I drove up to Milford, NH, yesterday to get a last taste of summer with my daughter. And her friend, (Because offering to let her bring a friend just makes everything easier. And she’s got really cool friends.)

The balloons were beautiful. The food was great. There were henna tattoos, bouncy houses, beer tents, tethered rides into colorful baskets, lines as long as the dmv at lunchtime, but much friendlier, handmade jewelry, live music, a summertime sunset, and a sense of summertime bliss.
No work in the morning. No bedtime. Fried oreos.

Here’s the thing.

Summertime is going to be over. in late September, I think. Last night is a million hours ago, and Friday at 4, when the weekend began, is a century away.

Kids will attend their first day of school, be sent away to their first sleep away camp, leave for college, if we are lucky.

One day, I realized I hadn’t pushed them on the swing in three years.

One day, you’ll realize their room doesn’t smell like their room.

The seasons don’t matter. The first day, the last day, they are milestones for facebook and family and reminders that time is passing, even if your sixteen year old has only eaten macaroni and cheese since he was three.

Not everyone has children.
There is still the first grey hair, the first ma’am or sir, the serious conversation about final plans. Menopause. Midlife. Mortality.

The weather is just a backdrop.

Don’t only live summer between June and August.

Fresh starts don’t only happen in September. Or a new beginning in spring.

All that matters is the people we choose, the people that choose us, and how we choose to spend the time that we have.
FYI, , if your kid asks for a push on the swing, give them a push. Take your time.

If you have to choose between Game of Thrones, and a conversation with your best friend, have the talk. Most shows are available on demand or can be found at at the local library. Even if you are feeling pressure from your well meaning, obsessed co-workers to watch a show, insist on meaningful dialogue. As a matter a fact, forget the best friend, call those television obsessed colleagues, and share every detail of your day. And your dreams. Then ask for their advice about redecorating your attic. Don’t let them off the phone until it’s dead.

Which brings me back-

The night sky, every day of the year, has something to tell you,
So does the sun first thing in the morning,
or whenever you wake.

I didn’t need to go to Balloon Festival with Chrs to appreciate summertime, or to connect with my daughter.
But I’m glad that l did.

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Bedtime story

March 19, 2018

Before bed, there used to be requests for water, stories, searching for tomorrow’s outfit, digging under the bed for dirty clothes, I would collapse in a chair at the end of it all, and just sit long enough to hear a voice from above call out “Mooooommmm”.

Tonight, I climbed the stairs, uninvited. I knocked on doors, and waited. i went in and leaned over for a kiss on the cheek, a kiss on the hair. I looked around their bedrooms, and thought about saying something about the dirty clothes, the half full cups of water, the nail polish smudge on the rug. 

I told them both, in the same voice I used ten years ago- “tomorrow’s going to be a big day. Get some sleep.”

I did not tell them how much I loved them, or to clean up their rooms or else. 

After all this time, they know dirty clothes go in the wash and that they own my heart  always and forever.

But i still feel the need to remind them, and myself, of all of possibilities that will be waiting in the morning.

Image may contain: sky, tree, outdoor, nature and water

 

 

 

 

The smack of a basketball against the driveway just before dinner
The back door snapping shut as my son runs inside for a plate of spaghetti,
The sun falling down,
the smell of a dark, wet, sky,
Dishes, cat food, liquid detergent,
The sound of leaving, and staying,
The smack of the basketball just after dinner-
I lean on the sink, close my eyes.

 

All that has happened
Has not.
It is just before spring.
He is my boy.
I am the mother of two,
With lunches to pack,
Who needs to make plans for camp.
The basketball smacks against
the driveway, against his hand.

 

There is no noise
When he makes a basket.
Never was.

 

I don’t know what I’m waiting for,
So I turn the radio up,
While I wash the pot, wipe the plates.
He stays outside.

As long as the music plays,
He’s making
One basket

After another.

 

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

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.

The Times, They Are…

June 18, 2015

June has been a pretty major month for us.

I finished my degree at Quincy College, a degree I’ve been working on for the past four years.

I left my job at the South Shore YMCA. The Y is one my favorite places in the whole world, and I consider the people of the Health and Well-Being Department family. But I needed to make space in my life, for my full-time job at the college and my kids.

