There is alcohol. Wine, fancy cocktails with basil floating in them like pine needles, and beer.

There are long, dark wood walks with a dog that follows, lingers, then sprints to a pile of damp leaves. There is the observation of joy, as she thrashes in gold and rusty brown and dirt. When she jumps into the van, my sweet girl smells like she was out all night, and it’s Thursday afternoon.

There is work, swallowing handfuls of chocolate chips from the fridge meant for Sunday pancakes, dinners out at restaurants I can’t afford, where we share appetizers and order just one more.


There is splitting the check even though I ordered just one more, and knowing it’s understood. I needed that.

There is time with friends.

There are phone calls to mom, and not calling mom, because I don’t want her to know details. There is knowing she is there to listen to the details if it comes to that.

There is music from when I was his age, and his own music, the inappropriate language, the grinding bass, the beat. There is time at the gym, lifting metal, finding downward dog in a room full of women who look they don’t have a clue even though probably half of them have been where I am now.

There are impassioned conversations about Trump, the Supreme Court, moving to Canada, the latest from Trump.

There the memes of Obama and Biden.

There is tv and slippers and sleeping pills and falling asleep with the tv on so I don’t have to think about anything but the carefully written dialogue written by writers on another coast that belong to a union and  are probably talking about Trump right now.

There is knowing, somewhere, in my head, this is not cancer. It is not Alzheimer’s, or living without heat, or living alone, or being old, and wishing for what will never come again.

When I find myself dealing with another variety of grief, I may or may not turn to the same these things I have found  along this journey.

Inside this life of mine, right now, I still find bliss and laughter, even though this heart of mine weighs more than my whole house, weights more than anything I have ever carried.

I have found a way to lift this heart and love this child and move forward into the tomorrow and next month.

Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes my knees buckle and I lean knowing I have lost it all. I find myself on the sofa, wishing I had softer socks, or a magazine, or a softer pillow, or it was ten years ago.

Then my daughter asks me to sign her permission slip. A student calls with a question. Sophie sighs in her sleep and I know she is dreaming of bunnies.

So I pull myself up and I take myself down to my bedroom. I find sleep, I do not dream of bunnies, that I know of anyway.

But I wake up next to Sophie and that helps.

My family is home with me tonight. I’m a little bit angry and totally blessed.

Well, mostly blessed.

I hope I dream of bunnies.

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I read a poem

written by someone else’s daughter

About her mother, who has Alzheimer’s.

Judy spoke of her mother’s journey,

Of her need

To be let go.

She spoke of clocks, conversations, lunch round noon,

snow bout mid December,

and all the parts of life

that are defined

by knowing what is going on,

what has happened,

and what will likely happen next.

 

A million pieces of knowledge tether

Most of us,

To know the date most days.

Class is Wednesday night,

Colin plays on Saturday at nine fifteen,

I need to be at work by nine,

Katy’s birthday is coming in two weeks.

I am never sure what time it is, and sometimes

I think Wednesday’s Thursday, or I lose an hour or a week.

I’m not sick like her, or like you were.

 

When it took over,

your eyes were clouds,

your lips made shapes,

your tongue made sounds.

Your muddy eyes would take me in,

or the wall behind me,

or a angry nurse marchcing down the hall.

Your lips would purse, then open, close,

more like a fish

Than like a man.

You’d smile when I’d offer up

A cigarette

And smoke it

Unlit and upside down.

Your eyes were clouds,

They belonged inside a winter sky, not on a face,

but I never let them go.

I would

Bring you taboo cigarettes,

I would fix your shirt, wipe your chin

and when his mouth moved

I’d lean close.

I’d smell the spit, the sour breath, last week’s

applesauce, the sweat

And I would listen

Because I knew you

Would never leave without saying your goodbye.

You were a gentleman.

 

I never let my you go,

Not when you’d already left,

Not when you still looked at me

and knew my name,

Not in all those spaces

in between\

And afterwards

And now.

I said in my last post that I wouldn’t ramble on about my teenager, but the past few months, my heart has been filled with joy, grief, guilt, bliss, fury, love, hate, gratitude, mostly all within the span of five minutes .

I’ve had to spend a lot of time at the gym so that it didn’t explode. After two hours of yoga or weights or zumba or lateral x, or whatever strikes me as what I need that night, I’m spent. When I return home, I don’t have much to say about all this stuff that is going on in my life.

