Every year the kids and I make the journey from Massachusetts to Mountain Lakes, NJ for Thanksgiving. We go to visit my friend Amy, and her family.

Amy was one of my best friends growing up. She did her homework. She could always find her shoes. She went to college and then she finished college. She was, and is, very different from me.
Amy is now a high school math teacher at our old high school. Her husband, John is a lawyer, and her two kids are a little older than Colin and Kate. Taylor is a senior in high school and James is at college.

Somehow, and I have no idea how I pulled this one off, we have become part of the Amy and John’s extended family. She is the only grown up in the world capable of buying Colin a present he actually likes, and will spend hours on the phone discussing important matters of the day- is Katy old enough to trick or treat with three of her friends, no adult hiding behind bushes or lamp posts. The week of Thanksgiving is the only time, some years, we get to be friends face to face.

This year, we got in late Monday night. I thought the route from my house to her house was 84 to 684 to the Tappanzee to 287.* (That’s wrong, don’t try to take 684 to the Tappanzee Bridge. Unless you want to go on an adventure.) We spent about an hour driving around the Bronx while the navigation system told us to get on, and then off, 95 South).

So when we finally got to Amy’s house, I was a little wired. The kids fell into their beds, I hugged Amy good night, and I took Sophia, the Most Patient of Dogs, for a long over due walk.

It was 12:30 at night. I listened to David Gray on the headphones. The streets were shiny with rain, but the rain stopped right after we got outside. My thoughts turned to people I knew that I would not see this time home, or at any reunions down the road.

I didn’t know her well, but the first person I missed was Suzie Stanfield. She was the little sister of a good friend of mine. Her sentences always ended in exclamation points. She was indiscriminately kind to everyone and everything, from the idiot 4th grader that pulled her hair to the spider she found in the bathroom. I don’t think people always shared her enthusiasms. I don’t think people, in high school anyway, were always kind to her. She had a million freckles, a crooked smile and I am reminded of her voice when I listen to my daughter open gifts on Christmas morning. That was Suzie, a Christmas morning kind of girl.

I walk by Lloyd’s house. He lived there alone. He was a few years older than me. When I was in high school I spent a lot of time walking around the “Big Lake”. Most of the time, I would end up stopping by Lloyd’s for a drink. He always had the tv on, and he was always watching Mash. I must have a crush on him because I really can’t remember why I was always walking around the lake and I had already seen every episode of Mash. A lot of girls had crushes on him, he was a blonde surfer late 70’s Gary Cooper.

I still tell my kids about the bone marrow on toast Mrs Houlihan used to give my friend Onk for breakfast when she was little. Mrs. Houlihan. Maybe it’s strange, in this sentimental journey my thoughts would turn to one of best friend’s mothers’. But I would given anything last night to find myself inside Mrs. Houlihans’ kitchen. She looked like a little bird, small and quick. She would make us snacks, flutter her hands when she talked about her daughter, and she spoke with an Easter European accent that made her words sound sweet as pancakes. I was lucky to visit her kitchen and sit at her table.

Remembering people that I loved could have been a lonely business, but Sophia, my beautiful companion, kept me warm. And she would have served as the perfect alibi, I was wandering around wearing leopard flannel pants and a Patriot sweatshirt. It is an established code, dog walkers can wear anything, and all people will think is “what a nice woman, walking her dog when it’s clear she is so tired she is incapable of dressing herself.”

I would never go out for a late walk in my pajama bottoms back home.

But here I was in a strange place, that in some ways, I knew better than home, and it turned into a long, long walk.

I am a New Jersey girl, A Milton Mom, and a Complicated Woman with a Past. I had a lot to think about.

Happy Thanksgiving. And a huge thank you to the Harrington/Eveleth family. Thank you for inviting me home.

*84 to 287 to the Tappanzee Bridge, in case you’re wondering what the right sequence would have been. But don’t try it without confirming this information with a reliable navigation system.

The other night, Colin was sprawled on my bed, watching basketball. He looked up at me. He smiled. He spoke- “mom, come here. I want to watch basketball with you.”
I swooned.

These are interesting times in our house. With Colin, I am often the source of great amusement, for what I wear, what I know and don’t know, (who is Kendrick Lamar?) and how I text.

Then he wants me to listen to a song he loves, or offers to lend me his basketball sneakers to go to zumba class.*

My daughter is 10. She went to see a teacher got married and needed to ask the next door neighbor for eyeshadow, my selection wasn’t flattering to her skin tone. And while I was making dinner tonight, she marched up to me in the kitchen, in front of the stove, thru her arms around me and declared it was time to snuggle.

I packed up all of Colin’s boy clothes last week. A thousand hats, he never wore one. Fifteen different teeshirts from basketball camp and summer camp and football practice. Little boy pajamas with dinosaurs and fire trucks and skulls.

In the midst of all these changes I’ve been on a bit of a cleaning bender. The hard thing is, Colin is thirteen. Katy is nine. They are used to my bi monthly half hearted attempts to get the house in order. They listened to the speech. They made their beds. They put the clean towels into the linen closet instead of on the floor in front of the linen closet. This all lasted about three days, every couple of months. Before.

