Happy Mother’s Day

May 11, 2020

At this point, we’re all taking care of somebody, whether it’s your fish or your dog, your kids, your mom, or a friend, your heart, your waistline, or your health.
I couldn’t sleep this morning. Since I became a mom almost twenty years ago, this day feels like a low-key, brunchy, Christmas. I remember the handmade cards, the scary looking eggs, the Mother’s Day at First Parish that always began with me trying to get them awake and out the door by 7 am, dangling the words “it’s Mother’s Day” like a threat.


My seventeen year old Colin recently decided to quarantine with a friend, and Katy will probably sleep until eleven. That’s fine.


They couldn’t be more different.


Colin makes choices that make me mad, crazy, sad, and defeated. He values sneakers more than books, smells like weed most of the time, and eats so much takeout, he should buy his own landfill.


He is also funny, generous, and kind. He is my boy, though he has forced me to accept he is does not belong to me anymore, and never did.
He smiles and my heart falls out of my chest. He sounds worried, I want to gather him into my arms, and make it better. I can’t.
All I can do is love him. So I do that, even when I want to smack him in the head.

Katy has been the light of my quarantine, which was not what she wanted for her sixteenth birthday. Every day she teaches me patience, while I wait for her to finish her room, her homework, her conversation. She says she learned this from me, and I tell her I’ve earned the right to keep her waiting. She thinks that’s funny, and goes back to whatever she’s doing, but does it more slowly. 

Katy was thrilled to put time limits on Facebook on my phone. She worries about the cost of everything, but vegetarian sausage, because she says that’s worth it.
She is careful, uses actual measuring spoons, understands chemistry, saves her money, and doesn’t care what people think. Except me, she cries when I snap at her.
I need to remember that even though she may seem like a remarkably mature thirty-five year old, a mother’s words have the power to sting like they did when you were six and in trouble for eating all the Oreos.
She listens when I speak, as long as it’s not too early, and I’m surprised and thrilled by this. (If I’m giving the lecture about being on time, or clean clothes, or dirty clothes, she pretends to listen, if she’s feeling kind).
Katy reminds me a lot of my mom.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

You tell me often how proud you are of me, and between you and me, I’m a bit of mess.
I’m still working out what I want to be when I grow up, my daughter acts like the parent half the time, my cabinets are more disorganized than Trump’s, and I know absolutely nothing about retirement plans. (I do have a good recipe for chicken thighs with artichoke hearts for the NYTimes I’ll send over later.)


If you say I’m amazing, I must be. You’ll always be the smartest person in the room, (with Katy right behind you.) 


I love you,
Julie

Day Fifty Seven- I’m not sure whose counting anymore.

For weeks after my braces were. removed, at random times, I would run my tongue along my teeth. The enamel after three years of metal and rubber bands felt glorious and unexpected

Ever since the words quarantine came into daily conversation, I’m constantly checking my mood like I used to check my teeth.

I ask my daughter- she says I get way too close, and sound scary serious- “how are you handling everything?”

She usually says fine, but sometimes, she actually answers the question with more than two syllables. It’s best to catch her right before bed and never before 9 am.

I’m fine, mostly.
I’m depressed, miserable, elated, grateful, lethargic, whiny, goofy, tipsy, manic, sad, silly, sleepy, mean, petty, joyful, and mellow.

I’m lonely; I’m enjoying the time with my daughter.
I’m missing my job; I’ve wandered the woods at Ponkapoag on Friday at 11 am. I’ve read eight books, played my flute, and bundled up three bags of shirts for Goodwill.

There is a lot of talk about recognizing the difference between knowing what we can and can not control.

I’ve learned I don’t control a damned thing but whether or not I’m going to stay in bed, or get up with the morning.
I’m getting out of bed.

If I’m sad, I’ll move through it, with a little help from my friends.

Time to stop counting the days, recognize the privilege of a slow morning under blankets while coffee drips, and get on with the rest of my life.

I’ve got work to do.

