Unstoppable Force!

Fatigue weighed heavily on my body as I stepped through the doorway. Blake ran to me smiling and giggling as he hurried my way. He was dressed in his preferred play clothes. At bedtime, I dressed him in pajamas, but each morning he awakened wearing nothing but his underwear. This morning was special, but not exceptional enough to wear clothes for mom and dad.

I walked to the leather couch, along the way; I dropped my heavy bag on one of the high-back tapestry chairs. Blake pursued me as he bounced on his tippy-toes, his hands balled into a fist and wearing his superman underwear. I landed on the couch as I positioned the bulky carrier on the floor. He was giddy; still on his tippy toes as he watched me gingerly lift the tiny bundle from the carrier. As I did, Blake’s big brown eyes glowed as he captured his first glimpse. His mouth pursed into a round circle as the sound, “Ohhhhh” escaped his lips. I smiled at him as his eyes and nose squished together and his lips spread into a wide grin.

He wiggled with anticipation and stretched out his arms. Even at twenty-seven-months old, he recognized the significance of the package I placed in his lap. His tiny hands held on tightly as he looked down; his brown eyes sparkled as he observed the amazing miracle lying in his arms.

“What’s her name?” I asked.

Without looking up, he replied, “Summer.”

It’s time to reeducate him. When we left for the hospital, her name was Summer. For as long as I can remember, I would name my daughter Summer Michelle. In the past seventy-two hours, it changed. I had delivered a baby girl, but she didn’t look like a Summer Michelle. She looked like a Blaire Kaitlin.

“No. It’s Blaire.” I replied.

Blake, showing minimal confusion, responded with pursed round lips, “Ohhhhhh.” It took three days to reverse months of telling him he would be a big brother to his sister, Summer. He wouldn’t even remember being confused if we didn’t retell the story.

Today, I’m the one confounded. Has it really been seventeen years and five months? Did I let my five-pound and fourteen-ounce baby girl accompany a seventeen-year-old-boy to the movie theatre last night? (He pulled up in a Mustang for heaven’s sake.) Did that same boy come to the house over the summer to help with her Government class? Is she really going to graduate in December instead of June? Yes! Moreover, an early graduation is perfectly Blaire.

At thirty-six weeks gestation, the doctors removed me from bed rest having successfully prevented a premature delivery. She was born that day. She has always been eager to accelerate to the next phase, the next experience. It couldn’t happen rapidly enough. She desires to touch, taste, and experience everything, NOW! She was like that with school too, kindergarten couldn’t arrive fast enough.

I remember the first week. I walked from one end of the kitchen table to the other. Blaire sitting at one end, Blake sitting at the other. The homework made Blaire anxious; it had to be perfect. I tried to alleviate the anxiety by encouraging her to relax. “It’s ok. It isn’t that important.” I contemplated to myself, “kindergarten homework shouldn’t produce such anxiety.” At the other end of the table sat Blake. I admonished and encouraged him as well. However, with different phrases like, “Blake, this is important. You need to take this more seriously.”

Then there was first grade. She marched her tiny body into the house, slammed her backpack on the table and rummaged through it desperately looking for something. For what, I was clueless. She was intense and determined. When she found it, with Blue’s Clues glasses hanging on her nose and sporting an adorable blond- bob-haircut, she marched toward me. With all the power her short, thirty-pound body could muster, she shoved a torn piece of paper into my hand as she rattled off specific instructions.

I opened the paper and sure enough, just as she said, there was a telephone number scribbled on it. The number belonged to a classmate’s mother. Blaire was angry, indignant even as she explained that her teacher had

accused an innocent boy of disrupting the class by talking. Blaire was present! She saw it! She heard it! She demanded a correction! She was unsuccessful at convincing the teacher. Thus, she instructed the classmate to give her his mother’s number. “My mother will call your mother!” she assured him.

