T’was the night before Boy’s first day of school. Fourth grade. How did that happen? I have no idea. Right before bed, he asked to cuddle with me for an extra long while because he was “feeling so many feelings all at once, happy, sad, excited, nervous” and he just needed to process them with me so he could wind down for the night. Once we did that, he fell asleep quickly and deeply, thankfully. It was the first time he’s ever felt optimistic about the school year ahead, even if cautiously so. Maybe because he knew he’d be with the same 8 kids he was with last year (plus 6 new ones for a class total of 15) and the same teacher who gets him, in the same better – not perfect – fit program, in the exact same portable classroom even, which meant he wouldn’t be juggling the many changes he was forced to cope with last year, changes that turned his whole freaking world – and ours – upside down. Phew. And fingers crossed.
And now I’m sitting here at my little desk, in my little corner, in what for all intents and purposes has become my library, the space I needed and love so much, and I’m trying to catch my breath after a whirlwind of a summer, the first month and a half of the school year under our belts. Did you know you must actually sit down in your chair in front of your computer if you want to get anything of substance written? Ha. I wish there was a mind to text app, at least for first drafts. With an on/off switch, or even better, some kind of intelligent discernment switch, because NOBODY needs to see everything I think in print. Lord, no.
We welcomed the summer with open arms. The Listen To Your Mother Baltimore show and the Jake Clemons in OUR Living Room show (I still owe you a blog post on that one, yes, I know) were behind me. We happily anticipated Girl’s return from school. She’d had a successful, fun and very satisfying first year of college. Boy missed her especially intensely and was so looking forward to having her home for the summer. He’d finally adjusted to his new school setting and was pretty much back to the same old Boy.
And then, as always, LIFE happened and it shook us up and reminded us that we are not in charge. Again, I was forced to recall the first sentence of Scott Peck’s timeless book, The Road Less Traveled. LIFE IS DIFFICULT. Yes, it’s beautiful too, blahblahblah. But the basic premise of this book is that life is inarguably difficult and as soon as we acknowledge and accept that fact, the difficult parts will become easier to manage. It’s a simple concept, one that leads me to enthusiastically nod in agreement and simultaneously think, “FUCK YOU, Scott”.
The abridged version of our summer goes something like this: Girl came home! She made it her business to reconnect with her brother in the form of field trips, bedtime stories and sleepovers. He felt loved and valued by her and he really needed it. Girl got her first paid job as a summer camp counselor and tore her MCL in an unfortunate encounter with a GOLF CART on her second day of work. Don’t ask. The next day, Boy and I had to leave for a Cub Scout camping trip and it was fun. And also, it rained the entire time and there were bear sightings and nobody slept and I had no cell service and I worried about Girl. I came home to a kid who had been well cared for, but needed her Mommy and there weren’t enough tissues or shirt sleeves in the whole wide world to wipe away her tears. And legal marriage FOR ALL. My niece from Atlanta came to spend a week with us and we did a Greek immersion experience for her and it was wonderful and also hard because she’d just been told her parents are getting divorced. I received a wake-up call about my many years as a sun worshipper in the form of a basal cell carcinoma on my nose. I had it removed and I quite like the visibility of the scar. I’m sick of hiding scars. The skin cancer fucked with my head, though, and it interrupted my love of lazy days spent at the pool and of hitting the road to take long, winding walks, my head up, absorbing the energy and life force of the sun. Boy had a blast at his various day camps and bazillions of play dates with friends, old and new. He was just about back to himself again, despite LIFE, thankfully. I immersed myself in learning about white supremacy and the Black Lives Matter movement. I felt convicted and I grieved and I hoped. I began to clumsily use my voice in support of the fight for racial justice, but mostly I amplified the voices of black writers and activists. Girl recovered enough to be able to run the streets with her friends and drive her beloved car again and she really needed it. We went to Bethany Beach for a week, one of our happy places, and it was happy and sad and also migraine and strep throat and marriage and arthritic spine, oh my. My parents are aging and it’s not particularly easy for them. Or me. Somehow along the way I managed to grow a pumpkin patch without even trying – an amazing feat for a woman