When Back To School struck this year, I decided we were going to get the house in order. And that meant all of us. I regard clean clothes perched on the stairs the way I used see Sophie’s poop when she’d been left home too long. Socks in the hallway send me into a frenzy. And stuffing all of the offending articles into the closet and then closing the door doesn’t work anymore either. In the old days, I wouldn’t open the door. Now I do.

And of course, along with Back To School, the New Leaf Cleaning Policies, there are all of the Back to School Activities- swim team, football, youth group, flute lessons. And there is my job. And my other job. And two classes at Quincy college. And dinner, and friends, and the gym.

I have to go to the gym. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been struggling with asthma. Mostly at night. My lungs wheeze, it sounds like I have a choir of Who’s from Whoville singing in my chest. I can’t catch my breath. Yoga seems to help. And an extended time spent in the sauna after yoga helps even more.

It’s not surprising, I guess. My family has started careening forward towards the next part, the part where I have to learn to let them go. I can clean, watch basketball, burn dinner while I cuddle on the couch, zumba till the teacher throws me out, and it’s not going to slow down. And when I do slow down, when I lay me down to sleep, I lose my breath.

It returns. And I go back to sleep, and wake up to the most charismatic of canines, Sophie. Sophie groans when I first reach down to say good morning. And then she wags, not just her tail, her whole body. And she shivers, and sighs, and wedges closer to my body. I know she really, really needs to get outside. Even so she will stay in bed in bliss right next to me until I have to pry myself away and return to vertical.

That’s how things are right now in our house.

*Don’t ever wear basketball sneakers to zumba. Ever. They are incredibly hard to dance in, and more important, they look really, really stupid.

Since school started, my world has been gobbled by too much stuff. That’s always been the case, or at it’s always been the case since I started writing on Word press. But this season, there were two new additions that have left me little room to breathe, much less ruminate between breathes and create entire meaningful sentences to those outside my immediate family. (My immediate family might tell you that I don’t create meaningful sentences for them either.)
I’ve become, um, hooked on yoga. It’s not the same as hooked on Phonics, or hooked on drugs, or even the off and on addiction to caffeine I’ve had since I was twelve. I joined a gym right next to my house. There are all different kinds of yoga classes offered right before work, just after I drop Katy for swim team, classes in the pre dinner hour, (while it roasts, I bake in warm yoga at 95 degrees.)

I even bought a mat. Every time I enter the room, filled with all of these beautiful, long limbed, gumbyesque women, all ages, shapes, ethnicities, I find a spot in the middle of them. I roll out my mat, I go the closet for a block and a strap, I sip water from the fountain, I run to the ladies room to pee, and then I find my way back. I find my way back in a sea of gumbyesque long limbed rainbow of x chromosomes, and there is always room left in their midst. Of course, there is always room left. Like I said, I reserve a spot, as soon as I drop my mat.
I am learning from yoga. I’ve only been going a little more than a month, so I’m probably not qualified to share it with you, but let me just say, it’s a good place to find myself six times a week. When I am in the room, on an island of blue fabric, listening to my own breath, matching my breath to everyone else’s, absorbing the teacher’s measured instructions, and reminders, and gentle suggestions, I am an island. I choose what to feel, how to move, what to hear, how to place my body, and then how to move my body. The beginning of a love affair with yoga is selfish, it requires for me to listen hardest to what I am telling myself and it doesn’t lend itself to quick posts on facebook, or ruminations on word press.
And that has been the perfect place for me to be right now in the midst of the other addition to this little life of mine. My son is now thirteen. Since school started, since the first hairs sprouted on his upper lip, and so far, I’m the only one that’s seen them, things have gotten complicated. The other day, I mentioned a song to him. It was by eminem, a song he’d written about missing Dr. Dre. For those of you not familiar with the midwestern rapper, Mr. Em wasn’t bemoaning a missed appointment at the health clinic.

Regardless, my son, my son who once declared I was the coolest mom ever just for knowing how to spell me Em’s name, looked at me with utmost scorn.
“Mom, that songs been out since, like, 2004. You call yourself an eminem fan?”

No, I never called myself an eminem fan. I like some of his music and I know how to spell his name. For the record.

Next day, he called me on the phone. I was on my way home from driving Katy to swim team, after working out, after working. I was hungry. And he said the words:
“Mom, dinners on the table.”
Dinner was on the table. Colin had reheated the turkey taco meat from the night before. He had sliced a tomato in half and put a head of lettuce in a bowl. He had heated some taco shells he found behind the microwave for forty minutes in the oven until they were as solid as a cookie sheet.

I ate the turkey tacos. And then I ate the pizza that my friend brought over out of the blue. Unsolicited. I sort of swear.

He is the coolest son ever. He is capable of making me a card that would make a dead mom weep, (get that hip reference to the rolling stones. Probably not. I guess Colin’s right. I try too hard.)

Things are complicated right now. I go to yoga, where I’m just starting to figure out where my butt should be in downward dog, and have just accepted I’m probably never going to be able to hold my body up on my elbows.

I come home to my son. One minute, he smiles and I swoon. Before the minutes over, he tells me he was smiling because his friend on the phone just offered him the chance to by a used pair of sneakers for only $125 dollars, “I mean, mom, why would I smile at you. You gave me crap when I MADE YOU DINNER! I mean, it might take time before I recover from that…” And he’s joking with me again, and smiling. Nope, that smile was for his sister. She just said she would do the art work on the front of his book report.

Sometimes I go to yoga twice a day.