Third grade was rife with bus driver drama. She wore an expression that has become familiar to us, one of determination, intent on righting a wrong. She believed the principal should reprimand the driver and she developed a plan of action. She requested a video camera to document evidence for the principal. (Because, in third grade, the principal is the ultimate authority in all things school related.) After learning the district doesn’t permit cameras, she developed a backup plan. She would stop the principal in the hallway and argue her case and so she did. She had witnesses in tow for confirmation. Her assertion? The bus driver was unfit for bus driving duty because she was dishonest to the police officer, twice. Blaire explained how the driver indicated to the officer that her traffic violations were a result of the rowdy children. “Not true!” complained Blaire. In addition, she was unfair to the students, not to mention, mean.

Do not mistake her drive for justice as being a tattletale. She is far from it. She has a fervor for justice coupled with an unmitigated conviction to safeguard those matters shared with her in confidence. She seeks autonomy that is free of injustice by those in authority, paving the way for privacy and individuality. I have often referred to her as “judge of the household.” However, as I watch these characteristics develop and help direct her passions enabling her to reap the most rewarding outcomes, it occurs to me, perhaps “activist of the household” is more apropos. It’s a facet of her character that I admire most and the one I’ve argued with the most over the years.

In seventh grade, while in a debate with Blake, she shredded his argument with the response, “You have just stated an opinion and opinions aren’t facts. That’s why they’re called opinions.” I observed the interaction from the next room and silently declared that round for Blaire. When Blake stood up to walk away, (which signaled to me, he knew he had lost) he restated his opinion. She instinctively knew one couldn’t argue with opinions so she turned around, threw her arms up in frustration and hollered, “Mom?” At that point, I openly declared the round for Blaire. (Go ahead. You debate her. I dare you!) Seriously, I couldn’t be more proud.

When I look at her, I still see my little girl who wore SpongeBob and Tweety Bird backpacks. The world observes her differently. I learned this on our last excursion to the shopping mall as we moved from one department store to the next. Those hipster young adults working the counters would tell her, “You could model that outfit. I wish I could wear beanies.” Her first week at Tookies, a woman stopped her and said, “Don’t think this is weird, but I think your skin is flawless!” Yesterday upon entering tutti-fruity for yogurt, someone she knew moved around the counter exclaiming, “Blaire, you look so beautiful. I love your hair!” as she quickly delivered a hug. The world doesn’t see my little girl; they see a beautiful, confident young lady.

With a December graduation, her senior year, in perfect Blaire style, is half over. This morning when she opened the door to leave, I repeated the statement I have uttered since kindergarten, “Make good choices today.” Inwardly, I’ve dreaded this day because I know senior year is dress rehearsal. It will not be long before the door opens and the school of life will be waiting on the other side for which I pray I have educated and equipped her to conquer, succeed, overcome and make good choices.

I’m not one to agonize over the months on the calendar and how rapidly they trundle past me. Nevertheless, as I write this, I possess the impulse to seize time. If I could stop the phases of the moon, I would. Has it really been two-hundred-and-nine-months since her birth? The lines on my face attest it has. I want time to stop. I want it rolled back. That maternal dichotomy, hanging on, letting go persists and with it, panic. I feel myself grasping for a do-over, kindergarten, first-grade, Blues Clues.

Unfortunately, time is like a wave my center of gravity cannot withstand as it crashes into me. It washes over me, stealing the air from my lungs. I blinked. The days rolled into weeks, which rolled into months, which rolled into years. I must accept the inevitable or drown trying to fight it, thus I concede. Although I’ve spent the past twenty years convincing my children that Mom is an immovable object, I know better. I have always known better. I couldn’t stop the phases of the moon. Time, that unstoppable force, compels me to move out of the way. I do so reluctantly, knowing the next season of life is upon me and it’s time to prepare for a new chapter.

Sharon Buhman 8/22/2016

Blaire, when I prayed and asked God for a daughter, you are exactly what I prayed for.