Stay strong,
Jules

Ritual helps.
Katy and I meditate every morning. We’ve tried ocean breath, slow yoga, a guided visualization that let me found my own happy place, which was on the Cape with a cocktail in front of pool watching my daughter play in the water.
I’d really like to be on that lounge chair, holding a Pina Colada, wondering if I applied enough sun screen, watching Katy and Madeleine. In no time, I’d jump into the cold water, and twirl them around under the surface while they laughed.
Summer will be here at some point, I think.
It’s been incredibly gloomy, the weather in New England is far too appropriate for the current state of the world.
I don’t know what summer will look like, and I try not to think about it by gobbling up new stories and the Facebook feed, exercising to videos online, or tucking my ears between headphones, and TURNING UP THE VOLUME
to a ridiculous level so that there is no room to think about
what’s going to happen next.
At the end of the day, we find our way to the television. We make popcorn in the microwave and add butter and maple syrup. We watch Mrs. Maisel, and marvel at the beautiful clothes, sparkling actors, and shiny view of New York City in the 1950’s. We appreciate watching beautiful people kiss, hold hands, go to the store, share drinks, squeeze together in a cab.
Katy, my sixteen year old, has started calling me mamma, especially if she wants an impossible burger, or hair dye. Especially right before she goes upstairs to bed. She leans in and hugs me each night, presents me her cheek.
There are blessings in all of this,(I know, and I’ve counted the blessings, but I do need to remind myself of this,) and terror, and sleep is hard to come by.
I’ve got the days figured out, mostly.
Nights are long. We’ve taken to leaving the light on, and leaving the phones in another room.
Sleep well, my friends.

Julie

Comments

Going forward, it’s a given that every day we meditate in the morning, or are interrupted meditating in the morning, I eat more than I should, I walk the dog.

I read, we watch tv, we visit the ocean, I venture into stores for necessities like art supplies, or tonic water.

Katy and I laugh a lot, about her choice of teeshirts, the way I can’t ever find the cinnamon, and the look she gives me when I suggest she feed the cats- a little bit of hysteria creeps in sometimes. We’ve also taken to dancing around the kitchen to Shakira, Chicago, The Romantics, whatever is playing on the radio, again. This irritates or arouses Sophie, depending on whether or not she’s had breakfast.

I talk to Colin every day. Every day, he tells me he is in the middle of something and rushes to get off the phone. Maybe he’s working with his buddies on building a pyramid,  he’s writing an opus, or training for the Olympics.

We gave his basketball hoop to a neighbor for her little boy. When she stopped by to pick it up she told me that Collie used to play ball with her son at the bus stop a million years ago. I loved her a little then.

Katy and I watched the ensemble comedy, “He’s Not That Into You,”. Movies feel weird since our reality feels more dramatic than Gennifer Godwin figuring out that if a guy doesn’t call, it’s not a good sign.

I’m heading out for dog walk number five. It is almost 10, cold, windy, and I just want to let my headphones swallow up my ears, and keep them warm. I want to run a little, I’m not a runner, so it’ll be more a sad jog, but I feel the need to do something a little different tonight.

Stay amazing. Be kind, to others, and to yourself.

Peace.

Julie

March 22, 2020

 

 

Day Three.
More meditation.
More walks.
More me trying to figure out the right way to engage my daughter in a conversation that lasts more than two minutes long. She doesn’t want to discuss what’s for dinner, if pushed, she tells me “I’ll have pasta.” She doesn’t want to tell me how her friends are doing, because she says it’s obvious.
She will however, eat with me, walk with me, and sit on the floor with me and listen to someone on my laptop talk to us about the breath.
More me getting mad at laundry, and
trying to figure out of there is truth
to the liquor stores closing,
to things being bad for 16 months,
to how deal with missing work so much, I started talking to the guy at Dunkin’ Donuts about submitting his FAFSA.
More missing Colin and thanking all the powers that be when he picks up the phone,
thanking the lord he’s not living at home,
and wishing it was four years ago,
While he was.
Me wishing it was a month ago, and I was out somewhere somewhere after work, with music.
Me and my friends sitting there over cocktails, believing
the worst that could happen
Had already happened.
Katy, me, and a friend went to Castle Island.
Sully’s was closed, but I tried the most amazing coffee on the way home from the beach.
And dinner was good, and Katy is on her way down to wish me good night.
I guess Day Three had some charm, as days sometimes do.
Wishing all of you a wonderful night, or at least,
A little bit of sleep and a really good dream.

