Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Year of Lasts

by Nancy

In just a week, we'll load up the car, drive to Atlanta, and enthusiastically dive into the myriad aspects of DragonCon as a family unit. A year from next week, we'll load up the car, drive somewhere we don't yet know, and take the boy to college, dividing our family unit as he steps into adulthood. In between, there'll be a lot of "last" events for the three of us.

This is the first in a series of blogs about the transitions on the horizon.

I've been going to DragonCon regularly for quite a few years. I always knew the boy would love it. He's like me in his devotion to imagination and fantasy and possibility, although his particular interests and mine don't overlap much. Until a few years ago, however, the dh's job didn't allow him to come, and the boy was too young to set lose among 40,000 strangers on his own. So I went alone to volunteer in the excellent Writer Track GRW's Nancy Knight directs and poke about in the other panels. Then the dh's job changed, and we made DragonCon an annual family trip.

The boy took to it like the proverbial duck to water, as I'd expected. It's not really the dh's scene, all those people walking around in costumes and carrying mock (or real but peace-bonded) weapons. He says he goes in part for the YA lit and writer tracks and in part to watch the boy and me enjoy ourselves.

That first year, he or I walked the boy to whatever panels he wanted to attend and then met him afterward, but the next year, we cut him loose. Now he has buddies he joins at the con (short for convention), and we don't see him much.

The fannish term for someone who's not into fandom is "mundane." The dh is a mundane and proud of it, but he'll stand on the curb with me and watch the costumed contingents--super-heroes, Star Trek characters, pirates, ninjas, anime characters, Hogwarts students, Pernese dragonriders, elves, Stargate personnel, Jedi, Sith Lords, Stormtroopers (the 501st Legion always has a big turnout), Rebel Alliance and Imperial military, Dunedain, wizards, fairies, Spartans, Rohirrim, and pretty much any other kind of fantastic being you might imagine--march down Peachtree Street.

In the anime section next Saturday--for the last time--will be the boy and the two friends he met at DragonCon, one of whom became (and still is) his girlfriend. We'll cheer and wave when they march by, and I'll try to get a good photo. The boy has two costumes of anime characters he likes, and he alternates them during the con. I don't yet know which one he'll wear that day.

The people who roam in costume--cosplayers, they're called--were a huge hit with him. We walked out of an exhibit hall one day that first year, and someone called out to him using the name of his character. When we turned toward the sound, there stood a group of people dressed as characters from the same show as he was. He joined them with a big grin on his face, and I proved how useful mothers could be by taking group photos with various cameras.

Taking photos of costumes is common at DragonCon. Asking to take one is a compliment, and people are usually happy to oblige. The boy met his girlfriend when she called out to stop him because she wanted to photograph his costume.

Another hit for us that first year was a demonstration, which the boy and I attended together, of bladed weaponry combat by the late Hank Reinhardt and his students. Hank had a dry, sarcastic wit that made people forget he was actually teaching them something, and he knew a very great deal about swords and their use.

I found his workshops extremely helpful for research. He was always willing to answer questions and let people handle any weapons he'd brought. That year marked his return to the con after a long absence. Unfortunately, he died not long after that. I've always been glad the boy and I shared that hour.

The con runs closed circuit television (DragonCon TV--yes, really) in all the hotels. Programming includes panels that were hard to get into, the costume contest, and whatever else the con staff wants to include. A staple is the programming segment known as bumpers--jokes that appear on the screen in dialogue format, humorous videos, etc. There are always new ones, and we all love them. Even the ones that really, truly, are groaners.

If you decide to try the link, scroll down until you get to "Regencies and Revenants" and watch that one. (And if you have a lot of time, click on the "bumpers" link on that page and indulge.) We enjoy starting and ending our days with humor. Even if it's not all as clever as it wants to be, a lot of it is wicked smart.