Mirror! Mirror!

“Oh, heck no!” Those were the first words that rolled off my tongue and tumbled out of my mouth as I used a new Christmas gift this morning. Seriously, someone clearly missed the memo on Christmas. Granted, I was raised Jehovah’s Witness and was thoroughly versed in the evils of celebrating birthdays and pagan holidays. Thus, I may not be as experienced as others may be on traditions and etiquette, but this thing is not a gift and how it was mistaken as one escapes my imagination. It definitely does not conform to my childhood fantasies of Christmas morning when I desperately wanted to believe Santa was real and that mom, dad, and the Kingdom Hall were wrong.

When I was nine, I recall arguing the point with my mother. After all, I clearly heard the Brother in the pulpit who was delivering the talk to the congregation that morning. He mentioned the name Santa multiple times. As I sat in the pew, my heart jumped for joy. I was ecstatic, equipped with knowledge and prepared for battle. Santa did exist. I heard it from the preacher standing up at the podium. Isn’t he always right?

Sadly, it was a short-lived dream. My shoulders dropped in unison with my fledgling hope as my mom explained that I had not heard the name Santa. She explained that what I heard the man say was Satan. My heart wanted to whisper, does it really matter? We just need to rearrange the letters.  (Sigh)  I digress, back to the story.

This present, if one can call it that, is an illuminations mirror. A magnification of one is depressing enough. The ten-time magnification, choose the expletive of your liking as they all qualify! Seriously, though, how were we ever deceived into thinking a magnification mirror of this caliber was essential? If I wanted to examine anything at amplification levels of this magnitude and detail, I would have become a scientist or astrologer. I did not and I do not! Furthermore, if the magnification did not deliver a big enough blow to ones ego, there is a bonus feature; it has a light! Nonetheless, it was like watching a train wreck and I could not look away.

When did my eyebrows turn gray? More importantly, that single unruly brow that I plucked yesterday, how could I have ever known it was a comb-over brow? I could have been perfectly happy had this mirror not illuminated and magnified that little bald spot shining in the middle of my right brow. That new skin I had developed around my eyes, turns out, it isn’t new. It’s old, it has a name, and its name is wrinkle. Today, I lamented these findings to a friend. Bless her heart, she tried to comfort me by saying, “When I got my mirror, I found a glob of make-up under my nose.”  My words dripped with bitterness as I responded, “Oh really? Well, I found a mustache!”

Whoever coined the phrase, “The devil is in the details” was certainly accurate in his estimation. When the initial shock and awe wore off, I recognized more subtle attributes. Every time I peered into it, the mirror displayed reflections of my mother. However, when Blaire gazed into it, it replicated my likeness. I do not wish to expound on other less flattering attributes, but they were numerous. However, I do have one final thought.

Could they not have installed a feature to acclimate oneself, a phased in magnification to allow for slowly adjusting to the aged reflection of the recipient and a possibly even add a dimming feature for the light? At the very least, make it a boxed-gift-set by including a bottle of Grey Goose complete with a straw to ensure the recipient of this ‘non-gift’ does not lose her Christmas cheer!

Sharon Buhman
January 2016

A Way

The sun was beginning to rise on the horizon. Its bright orange light reflecting off the water could be seen for miles. As it rose above the earth, the birds began to sing. In unison, the flowers released their beautiful fragrance into the air to bid the world an exuberant good morning. From the cottage, Kate stood peering out the window, watching as the waves rolled into shore. She had awakened rather early this morning. As had become her custom for thirty years, she found herself standing at the window waiting for the sun to rise bright enough for her to see the green and white boat sitting on the shore. For years, it seemed to sit waiting to give passage to any passerby who might show the slightest interest. However, in all the years that she had sat and watched from her window, nobody ever paid it any mind. She watched, as her own children would skip by it without a glance in its direction. But, there it stood for three decades. It defied the blistering heat of the summer year after year as well as the blizzards of winter. Even through the harshest of winters, as most of it laid submerged beneath the weight of the snow, the green and white stripe could always be seen from the window through which Kate gazed. This morning she reflected on the boat and how through the years its colors had never faded. Even as her eyes began to age and life around her became blurred, its image was always as clear and crisp, as it had been the first day it washed onto shore.

