Hellos and Goodbyes

It doesn’t take more than a glace at the local pool and an eye roll at the local weather forecast to know that summer is officially here. The days are hotter (seriously, though, why is it so hot?!), the neighborhood streets stay awake longer thanks to the patter of children’s feet and the friction of their bicycle tires, and the smell of sunscreen lingers throughout the house until Labor Day. Graduation ceremonies have commenced, promotion certificates for littles hang proudly on the fridge, and camp schedules are highlighted and outlined for moms and dads to remember. Moms brace themselves for the upcoming months of sibling togetherness while scrolling through and making notes from “ACMB’s Ultimate Guide to Summer in San Antonio,” paying particular attention to indoor, air-conditioned activities.

With a school year in the rear-view mirror and rising temperatures in the future, it doesn’t take long for a self-reflective mama like myself to mull over the milestones, goals, lessons, and aha moments from the past school year. What comes to mind is the recurring theme of “hellos” and “goodbyes.” With how frequently we use these words, it’s really hard to find an interaction that doesn’t command their presence. The weight and meaning of them can span for miles and morph from one form to the next. As mothers, we are the bearers of the words, and sometimes—if not all times—we bear the emotional toll of those goodbyes and hellos, in whatever form they appear that day.

The Kindergarten Hello and Goodbye

When my oldest started Kindergarten this past year, I knew she was ready. She craves structure, routine, predictability, and everything involving a classroom setting. What I didn’t see coming was her walking down the red carpet to the set of silver double doors, to the hands and heart of a teacher who would spend more hours with her in a day than myself. She took that walk in stride, with a few skips here and there, and didn’t look back as tears filled my eyes. She was saying hello to her role as a Kindergartner and goodbye to me until 3:00 P.M.

At 9:30 A.M. at the end of May, I observed my Kindergartner sit among her classmates in what her school calls “The Big Chapel.” I heard her clap for her friends as they received their certificates and high-five them as they sat down. I listened as my girl confidently voiced her love of telling time, the outdoor terrace, and anything having to do with or about books. I hugged her teachers and thanked them for loving and teaching to every part of my inquisitive child. And then we said goodbye. We said goodbye to friends who are not returning due to an out-of-state move. We said goodbye to teachers as we slipped them homemade cards and heartfelt notes. We said goodbye to a year full of love and learning, life lessons and growth spurts. We said goodbye to her first full year of school while saying hello to sweet summertime.

The Grandfather Hello and Goodbye

I was so lucky to have had him for 94 years. My children were blessed to have had a great-grandfather as hearty and healthy as he was. My family had the pleasure of weekly, sometimes bi-weekly, dinners with him, where the generations below him welcomed his quiet and humble nature. When I got the call that he had fallen and it was probably best for me to come home, I said goodbye to my kiddos here and hopped on a plane to go there. My goodbye to them was temporary—I would return in what would be a week’s time—but I knew the goodbye to my Grandpap was going to be permanent. I didn’t want to upset them, so I hid my fear of the goodbye that was lingering in my near future.

I entered his calm hospice hospital room every morning for six days with a “hi Grandpap, good morning!” I don’t know if he could hear us, but I erred on the side of yes for those days. Frank Sinatra and The Glenn Miller Band played softly through the speakers as we told him about the local news, the hometown hockey team’s advancement to the Stanley Cup Finals, the weather, and the view that his room afforded him. We reassured him that we were all there, that he didn’t need to wait any longer to go see Grandma in Heaven. We said hello every morning at 8:30 A.M. and goodbye every night at 10:00 P.M. We believed those goodbyes and hellos helped him recognize that he wasn’t alone, even if his body was asleep.

My last goodbye to my sweet Grandpap was on a Saturday night. I held his hand, filled him in on the priest’s homily at Mass that evening, and reminded him to say hello to all the relatives he would soon meet again. “Fly Me to the Moon” could be heard as I whispered my goodbye and “until we meet again” into his ears. I said goodbye to his 94 years on earth, and he said hello to his new life in Heaven.

The Toy Hello and Goodbye

Purging toys should be an Olympic sport. Mothers of kiddos from all ages would line up, brooms or other sweeping devices in hand, ready to push a collection a toys into its designated pile. Professional curlers have nothing on mothers on a mission to clear out unwanted and outgrown toys. It’s funny how the combination of summertime, kids at home for hours on end, and a mother with a goal in mind, can make miracles (aka: the great toy clean-out) happen.

I try to keep the toy situation in our house under control, thanks to bins, a small playroom with built-ins, and closets designed by The Container Store. And in the event that those options for toy storage fail me, Rubbermaid containers are my go-tos when I have had just about enough and need a place for the random toys to live for a while. Early on in the baby years, I made it a point to stockpile some toys and bring them out on a rotation schedule, just as long as (1) I remembered that I had, in fact, stashed some toys away in my “thinking ahead” phase; and (2) the kids weren’t over Paw Patrol or Doc McStuffins when it was time to bring the toys out of hibernation.

There is no more glorious moment for me during toy clean-out than hearing the kids say, “No, we don’t need that anymore. You can give it away.” Jackpot. Into the give away pile the outgrown toys go as I sit back feverishly continue cleaning and watch that pile grow. Knowing those toys my kiddos loved so much and received joy from will then go on to other little children and hopefully make their imaginations grow? About as priceless as finding a bathing suit that flatters all body parts on your first try. As we say goodbye to the toys that encourage kiddos to learn their letters and colors, shapes and sounds, we say hello to more complex Lego sets and monster truck cities. We say goodbye to the early toddler years of learning and hello to the manipulatives and toys that support the later toddler years and elementary school ages of my kids. We say goodbye to ride-upons and hello to bikes that allow outstretched legs and arms, which is just perfect for summertime.

The brutal heat of summer can wear and tear on the best of us, but I am determined to not let it get the best of summer memories that are waiting to be had. I will say goodbye to the complaints of the thermometer (but seriously, when did it get so hot?!) and hello to more water time. I will work on saying hello to more Popsicles and goodbye to being so regimented about healthy snacks (note I said “work on”). I will say goodbye to my safe choice of “let’s just go to the library where it’s cool” and say hello to more front yard sprinkler time. Now if we could only say hello to sunscreen that applies itself to mamas and kiddos…

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