So we'll head to Atlanta next week, hurry from one panel or reading or demonstration to the next, roam the exhibit halls, amuse ourselves with DragonCon TV at bedtime and in the morning, and maybe even have the occasional meal together. On the surface, this con weekend will be like the ones before it, busy and fun and sometimes chaotic. But always hovering in some corner of my mind will be the knowledge that this is the last one, a moment especially important to savor before our fledgling flies.

What event kicked off a year of lasts for your family? What did you do (or wish you had done) to commemorate the occasion? What was a highlight of your last year in the nest?

Another package of three books from the RWA conference goes to one commenter.


barb said...

come back GR

Donna MacMeans said...

Barb - looks like he's heading back your way!

Nancy - The trouble with "lasts" is you sometimes don't realize that they're the last until the event has passed. I think the last event I can recall with a nostalgic sigh was a family wedding we all attended. It included a long family road trip to return to Maryland. After that the kids - who aren't really kids anymore - were too old to go with their family to such events. Sometimes they come on their own, but often work or school interfere.

As my kids still live close, we still have lots of together occasions. I think the thing to do is to remember to take lots of photos and savor every experience because you just never know if it'll be the last.

barb said...

Nancy ... I enjoyed reading your blog.... my Grandson is into anime and he goes to a festival and likes to go dressed up He has asked if I can make him something or other that he needs for his character.... I think it is so long ago that our nest became empty that I can't really remember LOL we did used to have family pic nics that we no longer have as family is all over the place in different parts of the world and only very occasionally are we able to get together

Daz said...

Dang! Enjoy him barb. He probably needs the break from all the work I've been making him do anyway.

Daz said...

Nancy, one never knows quite when a last will be so best to always cherish every event. All the best with your boy moving onto another momentous part of his life.

flchen1 said...

How fun! Yesterday was my last day of having a non-school age child :) Today my youngest joined his older sibs at "real" school. Yikes! And yay! ;) Thanks for sharing the photos and experiences, Nancy!

Jane said...

Love the pics, Nancy. Sometimes it seems as if I left the nest yesterday and other days I realize how much time has past. Can't remember what we did to mark that occasion, but we all live in the same city.

Helen said...

Well done Barbara it is a bit cool to walk down the street tonight though say hi to him for me

What a great post and it has got me thinking for us we still have one at home the youngest (23) although she did move out about a year ago for 3 months then came back home and I gotta say it was very strange just the 2 of us here but then again I am lucky enough to have my other 3 children and their families living close by and they visit often.
I don't think that we did anything special when my son first moved out he was the first (although I do remember his sisters being happy and they all got a room to themselves LOL) then my eldest then the 3rd child, and I can't think of anything that at the time I knew would be the last time we did this as a family and we still do things as a family like going away together and on picnics I don't think much has changed only that the house is quieter other than when they are all visiting.

Have Fun

Nancy said...

Barb, looks as though you're keeping the GR busy! Congrats. :-)

Nancy said...

Donna wrote: The trouble with "lasts" is you sometimes don't realize that they're the last until the event has passed.

Too true. I feel lucky that we do know, going into this 12-month span, that change is coming.

I've always taken lots of photos of family occasions, but that also means I view a lot of life through a camera, so I don't take as many as I used to. I do still take several each time, though, because I agree with you that it's important to savor the experience.

Anna Sugden said...

Great post, Nancy - love the sound of DragonCon! As an autographs and memorabilia fan who often frequents those kinds of fairs, I can only imagine what a blast it must be.

Hugs on it being the last, though I suspect your boy may well keep up the tradition long after he's flown the nest.

I don't have any kids, so no lasts to mention. Can't remember any lasts at home because I went to boarding school at an early age and was independent at 18.

I think the thing I'll miss most will be when my niece and nephew get too old for a hug - especially my nephew. You know how boys can get! I always expect each time I see them for him to give me the brush-off and am so pleased when he gives me a hug. We always make the same joke - I call him 'favourite nephew' and he reminds me I'm his only nephew!

I just try to enjoy each time I see them and speak with them. And, of course, I spoil them rotten *g*.

Nancy said...

Barb, glad you enjoyed it. Your grandson and the boy would probably find some common interests in the anime universe.

