When Katy noticed me staring at some birds on the horizon. she asked if I was always looking for things to write about.
I said, yes, mostly, but that today, I already had my topic figured out, so I was just looking at the sky because I like birds.
I admitted I was going to write about how she, and our relationship, has helped me through this ugly, scary, sweet, and quiet time, way more than wine, walks, pop music, online fitness, chocolate, sweatpants, or even Sophia The Most Amazing of Dogs.
She suggested I write about how happy I was with the response from all of my Facebook friends and former colleagues regarding my last day at work at Quincy College.
(I read their comments out loud to my daughter while she ate her breakfast and looked at her phone. I think she was impressed. I am still floating, twelve hours later, remembering your kind words and support.)
She suggested I talk about the Milton Graduation Debate, her brother’s recent departure, my latest forays into the world of brown rice casseroles, or why I prefer zoom over FaceTime. (Can’t go there, can’t go there, it’s a process, and don’t know.)
I don’t want to give the wrong impression- during our social isolation, Katy and haven’t become BFF’s, started giving each other mani pedis and we don’t stay up late watching scary movies and CSI. She gives herself manicures, and watches scary movies after I’ve gone to sleep.

I actually don’t see her much. She”s sixteen. She’s in her room, on her phone, in the bathroom, or walking the dog, most of the time. She is capable of the fiercest of scowls, especially when she’s wearing her glasses and I interrupt her doing one of those things.

She is invariable late to our Zumba in the living room, which makes me swear and threaten to go ahead without her, and she just laughs at me from upstairs, and takes her time. “It’s online,” she laughs, “I can’t be late to an online class, and it’s not like you have a whole lot going on.” Katy can be cruel.
When she drives, she likes to scare me by staying close to the curbs on the passengers side, though she claims she’s avoiding oncoming traffic. She became a vegetarian nine months ago just to make putting dinner on the table even more complicated. She never throws down all her dirty clothes, she makes fun of me for losing my keys and she loves to hide the coconut sugar. She says my selfies are ridiculous, and I should stop waking her up at ten in the morning to talk about breakfast.

But when I wake her up at ten in the morning to talk about breakfast, she moves over on her bed. Sometimes, she’ll allow me a corner of her pillow, and, on occasion, talk to me before she looks at her phone.
Sometimes she’ll throw me out.
But five minutes later, she’s usually downstairs. Ignoring me.

To be ignored by the funny, smart, charming, brilliant, Katy Blackburn is an honor, and it’s nice to have the time to
sit at the table with her while she pretends I don’t exist.

We’ve had lots of time together lately, and whether she’s in her own world, asking me to bring her the sriracha/ice water/headphones/slippers, or talking to me about everything and nothing at all, she makes me happy, when I’m not feeling sad, and less sad when it’s one of those days.

She’d probably talk to me more if she wasn’t afraid I was going to write about it.

Love you, Kate.
I will always wait for you.

 

The sun was out for the first time in days.

Katy has not been a fan of hiking with me since I dragged her and her brother wandering the Blue Hills behind the Trailside Museum when she was five and we got lost. I didn’t have snacks, and we probably ran out of water five minutes into our journey, which, I think, lasted about two hours. I’m surprised she speaks to me, or agrees to go anywhere near any kind of trail with me.

Today, I guilted her into coming. She was tired, and depressed. I was wide awake and depressed. By the time we left the house, (guilt tripping takes time,) the sun was hidden, it was windy, it was already 3:30 in the afternoon.

She didn’t want to drive. She put her head on the dashboard, and said she was tired. I said we could just skip the whole thing and go home. She managed to put her head further into the dashboard. (I don’t know how she did this, and, yes, I know this is incredibly dangerous. And I’m not the best driver.)

I was going to turn around, but spotted Sophie the Wonder Dog in the back seat. Sophie doesn’t like fighting and she really likes ponds.

We went to Houghtons Pond. Katy kept her head in her hands on the dashboard. When I pulled to a stop, she looked up.

