The Lesson of The Apricots

Parents wait in the high school parking lot.  Their faces are joyful, expectant, relieved.  A couple of women stand outside their cars, shading their eyes and talking.  A man reads his newspaper.  A father and his son toss a baseball back and forth while a toddler runs between them, giggling.  Squints jogs across the soccer field. 
My cell phone rings.  “Hello?”
Filibuster.  Her voice is weary.  The roar of the bus radio covers her words.
 “I can’t hear you,” I shout.  From the bus radio, I get the score of the baseball game and the weather report.  She says something about traffic before she breaks the connection.
And so, we settle in to wait. 
Just one week ago, we held on tearfully to our children, not quite ready to let them go; not quite believing that already they were leaving us.  
Finally, the bus pulls into the driveway.  Finally, they are home.
They get off the bus, tanned, thin, smiling and tired.  While their parents wait, they linger, exchanging hugs, calling out tearful goodbyes, making plans for a summer reunion at a French restaurant, not quite ready for their adventure to be over.
My husband takes Filibuster’s suitcase.  We get in the car.  She asks what we did while she was gone.  She talks all the way home, making us laugh with funny stories; making us cringe with the news of the pickpockets, the nosebleeds, the food poisoning, the second-floor hotel windows left open all night.
We pull into the driveway and head inside.   She sets her suitcase on the floor and opens it.  She takes out a French scarf and winds it around her neck.  She shows us the dress she purchased and the leather bag.  She hands V a movie and Squints a tee shirt.  For me she’s brought a beautiful writing journal and for her father, a coffee mug from the Louvre.
My husband washes the cup, makes himself some coffee.  He grabs a handful of pretzels to tide himself over until dinner and leans against the counter.  I get out the cast iron pan and melt some butter. 
“You should see the catacombs.” 
My husband nods.  Eats a pretzel.
“Some man picked up a skull.”
I rinse some lemon basil, picked just that morning at our CSA and cut it into ribbons.
“The Seine was pretty cool.  But it’s polluted.”
“Did you take a boat?” I ask.
“Yeah.  I put my hands in.”
I add the fish to the pan, grind some pepper on top.  Add salt and fresh dill and turn the stove to low.
“We couldn’t go all the way up the Eiffel Tower.  The top was closed.  Want to see my pictures?”
“Maybe after dinner.”  I cut up some lettuce and peel a couple of carrots.
Filibuster glances through her mail, looks around the house.  “Home seems boring now.  I’m used to being busy all the time.” 
We eat a late dinner and do the dishes and my husband and I get our tennis shoes on.
“You’re talking a walk?”  Filibuster says, as if surprised that, on the night she’s come home, we’d still go for our evening stroll.  We head out the door, tripping over Filibuster’s suitcase. 
In some small way, our daughter has changed and she’s not sure about how to fit back into her old life. 
* * *
The day Filibuster took off for Paris, she left a basket of dirty laundry in the hallway.  For three days, I tripped over that basket every time I went upstairs.  Finally, I decided to take care of it: I picked it up and put it the center of her bedroom.
Some might say I was a bad mother; a mean mother for taking my daughter’s laundry to her room instead of sorting it out and washing it and folding it neatly upon her bed.  But I have learned the lesson of the apricots.
I was senior in college when I went to Europe.  Three weeks: Paris, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Zurich.  In Paris, I acquired a taste for dried apricots and crusty bread.  I remember calling my mother from the hotel in Switzerland, a few days before I headed home.  Told her how much I was craving apricots.  When my plane touched down and I reached home, I looked around expectantly for the apricots I was sure my mother had bought. 
There were none. 
My mother didn’t buy apricots.
I didn’t do Filibuster’s laundry.   
Filibuster wanted to know what we were doing while she was gone.  We missed our daughter terribly and we’re thrilled to have her back.  But while she was off, we were busy cooking and cleaning and working and holding down the fort.  We were maintaining a place—a boring place, perhaps—but a place filled with love and routine; a place she can call home when her debit card won’t work and she can’t get her voice mail. 
* * *
The comparisons begin: “It wasn’t this hot in Paris,” Filibuster says.  “The sun wasn’t this bright.”
Watching me make dinner, she remarks, “I’m craving a Nutella crepe.”
And later: “Do you know what time it is in Paris right now?”
Watching her look around the house, a dissatisfied look upon her face, I want to tell her that it’s the ordinariness of life that makes these adventures extraordinary.    I want to tell her that there is a time to change, and a time to change your laundry.  There is a time for apricots in Paris and there is a time to pitch in with the dishes.  There is a time to talk and there is a time to listen and, yes, there will even be a time when you discover that your boring old parents are so much more than just your parents.
She wears the new French scarf as easily as she wears the arrogance of a new traveler.  The arrogance that says, I’m different, or I’ve changed or even perhaps I’ve outgrown my parents.
But it’s just that arrogance that will give her the confidence to go out into the world, to make her way in this new and exciting territory.  And it will be the lesson of the apricots that will rein in that arrogance with a tinge of humility and the realization that while she is changing…
So are we.

