Friday, September 30, 2005

turtleneck weather

Today I got out the standard winter uniform, my favorite black turtleneck and jeans. I can’t make the move to socks, yet. Autumn is my favorite season of the year, but I find myself as reluctant as the weather to go in that direction.

We have been on the Extended Summer plan, here in New England, and the temperatures last week, the third week of September, were still just near eighty, with a lovely ocean breeze. The evenings began to cool and I scrambled to find jeans, socks, dormant since May, smelling of the dusty back corners of the dresser. Today the thermometer will not reach seventy, and I see autumn decorations on doorsteps, pretty gourds and pumpkins and corn stalks. Our stoop is decorated with the beach gear, unpacked from the car trunk but still in a state of shock that we would put boogie boards and swim noodles and digging gear away in the attic. The ocean has been ice-cream headache cold for almost two months now. But the first red-tinged maples are just beginning to turn, today.

I worried, two weeks ago, about the boy’s transition to school, but it has been miraculous, really. Not only have there been no tears at drop off, but he dresses himself and helps pack his lunch, waits by the door eager to go. I hear exciting reports at the end of the day, and he sings spontaneously. So it seems our whole family has turned a corner, and I have turned a corner: Scott and I are no longer our children’s whole world, and though we are no less central, we will never be their whole world again. I feel incredible relief, and it’s a little strange and disorienting, too. I can focus on some other things, with no guilt whatsoever. I can work. I can write. In fact, I have been happily writing this past week, and will have some new stories finished, soon. A customer entered the store and said something about “near-death experiences,” at which point I began muttering, “Does anyone have a pen, please,” an irresistible topic needing a piece of paper…

We pass a beautiful marshlands on the way home from kindergarten, and there are a dozen hawks circling. The boy asks me about what they are doing, and I say perhaps a large animal has died, large enough to provide food for a crowd of hawks. “I know!” he says brightly, “A mama and daddy hawk invited all their grown up kids home for a feast! They have so much food, that they want to share!”

He’s going to be alright, this guy. I’m going to be alright, too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

are we there yet?

Six weeks ago, I watched the sun rise between the twin lighthouses, thinking of Stonehenge and how lucky I was to catch the right day, sun rising at five-something a.m. Today on the same beach, lazy old sun wobbling over the horizon a good forty-five degrees south, now right of Salt Island, and the clock ticks six-twenty-five. I turn tail and run for the car, the wake-up call for school will be a few minutes late today.

There are enough eggs for the travelers, but not enough for my breakfast, too. The family is already awake and percolating. It’s the first “full” schoolday for the boy, who will leave shortly with everyone else, and the quiet, the long-awaited quiet, will be worth missing a few eggs. I have a tiny little stash of dollars in my wallet, and I am considering the local cafĂ© breakfast special, crabcakes and eggs. Perhaps I will just remember the one time I treated myself to it, decadence on a breakfast plate. If I told the price—well, it is a remarkable breakfast, here in the most expensive place on earth.

Both children run to do the one morning chore, watering their special plants. They check off items of the boy’s list: a small blanket and pillow. We find the pillowcase in the cedar chest and anoint it with a few drops of lavender, which is said to help children rest. “Yum!” they hummed, so I put a drop to my finger and anointed them, too, a touch of lavender to the temples, the chest. 

He has been looking forward to this day for awhile—local schools began three weeks ago and my daughter began last week. He has long been jealous of the school’s aftercare program for kindergarteners, though each day last year began with weepy, dramatic partings at the door, and twice I was called to remove him, as his frustration became violent. Yesterday we were talking about the tears, and he said, “Sometimes the crying just happens to me. I don’t know why; it just comes.” We talked about ways to be sad without crying, ways to do something joyful when the tears seem close. I am envisioning a peaceful transition, envisioning bravery for all the tasks so difficult for him (using public restrooms, settling into a quiet time, eating lunch without incessant talking, asking for what he needs).

I am thinking of Brother Lawrence, today, and forms of prayer: walking, serving, anointing, envisioning. We had a few minutes of hugging and holding, too, before the percolating boy posed for first day photos and ran to the car.

In a few weeks, I will settle into this schedule and when I sit at my writing desk, words will be flying. I’m a territorial kind of person, quick to love something as soon as it feels like “mine.” I remember color-coded, illustrated semester schedules created in my college and RD days, and now I can barely maintain the family calendar! But I remember the feeling: at last, this is what my life looks like, mostly.

Last year I wept over the first day of school because I longed to hear the thoughts in my own head—I wept because I missed my own company so much. I wept for relief. Today I might just weep because I have been working so hard, such crazy hours, and again I have had little quiet or peace for a month. I might nap. I will walk and think and be lazy. Funny, it’s my day off—a mom’s day off. I will have a day off next week, too, and two mornings. I pick up the children this afternoon and drop them with The Dad, then I head off to the organic grocery (we get our first shipment of produce today!) so I will feel like I have the entire day off!

I don’t weep because I miss my children, or because I don’t know what to do with myself. I get weepy now and then when I am with my children, my heart is so captivated by them, when they are not making me crazy. And I know exactly what to do with myself—it’s a poor analogy, but my image is of Nehemiah, rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. I am rebuilding the walls of my spirit, my strength, and finding what gifts are within. Such good surprises, so far—I am looking forward to what’s next. I’m looking forward to… to right now.