Some people sit in front of the screen and outline their workouts, but for me exercise  is just as much for my head as it is for my pecs.  Analyzing my time would defeat the purpose, which is to come home,  pet the dog and kiss a kid, (without wanting to kick the kid).

A lot of what’s been making me so overwhelmed is adjusting to life with teenagers.

I’ve sailed thru parenthood pretty smoothly up until last year, with some blips, (“what is that tone?” “Did you really just say that to me?”.)

Next thing that I remember happened around the fall after he turned twelve .We were on our way out, and I said, in my always cheerful, upbeat, patient, voice- “FIVE MINUTES!”.

Five minutes passed. “Excuse me, what’s going on?” I asked, cheerful still, maybe not upbeat really, but patient. I didn’t mind missing the beginning of zumba or not having time to stop for the coffee.

“I’m busy with something.” This statement  was delivered from behind a closed bathroom door.

What are you doing in there? “Is something wrong with your stomach?”  He didn’t sound sick. He just sounded like he was busy with something and really didn’t care if I missed zumba or had to drink dad’s leftover coffee or never got anywhere at all ever. At least until after he’d completed whatever mysterious business he had in that bathroom.

“SOMETHING! And nothing is wrong with my stomach. Nothing.”

“Okay, I didn’t want to this, but-   Five, four, three… three and a half… two… two and an eighth… ONE!”

“I’ll be down in a minute. I’m almost done. Calm yourself.” My son didn’t get flustered by the countdown that had worked before he knew what numbers were, ignored the countdown, and then told me to calm myself. Calmly.

It’s been downhill ever since.

Recently, he’s struggling with some mistakes that he made, and trying to figure out why, if he’s filled out three job applications he hasn’t gotten a job yet. At any given moment, he’s laughing with me at The Middle, leaning on my shoulder surrounded by broken glass, asking why he is who is, confused because none of  the neighbors he talked to at Christmas about potentially doing some yard work for them this spring, have come knocking at our door, worried about his latin grade, frantic to find the axe body spray and convinced I hid it, begging me for a ride, begging me to leave him where he is, reaching to hold my hand while we sing along to the Fray, explaining why knowing what the words mean to White Iverson isn’t really necessary to appreciate the song.


I wanted him home tonight. Tomorrow is the Mother’s Day March for Peace, we go with FirstParish Milton, we’ve gone every year. All day long, text, after text, call after call, he pled to be allowed to stay at his friends house.
We have to be at the church by eight am.


All day long, text after text, call after call, i threatened to pick him up now, pick him up at 10 pm, bring his bags to his friends house and let him finish the school year in Canton.

It’s been fun.

I cancelled Mother’s Day.

I just got word, he’s meeting me at the church at 8. He said I’m important in the world, but that I’m overestimating myself if I think I can cancel Mother’s Day just because I sleep better when he’s upstairs.

So it’s on.

I almost marched without my son tomorrow because I wanted the day to start the way it started last year and the year before that.

The times they are a changin’ and that’s not going to stop. Ever.

Happy Mother’s Day, to mothers, future mothers, and caregivers all.

It’s hard, but sometimes, I think I make it  even harder.

(Don’t tell him I said that.)

 

 

 

This is the last time, for a little while anyway, that I’m going to write about the struggles I’m having with my teenaged son. We are facing some serious times, and they’ve been weighing me down, a thousand pounds of grief and fear and misery.

Ever since you started the transition from boy to young man, I’ve been a little sad. I’ve been mourning the child that wanted me to throw a football  when we walked on the beach, and wishing I’d thrown the damned football. I remember staying up late, watching movies, road trips and radio wars. You and your sister must have played a thousand games of tag your it, racing around the first floor of our house, while I screamed at you to stop. The louder I yelled, the faster you ran, until we all ended up laughing, someone stubbed a toe,  got tired, or realized there was ice cream in the fridge.

While you’ve been making the awkward transition from boy to young man, I’m sure you’ve caught me looking at you like I wasn’t quite sure who you are. You’ve sensed that I’m not always that thrilled to see you, standing over me, talking to me in a voice that still seems a little unfamiliar. Have you seen me pick up the picture of you in your karate suit all three feet high, with the huge fake sword in your hand and the big toothy grin? Or noticed that your bath toys are still under the sink? For god’s sake, you’re fifteen. I have to let go of the damn rubber duck.