My daughter is graduating on Friday from 5th grade. We are saying goodbye to Collicot Elementary School. There will be no more field trips or cafeteria duty. I won’t be walking her to school next year, or even picking her up from the school bus. She is making her own plans, I’m no longer negotiating play dates and or making delicate inquiries to other parents about whether or not she’s old enough to come home to an empty house. (She’s been coming home to an empty house from time to time for over a year now but I didn’t admit it to almost anyone.)

My son has completed his freshman year of high school. I know that doesn’t sound like an ending, he has three more years to go.

In the beginning of this year, he’d tell me what he had for lunch almost every night, he was excited about the salad bar and the after school options and playing football under the lights.

Now, he won’t tell me what he had for lunch, or maybe I stopped asking. He doesn’t get excited unless he’s mad at me. Then he’s very excited.

Since I’m done with my classes and only working one job, I’ve had a little spare time.

I started cleaning.

It’s spring, I was busy all winter- it was time to put the house in order.

I emptied drawers. I sorted thru clothes. I swept underneath the couch.

I found the Nerf ball we used for games of catch at Andrews Park. I dusted and polished every single one of Katy’s sculptures. I found Cheerios under everything; they quit eating Cheerios a year ago. There were stickers from the dentist and bottles of bubbles from birthday party gift bags.

And there were photographs, some of them curled, more than a few incredibly embarrassing, and all of them more than a year old. These days, memories are stored on the cellphone or on the cloud.

All this cleaning and sorting- I felt like an archaeologist or a nosy neighbor.

I didn’t remember what Colin’s voice sounded like before it changed. I can’t believe Katy ever got excited about Dora Explorer light up sandals.

I spent a lot of time in the past two weeks, (and yes, it’s been two weeks, I’m not kidding when I said the house needed a lot of cleaning,) mourning and moaning about how I missed the two kids in the pictures, And that being a parent means having to say goodbye on an almost daily basis to the people you love to make room for the latest version of the same people, slightly taller and surly.

Some nights, I would look at my children across the table and wish I was sitting across from the people in the snapshots I’d been mooning over.

Today, there was no time for cleaning, or dinner, or a walk with Sophia the Most Patient of Puppies. I had to take Colin to basketball, attend a committee meeting, help Katy find a dress for graduation, walk the dog, and then, at ten pm pick Colin up from the Y.

Colin had had an even longer day than I did. He spent all day studying for finals and finishing projects in school. After school, he played a basketball doubleheader, before heading over to the Y for an hour and a half weight lifting to get ready for football in September.

As soon as we got home, he started his homework.

I went on the computer to check emails and to search for a recipe that will use up the two pounds of ground turkey in the refrigerator that probably went bad yesterday. I was looking for a recipe that called for a lot of garlic.

All of the sudden, Colin yelled. He was sitting on the sofa, pulling papers out of his backpack. looking for a Science packet due tomorrow. He’d been working on it for weeks. It wasn’t there.

I went to him.

He was crying. Tears didn’t fall down like rain, they fell down like torrential rain, one of those Florida downpours that make creeks overflow and cars float.

I found went thru his books and found the packet inside a sleeve.

I showed it to him, helped him take off his sneakers and sent him to upstairs to sleep

I brought him up a glass of ice water and wiped his face with a clean shirt I found at the end of the bed. He rolled over, but kept talking. He told me about how he dropped a weight on his foot at the gym. He told me what he wants for his birthday. He told me thanks.

I put pillowcases on his pillows and kissed him goodnight.

I don’t know why I’ve been grieving. I have two amazing kids, right here with me, sleeping under the same roof.

Yes, their voices are different, their friends are different, and they certainly feel differently about me than they did a few years ago.

Pining over lopsided bowls and faded snapshots is a waste of time.

I might miss something.

I can do that later after they’ve left.

For now, I’m going to pay attention to right now.

Because right now is wonderful.

Maybe by Breakfast

May 2, 2015

5th grade dance

Tonight was my daughter’s fifth grade dance. After careful negotiations, I was allowed to serve as chaperone.

I was the cotton candy ice scooper.

When the 5 gallon canister was empty, I had a chance to linger on the sidelines. I would have been dismissed, but I was the ride home.

