FEATURE — It’s 9 p.m. Thursday evening and I’m listening to David Bowie’s “Changes” out on the sunken redwood deck in the side yard with my husband.
There is a slight summer breeze and the air temperature has dipped somewhere in the pleasant range. I can see a half dozen stars and what looks like a fast-moving satellite in the sky, the smoke from the California and Oregon fires having dissipated just enough.
“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Turn and face the strange. Ch-ch-ch-changes. Turn and face the strange. Time may change me. But I can’t trace time. I said that time may change me. But I can’t trace time.”
I’m trying not to get emotional but it’s hard and Mr. Bowie isn’t making it any easier. Even if the change he’s singing about is a little different than mine – my oldest leaves for college in thirty-six hours.
My phone dings. It’s a text from the mother of one of my son’s long-time gymnastics teammates. This week, my boy has been making the rounds to everyone he’s leaving behind. I’ve called it his trail of tears. Tonight, he’s at his old gym.
“I’m not crying, you’re crying,” she texts, followed by eight crying face emojis. “Ok, I’m actually crying,” she confesses. “Saying goodbye to Z was so hard. I can’t imagine how you are feeling! I miss him already.”
I tell her I don’t think it’s all quite sunk in yet, but it’s starting to (thanks again, Mr. Bowie).
It’s now 11:20 p.m. I find myself standing at the top of my sleepy street filming a dayglo bike rally. In my bathrobe.
Exactly one minute before, I’d been prone in bed about to turn off my reading light when my cell phone rang. It was my son. “Come to the top of our street right now,” he excitedly implored me, “Em and I are in a massive bike rally – and we’re about to ride by!”
I grab my robe and phone and call to my husband to join me as I fly down the stairs. The next thing I know, I’m padding up the street barefoot.
My husband and I are now at the corner, our excited Aussiedoodle in accidental tow.
We’re looking for our boy and his girlfriend, but we can’t make them out among the dozens of bikes and riders whizzing by with their fluorescent-clad wheels. Several riders whoop at us and give us fist-pumps as they ride by – we probably as much a spectacle to them as they are to us.
Our dog happily barks back. This may very well be the highlight of his dog life. Or would be if the bike riders were all squirrels.
Suddenly, a familiar voice calls out to us and peels away from the tail of the now diminishing number of bikes. “Isn’t this awesome?” my son asks as he and his girlfriend slow to a stop in front of us.
His face is alight with what I can only describe as utter joy.
The joy is contagious because now I’m feeling it too. And it’s completely driven out the angst of change I’d been feeling earlier.
My husband and I stand at the corner for another few minutes. All the bikes are gone. Our boy is too. We’re grinning like fools. And I’m still in my bathrobe.
I wake up the next morning oddly thinking about a Shel Silverstein book my boys loved when they were little: The Missing Piece.
The story begins with a black and white illustration of an incomplete circle sitting on a fine black line. “It was missing a piece. And it was not happy. So it set off in search of its missing piece.”
Page after page, the almost circle quests for its missing piece. It wants to be complete.
It goes up mountains. It goes down mountains. It goes through swamps and grasses. It has all sorts of adventures. It meets all sorts of things. It finds all sorts of pieces – some too big, some too small, one too sharp, and one too square – until it finally finds its missing piece.
“It fit! It fit perfectly! At last! At last!”
Alas, almost as soon as its quest is done, the circle realizes something: it rolls too fast to see anything, too fast to talk to anything and too fast to do anything but roll.
“So it stopped rolling . . . and it set the piece down gently, and slowly rolled away and as it rolled it softly sang, ‘Oh I’m looking for my missin’ piece, I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece. Hi-dee-ho, here I go, lookin’ for my missin’ piece.’”
Hmm. A message of adventure, growth and change. I guess it’s not so odd to wake up thinking about that after all.
Now, it’s your turn, my boy. Hi-de-ho, off you go, “looking” for your missing piece.
Because I already know where one of my missing pieces is going – and yes, I’m crying. But just a little bit. And they are happy tears.
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