It all started with church,
This idea of getting ready for Monday-
To try on a different approach
To first light morning chaos.

I’d become one of those people
Who write hymns to their crockpots and can tell you
Which days the children
Need gym clothes.

(I am also a person who knows
Anything
Can happen.
Just because I’ve located
My stockings and checked them for tears
Does not mean I believe
I have control
Over tomorrow
Or anything else,
For that matter.)

I head to the gym for
A swim, some sweat,
and some space
To reach and drop
Stretch and bend.
I think about summer.

Maybe next Sunday,
I’ll schedule a pedicure
to get ready for spring
Or my next time at yoga.
At least once a week
I find myself surrounded
By well groomed women
In two tone leggings
Doing down facing dog.
In position, I’m faced with
Feet that scream neglect
Even louder than my kids
When I suggest last week’s
Corned beef and cabbage for dinner.

This evening-
One extra load, one last check with each kid
Do you need pencils?
Do you need a ride?
Tell me now because
You are old enough to know
I have no idea
When your recital will be, except that it will probably happen between now
and the first week of May.

Let me know whether your first game is at home or away.
Tell me, or text me,
Then tell me, or text me again.
I don’t care you don’t want me to be there.
I’ll put on sunglasses,
Wear the other team’s colors
and probably show up twenty minutes
After it’s over.

Coffee is measured,
Fruit is sliced,
Clothes selected, inspected,
Heels lean in the hallway.

Lunch is tucked inside tupperware,
This is good.
It won’t go bad
When I forget it tomorrow.
The world won’t come to an end.

(I know this because
I’ve devoted most of my life
doing everything I can to avoid
getting ready for anything
and so far… well, look outside.
You know what i’m saying?)

I spent an hour an a half doing
Everything I do every morning
in about twenty minutes.

And I still haven’t brushed my damned teeth.

or had a drink

or read the Sunday paper.

I’m ready for Monday
Though I’m carrying a bit of a grudge.

I like now,
Sunday night,
the moments before the alarm.

I like now.

.

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.

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.

 

Tonight, when I was going to the gym with Colin, while listening to “Shut up and Dance with Me,” I got a little carried away. Since it is virtually impossible to dance in the car while driving with your son in the passenger seat, I conducted the music, with just one hand, since the other one was busy steering the car.

Colin told me there is no chance the Pops will call on me if Mr. Lockhart needs a little time off. He said he wasn’t sure if I had developed a serious twitch or I was demonstrating how to stir pudding. I like pudding, though I didn’t know there was a lot of stirring involved in it’s consumption, especially since I buy it in the single serve packets at the market.

While walking the dog, Katy and I played graduation. I had to smile at her, hand her her diploma, (a rolled up takeout menu that’s been in the backseat since we bought the car,) and shake her hand.
My handshake was limp, my expression was off when I handed her the diploma/stained menu and I had lipstick on my teeth.

I’m not going to make it as a principal, or in any other position that calls for me to regularly bestow awards and degrees, unless I can do the bestowing by mail or that Skype thing catches on.

Katy said we could practice all night, and there really wasn’t any point. She told me to pay attention tomorrow to what Mrs. Kincannon does, but I don’t think she has much hope I’ll improve by the time she graduates high school.

I’ve told Colin and Katy many, many times that every night before I go to sleep, I lay in bed and think of ways to torment them.

I better get to work. I set the bar pretty high today.

Letter from New England

February 14, 2015

Milton, Massachusetts feels like another planet. (For those of you not in New England and aren’t interested in watching the weather channel to hear about the weather in New England, we’ve had some snow.)

The ground is elevated about two feet, it is glows ivory under the moon.

Katy and I went to Andrews Park last night. Instead of swinging on swings or throwing a frisbee, my girl scrambled up the side of a glacier. For the first time in her life, she cried out “I’m king of the glacier.” I didn’t follow her up to the peak, I don’t want to be king of a glacier. It’s never going to make my bucket list.