Startled by the knock on her door, Kate’s attention was diverted to her granddaughter calling for Grandma to allow her entrance. Unable to wait, Rachel, Kate’s youngest grandchild, burst into the room with a jolly hello and a hug. Still standing by the window Kate gathered five-year-old Rachel into her arms, as Rachel asked, “What are you looking at Grandma?” Holding Rachel’s cheek against her own and looking out the window she replied, “See that green and white boat on the sand? I am amazed that after thirty years, it hasn’t changed at all.” Following her grandmother’s gaze, Rachel looked out the window then back at her grandmother. She looked out the window again before turning to her grandmother with a puzzled expression on her face and said, “Oh, Grandma, you’re so funny.” She jumped down out of Kate’s arms and announced, “Mom said it’s time for breakfast!” With that, Rachel skipped out of the bedroom.

At breakfast, Kate sat down at the long wooden table admiring her children and grandchildren. It was the first time they had all been together in years. After helping herself to a small portion of scrambled eggs, she said to her oldest daughter, “Lauren, tell me. While you were growing up, why didn’t you and Chance ever play on the boat sitting out on the shore?” Looking up with the same perplexed expression as Rachel wore earlier, Lauren asked, “What?” Kate repeated the question and watched as her son, Chance, and her daughter exchanged worried glances. In unison they replied, “Mom, there is no boat on the sand.” “Of course there is!” said Kate with a touch of laughter in her voice; “It’s been there for years!” With a look of concern on his face, Chance said, “Mom, there has never been a boat down on the shore. Are you feeling O.K.?” Feeling increasingly disturbed; Kate chuckled nervously and reached for a piece of toast. She quickly changed the subject and reassured them that she was feeling fine. Kate watched as the concern on their faces subsided before her mind drifted back to the boat.

Having finished breakfast, Kate entered her bedroom. Her legs, steadfast and strong all of her life, had begun to shake as she neared the window. With her eyes squeezed shut, she kept telling herself, “It must be there. It must.” As she hesitantly opened her eyes and looked, a smile spread across her face. It was there. She walked away from the window, and remembered a chorus she used to hear in church. The words were taken from the Old Testament scriptures. She was surprised that after all the years she could still remember these words, “God will make a way where there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see. He will make a way for me. He will be my guide. Hold me closely to His side. With each new day, God will make a way.” Astonished by the words, she scrambled back to the window to once again find the boat. For the rest of the day, she alternately laughed and cried as she looked out the window at a boat that was placed there for her eyes only.

Chance and Lauren were indeed correct. There had never been a boat down on the shore patiently waiting to make passage for them if they were ever in need. It was only visible to Kate. She now realized why the snow never completely buried it, why the colors never faded despite her failing eyesight. She understood. Sometimes, in the midst of the most difficult seasons of life, when the waters are running too deep, the blizzards too overwhelming, the fires too great, all we really need to know is there is ‘a way’ of escape. Such knowledge of ‘a way’ gives us the courage and strength we need to overcome in the midst of adversity. The vision of that green and white boat before her on the sandy beach had been the anchor that Kate held onto when she felt the need. It was God’s way of saying, “Kate, I will make a way for you where there seems to be no way.”

Sharon Buhman
August 2000

Drandonake!

Drandonake! That was my first thought when suddenly awakened at 3 a.m. Peering through the mini blinds, the sticker identifying the window’s size, type and manufacturing company was still affixed to it. The light reflected off the patio ceiling giving the cedar a beautiful golden glow. Inside the room, I could see the black ceiling fan, round and round it went. Filling the room was the sound of the oscillating floor fan humming rhythmically and our two pugs snoring softly as they slumbered at the foot of the bed. A sudden tightening hit my chest and tears began to burn my eyes.