Now you’re facing real trouble. I’m not going to go into details here, they don’t really matter. Suffice it to say, the police were involved, you’ve been suspended from school for a week, and I don’t know where this is going to end up. You seem to know you need to make a change, or maybe you’ve resolved you need to get better at not getting caught. We’re still talking, but we don’t say much, really. You smile at me, or fold the laundry, or do some of your schoolwork and I fold like a schoolgirl. I can’t keep you home; it’s spring time. You’re home all day. But between five and nine, most nights, I don’t know where you are. The police have your phone. You check in, but half the time I think you are telling me what I want to hear.

This is what I want to say to you- I’m sorry that I’ve wasted so much time missing the boy you were and haven’t really gotten to know the person you are. Though I think you’d agree, it’s probably going to be a  few years before we really like each other again.

But that’s what I want. I want to have a chance to get to know the man you will become.

I know you will be funny, you make me laugh even when you’ve just made me so mad I want to spit and scream and use all that horrible language you throw around like candy on Halloween.

You’ll be kind. When I came home from another bad day at work, you told me to quit, that my employers weren’t appreciating me as much as I deserved. You volunteered to start packing your lunch. You are not a fan of bag lunches.

You will be a great cook. Your waffles are legendary. I hope you learn how to make something other than waffles, because you are not a fan of bag lunches and it’s going to be a while before you can afford to eat out every night.

You will be loyal and charming, empathetic and intelligent. Knowing you will make getting older not so bad. Knowing you will be one of the great joys of my life. It already is.

Even in these troubled times, you are the person that can lift me up quicker than anyone, except maybe Sophie. She’s a dog. She has the advantage of a tail.

So, if you noticed that maybe at times I was a little reluctant to appreciate who you are now, and a little nostalgic for days of sand buckets and sun block, I’m done with that.

I want you around for a long, long, long time. Be safe, even if you think you are going to live forever, be safe for me.

I really, really, like waffles.

 

Aftermath

April 2, 2016

Before I go to bed, I have to water the plants, put out kibble for the cats. I lay out my clothes, check stockings for tears, the blouse and the sweater for coffee stains.
I lock the doors, close down the computer, set the timer on the coffee and the phone.
Then, I take a moment, or i am caught inside the thought- what will happen to us tomorrow?
My family is not having an easy time.
How hard will it be?
Will things get better?
Are things worse than I know?
I know the serenity prayer, I say the words.
I lean into peace, sometimes find myself sliding towards terror-
I’m not a fan.
There are too many damn things I can not change for the people I love best, and I need to make things better.
I can’t.
So I say it again.
Then I bribe Sophie the sweet with a biscuit to join me for a half an hour of tv.
March 2016

There was a band concert tonight at the high school. All ages were playing, in the post recorder years-. 6th grade thru 12th.
 
I don’t usually get that excited about school concerts. My daughter plays the flute in a sea of fifteen other flautists. Since it’s classical music, and she’s a little older now, it’s not considered good form to kneel down in the orchestra pit to take photos where I can actually see it’s her, instead of one of the other little girls with long hair and a silver rod sticking out of her chin.
 
The music was lovely tonight.This is the first time Kaitlin performed on the same evening as the high school band. There was a eclectic combination of jazz, a smattering of avant garde, I think, or maybe it was modern, and some haunting classical pieces. If I’d known I was going to write this down for the world to read, I would have stolen a program so I wouldn’t seem like such an idiot.
 
I arrived late. Right after I dropped Katy and her friend off to warm up (sorry about the insider musical terms, I was in high school band too,) I had a call to pick her big brother from a friend’s house.
 
I suggested Colin join us at the concert. He said “no, thank you”.
 
Actually, that’s not what he said. The terms he used would sound mean in print, and he’s not a mean boy. I don’t think he’s a mean boy, he’s a fifteen year old boy and he certainly acts pretty damn nasty sometimes, but when I took him to the drive thru he shared his french fries. And he’d been working out. Everyone knows french fries are a key component to muscle recovery.
 
So I had to pick Colin up, get him food, check my teeth for lipstick, remove lipstick, reapply lipstick and fill a go cup with yesterday’s coffee. By the time I was back and parked, far, far away from the front door, I was five minutes late walking into the auditorium.
 
Rock’n roll concerts start late. Band concerts start exactly on time.
 
I staggered up the stairs. In the very top row, and I saw a couple I knew. They did that wave thing, 2nd level, which means “we are saying hello, but we also have a spare seat for you if are willing to climb all the way up and over to join us.” I joined them.
 