“I thought we were going home.”
“I need to walk Sophie,” I growled.
“I want to go for a walk.” she answered.
“You don’t have to. You can wait in the car. Remember, you’re tired.”
“Well, then, if you don’t want me to go for a walk, I’ll go that way,” Katy marched off towards some rocks.

I dragged Sophie out of the backseat. She wanted to follow Katy. I wanted to follow Katy.
We walked in the opposite direction.

I took Sophie to the edge of the pond, and went back to the car. Katy was nowhere. I called her name.

I put Sophie back into the car and ran to the rock and yelled loudly- “Kattttyyyyy” and went back to the car scared as hell because my first go to every time we have an argument is to take the phone. I will rethink that in the future.

She came back to the car.
We didn’t speak on the way to Target.
There was no one at the store The people who were there were all wearing masks. Everyone stood miles apart.

For a little while, we were able to pretend it was a regular mother daughter shopping spree, the only thing that made it different was all we bought were pajamas and frozen vegetables.

We’re going to wear our new pajamas tonight, in front of the television, when we watch the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
It’s another Saturday night.

Katy and I have made peace, probably because I’m leaving her alone for the moment.
I need to leave her alone, or let her stay home when she needs to.
She needs to come along with me, sometimes, without the promise of ice cream or nail polish.

This is too hard to do with my daughter’s head on the dashboard, or standing in the woods, screaming her name.

I think she agrees, because she’s upstairs cleaning her room. (At least, she said she was. I’m not going to check.)

Peace be with you.

Love,

Julie

Letter to my boy

August 6, 2019

Don’t forget about the dog poop-

(I warned you 
If things got bad
And they got bad
There would be repercussions.)

Scoop it, bag it,
Drop it into the
Starbucks dumpster.

And the dog,
Walk the dog-
not around the block-
The pavement burns her paws,
Take her to the park.
It’s not soccer season yet,
Bring a bag
Use it
Even if no one’s watching.

Check the website for your summer work,
Do it.

Email your coach,
Tell him what he wants to hear
and do that too.

Brush your teeth,
Floss,
Don’t only eat food flavored
Buffalo
Or from a bag
Or glowing orange.

Respond to all the girls that sent you Snapchats.

Be kind to everyone that asks to
Follow you.
(I haven’t asked but I know
Better.)

I remind you
to empty dishes,
walk the dog,
sweep a floor.

I don’t ask you
To follow or accept or friend me.

I keep our conversations about
The dishes in the sink.

I update you
About what
The world expects.

I text instead of call.

You talk to friends on FaceTime.
You laugh,
And swear, and listen.

I read books,
Ask for prayers from strangers,
And send you bullet points
so what I need from you
Is clear
And listed by
By priority.

-Call me.
-Do your homework.
-Clean the yard.

I check my phone
For your response
All night.

There were rides in the Cadillac, top down
Beatles loud on the radio.
After intense arguments
With my brother over
Who got to sit behind
Our father.

There were meandering walks on tree lined streets at the age of 15,
Giddy, stupid, and hungry
For bagels or cookies
but afraid
To go home.

I should have been home.
I should have worn shoes.
I should have followed everyone
else to college.

There was saying goodbye to my dad
For ten years.
There was speaking to my dad In the dark,
ten years after he died.

There were parties, so many parties.
There was takeout for dinner
On nights we weren’t picking at meals in restaurants
With cloth napkins served by waiters
We’d see later on
at the club.

I didn’t make choices,

I was along for the ride. In                                                                                                               between,
I slept like the dead in a
Bedroom cloaked by
Tightly closed, thick velvet
Curtains.

Then, came my son.
I didn’t choose him
any more
Than I chose anything else
In those days.

It took time
For me to make the transition.

For a long time, I was a daughter
Who mourned and drank
And wished she’d said goodbye
And I love you
While my father still knew who I was.

It took too long for me to
Step. The. Fuck. Up.

My dad has been gone
Forever.

I’m losing my son.

It seems like it was five minutes ago
I recognized I was his mother.