“It’s hot in here!” said Shirley, interrupting my sudden swell of emotion.

“Want me to lower the A.C.?” I said, choking back any sign of distress in my voice.

“Would you?”

“Sure.” I said as my feet hit the cold, dusty cement floor.

As I rounded the corner of the bed, the tears spilled over my lids and down my cheek. I could see the hallway light shining beneath the bedroom door. That light meant the kids were awake. I quickly wiped the wetness from my face and wondered what I’d say if I ran into Blake or Blaire. If Blake were to see me, he would be less inclined to ask me directly, but he would launch a subtle investigation over the next few days as he questioned others trying to figure out what was wrong. He’d worry, but he wouldn’t share it until later, if ever. He’s my negotiator, a persuasive mediator. If I ran into Blaire, she would ask me directly, express sympathy and want details. While she listened she would decide if my current situation was a result of being unfairly treated. Her motivation is justice. While amazingly empathetic, she is less inclined to sympathize if she deems it deserved. She is the Judge in our family having a strong constitution for right and wrong, cause and effect, truth and consequence. The light from the hall invaded the room as I opened the door. Thankfully the hall was empty. A few more steps, a couple of taps on the thermostat and I was safely back in the room.

“Thank you!” Shirley said.

The door closed behind me sealing off the light from the hall, leaving us in a cloak of darkness. Shirley is my best friend. My comrade in arms. The one who has my back on the battle field. In a word, the Equalizer. Whoever caused me pain must die and anyone interested in the facts will need to figure it out without the testimony of the perpetrator because, well, unfortunately…

As I knocked the dust from my feet and slid back into bed, I could hear her deep, steady breathing indicating she had quickly fallen back to sleep. I was thankful. The tight chest and burning eyes commenced. We were not counting down the months or weeks or even days. We were counting hours. My mind wandered back to Drandonake.

Near the front of our 38 home neighborhood is an esplanade. The esplanade has very narrow roadways on each side allowing for only one vehicle and zero room for passing. It makes mail, furniture and other deliveries to those homes interesting. When planning the neighborhood the developer built the esplanade trying to save the mature trees living there. Eventually the disruption to the land was too much for the trees to overcome and they died leaving the esplanade, an eye sore, void of anything mature save the weeds. Petitions, discussions and investigations into cost of its removal eventually stopped as we were all lulled into acceptance.

Once I was unable to stop and talk to a neighbor who lived in front of it due to a car following closely behind me. Frustrated by the inconvenience and engineering absurdity, I murmured my discontent as I rounded the corner to my home. I could see my kitchen through the front window. To my shock, it was on fire. That night with the kids home safely, the fire out, the smoke cleared and fire trucks gone, I thought of the irony. That esplanade had suddenly become a blessing.

Tonight we are cocooned in the middle of 700 acres spending time with friends and family. I am lying in a bunk bed, in a room built for the cook of a hunting lodge in a small town in Texas thinking of that esplanade and today’s activity; target practice. The last time we were here for target practice it was with air-soft guns. Those air-soft guns replaced the Nerf collection Blake spent years accumulating. Not surprisingly, before the Nerf guns he owned western cap guns that he holstered in his belt and wore plastic chaps, a straw cowboy hat, red bandana and boots. Today, I was a proud mother as I watched Blake. He wore steel toed boots, a pair of Levis strapped on by a belt with a clipped holster where a Glock 17 rested and a blue US Air Force ball cap rested on his shaved head. I frowned as I noticed his Carhart t-shirt was too short. Spread out on the table in front of him were magazines filled with 9mm and 223 rounds of ammo for a mini 14 and a Keltec Sub2000. I worried even as I heard him repeating and following recommended gun safety measures like; don’t laser anyone, open, empty chambers, and finger resting on barrel and not on trigger until safety is off and ready to fire. He’s vigilant, ensuring all of us are adhering to these safety measures. But, I am still a mother, which meant after target practice, all chambers emptied and open, magazines out; firearms in one room and magazines in another. He voiced a slight objection reminding me that in 72 hours he would be leaving for BMT where they will train and groom him to defend this country against those who are intent on doing us harm.

