant, I had only 2 kids and always wanted more. I imagine having 4 I might have eased off a tad?

  18. Lisa, your silver-tongued lines had me catch my breath, and I’m holding your post for safekeeping. Our 28 year old daughter and 24 year old son not only look similar to your children but seem to be at the same life stage, so your Saturday post is a treasure.

  19. Having lost my Mom at the age of 46,two years later her voice still pops up in my head during stressful situations. At first it was eerie, but now everso comforting.
    Your mom will always be with you whether she’s here in mind or body.

  20. Oh, Lisa! So many echoes for me in your post. My mom also had Alzheimer’s disease and died last fall at almost 97. She was a private person, a quiet observer, unwilling to barge in and opine even when invited (completely unlike me), but as a mother she was memorably present. Even as a child I don’t recall her trying to fix me or my issues. Surely I’m projecting, but she seemed to respect that we were two very different people navigating our lives within sight of each other.

    Even if Shakespeare didn’t offer mothering advice, perhaps this dialogue from “Shakespeare in Love” applies:

    Henslowe: (Referring to the theatre business) The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
    Fennyman: So what do we do?
    Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
    Fennyman: How?
    Henslowe: I don’t know. It’s a mystery.

    1. @Ann, I love that. It is a mystery. Thank you for this early morning (in my time zone) moment of laughter. And your mother sounds like a wonderful person to remember.

  21. Lisa,

    I am 49 with no children, and aging parents. I have only recently noticed the subtle, age-related changes in my own mother, and it scares me.

    Your posts have had such a profoundly settling impact on me. Your readers have done much the same with their comments.

    Thank you so much for sharing your poignant life-observations. I truly cherish your blog.

    1. I am honored. It means so much that other share these feelings, or at lest hear them as meaningful. Thank you for reading. And for commenting, because so much of what the blog has to offer comes in fact from the comment threads.

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