The day started with a trip to Newton to pick up a friend of a friend’s dog to watch over while a friend of a friend went on vacation. The interaction involved a large kitchen mitt, prayer, and the dumb bravery that comes when I don’t have time for coffee.

Dog and I made it home, and I went to work. Spent the day talking to prospective nursing students, 18-year-olds about the FAFSA, eating the best lunch ever with the amazing Alison, making calls, taking calls, and sending texts to everyone at home about the dog.

Home meant another blowout knockdown brawl with Colin. Followed by shoulder shaking sobs when I found his old soccer uniform in the hall closet. Colin held me while I cried and told me everything was going to be ok. I did not believe him but I went to Zumba anyway.

I danced for an hour, oh my god, I love that class, with my friend. She’s been going thru a bad break up for like four months, so some of the love songs made her cry. She went to the bathroom before I could hold her and tell her it was going to be ok. I don’t think she would have believed me either.

Sweaty clothes, and seats at Novara on the deck. Summer breeze and chicken wings and tuna tartare and ice-cold seven dollars a glass white Chardonnay.

Home. Made salmon with a ginger maple siracha glaze, roasted broccoli. Walked the dogs. Except for the new dog. He did eat peanut butter from my finger, so there’s that.

Now, this. Writing it down.

There are pockets of grief and bliss from loving my son. There is drama and the relief when the drama leaves for an evening to go somewhere else.

But it is not everything like it used to be..He is not the center of my world. Just one of the worst, and the very best parts.

And now, it is time to lure the dog out from under the table. It is time to box up the fish and the vegetables for lunch, find my shoes, fold the clothes.

It is time for bed. It is time to say goodnight to Colin, and goodnight to you, and pray that tomorrow the world makes a little more sense.

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.

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.

Mid to late August, it happens.

The back to school flyers weigh more than the news/travel/ and sports section combined.

My 14 year old daughter sighs and shakes her head-“I don’t know where the time went.”

Cunningham pool posts it’s last day. Sunblock goes on sale.
I look up from everything
To wonder how the hell that happened.

The pool might close,
assignments might be due,
but the sales are going to run until it’s time for Halloween.

Summertime is time out. Time off.
A day at the beach. An hour by the barbecue. An afternoon with a good book.

Some time at the park with your kids, grandkids,
or a bunch of dogs you’re babysitting,
spying on them on the swing in the playground,
wondering where the hell time went.

I don’t know where you’re at in the journey,
but I can pass this on.

The beach doesn’t close.
The barbecue doesn’t care if it’s Monday, November, or 4 am.

Cunningham pool shuts down,
but there’s ponds, kiddie pools,
the ocean, the bay,
and the bathtub,
all offering different water temperatures and dining options.

We can move thru life
At summertime slow,
Or fall frantic.
It’s still August, my friends.

No one is going to run out of pencils.

You don’t need to start wearing fall until January,
orange is not on the runway this year.

Revel in flip flops, sundresses, and shorts of all shapes,
until knees are blue.

Stay barefoot whenever you can, have something on hand
in case you want to enter a store, a restaurant,
or have an appointment with a court officer, or a prospective employer.

There are beaches, and the water is warm.
If the sharks bother you-
There are lakes, kayaks, italian ice, baseball, drive-ins, eating outside, eating takeout from the boxes in bed while watching Netflix, bike paths, hiking trails…

These are my summer time things.

I want to say- to myself- as much as you-

It doesn’t have to end because
the bus pass came in,
or a leaf turned,
or your son graduated high school, and all his friends are going to college,
and you want him to get ready for fall.

Summer is here.

It will not leave
until we mark
it in pen
Or email a colleague
Likely to note
it’s expected departure
On the calendar.

There is time
To call your family.
Text your friends.
Light a sparkler. Go dancing.
Sing along to the radio.
Roll down the top.
Roll down the window.
Laugh out loud.
Wish on a candle.
Look at the clouds.
Buy a beach towel that
means something.

Everything else goes by so fast, everything else-

This year,
Let summer last.

We don’t need to infringe
on the Fall season-

those that love the fall,
or make their living selling leafblowers, pumpkins, and autumn colored towels-
I respect their needs too,

I am just asking for a little room
to prepare for what needs to be done
in September.

There is work to be done in September.

This year,
I need a little extra time at the beach,
Before what comes
After Summer
2018.

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.

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