Lisa is a middle school English teacher who lives with her husband (who she met when she was on a teen tour) and her son (born 2008). Lisa is also a stepmom to three teenagers. She grew up in Trumbull and, after stints in Boston and NYC, is happy to be back in Fairfield County where there is much better parking. She also started her own college essay coaching gig, ACCEPTional Essays, where she helps seniors in high school make their college essays pop out of the pack. She does a lot of volunteer work within her community at her synagogue and various organizations. She loves to play tennis and cook, and she hates doing laundry and anything with mayonnaise. Her quest continues to find the best sushi in Fairfield County. You can view more of Lisa’s posts on Fairfield County Moms Blog.
This morning, on our last day of vacation on Long Beach Island, I set my iPhone alarm early so that I could walk the four blocks to the beach to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean. I had told my son the night before about my plans, and he wanted in. So at 5:35 a.m., I nudged him gently awake, pulled a sweatshirt over him, and we set off, his sleepy hand in mine, down to the shore. On the way, the lights in a bagel shop had just flickered on, so we stopped for a plain hot bagel for him and a steaming cup of coffee for me.
At one point on our walk, he looked up and noticed the moon, which had just begun to blend in with the brightening sky. When we got to the beach, we took off our shoes and walked along the damp sand, dipping our toes in the chilled water. The tide was low and my son wanted to know why the water was so much farther out than when he had splashed in the waves all week. Drawing on my rudimentary knowledge of seventh grade oceanography, I explained how the moon acts like a magnet, pulling the water closer and then pushing it back.
As the sun began its daily ascent, coloring the sky an orange-pink and then daytime yellow, I marveled at how it seemed so unordinary, how this ritual of nature seemed more like a singular brilliant performance. My son chased his extra-long shadow on the uninhabited beach. I snapped pictures frantically, of him and of the sunrise, afraid to miss even one second of these precious minutes before summer was over.
A few days earlier, I’d done the same thing, snapping away as my almost-five year old navigated an oversized slice of pizza into his tiny mouth, until finally he scowled, “Stop taking pictures of me, Mom!” Sheepishly, I turned my iPhone off and let him eat his pizza in peace, without my persistent demands to “Smile!” “Say cheese!” or “Look at me!” But less than an hour later, I had whipped it out again. I couldn’t resist the ice cream on his nose or the victorious grin at the bottom of a formidable waterslide.
By the end of the week, he categorically refused to smile for any picture, much less shout out for gorgonzola. My frenetic picture-taking is annoying to him, but I don’t care. I need to capture every moment before he begins kindergarten next week. Yes, kindergarten. As a friend posted on Facebook last night, “This stuff is getting real!” And it is this reality that has hovered over my entire summer, making me nostalgic for changing diapers, cutting up his grapes into quarters, even Yo Gabba Gabba. Ok, maybe not that.
But, to be fair, entering kindergarten is big. Kindergarten begins a twelve-year course, which, for my son, will commence next week and hopefully culminate on a June day in 2027. I am delighted with the school we have chosen for him and it was a pleasure to take him to Target to pick out an R2D2 lunchbox and Lightning McQueen backpack. But the fact that he is part of the “Class of 2027,” unnerves me: it places him in that “race to the top,” or “race to nowhere,” but nevertheless a race that I worry may move too quickly for him, and definitely too rapidly for an amateur photographer like me.
I’ve been a teacher for 17 years. My first class of third graders turns 25 this year. (According to Facebook, at least one of them has a kid; I’m a grandteacher!). I know how quickly kindergarten will become first grade, and all the grades after that. I have previewed his entire school trajectory: memorizing multiplication tables, dissecting a worm, visiting Washington DC on the 8th grade trip, attending a prom. Suddenly, my son’s provincial world has blown up; he will be part of a force that is bigger than he.
But it’s also kind of cool. This person, created from our dust and love, will be a bit in a gargantuan machine, a working part of the American education system. His standardized test scores will count towards national averages. He might be a whiz at math. He may enter science or writing contests that reveal vital truths and lead to important discoveries. I suspect that his current love of maps will translate into a love of geography, and may compel him to travel to places his parents have never been.
I realize that my frenetic photography is less about capturing moments than it is about freezing time altogether. And I know that I can do that as well as the moon can stem the tides. I will just have to settle for watching my own little force of nature, my brilliant sun and son, as he creates his own command performances. I will be the one holding the camera.