I tucked myself into the folding chair and settled down to listen. I looked at all the people in the audience. Colin’s soccer coach from 2nd grade. My friend’s daughter. A yoga classmate and fellow church goer who gives the best hugs in the world. The two people who had welcomed me to sit next to them; they don’t know me well but they have offered me wine on more than one occasion and they’re funny and they think I’m funny so I think I love them too.
 
Small town concerts are different than small town sports events. I had a chance to take stock. I studied the faces of acquaintances, friends, neighbors, gym buddies, and kids. Kids that I’d known first in strollers were tiptoeing down the stairs and out into the lobby to buy snacks by the themselves.
 
I closed my eyes and was swept inside the music. In between songs, I peered onto the stage for a glimpse of my daughter, or Madeleine, or Andy, Colin’s friend from football playing jazz saxophone.
 
It was long. Sometimes it was boring. Sometimes it was fantastic. Sometimes it was sweet and sometimes mysterious. Throughout the entire concert, I felt so blessed to be there, at Milton High School with all of these people I’ve shared so many moments like these with, most of whom I don’t know by name.
 
We share a town. We are sharing our lives in this town in this turbulent, scary time. But inside this town, at the spelling bee and the soccer match, day to day life is still familiar and naive. Yes, there is bad stuff happening here, look at the thousands of beer cans in Cunningham Park.The high school has been on lockdown more than twice in the past couple of years. We fight like crazy people on Facebook, and then seek out a yoga class or head out the back door for a run in the hope of finding some peace.
 
But inside the high school, last night, we were all in it together.
 
I know your daughter, look out for my son. I’ll keep an eye out for your cat that sleeps sprawled in the street. I promise to buy cookies from your niece if you’ll smile at my daughter when you see her standing alone in the morning, waiting for the bus.
 
If you don’t know me, I’m Colin and Katy’s mom. Lately, they’ve been growing up way too fast. So be kind to me too. This is hard. Not just having teenagers in the house, but knowing that the days of band concerts, doling out money for ice cream, helping with homework, and liking the same songs on the radio are pretty much on the way out. All that’s really left are band concerts and football games.
 
I’ve got seven more years of concerts and games.
 
So when you see me, say hi. We will sit on the sidelines together. We will applaud for the people we love, the people we know and the life we are living right now- in the stands, walking the dog, and driving the streets in this little corner of the world.
 
It’s nice knowing I have friends, even if we don’t all know each others names.
 
I’m Julie.Band concert

Today was Monday, a big Monday in our world.

Big day at work, not really. I work in Mission Support at Quincy College. I was calling prospective nurses who had been accepted into our Nursing program to confirm that they planned on beginning our Nursing program. It couldn’t get much simpler. These people really, really wanted to be in our Nursing program. I heard “of course” most of the time. Or if they called me back, they led with “is something wrong with my application?”

I like talking to prospective Nurses. I love their clarity, their sense of purpose. Not once have I heard someone say “I’m thinking about the Nursing program, but I’m also considering being a Vet or going into law school like my dad.” Many students come into Nursing after trying other things out, so by the time they are applying, I guess they pretty much have seen what their alternative lives look like.

I work for Mission Support. Nobody really knows what that means, except me and my boss. Not even people that work at the College. The Director of Finance told me I actually work in IT. Some people think I do some kind of outreach, students like to ask for my help figuring out if they should take Math or English in their first semester and the people in IT would tell you I work on the second floor.

After work, I raced home to switch costume from aspiring Mission Support/IT/Outreach Coordinator trying to climb up the ladder to a job title people have heard of, to Football Mom. Skirt off. Jeans over tights. Some kind of workout long sleeve sleeved fleece thing in black to hide too many lunches and office parties.  Uggs. Scarf. Sunglasses. Old Starbucks cup filled up with this mornings coffee that left on the burner for 7 hours. Dog on leash, keys in hand, phone charged, I made it ten minutes before half time.

Afterwards, Colin says it wasn’t a good game and he sucked. I spent my time talking to friends and walking the dog back and forth. It was lovely.Occasionally there are advantages to being totally without a clue.

Home again, my 12 year old daughter had a band concert. She plays the flute. A friend had picked her up early, so I had the luxury of switching again,*this time to low heeled leather boots, a flannel shirt from Bass Pro shop and a blazer. Little lip gloss, little mascara, should have done something about the hair but my friend was saving me a seat and I didn’t want to be presumptuous. Or have to park on the sidewalk. Which I had to do. (Milton moms, and most of us have full time jobs, are usually groomed. Especially at concerts, school plays and sporting events. I am not usually groomed and am certainly not the sort to wear three different outfits in one day, but for some reason, especially when there a whole of them gathered together, I really, really want to look like one.)