He is an adult, but that doesn’t stop the nagging voices of self-doubt. I should have sent him to more training. The money spent on Brian Hoffner’s class was worth it, but I should have done more. He should have spent more time with David, more time with Grandpa Pete, more time with George, more time with me, more time with family. See the emerging theme? More time. Instead, we are out of time.

After 18 years the maternal dichotomy is as strong as it ever was. Such opposing drives isn’t easily explained or taught. It is unique to parents. It’s not understood by people often heard sitting in restaurants, churches or other public places ignorantly saying, “If I had children,” as they sit in judgment on those of us who do. I’ve learned, when another person begins a statement with, “If I had Children,” that which follows should be summarily ignored. No matter how much one reads, studies, or tries, they don’t understand the drives, instincts and motivations of a parent to propel their children beyond the current boundaries of maturity, growth and education and the equally powerful resolve to protect that child from the very thing to which we are propelling them. Blake, at 18, is still confounded by it.

No matter how old, tall or mature he becomes, he will always be that little boy who begged for the freedom to walk with his buddies eight houses up the street to that ridiculous esplanade. I won’t pretend to know the appeal but the kids in the neighborhood reveled in the entertainment it provided. From that esplanade they collaborated together, created battle plans, established rules of engagement and built a military which they divided into squadrons. They elected leaders and established roles and responsibilities. They had disputes over processes and policies one of which was whether to allow those dreaded girls to join and if so, in what capacity. They eventually voted on the measure, which passed, paving the way for the neighborhood girls to join. The story of how they earned entry is replete with espionage and double-crossing schemes.

It was their base and that base was dutifully named by combining the names of its founding members, Drew, Brandon and Blake – Drandonake! That weed infested esplanade. It once saved my house from burning to the ground and later helped develop rule, order, collaboration and the democratic process. If someone were to ask Blaire about women’s liberation, I wouldn’t be surprised if she referenced Drandonake!

No wonder in these last few hours before Blake departs my mind drifts back to that inconvenient piece of land, haphazardly placed in the middle of tiny neighborhood in Seabrook, Texas. Awkwardly positioned and an utter failure for its intended purpose despite the efforts of engineers, architects, city officials and local homeowners who tried in vain to keep the trees alive. That plot of land served a far greater purpose. The soil trapped within the confines of cement barriers helped raise boys and girls making them young men and women.

I wish Air Force BMT were a few houses up the street, but it isn’t. Yet that same worried feeling is ever-present. That maternal dichotomy; letting go, hanging on. It all becomes relative. He is 18 years old, an adult. But the 250 miles he will travel in just under 72 hours feels an awful lot like the day I finally consented to let my tanned, blond-headed little boy walk alone, eight houses up the street to a place called Drandonake!

It’s All Jumbled Up!

I have finally done it! This is something I have wanted to do for a long, long time. I have a blog!

I’ve always found it interesting how the fabric that makes us who we are is often woven and connected by seemingly unrelated events and people.

What makes us, builds us, influences us are seemingly unrelated, but often timely circumstances or events of loved ones and even strangers. If we were to pull these episodes apart and view them individually, I think it looks a lot like a junk drawer; it’s all jumbled up! The magic happens when we put all these ingredients together. That’s when it looks a whole lot less like just a junk drawer and a whole lot more like life!

This is where I hope to share with family and friends stories about life raising Blake and Blaire! Stories that will be anecdotes, sometimes funny, sometimes not!

It will not be long before you see in our family, life, it’s all jumbled up!