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Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: The Lesson of The Apricots

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Lesson of The Apricots

Parents wait in the high school parking lot.  Their faces are joyful, expectant, relieved.  A couple of women stand outside their cars, shading their eyes and talking.  A man reads his newspaper.  A father and his son toss a baseball back and forth while a toddler runs between them, giggling.  Squints jogs across the soccer field. 
My cell phone rings.  “Hello?”
Filibuster.  Her voice is weary.  The roar of the bus radio covers her words.
 “I can’t hear you,” I shout.  From the bus radio, I get the score of the baseball game and the weather report.  She says something about traffic before she breaks the connection.
And so, we settle in to wait. 
Just one week ago, we held on tearfully to our children, not quite ready to let them go; not quite believing that already they were leaving us.  
Finally, the bus pulls into the driveway.  Finally, they are home.
They get off the bus, tanned, thin, smiling and tired.  While their parents wait, they linger, exchanging hugs, calling out tearful goodbyes, making plans for a summer reunion at a French restaurant, not quite ready for their adventure to be over.
My husband takes Filibuster’s suitcase.  We get in the car.  She asks what we did while she was gone.  She talks all the way home, making us laugh with funny stories; making us cringe with the news of the pickpockets, the nosebleeds, the food poisoning, the second-floor hotel windows left open all night.
We pull into the driveway and head inside.   She sets her suitcase on the floor and opens it.  She takes out a French scarf and winds it around her neck.  She shows us the dress she purchased and the leather bag.  She hands V a movie and Squints a tee shirt.  For me she’s brought a beautiful writing journal and for her father, a coffee mug from the Louvre.
My husband washes the cup, makes himself some coffee.  He grabs a handful of pretzels to tide himself over until dinner and leans against the counter.  I get out the cast iron pan and melt some butter. 
“You should see the catacombs.” 
My husband nods.  Eats a pretzel.
“Some man picked up a skull.”
I rinse some lemon basil, picked just that morning at our CSA and cut it into ribbons.
“The Seine was pretty cool.  But it’s polluted.”
“Did you take a boat?” I ask.
“Yeah.  I put my hands in.”
I add the fish to the pan, grind some pepper on top.  Add salt and fresh dill and turn the stove to low.
“We couldn’t go all the way up the Eiffel Tower.  The top was closed.  Want to see my pictures?”
“Maybe after dinner.”  I cut up some lettuce and peel a couple of carrots.
Filibuster glances through her mail, looks around the house.  “Home seems boring now.  I’m used to being busy all the time.” 
We eat a late dinner and do the dishes and my husband and I get our tennis shoes on.
“You’re talking a walk?”  Filibuster says, as if surprised that, on the night she’s come home, we’d still go for our evening stroll.  We head out the door, tripping over Filibuster’s suitcase. 
In some small way, our daughter has changed and she’s not sure about how to fit back into her old life. 
* * *
The day Filibuster took off for Paris, she left a basket of dirty laundry in the hallway.  For three days, I tripped over that basket every time I went upstairs.  Finally, I decided to take care of it: I picked it up and put it the center of her bedroom.
Some might say I was a bad mother; a mean mother for taking my daughter’s laundry to her room instead of sorting it out and washing it and folding it neatly upon her bed.  But I have learned the lesson of the apricots.
I was senior in college when I went to Europe.  Three weeks: Paris, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Zurich.  In Paris, I acquired a taste for dried apricots and crusty bread.  I remember calling my mother from the hotel in Switzerland, a few days before I headed home.  Told her how much I was craving apricots.  When my plane touched down and I reached home, I looked around expectantly for the apricots I was sure my mother had bought. 
There were none. 
My mother didn’t buy apricots.
I didn’t do Filibuster’s laundry.   
Filibuster wanted to know what we were doing while she was gone.  We missed our daughter terribly and we’re thrilled to have her back.  But while she was off, we were busy cooking and cleaning and working and holding down the fort.  We were maintaining a place—a boring place, perhaps—but a place filled with love and routine; a place she can call home when her debit card won’t work and she can’t get her voice mail. 
* * *
The comparisons begin: “It wasn’t this hot in Paris,” Filibuster says.  “The sun wasn’t this bright.”
Watching me make dinner, she remarks, “I’m craving a Nutella crepe.”
And later: “Do you know what time it is in Paris right now?”
Watching her look around the house, a dissatisfied look upon her face, I want to tell her that it’s the ordinariness of life that makes these adventures extraordinary.    I want to tell her that there is a time to change, and a time to change your laundry.  There is a time for apricots in Paris and there is a time to pitch in with the dishes.  There is a time to talk and there is a time to listen and, yes, there will even be a time when you discover that your boring old parents are so much more than just your parents.
She wears the new French scarf as easily as she wears the arrogance of a new traveler.  The arrogance that says, I’m different, or I’ve changed or even perhaps I’ve outgrown my parents.
But it’s just that arrogance that will give her the confidence to go out into the world, to make her way in this new and exciting territory.  And it will be the lesson of the apricots that will rein in that arrogance with a tinge of humility and the realization that while she is changing…
So are we.