He’s known all along and
While he was waiting
For me,
he grew tired
And found
Ways to pass the time
On his way to becoming
A man.

I’m here now.

His shoes are in the hall.

His world is private,
On instagram
Riding shotgun or crouched in the backseat of an uber,
Or inside his dreams.

When I wake him up,
He always sounds surprised by my voice.

He used to cry
As easily
As some boys
Laughed at spongebob squarepants.
He doesn’t cry anymore.

I hear pop songs
About love
And I think of my son.

I want to tell him
Everything
But he’s
Already gone.

I wasted a long time
Waiting for a dead man
To speak.

The rest of my life
Belongs to the living.

When he comes home
I stay as close as I can,
Noting his tone,
Holding my cheek for a kiss,
Watching him as he moves
thru the kitchen and
Smears peanut butter on
bread.

Sometimes,
I don’t know him at all-
His voice belongs to a stranger.
When did he decide
he liked Pad Thai?
Extra spice, light on shrimp.

Once in a while, I see the smile or the way he holds his fork,
And I know to bring him milk
Or suggest he get some sleep.

It was easier,
In the days of
Gimlets versus Cosmos,
South End versus Brookline,
Backgammon or silly conversation.

But upstairs, right above my head,
There is a boy.
He is angry, sweet, and funny.

He calls me mom
even though
He believes with all his heart
I am an idiot
Who doesn’t understand a thing,
And tortures him by insisting
He put away his clothes.
He puts away his clothes.

I hope I am here
To witness
The best of him-
Which is going to be amazing.

My son, by age sixteen,
Has taught me more
Than everything I knew
Before him.

It’s Monday night, the night after Christmas. In case you didn’t see the family photo tagged with our location, we traveled over the holiday. I told the world and myself I wanted us to have a chance to reconnect as a family. Truth is, it was all about spending some time with my boy, my sixteen year old son.These days, he walks out the door more frequently than he walks in. I spend too much time wondering every time I hear a car drive by or a siren shriek.

I’ve finished unpacking, almost finished unpacking, well, I’ve started unpacking and can say that all of my shoes are where they belong.

I’m scrolling thru Facebook, and I see all the happy family photos. My heart swells with pride at the likes under ours taken by a very kind, patient hostess. We are standing in front of a fireplace, arms linked, smiling.

It wasn’t really like that at all.

Well, parts of it were. There was tubing down Cranmore with C, legs linked, tires spinning. I screamed, he laughed.

There was s’mores by the fire after a sleigh ride. My daughter sat next to my son. He went into the lodge and got her hot chocolate.

There were the moments before we had to leave for the sleigh ride, when his dad had to stuff his feet into his brand new boots because he didn’t want to go.

There were arguments over phone chargers, pillows, homework, bad language, and whether or not one should stay in a jacuzzi for an hour at a time.

In other words, it was like being on a vacation with a toddler that has far more words and muscle at his disposal when he wants to take a stand.

On our way home, we stopped by the outlet store. He walked over to me, held out his arms and pulled me close. He said- “I’m glad I came. I had fun.”

He finds joy in a Nike store, and bliss when he knows that moments after we leave he will be swaddled in a new Nike sweatshirt and sweat pants.

I’ve probably crossed the line here, but I’m giving myself a pass this time.

I’ve decided it is time to stop rambling on about the challenges we face.
They are his challenges now, He deserves privacy to be who he’s going to be and figure out what he needs to figure out.

I will take a step back to find my place in the audience while my son goes about becoming a man.
It won’t be easy.

I remember wondering if things would have been different if I’d read him more bed time stories or made him join Boy Scouts.

You reminded me that one less chapter of Harry Potter, or four more camping trips probably wouldn’t have made a bit of difference.

Some of you let me know you are dealing with some of the same problems; and that you are as lost and confused as I am.

Sometimes it’s incredibly easy to feel totally isolated, in a room full of people, in a community of millions, at the dinner table with family.

We are as connected as we allow ourselves to be. We are not alone.

Neither is he.

I hope he figures that out.