I used to see my cousins a lot. When we were growing up, their families came to our house for at least one holiday a year. After my grandfather died, though, that gradually stopped. We got into college and didn't want to travel on holidays.

Nancy said...

Daz, thanks for the good wishes. I agree with you that we should savor occasions because you can't always know which one will be a "last."

Nancy said...

Hi, Fedora--off to "real" school, huh? A very big day! It seems as though the boy started school just a week or so ago, and we're now looking at colleges. Time really does rush by.

Nancy said...

Jane, thanks. It's nice that your family lives so close. The dh's sister and brother live very near his father in Colorado. We're the odd ones who live farther away.

Nancy said...

Helen, glad you liked it. Having the boy gone for two weeks this summer was a taste of things to come for us. I commented to the dh one night that the house wasn't any quieter than it would've been if the boy had been upstairs asleep, but the quality of the silence was different.

I remember getting my own room. It was a huge deal. :-)

Nancy said...

Anna, I'll bet you do a better job of keeping memorabilia straight than we do. Ours tends to be a hodgepodge.

Yes, I do know how boys get. When we took ours to the airport to see him off to Japan, he said, "No hugging at the airport, okay?" So I made him give me a hug before we got in the car. When he came back I was gratified that there was no balk about hugging. He came straight to us and opened his arms.

I suspect he will keep the DragonCon tradition, though not for a while. He's looking at schools outside the South, and the con is so close to the start of school that I can't see him making the trip. He's pretty focused when it comes to doing his assignments. But eventually, I suspect it will become a regular thing for him.

I love your tradition with your nephew!

Louisa Cornell said...

Yay Barb ! He is beginning to become a regular at your place!

Great photos, Nancy, and a great summary of DragonCon. I live too close not to make it there one of these days.

I never realized how much those family vacations to Pennsylvania would mean to me until long after I stopped going. Once I went off to college my summers were spent taking classes as I did two bachelors degrees at the same time. Then it was my first job, marriage, grad school and I never made the trip again. My brothers and I look back at those trips now with much fondness and a great deal of laughter. I wish we had known the last one with all of us was indeed the last.

One of my nephews is a sophomore in college and his last year of high school I tried to attend as many lasts as I could - his last football game, his last band concert, his last FFA event. Like Anna S I was worried that he might be too grown up for our customary hugs and I love you's, but so far that has not happened. He comes home quite a bit and I have warned my brother and sister-in-law to treasure every moment because these years are just the long goodbye before he moves out completely.

I still have a niece and a younger nephew in high school so we have a few more lasts to go.

TerriOsburn said...

Wow, Nancy. I am a Mundane through and through but this blog is so wonderful, I now want to go see this convention. Or at least watch the parade. And I got a little misty at the end with the bittersweet thoughts about your kiddo leaving the next. I have I have seven years to go before my nest will empty, and I'm already dreading it.

Lee Lopez said...

When my oldest was already in the Marines, and living in Hawaii, and my daughter was about to graduate high school for college, and I still had my youngest, we visited the oldest in Hawaii for a week. I knew it would be the last big vacation for the four of us, because oldest was going to marry, daughter would be in college and I'd just youngest. It was memorable and one of the best vacations, we still laugh at the pictures and talk about it, all these years later.

Janga said...

Nancy, my sister and her youngest attend AWA (Anime Weekend Atlanta) every year. My nephew is a huge anime fan and was even before anime reached its current level of popularity in the U. S. They've seen AWA grow each year, and my nephew is always particularly excited when he meets some of the Japanese recording stars.

With boys and hugs, I've found that the hug-avoidance stage is brief, giving way to the hug-endurance stage that quickly transitions to hearty hugs again. The ten-year-old grand is already teetering on the edge of hug-avoidance, but his nine-year-old cousin is a master hugger and still needs a cuddle sometimes. Individual differences always come into play.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hey Barb! Woot! There's that Golden Rooster on your porch again....grins.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Donna said: Nancy - The trouble with "lasts" is you sometimes don't realize that they're the last until the event has passed.