Great concert. They were 12.  There was a chorus, a orchestra, a string band, and a cello group. The singing was lovely. My daughter and her friends were brilliant. All the different interpretations of black pants, white shirt, black shoes was fascinating. My daughter wore Converse. My daughter is so much cooler than I will ever be.

I picked up my son. He didn’t want to talk, you know, sucky game and all. Katy wanted to know when I was going to her a phone. I asked both of them when they were going to put their clean clothes away. We should have put it on YouTube.

I pulled into the grocery store. I needed meat. I needed salad. I just started Atkins again, and all I’d eaten all day was peanut granola bars with nougat.

I went into CVS, a hungry mom of two, worried about my weight and my job and whether or not the  Colin and Katy’s clothes were going to rot on the stairway while I grew out of mine, and I looked around. I looked for Diet Root beer and snacks on sale for after school that I wouldn’t be tempted to demolish and nail polish remover and thought about lipstick.

I decided to buy the root beer and go home.

I’ve known the cashier who rang me up for a while. She is an English student, crazy smart and she uses words the way I do. We have lightning conversations about everything but the Kardashians, under the glare of the Kardashians, every time I shop there.

While I was ringing out, she mentioned that in her senior year she’d be doing some teaching. I offered to introduce her to a friend of mine, a math teacher, suggested we have coffee.

She grinned at me. “You know what, here’s my number. Give me a call some time. I’d love to go to coffee with you. You seem like you’d be a cool person to talk to.”

Do you know how long it’s been since I thought of myself as a cool person to talk to?

I define myself as a middle aged mom, good for advice about what to do when puberty hits or whether or not a family should get a dog.

I’m an employee of Quincy College- I can talk to anyone about financial aid, pathways to careers, and how to get into UMass.

I have a lot of friends, and I know they think I’m interesting, but most of my friendships have taken a long time to take hold. I figured I kind of grow on people, or wear them down, or they just appreciate that I like to take their kids to the gym.

I’m a cool person to talk to, says a college student named Alexandria.

Of course, I lost her number.

But I always need stuff from CVS.

It’s where the cool people shop.

This has been a dark fall.

There are the regular stressors of back to school/oh my god where the f did summer go?

There has been the gradual, overnight change in relationship with my fifteen year old son. I’ve decided to trust him and, with certain boundaries we are currently in the process of working out, give him provisional freedom. If that sounds like I don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s because I don’t have a clue.

I had tried being a proactive parent-not-friend; “this is non negotiable” coming out of my mouth during every single conversation we had. We were living in a war zone. He felt invaded which is not surprising considering I spent all my time figuring out how to sneak into his snap chat.

We share the house with my daughter, 2 cats, a dog and their father. Whenever my son and I were in the same room, every one else took cover. Cats hid in bathtubs, the dog found sanctuary inside the shoe closet, my daughter actually spent so much time outside cleaning the shed, it’s clean.

But I couldn’t stand viewing my son as an enemy that must be conquered, and wasn’t crazy about being seen as a dictator that needed to be manipulated.

We are currently experimenting with- don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t come home wasted, get good grades… and I’ll leave you alone.

It’s a process.

That was the first week of September.

Last week, I got news a girl from my childhood, a family friend, was killed by her husband. She called the police and told them she was afraid for her life. The police kept her on the phone for two minutes. The phone went dead. Her husband called them back and confessed to killing her, and told them he was going to shoot himself in the head as soon as he hung up the phone.

She was 48 years old.

A few nights ago, I went to the wake of a five year old girl that died of leukemia. The little girl was in an open casket  Her twin sister sat in a chair twenty feet away, playing with dolls.

The weather has been hot and beautiful, with September breeze and cobalt blue skies.

I haven’t wanted to get out of bed in the morning. I’m grieving for summer, the days when all I needed to parent was an agreed upon curfew and a secret stash of gummy bears, a good nights sleep, the rise of Donald Trump, the little girl playing with the doll five feet away from her cold, cold sister, and my friend, Laurie.

Sp this weekend, I went to the pond with a friend, and we swam across and around, and then across again. I sang along to the radio with my daughter on the ride home.

I took her and her friends to the dance, and listened to them chatter in the car afterwards, like I might find the meaning of life and how to go on inside their discussions of what happened in the Gaga pit, who likes to dance, who is going to be what on Halloween and how old is too old to dress up as fruit. It was decided that a person is never to old to dress up as fruit.