The sidewalks are lined by white walls about five feet tall. People are more prone to lean on their horns in traffic and more likely to make conversation while waiting in line for coffee. Of course, all anyone talks about is the weather, or shoveling because of the weather, or where they are going to escape the weather. But there is a sense of – we’re all in the same frosty boat, let’s share a moment and make it suck a little less.

We aren’t traveling this February vacation, so it helps a little, with the overall frustration, the shovel/bad hair day burnout, and the claustrophobia, to try to see my hometown through a strangers eyes.

It is a beautiful, fierce, quiet place at night. People stay home, even the teenagers. The only noise comes when a car gets stuck and the peace is shattered by gears grinding and wheels spinning. Or when the plows go through and all the dogs bark because they are convinced it’s the end of the world. It’s the end of the world about three times a night.

During the day, all the white blinds people. I walk the dogs, with my hand shielding my eyes, like a farmer surveying a field. I’m looking for spots with the least slush, and a path wide enough to accommodate me and two dogs. Both of the dogs require large amounts of personal space. I try to do my best for all of the people and animals I love right now. We all need to be extra kind to each other while we live in this strange, cold world.

Of course, when there is finally a few days without snow, it will look a little less ethereal and exotic and a little more this is what comes out of the car exhaust and the Christmas puppy.

But I don’t think that’s going to happen for a while.

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.

Part I Thursday Night

Sitting on the edge of a holiday weekend-. There will be cook outs and Mexican food and swimming at the Y, and catching up with Girls, and long, long walks with the dogs, and arguments over who has to feed the pets, and discussions over whether it counts as “family time” just because a certain teenager spent time in the house. With six of his friends.

I will zumba and read and look out in our back yard and spend at least fifteen minutes thinking about the need to landscape. I will dance with Katy to the radio, I will applaud Colin’s jump shot. I will scratch Sophie’s belly and kill 30 minutes looking for her damned leash. I will give up and take her to Cunningham. I will call friends and see friends and miss friends that are far away.
Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Part II

Saturday Morning

Not on the brink anymore, now I’m sprawled on the sofa in the middle of a holiday weekend. Just near enough, there lay two weary dogs, two well fed kids, and one glass of cold wine in easy reach. It’s Saturday night. But instead of Monday looming large with lunches to be packed and homework to be done, I’m thinking a day at the beach. Or a trip to the pond. Or a long, long hike thru the Greatest of Hills with the Greatest of Dogs.
I love post horrible-winter, late spring, long, and lazy, afternoons.

Part III

Monday Night

It’s done. Monday night. Backpacks lined up. Cereal bought, milk in the fridge. I think they did their homework. I think they have clean socks. I think there is money in their lunch account.

No beach. No trips to the pond. Or long hikes thru the Greatest of Hills.

But I finished a book. I made whipped cream from scratch. I snuck up to their bedrooms yesterday morning and held them close and didn’t remind them that clean clothes don’t go on the floor.

I sat in the back yard with the dogs and watched people drive by with places to go.

I was a little bit jealous. And then I was a little bit lonely.

And then, the sun wamed my shoulders, the breeze touched my hair, and the radio started playing “Tupelo Honey”.

And by the time the song was over, and the sun had slipped behind clouds, I didn’t have time to be sad the weekend was over.
Tomorrow they will kiss me goodbye on their way on out the door.

I can’t imagine “empty nest syndrome.”

I will need to start thinking about hobbies, updating my profile on LinkedIn, or adopting three or four children from overseas.

I was driving to the grocery store this evening and went right by a playground. It was just after 7, dusk here in New England, windy and cloudy and warm. It was crowded; spring has been a long time coming and some of us are not quite convinced it’s here to stay.

And a thought came to me- My kids don’t go the playground with me anymore. Colin is 13, Katy is 10. They go to the park these days, all by themselves or in packs with other kids from the neighborhood.

I hadn’t even noticed the passing of playground days, and they are gone, along with mornings of helping them pick out their clothes for school and the Thursday night phone calls in search of a sitter.