So true, Donna! So true. I realized this last year with my Father's birthday and several other events. We were pretty sure they were the last times we would have with him, and we made the most of them. But so often you DON'T realize.

Very poignant.

Nancy, you're keen to realize that it is a different time. It's a "transition year" - which is fun in its own way. :> Enjoy it!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Fedora said: Today my youngest joined his older sibs at "real" school

Woohoo! Freedom! Grins. I'm anticipating this event myself. School here starts Monday.

WOOHOOO! Grins. Not that I'm excited about getting back on a schedule or anything...grins.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Wait. I forgot to say a big WOOHOO for DragonCon. I have pledged to myself (and Nancy and Trish) that I will do my best to go next year. Grins.

COOL! I love so many of the shows represented and the writers tracks would be fabulous.

Wonder if they'd want a body disposal class? Grins.

Christie Kelley said...

Hugs on all the lasts coming up this year. Having a senior in high school is really different. Suddenly, they're adults (or almost).

I'm trying to concentrate on firsts this week. My oldest started at the community college this week. And my 13 yr old started his last year of middle school yesterday, which is always a great thing. High school is so much more fun.

I hope your son enjoys his senior year!

peggy said...

Our son just moved out with a few friends in his own apartment. once or twice a week we try to have family dinners or go out to eat. and we are close enough to visit regular.

Nancy said...

Glad you liked the blog, Louisa. Let me know when you get to DragonCon!

Our family summer trips were to see my cousins on my father's side in Florida. Those stopped when I got out of high school, and I wish I had paid more attention while we were in the habit of going. I don't know those cousins as well as I do the ones on my mom's side.

I love what you're doing with your nephew. The boy has put aside all of his childish bedtime rituals.

Nancy said...

Terri, glad you liked the blog. The parade is a huge event, but since it's out in the open you don't need a convention badge to go. The dh enjoys it. He calls the parade "the extroverted half of the con performing for the introverted half." It really is something to see.

Nancy said...

Lee, that sounds like a wonderful vacation. We're hoping to take a nice trip with the boy next spring, a last family trip before he strikes out on his own. My hunch is that he's one of those kids who will go and seldom look back. We'll see.

Nancy said...

Janga, the boy wants to go to AWA. The timing is usually bad for us, though. It sounds like a wonderful weekend.

I'm glad to know hug avoidance is not prolonged. I'm tempted to get a shirt that says "real men hug their mothers."

The dh can get his own shirt. *g*

Nancy said...

Jeanne, the big transition of this year will be the driver's license. The boy still has a permit, so we'll be his personal transport corps for a little longer.

As you said to Donna, lasts with older relatives are hard to determine. It's great that your family celebrated those occasions.

Nancy said...

Jeanne, you would love DragonCon, totally love it. Trish and I will be looking for you next year!

Nancy said...

Christie, thanks for the good wishes. You're having a year of transitions, too, aren't you, with a first and last? I hope the younger boy enjoys his last year at his old school and everything falls in line for the older..

Minna said...

Well, only one I can think of is my youngest nephew, who finished elementary school. Of all my nephews and nieces, he was the last one to do that.

chey said...

The last summer my sister and I were home from post secondary schools. Then it was the last time we were all home together at Christmas. Then life got in the way, people living and working in different places.

catslady said...

Our family is a big amusement park enthusiast. Four years ago was the last time we went as just the 4 of us (2 daughters). But we did go back again with both our daughters boyfriends the next year. One is now married. Schedules have changed and we haven't managed a trip that could include my husband but we're hoping that it wasn't our very last (sigh).

runner10 said...

I graduated college and got married a couple months later. Major transition for my family. Led to an exciting, new chapter in my life.

PJ said...

Nancy, what a beautiful blog. You've created a wonderful tradition with your son which I have no doubt he will continue as he grows older.