I took a different bunch of kids to Nantasket Beach today. We were the only ones in the water- it was sixty degrees. I dove under a wave, the cold stole my breath, I sprung to the surface and tilted my face to the sun. We laughed a lot, loud, enjoying how the people on the beach building castles, looking for lost phones or sea glass, looked at us. We were swimming in late September. We were laughing and diving and waiting for the tide to roll in. We wanted waves, real waves, to ride on our bellies, till we flopped on the shore with sand on our face, in between each toe, in the lines of our neck… But the tide didn’t come in and we were hungry.

We ate pizza and ice cream and came home.

This morning, “Somewhere over the Rainbow” came on, sung by the Hawaiian boy while he plays the ukelele.

My daughter let out a sound when she heard his voice, and ran to me. “That is the boy that died, mom, that died because he couldn’t breathe, because he was too big.”

She shivered. I reached over, I pulled her close to me. I put my arms around her shoulders and we stood still and swayed to the beautiful sounds of that boy singing that beautiful song.

I held onto her, she held on to me, and we listened. For a few moments, we were all in it together, I knew it was going to be all right. Never the same, times even harder and sadder are sure to come, but as long as there is someone I love around to hold me while we listen to Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s promise that “someday, over the rainbow, bluebirds, fly…” I’ll remember how blessed I am to be sharing this corner of the world with the people I love.

When there are no beautiful moments, or good friends, or sweet songs available to lift me up , there are the daily tasks to be done. There is comfort in the putting away of socks in the right drawer, matched and folded, sweeping the kitchen, rearranging the books, and selecting  clothes for tomorrow at work.

It is both the sweet, unscripted moments with the people I love and the sacred, regular rituals that I need that allow me to move forward, in times of grief and loss-

It’s raining out.

The car is wide open. Have you seen my keys?

Scratch that, can you help me find my keys.

I’m not mad.

your homework is in your backpack.

I love it when you rub my back. I’ll pick you up for dance class at 4 o’clock.

Don’t you love that song? Really love that song?

im sorry I haven’t brushed my teeth, I need to brush my teeth before I talk to you?

You need to comb your hair. Not before you talk to me, before you leave.

Where’s the peanut butter?

You took it the wrong way, you’ll see.

It’ll work itself when you see her in school.

I can’t live without peanut butter.

Oh my God- that can’t be true. What. happened.

Have you seen my black dress?  My dark shoe?

You remembered to bring me coffee.

I love you. I wish you’d stop and just think sometimes.

i love you. I love you. I will always love you, even before you brush your teeth.

I Love You.

My husband never sees the kids. So when he pulled in the driveway at 7 pm, and announced we were going out for fro yo, it was a Big Deal.

Of course, I had to finish writing a letter for work.

And Katy wanted to pick out an outfit for tomorrow. Because tomorrow is Monday. And it’s important to pick out Monday’s outfit in advance.

Colin needed to find the right pair of sneakers. The forty pairs of shoes in the bottom of his closet were not the right shoes for fro yo consumption with the fam.

We left the house by 8. We took the dog. Sophie the Best Dog Ever doesn’t really like rides in the car. None of us are good at sharing dessert. But since was such a unique situation, (I mean he’s never, ever at the house at 7 pm, ever) there was no precedent. Sheldon wanted her to ride in the trunk. One step away from a Republican, I’m afraid.

Sophie rode in the back seat. She sat in the middle so that she was able to devote equal attention to Colin and Kaitlin while they licked and nibbled and spooned and dripped. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched her watch them ignoring her.

She didn’t even get to lick the cups.

So we took her to Andrews Park. It was 830 on a Sunday, one dog peeing on the baseball field, one dog owner on a smartphone.

Colin ran out first, Sophie followed. Katy, in hot pursuit behind Sophie. Katy back to the car for a sweatshirt. And to tell her mom to get out of the car. Now.

I followed Katy, and Sophie, and Colin.

I thought we’d play some kind of catch, or walk around the field arguing about who had to the dishes when they got home, or even just look up at the sky, agree that none of us can recognize a constellation and go home.

Colin had unlocked the gate to the play ground. Katy was twirling around on a swing, one of those big swings, with a reclining seat for a chair. When I asked her to push me, she hopped off. She pushed me. She pushed, heaved, twirled, I was spinning around, rocking from side to side, swinging up, crashing down, laughing and nauseous. There was no time to look at the stars.