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33 Comments:

At June 19, 2011 at 5:27 PM , Anonymous Elizabeth Young said...

Great post Kelly, you have definately figured out some of the secrets of parenting! Children are greatly aware of the choices that lay before them; not so aware of the choices available to their parents!

 
At June 20, 2011 at 6:48 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Cheryl. Yes, it's definitely taking time for Filibuster to get used to the boring old life again. But turning your comment on iits head, without the boredom, without the valleys, there would be no hills.

 
At June 20, 2011 at 6:49 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Elizabeth!

 
At June 20, 2011 at 7:20 AM , Anonymous jaum said...

"I want to tell her that it’s the ordinariness of life that makes these adventures extraordinary." Loved that, and thought it was the best line in the whole work... till I read the next two paragraphs and a killer last line. One of your best!!

 
At June 20, 2011 at 9:05 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks! Although a certain someone didn't like this post.

 
At June 20, 2011 at 11:46 AM , Anonymous Susan said...

"There is a time for apricots in Paris..." What a lovely line! This could be the basis for a story called "Apricots in Paris." Loved this post and know so much about the arrogance of youth, not just from raising three children myself, but from having been young once. Wonderful writing!

 
At June 20, 2011 at 1:03 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading, Susan!

 
At June 20, 2011 at 2:46 PM , Anonymous Elizabeth Collins said...

Just wait when she comes home from college the first time! Loved this post!

 
At June 20, 2011 at 3:52 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Liz! I'm not ready for college yet!

 
At June 20, 2011 at 4:24 PM , Anonymous Bella said...

Kelly, I love all your posts, but this one is spectacular! Filibuster reminds me of myself when I would come home from summers in Spain. Ever time I would return, I would feel as if I'd outgrown my friends, my boyfriend, my home, and my neighborhood. Fortunately, once I transitioned, everything went back to normal but until the transition took place, I was frustrated, irritable and downright dissatisfied with everything that surrounded me. My mother handled these episodes by telling me that someday my friends would get tired of my "I'm better than you" and I'd be all alone with just the dog to impress with my tales of Spanish music and cuisine. One summer we weren't able to travel but my best friend went to New York City. When she returned, she was a different person. I remember walking into the house one afternoon and telling my mother, "I can't stand her. She thinks she's better than anyone else with her stupid stories of New York this and New York that." My mother looked at me and said, "What goes around..." Lets just say that I never again returned with a sense of grandiosity from my European travels after that experience. Great post as always!

 
At June 21, 2011 at 6:25 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

My mother handled these episodes by telling me that someday my friends would get tired of my "I'm better than you" and I'd be all alone with just the dog to impress with my tales of Spanish music and cuisine. -- I love this! As always, thanks for reading, Bella, and thanks for your wonderful, thoughtful comments.

 
At November 2, 2011 at 4:15 AM , Anonymous Inspiration2dream said...

I'm thinking my boys need to hear about apricots :-)

 
At November 2, 2011 at 6:11 AM , Anonymous Alison@Mama Wants This said...

Great post, Kelly! I cringed when I realized I was probably a lot like your Filibuster when I went home to Malaysia for summer vacation, when I was studying in England. After 2 days of 'special treatment', I was expected to roll along like I never went away. I learned my lesson! I hope Filibuster does too.

Thanks for linking up to WMB!

 
At November 2, 2011 at 11:29 AM , Anonymous Mom Photographer said...

Beautiful post. So honest. So trong. So true.
I remember as being a youngster I had my moments of being very arogant and feeling better than my parents. They always would bring me down to earth when they saw or felt that and I am trully thankful for that (now not then.lol)

 
At November 2, 2011 at 9:48 PM , Anonymous Galit Breen said...

This? Is phenomenal. I love the threads of cooking, waiting, loving, growing, learning, and motherhood that you wove through here.

Yes, phenomenal is the exact right word. Love!

 
At November 2, 2011 at 9:50 PM , Anonymous Jennifer Burden said...

Hi Kelly,

Thank you for linking up with World Moms Blog today!