When my niece and nephew were younger they would spend the week between Christmas and New Years and three (or more) weeks in the summer with us. I can remember counting down all the "lasts" as they approached the end of high school and the end of those summers. That last summer, my niece stayed with us for her entire summer vacation (7 weeks).

This past year has been one of "lasts" for my brother and sister-in-law. The same niece moved home last summer to save money for her future. That future will arrive in December when we all gather in Florida for her wedding to a wonderful young man from Japan. One week after the wedding they will leave for their new home in Tokyo. Lots of "lasts" this year but, for her, many wonderful "firsts" next year!

Maureen said...

We just brought our last child to college and we had a big family dinner and then a smaller one with our immediate family.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Barb, congrats!

Just swinging by very quickly to wave before I go back into the deadline cave. A bit less than week to go!

Nancy, what a great post! Hope you have a wonderful time at DragonCon!

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I remember giving my niece a talk when she was six ("now that you're six, I expect you to use your brain to work things out"). She was no longer a cute little kid but growing into a (small) person. *sigh*

And I'm going have to go through the same thing with her little brother later this year. :(

My younger cousins used to attend ComiCon in San Diego (they're really big on anime; I'm just a dabbler). They missed it this year though.


Nancy said...

Minna, how did your nephew like being the last one in the line? Did he see it as special or finally his turn or something else altogether?

Nancy said...

Peggy, how exciting for your son--his own place! It's nice that he's close enough for you to see him regularly.

Nancy said...

Chey, life does get in the way, doesn't it? Holidays are shorter, family connections shift, and the old traditions suddenly don't fit anymore.

Nancy said...

Catslady, I hope that wasn't your trip, too. An amusement park vacation sounds great. I'm not much for swoopy or spinny rides, but there's always something else fun to do while my family's swooping or spinning. I worked at an amusement park one summer and fall, as a ride operator. It was the most fun job I've ever had.

Nancy said...

Runner10 graduation and then marriage make for two big changes close together. Was it fun having both of those to look forward to at the same time?

Nancy said...

PJ, thanks. You make a great point about lasts leading to firsts. Next year, when he's not at DragonCon, the boy will be in his first year of living away from home. With his first roommate (and we do hope they get along well).

Holidays with the kids sound great. I hope someday, when the boy has kids, we can have that kind of time with them.

What a fabulous ending to your year. I hope everything goes smoothly for your niece and future nephew.

Nancy said...

Maureen, you're a year ahead of us in the empty nest! The family dinners sound like a lot of fun. I don't know how we'll mark that time for hte boy, but it's a nice suggestion.

Nancy said...

Glad you liked the post, Fo, and thanks for wishing us well. I'm sure we'll enjoy the weekend. We always do.

Good luck in the cave!

Nancy said...

Cories, the talks with your niece and nephew sound sweet. I've always wanted to go to Comic Con. I'm just not sure I can deal with the crowds. Comic Con is so much bigger than DragonCon--but of course, the TV and movie people turn out in force for it.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Wonderful post, Nancy.

My son left the next for the first time when he was 20... I felt nostalgic right up until he moved back in with me 15 months later! :-P Speaking of not knowing when "the last" will actually BE "the last," most of my friends had this same phenomena -- return to the nest syndrome. At least my son didn't bring a significant other and/or children when he came back. Some of my friends weren't so lucky.

Congrats on the GR, Barb. Daz put him to work yesterday so he will no doubt be lazy at your place today.


Nancy said...

AC, thanks. I hear about a lot of twenty-somethings coming back home for a while, but they do usually leave. I hope things worked out ofr your son.

Pat Cochran said...

We've always been a close family
so when granddaughter Ashley got
ready to leave for college, we
didn't have a special gathering.
By the time she left last August
we had already had 3 birthday
gatherings and still had another
two to go! It was the same again
this year except scheduling was a
wee bit tighter. We don't really
count any of these as "lasts."
They are a segment of the conti-
nuum that is our family.

Pat Cochran

flchen1 said...

LOL, Jeanne! Although I have been spending gonzo amounts of time at school doing volunteer work... I need to stop that ;)