I talked to some of the other moms, but mostly we looked toward the dance floor and smiled and nodded and sighed. We moms would shift our weight from one foot to the other in time to the music. We would flutter around the floor with phones and cameras aimed at the action or picking up half empty water bottles and forgotten cookies. We juggled and stowed coats, sweaters, pictures, snacks, and ipods.

And we watched.

The kids were fireflies and shooting stars. I know it sounds like I’ve been listening to too much Katy Perry, but they were. I couldn’t even get a decent snapshot, Katy raced from one end of the dance floor, to the water fountain, to her friend with the long hair, back up to the stage. She was a laughing blur that knew all the dance moves, even from songs that came out before she was born. Her friends, all the kids, moved with grace and confidence and joy. They took photos of each other, without pausing to rearrange themselves, or find a smile or a pout. They held and shot and moved on to the next thing, a snack or a dance or another photograph.

Tonight was a beautiful blur, and I wonder if any of the pictures we all so diligently snapped will capture any of it.
And now it’s almost ten, and Katy’s brushing her teeth upstairs and I’ve got the Macarena stuck in my head.

Good night, Kaitlin.

Please be my little girl again by breakfast.

Just until it’s time for lunch.

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.

Katy, my eleven year old, left for a ski weekend with some family friends tonight.

I dropped her off about nine pm. She packed her own bag. I remembered the toothbrush.

I got home and found the leash. I slipped the clip thru her collar and led Sophie The Sweet outside. I was surprised- she did not pause when she saw that the snow, and the sleet, and the sidewalks lined with sharp salt crystals- it was all still out there. Tonight, she led the way.

I’ve a head cold for weeks, tonight it felt like there was a spike stuck thru the middle of my forehead. I put on O. A. R. on Spotify. Snow started to fall. We walked down the middle of the street, Sophie and I. The flakes glowed in the dark and took their time on the way down. It was only 9:30 but the houses were dark, and the cars were all parked and cold in their driveways . It was our world, our black, white, and wet world. As my headache fell away, I turned up the music.

We went around the block about three times, which is a record for us. Lately, Sophie wonders everyday when we are going to move to Florida or at the very least, invest in a litter box the size of our guest bathroom.

I miss Katy, and I have the feeling that the next couple of years, I’m going to missing both my kids a lot.

At the same time, I hope there’s time for me to know them, in between games and tests and snapchats and swim meets and all of the stuff that has already started to pull them away.

I want to know what their favorite music is, and what they like to eat, and how much sleep they need and what makes them laugh. Because I think these things have begun to change and I know in many cases, I will be the last to know a lot, but I do want to know.

I hope I can send them away when it’s time, with grace and a little bit of me, but not too soon. And I hope I don’t try to hold on.

But that when I want to, I hope I know to find the leash, and to slip the the clip thru the collar.

I’ll wait for Sophie to gather herself and lead me outside.

And I’ll walk, and sing along to the music, and let time pass while I circle the block. And I”ll let time pass while Sophie and I circle the block without looking at my watch, or wishing that it would just stop.

Sophie prays

Perpective

December 5, 2014

 

At this moment in time, I know where my car keys are, my eyeglasses, (They’d been missing for a month, and last night I had a dream that revealed their location. Really.) both of our tv remotes, the cats, Sophie the Sweetest of Pups, my gym bag, the favorite cup, the house phone, the mobile, scissors, pens- I can even tell you where to find a band aid.

On the other hand, I misplaced the tablet, our dryer is busted so there are clothes draped on every available surface and our towels are crunchy, Christmas is coming. I need to make an appointment to get my teeth cleaned, and I’m having a hard time adjusting to the whole new full time job thing.

I have a new job! A job I love at Quincy College, 2 minutes away from our house, with a terrific boss and a really cool team that is kind and doesn’t mind that sometimes most of my sentences end in exclamation points.  And Christmas is coming!

But I haven’t had as much time to go to the gym as I like, and I miss my friends and long dog walks with the Wondrous One.

Breathe.

I know where most of my stuff is, there is a gym in the basement of the building I work, my friends are on Facebook, and I know where my children are. I know they will be coming home to me tonight, safe. And that we live in a tiny corner of the world where the odds are everyone is coming home tonight.

I am fortunate woman.

I am also a sad woman. A woman whose heart has broken more than a little in these past few weeks for all of the mothers and sons out there who aren’t so fortunate.

There is space inside me for both.