I pushed Katy on the swings as hard as I could. I wasn’t able to make her twirl, swing,crash and rock all at the same time. Katy will be a better mom than I am. I hope she’ll take me to the park again.

Colin had taken Sophie to the jungle gym. When I walked over, he was perched at the top of the slide, Sophie seated on his lap, paws up, tail wagging. It wasn’t their first time.

And then we decided it was time to go. We got back to the car, realized Sophie had taken a detour, and Colin had left the leash on the monkey bars, and that none of us wanted to help find either, but we did.

I didn’t write down the last time Katy asked to hold my hand while crossing the street. I didn’t take a picture the last time Colin opened a present he thought was from Santa Clause.

Tonight, I went to the playground with Colin, Katy, Sophie and Sheldon.

I can’t tell you what the stars looked like, or if they’ve filled up the sandbox yet.

But I can tell you that tonight I found out Katy is incredibly strong, and Colin is still the magical boy who can convince Sophie the Scared to sit on his lap and slide all the way to the bottom.

Then get her to do it again.

Snap shots and Hind Sight

January 20, 2015

I opened my eyes at 8:32 in the morning and realized I had 25 minutes to wake up my son, put on shirt, (I went to sleep in my yoga pants to save time,) make coffee, drink coffee, feed cats, wake up dog, feed dog, let dog out back. I had to find my own sneakers and help son find basketball.

I realized at 8:34 none of this was going to happen. I took the journey up the stairs and woke Colin to tell him the Y was off the radar, at least this morning.

Now, I had time… I wasn’t due to pick up Katy’s friend for lunch/ice skating until 11:30. I ate a bowl of Honey Nuts while I peered at the latest Facebook brawl on Milton Neighbors.

I spent 12 minutes looking for matches to light the pilot, finally asked husband. Matches. Even when I smoked, I could never find matches. Coffee. Good, strong,, coffee. My favorite cup was in the dishwasher. I drank it out of a mug I picked up at Disney World 15 years ago. Before kids. I can’t believe it’s survived. I should hide it now that I just said that.

For about 25 minutes I wandered around the house, nagging kids, sweeping rugs, wiping counters. Katy decided to make waffles. I nixed the idea; we had no eggs. According the mix, no eggs were required. Katy was allowed to make waffles if she cleaned her room and figured out why her room smelled like stale milk smell.

She cleaned her room, I think. I didn’t check. Colin wanted waffles and I didn’t want to have to have another conversation about why it’s important to put clothes in drawers. I try to limit that one to three times a week and it’s only Monday.

I checked the clock. It was 11:05.  I found leash, told Sophie that we were going for a “walk”. She didn’t even wag her tail until I waved the leash a foot from her nose. I’d promised her a “walk” at 9:07. We walked.

I got home, grabbed Kate. dug out skates and confirmed the bank card was still in the wallet. I offered Colin the daily speech about what he needed to do before I returned home.

We finally picked up Katy’s friend. After watching her come down her stairs, I R=realized Katy and I should probably be wearing more than windbreakers. It’s January. In Boston. And we were going to skating on ice in a pond by the waterfront. I prayed I would be able to locate gloves in three minutes I planned to spend back home.

Colin was thrilled to see me. He was so happy to have an opportunity to review all the points I had made 8 minutes before. We collected what we could, Katy put on her winter coat and I stole something from the closet with a fuzzy lining.

We drove to South Boston, parked the car and took the t to Park Street. There was a march scheduled downtown today, in honor of Martin Luther King Day and to protest the recent deaths of black suspects at the hands of the police.

The side walk was crowded with protesters. One man said to another, “You gotta respect them, they are police.” The gentleman responded, matter of fact- “They are not police, they’re pigs.”

The girls and I ducked in Dunkin Doughnuts. They were crushed, this Dunkin Doughnuts did not serve the latest in their hot chocolate options, SMores. They settled on regular, but were mildly appeased when I ordered them mediums, instead of the promised smalls, and decided whipped cream makes everything better.

When we left, and stepped outside into the group of people preparing to march, one smiled and waved at Katy. Another grabbed the door and held it open. We stayed close till we found a crosswalk. We waited for the sign to say walk, then we walked, holding hands, clutching cups. I was wondering if I should have a hat.

I was trying to figure out if we should have a conversation about what was going on 15 feet away.

We looked for fat squirrels. Katy has a thing for fat squirrels and last time we visited every fifteen feet we’d trip over another one, bellies so close the ground they wouldn’t scamper so much as lurch. Today, the squirrels looked pretty fit. New years resolutions and all that, maybe peoples scraps are more of the whole wheat wrap, fresh fruit variety.

