I just got back from my son's Year Six Leavers Assembly. You know the sort. They all do skits and sing songs and thank everyone. I cried last year at my daughter's, but this year I was dry-eyed. Until I looked at the notice board and saw pictures of my son in Reception. Oh, he was a gorgeous little chappie. Still is. Back then he had these lovely chipmunk cheeks which he's inherited from me, though hubby's family like to claim his looks. I'll never have him like that again, and I feel somewhat melancholy about it. Still, he has grammar school to look forward to, and I think that will be the making of him. I think he will come out from under his bushel and shine the way I always knew he could. At least I hope he will.
But the farewell to primary school isn't quite so wrenching for me as the farewell to Wyoming will be this summer. That is where my mother lives. That is the state we visited every summer when I was growing up to see the grandparents. My mother moved back there in 1977. I've gone back most years ever since. My mother's parents moved there from Missouri when they were young adults, my grandmother to be a teacher, my grandfather to escape his abusive brother. My grandfather went on to be a cowboy for a few years. Yep, a real, live cowboy, though not nearly as romantic as in the movies. They met when they were in their 30s. He was ready to settle down and have a family. She was thankful to meet a man who wanted to settle down with her. They took a train to a town called Thermopolis, built over natural hot springs, and married there. They then lived on a homestead for a few years till the loneliness and the rattle snakes got to my grandmother. My grandpa, as I called him, then built a house that my mother and her twin sister were born in . The house is still in the family, occupied by one of my cousins and his wife and son.
I wrote earlier about my mother needing to move out of my stepfather's house. She is 82 and growing more infirm. He is 85, deaf, incontinent, prone to accidents of all sorts. I finally heard back from my sister, who is ready to have my mother move in with her. I broached the subject with my mother. She is ready to move in with my sister. We just need to tell my stepfather and his daughters and consult a lawyer, I think. Not necessarily for a divorce, but just to tie up any loose ends. Then my nephews will come with a U-Haul truck and take her back to Florida.
So this will probably be the last time I visit Wyoming for a very long time. I will savour the view of the mountains when we take our annual hike to clear our jet-lagged heads. I will dip my toes in the icy cold water of the mountain spring we visit. I will remember my brother, my cousins and I, as reckless teen-agers, drinking beer all the way down the mountain, and me having to stop at each and every rest stop. I will drive past Grandma and Grandpa's house and remember their vegetable patch, Grandma's flowers, the soft grass that I loved to walk barefoot in. It looks different now because my aunt built a house on part of the land. I will shut that out and remember playing croquet on that soft grass, the smell of Grandpa's garage where he kept all his old license plates, the green shed my brother and cousin called the sleephouse because that's where they slept when we visited. Where are those license plates now? Probably claimed by some relation. I think the sleephouse was taken down some years ago.
I will walk down the streets of my mother's town, as I do every year with my husband, peering at the vegetables and flowers that people somehow coax to life from a sometimes less-than-willing environment. We will point out to our children the house one occupant painted red, white, and blue the summer after 9/11. We will visit the hot springs of Thermopolis where my children will go down the various water slides and jump off the high diving board, as I did as a child. Perhaps we will coax them into the teepees for some photographs. I will try to get to Montana, which I try to do every year yet fail for one reason or another. Maybe one last visit to Yellowstone (though I hope not as I have yet to stay in the Old Faithful Inn, one of my goals in life). So much to fit in, so little time.
Leaving primary school is bittersweet. Leaving Wyoming will be much, much sadder.