If I know anything at all, then I know that nothing lasts forever. That axiom may well be, in fact, the only thing I think I know for sure. Even then, I imagine that there are moments that last in a time and space which I can no longer access: if time is only illusion, then Grandpa Don is still sitting in his brown leather chair with avocado trees outside his windows, then Katie is just being born, then my best friends and I are forever seventeen laughing at a joke without a true care in the world, and everything and everyone that I have loved and loathed is still present in the Universe. Somewhere. Somewhere in a place our linear minds cannot quite reach except through poetry and prose and, perhaps, a little wishing.

Nothing lasts forever. At some point in my life I would have countered that, indeed, grief lasts forever; yet now I know that memory is an ever rotating prism,  and grief like light changes speed and hits those memories at angles that bend and nuance that sadness. I am never sad for Uncle Eric, or for anyone I’ve lost, in quite the same way twice.

If nothing lasts forever, then we may take this for both a shield and a sword. Just as we are guaranteed that turmoil must pass, we are likewise assured that we will be asked to cast ourselves upon the point of letting go of that which we have cherished. I’ve written before of  Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” and I am beginning to see that, alluding to another Frost work, this theme is a road well-traveled for me. Perhaps it is motherhood, (or perhaps merely my 30s!), that has made me understand that so much of growing up is learning how to carry grief, to react to life’s transitoriness, and to find equanimity in the balance of having, and having not. I am not sure we can have true contentment unless we first realize how easily the people and places of life are lost. Nothing endures, and so we write and catalogue and narrate as if to rebuke this truth, realize our struggle may be in vain, and humble ourselves on the altar of our pens and paper and laptops. Only then does gratitude begin.

In October of 2009, shortly before Katie turned two years old, we started taking a Music Together class in Fallbrook with Kara Howard.

Today, after four school years of class, we sang our goodbye song for the last time. Our last class. Katie has spent most of her life attending Kara’s class every Friday; Eric, all of his.

I thought perhaps we might take one more term, or even one more year, next year. Although both Katie and Eric finished the curriculum (all nine courses—Katie repeated one year so Eric could finish), I was convinced that Eric, in particular, might benefit from another year as he now commands more language and has quite the developing personality.

It wasn’t until this past week as I was deeply considering family needs and schedules (and looking to preserve/build-in more travel time to see extended family, for various reasons) that I realized life is asking us to make a transition. I could have put it off until Christmas break next fall, but I also knew I had to look this change right in the eye and graciously accept it. There is more contentment ultimately, I believe, when we own our decisions and make them on our terms before life makes them for us. It was a natural season, also, to graduate from class. Student or teacher, I have always found spring to be a bittersweet time of year: a time of goodbyes to lives that have intersected with mine, a time when excitement and nostalgia mingle with equal potency.

So it was our last class. I was all but a total mess. I cried through the last three songs. I had to wipe my dripping snot with my son’s favorite cozy blanket. Wasn’t it just yesterday that Katie and I sat over there and had our first class? Remember the day we came in our Halloween costumes? We sang this song when I was pregnant with Eric. My son held on to that gathering drum to steady himself shortly after he took his first steps. Remember the first time Katie felt confident enough to hug Kara goodbye? Remember Talon and Sadie and Fiona and Olivia? And their siblings? (All of them graduated awhile ago).

This has been our lives nearly every Friday morning for the past four years. Katie celebrated her fourth birthday at a party with her friends from our class. The nine CDs worth of music became the soundtrack of their young lives. Not a day goes by when we don’t sing at least one of the songs. Transitioning out of class now is also a step toward ownership of my decision with my husband to keep with our plan of having two, and no more than two, children. However difficult ownership of our lives might be, we must take it in order to stay eager, joyful, authentic people who can be happy for others and happy for being alive.

Music Together has been a season with both of my children. Yet it began with Katie, and for that reason I think of her at the beginning and the ending:

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I took this picture after our first day of class in October 2009, when we visited my mom

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Katie at her third class in October 2009

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Katie today, eager for a “secret” (a tonal pattern whispered in the ear) from Kara

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My lovebug goofball…his quirky sense of humor makes me laugh all the time

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Playing “Hey Ya Na”

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Of all the pictures I took today, this one makes me cry the most. It’s the silly simple things… That first year, whenever it was instrument time, Katie always chose this wooden dog and a stick to play percussion. She used to kiss this dog and looked for it each time. She has forgotten it over the years, or moved on. But I never have… Mothers remember it all.

My babies. Today we said goodbye to a season of our lives. Nothing lasts forever. I wish I could have you be little with me always, and big at the same time. But we have to move into your big girl and big boy years together, and I can’t stay behind however much I wish I could. Kara and all of our music class friends, thank you for making these past four years so beautiful and filled with the goodness of your voices. We will always remember you; we will always hear you all when we listen to our songs.

“Goodbye, so long, farewell my friends
Goodbye, so long, farewell. 
We’ll see you soon, again, and then 
We’ll make music together again.” 

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