So, I wonder, did you ever ask your mother straight up why she didn't buy the apricots? I am curious to know if your interpretation and the lesson you learned of why she didn't buy them was the same as why she really didn't buy them. I find those parts intriguing, too. Only because I find myself interpreting things differently than others!

For example, if this was me and my mom, I would have thought there was a reason she didn't buy them similar to yourself, and then years later she would tell me, "Actually, I went to the grocery store and they didn't have them." Or, "Oh! You actually wanted me to get you some?"

I really enjoyed this post. What a gem!

Jen :)

 
At November 3, 2011 at 2:11 AM , Anonymous Mama B said...

Beautifully Written! You captured the moment so well and the arrogance of young children. Thats what we are here for I guess, to keep our children grounded. It's helping them to relish the experience while still appreciating what they life is. Again, Beautifully written.

 
At November 3, 2011 at 2:32 PM , Anonymous Liz Sawyer said...

beautiful story... your paragraph starting "watching her look around the house..." is my favorite part. Thank you for linking up/sharing!

 
At November 3, 2011 at 7:45 PM , Anonymous Tatter Scoops said...

So beautifully written. Thank you for this piece. It reminds me of my own feelings when I moved back into my parents' house. You nailed it right there on this line :"It’s the ordinariness of life that makes these adventures extraordinary"

 
At November 4, 2011 at 4:41 AM , Anonymous Mamma_Simona said...

Very well written. Thanks for sharing that bit of wisdom .... I can see me using the "apricot / laundry hamper strategy" in the not too distant future! :)

 
At April 28, 2012 at 8:18 AM , Anonymous may said...

My youngest is making this life altering trip to France in a month....the last of our three to make it. We are providing it for all the reasons you sum up here. And you do capture it perfectly.

 
At April 28, 2012 at 1:57 PM , Anonymous Ramblign Follower said...

Oh I am crying. This is so powerful. Thank you!

 
At April 28, 2012 at 6:35 PM , Anonymous Sheri Leach said...

A brilliant post. You certainly know how to tell a story. Love the lesson here.

 
At April 29, 2012 at 4:43 AM , Anonymous Patty said...

This so reminds me of when our oldest went to Europe after high school graduation and returned home with extreme "Continental" airs. She was drunk with her perceived seniority in life which lasted until she left for college when reality became a very sobering experience.

Like you, I watched arrogance bloom into something very positive while watching from the sidelines...with apricots.

 
At April 29, 2012 at 9:00 PM , Anonymous Jennifer Worrell said...

I LOVE how you told this story. Good for you for not doing her laundry.

 
At May 19, 2012 at 9:49 AM , Anonymous Kim at Let Me Start By Saying said...

This is such a great story. I love your perspective, as someone who was the European traveling kid and the parent of a European traveling kid. Perfection for this linkup.

 
At August 26, 2012 at 8:17 AM , Anonymous Sandra Tyler said...

You're no "mean" mother. Just a responsible one. Heartfelt and well-written post. And right on with your line about her not quite knowing how to fit into her old life. And I too would leave the laundry. Next time maybe grab the code so we can grow the audience. Or even repost as a new post to get it more attention?

 
At August 26, 2012 at 9:01 AM , Anonymous Joyce said...

You're not a bad mother for making your daughter independent. I'm with you. Let her do her own folding. It's hard to see your kids leave for any length of time, but what's harder is when they move back into your house after you've been empty nesters. ;)

http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

 
At August 26, 2012 at 11:57 AM , Anonymous TaraAdams said...

I am inspired by your insight. Too often I get suckered, buy the apricots, fold the laundry, try to be the center of their world. Today my middle child, my twelve year-old is off with another family winning a soccer tournament we couldn't afford to go with him to. We sent him to have a dream we couldn't afford to share with him and I want to cry that I am the one mom not screaming on the sidelines. But you have given me a lot of solace today. You are one wise mom.

 
At August 26, 2012 at 12:08 PM , Anonymous Lorinda J. Taylor said...

enjoyed the story! I'm happy you shared it!

 
At August 27, 2012 at 7:53 AM , Anonymous Sunnithedyegirl said...

I enjoyed this story. What a good comparison - the laundry and the apricots - and how children can take advantage and just assume their parents will stop everything and do things for them. Indeed, it is the ordinary things in life that make the unique ones extraordinary.

 
At August 27, 2012 at 12:56 PM , Anonymous Journey of Life said...

I must say I enjoyed this fine piece of writing. --So much wisdom go into your words. Your daughter is a very lucky girl and so are you --having such a role model from your own mom.

 
At August 27, 2012 at 8:45 PM , Anonymous Menopausalmother said...

This is a beautiful post, and so well written. Glad I found you through Sandra's blog hop!

 

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