Katy was disappointed, and I promised her we’d visit Castle Island in South Boston next weekend. I’m thinking the current fitness trend probably hasn’t affected the rodent population over there.

We got to Frog Pond, still clutching our skates and our hot chocolates. Katy’s friend  (she’s only skated twice) had endured a five minutes lecture  from me about the importance of bending your knees and holding onto the wall.

The line was longer than the line at the snack bar at Castle Island in the summer on a 90 degree day on a holiday weekend. They sell really good snacks at Castle Island. So good that people will wait in line for an hour for a hot dog and some onion rings. Of course, if they are not standing in line, they are sitting on a bench or on the beach, wondering how much longer they have to stay until they can say they’ve had a nice day and leave. So snacks might be the high point. Unless the person really likes swings and/or touring big building that had something to do with the Revolutionary War. And there is a lot of room at Castle Island.

Not so much room at the Frog Pond, and from what I could see from the line of people waiting, if just 50 percent of them got on the ice, we wouldn’t so much be skating as inching forward carefully, hoping that the person in front of us or behind didn’t stop suddenly, or actually try to ice skate.

So we switched it up. When plans get foiled, lunch is good. Faneuil Hall is perfect. We thru our skates over our shoulders and trudged towards food. On the way, we visited to graveyards, where we talked about what happens when bodies decay, the first subway tunnel build in Boston, (1898, and we saw the tunnel) and what would happen if a zombie apacolypse happened.

When we got to the bottom of the hill, we came across a line of about 30 policemen, waiting for the protesters, which were about a half a mile away. They walked us across the street. The police looked tired. When I thanked a black police officer, he smiled. But he was watching the crowd advancing in our direction. I was a fly. I don’t know what they were to him. I couldn’t see his eyes, he was wearing sunglasses.

Durgin.Park. Gelato. Pajamas and necklaces and hot sausages  and turkey legs and screaming kids, and outside shops and inside buildings with lanes of food and teeshirts and key chains and cookies and lobster rolls and cannoli. I can’t begin to describe it. It’s warm and it’s overpriced and it smells good and it’s a tourist trap. And today, with my girl and her friends, we were tourists.

I wasn’t a woman who has been watching the news and trying to figure out what to tell my children. Or even what to believe myself.

On the way back, right by the Park Street T, there is a small shop down a long flight of stairs. It is an art gallery, like one of the ones of Newbury. Except this art gallery has a little of everything, photos, jewelry made of bottle caps, seascapes and huge canvasses by Pollack admires, cute postcards, like the one with a funky monster with the caption “I’m always in a bad mood.”  It was funny, so I must be remembering it wrong. Lots of postcards, and little  boxes with illustrations of angels.

Even though it sold lots of postcards and prints, it had a bench right in the middle. The bench faced about 10 or 15 pieces of Serious Art. Katy and her friend and I sat there for about twenty minutes. We wondered if someone in kindergarten could splash together an abstract if provided enough finger paint. We looked at the picture the stripe of blue down the middle and the thick stripes of brown on the side, Katy remembered climbing  the dunes in Provincetown.

Katy’s friend peeled off her coat, placed it on the bench and got up and followed me over to series of small portraits in the corner. The artist had done something with the paint, or the medium to make the faces jump out of the painting. I know she wanted to touch. She didn’t, just checked each one out from all angles.

There was a street car ride home. An invitation from a friend to go to church service over in Dorchester to celebrate the life of MLK.

But we hadn’t had dinner. And I felt guilty about not taking the girls skating, so I’d promised a trip to the gym. So I said no.

I got Katy’s friend home on time.

I made spaghetti sauce and added some fancy prosciutto to the ground beef because I wanted something dense and meaty. The temperature had dropped about fifteen degrees from when we got on the street car to when I finally made it back to the house.

Dinner was good, it was hearty and filling and everything a woman could want to serve her family on a winter night.

But I’m remembering the man who insisted all cops were pigs. And I’m wishing I knew what the police officer was thinking behind his sun glasses while he helped us across the street.

And I’m wondering if the best I can do for my children is to nag them to clean their rooms, take them ice skating and coordinate rides to their various practices and workshops, even ‘expose”  them to little art when time allows.

And is there anyway all of that can justify skipping a church service right down the street, today, on Martin Luther King day, in the middle of  everything going on right now, because I wanted a workout and I hadn’t started dinner.

I think I made a mistake.