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.

My world was huge when I was in my twenties. I spent time in Boston, New York City and New Jersey, going from place to place, friend to friend, sofa to dorm room to home, with the ease of someone in their twenties. Boston had school and work, New York City was, well, New York City, and I had a boyfriend in New Jersey. I packed light, lost a lot of stuff, and borrowed even better stuff from the patient and/or clueless people in my life. I think I still have a cashmere sweater from my mom. She is neither patient, nor clueless, but she is unfailingly generous, and the color wasn’t good on her.I don’t know if she knows I have it. Please don’t tell her.

I got older, Boston became home. The boyfriend relocated to my apartment in Allston, we spent a lot of times at clubs in the city. Often, we would hire a cab to take us to Walden Pond when I missed the suburbs.There were frequent invitations to the Cape, I’m not sure why, neither of us was  particularly charming, attractive or well off. But we were happy to head out for a weekend with little or no notice, so I guess we were the people to call when a new people were needed, vacations can get boring when you’re spending time with the same people you have breakfast with all year.

In those days, I moved a lot. I liked to stay up late. I liked to invite my friends over to stay up late with me. Landlords don’t appreciate tenants that stay up late, especially on Monday and Tuesday nights, and have friends that are happy to join them for endless games of scrabble or alcohol fueled conversations about what we were going to do the next day, even though all of us knew the next day was going to start around five o’clock in the evening.

Within a year of settling in to a new place, I’d receive the eviction notice.  I lived in Allston, Brighton, Brookline, the South End, Bay Village, the South End, the Fenway, all within ten years. Finally I landed in  in Dorchester Ma, in a huge one bedroom owned by one of the friends that liked staying up late. I was living with a different boyfriend and running a profitable business from my apartment. I still went out two or three times a week to clubs or dives most nights, the cab fare was just a little more expensive.  I visited Block Island a couple of times a year, I talked to mom on the phone instead of visiting  NJ.

When the stick turned pink, and the proposal came, we drove up to NH to take our vows. We were going to get married outside. I was seven months pregnant; maybe I hoped I could hide my huge belly behind a tree. There were bugs. We got married in the foyer of the inn next to the reception desk. There was a family of five, just coming back from the lake, wrapped in wet towels, wearing flip flops, with the two youngest brandishing sand pails, that volunteered to be our witnesses. By the time the family was thru with the wedding cake- I had to offer them something and hadn’t even thought about a reception, the cake was gone. No slices for the freezer.

After child number two, we moved to Milton, a small town in Southern Massachusetts, right off the highway. Lots of woods, huge municipal swimming pool, good schools  and public transportation five minutes away from the town center. We drank the Koolaid and bought the house. My world, my big, big, world, became even smaller.

There were no last minute trips to the Cape or nights out at the club. Spur of the moment day adventures to Walden were few. Packing a bag for two small children to spend a day forty five minutes away at a pond  is more complicated than the packing I did when I was relocating to a different area code. Two cans of bug spray, three kinds of sun block, diapers, socks, extra socks, water, juice, hats, sun glasses, books, coloring books, books for me, change of clothes for all, wipes, snacks for him, snacks for her,  and Ativan for me. I think I miss packing for the lake less than the joy of car seats. If you don’t know, you might. Good luck.

I’ve lived in the big world, or at least a corner of it, in the Northeast part of the United States. Then I had kids, and my world shrunk to whatever space they occupied.

They are teenagers now. Now that they are older, I suppose I could expand my universe a bit, visit an old haunt, head to New Jersey for a weekend to see some high school friends, head to the City for a Broadway show.

The truth is I’m happy at home with just one, actually two, human glitches.  The teenagers are, quite often, here too. The space is cluttered with  chatter of youtube, the streaming of sound cloud, socks, (you can smell the stench in New Jersey) smudged plates and pizza crusts, unfamiliar voices that usually respond to whatever question or comment I make like they aren’t quite sure who I am or why I am bothering them, large and very florescent shoes, backpacks, hair products, cereal boxes, which must randomly distributed throughout the house so they will never, ever go hungry, even if they find themselves in a hallway,- sometimes there isn’t any room for me.

The Cape isn’t an option on a Monday night, I have work in the morning. Clubs are out. I don’t want have friends over at three am, I don’t know anyone anymore that likes to stay out until three am, and as I recall, things didn’t really get interesting until three am.

So when I need to escape, I pull on a yoga top and yoga pants. I wear the yoga pants because everyone wears yoga pants, I wear yoga tops because when you spend a lot of time touching your toes, or doing that downward dog thing yogis are so fond of, a yoga shirt stays on your body like a one piece one size too small. I wore a tee shirt once, and spent the entire class confronted with the fact that I need to eat less food, plank more, or buy a yoga top. I bought the top.

I actually have my own yoga mat. The fact it is the same yoga mat I started with about six years ago is a miracle. I lost Colin at Canobie Lake Park, I lose my parking card so often the sour face attendant gives me a high five when I hand it over. I have six different novelty key rings, with the trackers that make the funny noises in a drawer somewhere. If they ever turn up, I could probably play a song with them.