who can’t keep the most robust house plant alive – and I harvested a cute little pumpkin as a keepsake before I had to tear the vines out because they threatened to take over our yard. Among other outings, I took the kids to check out the National Building Museum and I almost drowned in that damn beach exhibit, which, sorry, was WAY overrated – overpriced, overcrowded, and it smelled like dirty socks. The stinky beach experience was a perfect metaphor for the depression I struggled with over the winter which never fully dissipated. It retreated and stalled and advanced and teased until finally it returned full force mid-summer with deceptive, tricky tides. It made itself comfortable and threatened to swallow me up. I tried to get up and the shifting sands and crowds made it nearly impossible. It was the worst bout of depression I’ve had in a few years, actually. I didn’t give up. I never will, because I know that depression is a total fucking lying liar. Husband and I went to see Lyle Lovett and we really needed it. I RoadTripped to Boston with Girl to get her settled back at school for her sophomore year. It was the best three days we’ve had together in a long time and we really needed it. On the way home, I took a detour on exit 8 of the NewJerseyFuckingTurnpike because I felt like it and I stalked Springsteen’s childhood home at 68 South Street in Freehold. I did a drive by of the house and the little downtown area, I got some gas and then I got back on the Turnpike. All these years as a fan and I’d never done that. I’ve never been to Asbury Park either. Anyway, I came home feeling better, lighter somehow and I organized a water battle for Boy’s class to kick off the new school year. It was epic. I responded to a call for submissions by the editors of an upcoming anthology. I don’t know why. I think because I was trying to stay in the game, I was reaching up, and out. I recently learned that that essay and an earlier submission were accepted for publication in two different anthologies. Apparently you will be able to read those essays in books – the kind with pages, the kind you can hold in your hands – in late 2015 and early 2016, respectively. I started a new job at the end of August, a job that literally fell into my lap and it was too good to pass up. My first job in 10 years.
And now here we are. I’m feeling better, rolling with LIFE a little better again. I admit I freaked a little during the first week of school because I sent Boy back into the world in a very solid place and he came back to me a WRECK. Oh God, no. Not again. I don’t want that for him and I don’t have the reserves to deal with it. But it appears he was merely readjusting, getting used to being back in school mode, and now, 6 weeks in, I think he’s pretty fine. I always forget how slow he is to adjust. He might never be a kid who loves school, but he’s pretty fine for now, occasional bumps in the road – bumps I’m most certainly keeping an eye on – and all. Girl is thoroughly enjoying being back at school. We visited her at the end of September, she’s doing great. So great, in fact, she very assertively informed me – during one of my episodes of mouthing off about her college’s administration – that she chose to go to school in Massachusetts for a reason. I guess the reason is me? Is that what she’s saying? Ouch! And God love her, so precious. I’m trying to learn the rules and tighten up my boundaries and shut up. I really am. Husband and I marked our 20th wedding anniversary while we were up north too. Just so you know, the first 50 years of marriage is the hardest. We celebrated with a delicious dinner by the sea and we really needed it. “Here’s to 31 more!” was our toast to one another, me with my glass of wine, him with his glass of iced tea. Unfortunately, my Dad will have another spinal surgery in early November, and although that sucks so bad, we’re hopeful it will be successful and will provide much needed relief for more than 6 freaking months this time. Oh, and my job? I’m working part time for a campus public safety consulting group. It’s a great fit for me so far and I’m home when Boy is home. It’s certainly an adjustment after all these years of stayathomemothering, a different use of my brain and mental energy for sure, and I’m enjoying it. I took a photo of my first paycheck. All in all, I feel really lucky to have been given the opportunity, even while I’m still trying to figure out how to fit in *ALL THE THINGS*, which of course is an improbability because I couldn’t do it before I started working again. I have no idea what I did all day while I was home all those years, but I know it took me all day to do it and I STILL couldn’t get it done. Just like the rest of you, I’ll fool myself into thinking it can be done and I’ll crucify myself when I fail and then I’ll regroup, prioritize and get my shit back together. Amen.
Until next time….no idea when that will be, but it will BE…I promise…