I remembered our trips to Andrews Park. Katy would clutch my hand, which would then smell like peanut butter until I got home. Colin would race ahead, clutching a frisbee or a football or a backpack with snacks. I would juggle my phone and my iced coffee and a book, all while one of my hands was clenched inside Katy’s warm, smudgy grip.

When we got there, I swear, it took us twenty minutes at least, and Andrews is three blocks away, I’d find a bench and settle down with the book and the drink and the phone. I’d make nervous conversations with other mothers, who all seemed to know each other, while eyeing my kids to make sure they didn’t hijack the swings. I’d wish I’d brought wipes, or bottled water. I’d look at my phone and calculate how much longer we’d have to stay until I could safely give them the five minute warning. I’d wonder what was underneath all the sand in the sandbox, if that was even sand in the sandbox. I’d call someone, anyone at all who might pick up the phone, and wouldn’t mind helping me kill some time until I could safely check the time again. Finally, Katy would make me push her on the swing. Then Colin would make me throw him a ball, or shoot baskets, or teach him how to make a frisbee sail thru the air. And I’d wish I was just a little bit better at doing any of those things while looking around to make sure no one was watching. And they weren’t. Until whatever I was throwing hit someone in the head.

Today, I took Katy to SOWA, an open air market with food trucks and art galleries and one stand that had an entire display of 19 different kinds of cheese. Colin went with me last week to the Y, and we worked on the new Keiser equipment. I can’t get a basket, well I can, but it’s not that often, but I can work with him on strength training to help his jump shot. Next month, I’m going to take them to see Lion King, The Musical, which is a helluva lot more fun than watching the Disney video four times in the same afternoon, (not that we ever spent that much time in front of the tv.)

So tonight I was sad for a bit that the playground days are gone until I thought about it. Now, I’m mostly relieved. Though I’m thinking that for Mother’s Day, I might request a sentimental journey over to the swing set on Castle Island. And I will let Colin and Katy take turns pushing me.

Tonight, sitting in Ayeesha’s kitchen for the first time, it occurred to me. I’d made a new friend. She and her husband had books, good books, familiar books. They had board games and a cat. Her cat is not allowed on the kitchen counter, and her cat doesn’t go on the kitchen counter. They have big conversations about the world and not about car pools or the finale of How I Met Your Mother. Though she did make me want to watch The Walking Dead.

She got me cookies, made me coffee, and gave me the sweet spot on the sofa. It was a magical moment, when I glanced at her face and realized, I hope I see more of that face. And it wasn’t because of the cookies, though I am a sucker for cookies.

As I get older, the moments are fewer and farther between when I look at a face that isn’t related to me, and want to see it on a regular basis. There is so much stuff to do. Recitals, basketball games, work, more work, working out so I don’t look like an idiot at work. (I work at a gym.) I’m glad I met her, and I’m glad I was smart enough to get to know her. Oh, gosh, I hope she likes me too. When she comes to my house, I will bake her a pie and try to talk about something political, or at least current, or at least not about my kids.

When I got home, probably inspired by Ayeesha’s kitchen, I went on a bit of a bender. A cleaning bender. Did you know dirt gets under the knobs on the stove? When I lifted up the stove top, there were drips of indeterminate animal fat, and candle wax, (I think,) and matches, and hair elastics. I swept under the stove and found 4 milk caps, one broken glass that someone didn’t feel like picking up, 97 broken crayons, primarily in pastel shades, and an earring. It’s like mining, deep cleaning my house. There are layers and layers of stuff, and they all tell a story. We really like milk, eat too much meat, sometimes are a little lazy, do most our sketches in primary shades and are constantly looking for hair elastics.

We are a messy family, and I am a work in progress. Tomorrow I will tackle the dining room and next week, I will invite my new friend and her man over for dinner. After I teach my cats not to spend most of their time napping on the kitchen counter.

Maybe I will wait until it’s a little warmer and they spend most of their time outside.