I go into class. I take off my shoes and silence my phone. I step on my mat. I sit on a block, ( why do you need to sit on a block you might ask? I don’t know, but everyone else sits on a block, so I sit on the block like the sheep that I am, see comment above about yoga pants,) We breathe and I wriggle a bit, on our blocks until the teacher begins.

We move through the poses, each time it’s different. The music changes,  I take classes in  vinyasa flow, meditative yoga, hot yoga, whatever is offered whenever I get there.

I listen to the teacher. I move my body. I arch my back, I lift my arms, I balance on one leg, I breathe.

I am at home inside the space of my mat. Even at the end of class, during savasana,  (time for muscles to process all the work is the party line, I just think it’s a power nap,) I am thinking about dinner, work tomorrow, if I will ever be able to support my entire body on my elbows, whether or not it’s worth it give up pasta, but I am not wondering where I want to be next.

I’m on the mat. There’s plenty of space for me and all that I am on a flat piece of blue rubber, slightly ridged, two feet by six feet, in Milton, Massachusetts.

It took me a long time to get here.

Mostly, I’ve gotten used to Saturday nights with a book or some work, cooking for one, resigned myself to being the only person that feeds the cats and walks Sophie the Dog who Loves Summer.

I have teenagers.

It’s good they have friends and places to go and that, more often than not, friends parents to drive them. I’m grateful.

I enjoy nibbling on cereal while reading a book, skipping to the gym without a thought of what’s left in the oven, listening to the music really loud without someone pointing out that I’m a hypocrite because that someone is always asked to turn down his really loud music. I pay the mortgage, and I have better taste.

I’m prepared for what comes next- the leaving, the migration out into the world and the cost of college. (Emotionally, I’m think I’m prepared for the cost of college. Financially, not even close.)

Mostly.

But tonight there’s snow and wind and dire warnings from the weatherman.
I roasted a turkey and found the gloves and dusted off the shovel.
They haven’t been home.

I ate a leg while I played candy crush. I listened Hamilton- the new hip hop musical everyone’s talking about and read the reviews because I couldn’t decide how much I liked it.
A lot.

I miss them more than anything and as soon as one of them walks in the door I’ll say something about laundry or homework or why are you late because I’m mad they haven’t missed me at all.

I need to start writing a novel, take up adult coloring, (yeah, that’ll happen. I didn’t color when I was 3) or adopt a dog that likes cold weather.

A few flakes- my heart feels as hollow as the house.

This just in- They are on the way home.

Tomorrow, there will be pancakes and arguments about who loads the dishwasher.

Tonight, I’m going to let the clean clothes stay on the stairs and the boots stay in the hall.

It’s the first snowstorm of 2016 and they’re on their way home.

I’d make cocoa but I think that would scare them away, they respond to kind gestures like wild deer, they scatter out the backdoor or upstairs to their rooms with body language that reads- what do you want from me? It is not currently in my nature to spend time with you.

So I will just welcome them home, and brush their hair out of their eyes, and ask them if they’d like me to throw their clothes in the dryer.

Sometimes bad weather makes the world feel lonely, don’t you think?


Stay warm.

One Night Stand, But Brief

December 30, 2015

Blue, come on by and take a seat.
I’m lonely, and I want to be left alone.
I’m sad and I wanna be sad.
I want to wallow long enough to carve a curve in the sofa from the night julie went blue,
Cause that’s all I’m giving up to you, the night, this night.

By 930, I’ll be brushing my teeth.
931, I’ll remember to floss.
10:00 pm, Ill be in bed, next to the most beautiful dog, the Princess Sophia.
(She hangs with you sometimes, I think,
When I leave for work or when the rain falls cold.)

We’ll be together, Sophie and me,
Soon enough.
No room for you.

Don’t leave just yet.
It’s nice, sinking a little.
It hurts, but this body of mine is finally relaxed.
I’m not holding anything back or anything up.
I’m not holding anything back or anything up or anything in.

Good night, my friend.
It might be a good idea to learn how to let things go,
Without leaning, or falling, or weeping, on you.

It’s worth a little time on cold Tuesday night,
It’s not time to brush, or walk, or wander about to look for whatever I’ve lost in the course of this particular day.
It’s still early.

 

I walked away from church at First Parish Milton today after listening to a sermon by Reverend Hank Peirce holding these prayers close-

Every day, I will try to choose faith. I will choose joy. I will choose trust and love and hope.

This is about the big world we live in- I will apply it to the future and all the people that share the planet with me. I will make these choices even on days the news is grim, the alerts are high, and Facebook is screaming in capitol letters to do the opposite.

This is about my corner of the world, about the face I show my children. I will try to find trust for them when I don’t want to;  I will let them go while my heart screams to keep them close. It is believing that someday they will learn not to leave their peanut butter knives on the counter and their clothes on the stairs.

It is believing in who they are now and who they are becoming, even though I don’t know who that will be. They have choices, too. I will honor them.

It is about them knowing when times are tough that my door is always unlocked.  I am here and our home is open to the world. I want them to have the gift of belief in the future even when the right now sucks.

door-open
Right now, right now is Sunday afternoon. My son is bringing me coffee after keeping me up half the night

My daughter is playing her flute.


I’m going to yoga.


I am so grateful for now.

 

birds-nest-314490_640

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.

Yesterday it was explained to me that I am actually insane for insisting someone eat scrambled eggs and toast for dinner instead of frosted flakes.

Today, when I picked up the other one from after
school at 4:30- she reminded me about a band concert this evening, except I’d never heard about the concert in the first place.

After we established that- yes, there was going to be concert that every other family with a band loving child in Milton knew about, and my daughter really, really wanted to attend, the possibility was again mentioned that perhaps I’m losing my mind, because of course she would have mentioned it, I mean , Mooooom– (Mom, I have to wear black pants, a white button down shirt, and it has to be clean, mom, like real people’s clean, and I need socks, I forgot about the socks, and shoes, black shoes, and they have to be… )

All explained to me one hour before she was due at the high school to practice.

It was a lovely concert. I was introduced to the band director, had the chance to see some good friends. So many of the kids on the stage I’ve had the pleasure of being in the audience for- either a Celebration of Spring Chorale, or Holiday concert, or Easter Egg Hunt or Isn’t Our Town the Best Town in the Whole World Parade or The Annual Mother’s Day March for Peace .*

The music was unexpected, for me anyway. The different bands performed the works of modern composers. I heard hope, terror, joy, grief, got a glimpse of spring, with just the right touch of “Let it Go”. (I think it’s going to years and years before the fans of that song take the advice spelled out in the chorus.)

The two people the closest to me have told me that I am completely insane and totally losing my mind.

Either one of those two statements might have really pissed me off, except- well, they reached this consensus a long time ago, and somehow I still remember to pick someone up for practice and sign someone else’s test and I’m the only one that ever remembers to feed the dog.

And somehow, I don’t point these points out to them on an hourly basis.

But I am really happy listening to the band, I even plan to tape the recital. I love cheering for the team, whatever the season. “Go Team” is ok, as long as I don’t use any names. Or at least not his name.

It’s been a good day.

And tomorrow, there is nothing on my calendar. No one needs a ride. No one needs anything baked, or bought, or delivered or signed.

Tomorrow’s going to be great.

*At the annual Mother’s Day March for Peace, moms aren’t the audience, we are organizers and leaders, some of us sharing and spilling grief, some of us are there to listen, a lot of us sing. And while we march, everyone keeps an eye on the children, who tag along behind, or limp beside, sweaty sticky palms inside someone’s slightly bigger palm, or race ahead, carrying signs, calling to friends, not looking for us at all, (because they know we are somewhere). Pretty similar to all of the other special days, I guess, except our name is in the title. And for the record, dad’s are welcome.

About 8:30, I slid into some black snow pants. Katy put elastics round her mittens to keep the snow from slipping down her sleeves. I kissed Sophia The Summer Time Dog goodbye on the nose and promised I would never, ever take her along sledding.

There was no one at Andrews Park except some fool with a dog. Well, he’s probably a very nice guy, but his timing wasn’t good. Katy and I were there to sled.

There was a streetlight a few blocks down that blinked and flashed like fire flies or shooting stars, orange, slightly industrial shooting stars.

The snow was vast, an ocean of snow, and the hill was a mountain.

After I finished my first ride, Katy got mad at me because I didn’t want to climb all the way to the top of the hill to start the next one.

I was afraid of ice. She told me to follow her, to walk sideways, to crawl forward like a bear.
I sat down in the middle of that hill and enjoyed a very nice ride.

By the end of the night, Katy and I raced, from the top.

I didn’t fall down on ice if I walked sideways or like a bear.

I won three times, thought it was because I weigh a bit more than my 11 year old daughter.
Further experimentation showed that I had been using the better sled, when we switched, she crushed me.
Of course, she also could have been letting me win all along and gotten sick of it.

I don’t want to know. But I wouldn’t mind going tomorrow night to find out.

And the world looks very different when I’m sprawled on a boogie board, head tilled back. The trees are upside town, the sky is closer and the snow smells sweet in it’s natural habitat.

Dripping on kitchen floors, clinging to mittens on the radiator, snow reeks of chores and arrogance and endless loads of laundry.

While I lay on my back, head tilted back off the sled, watching the sky, seeing for the first time how long the branches are on the oak tree that Katy crashed into six springtimes ago, the first time she took out the two wheeler, everything looked and smelled and sounded different.
Then my daughter called out- “Mom, I think it’s time to wrap it up… Where are your gloves… And why is your head in the snow?”

And we went home.

Bliss

January 13, 2015

I’m driving to the library and “What I Like about You” comes on the radio.

There’s no one else in the car and I have time to listen to the whole thing and pick up the first season of Breaking Bad before I arrive, on time, to fetch my basketball boy and his friends.

I return home. The dishwasher hums, nothing is left in the sink but a half eaten sponge,

Sophie the Sweet just informed me she’d rather nap than walk in the rain, my daughter smells like lip gloss and soap.

My friends love me, my family still calls. I’m not close to being done with anything and I’ve still got plenty of time, (or the ignorant bliss of assumption)

I am just so damn happy to be alive.