Tag Archives: writing

Sometimes It’s Just Not Possible

Standard

I was speaking the other day to my husband about my writing, about how I’m feeling stalled and repressed and my son happened to be within earshot. I said, “I’m trying to come at real stories and topics from a place of peace so I can share them with love rather than continuing a pathetic narrative of how life has done me wrong or how old habits and patterns of codependency float back to the surface and I end up feeling sorry for myself or victimized. I hate feeling victimized; I hate that narrative.” 

Funny. I said “hate” more than I said “love” just now. D’ja see that?  

My husband always has something balanced to say, and I didn’t really count on my son chiming in, but he did. He basically said that sometimes there are people out there who are so unhealthy and so entrenched in their patterns that they don’t act with love or with peace and so even through I’m trying to learn a lesson from it, to find the wisdom in it, sometimes it’s just not possible — other than to distill it through my own wishful thinking filter, which is really hard to do sometimes — to come up with any reasonable or balanced justification for the way people treat other people. Sometimes, he summarized, people are just full of hate and fear. 

“Sometimes, Mom, people are just really messed up and it’s not for you to sugar coat their behavior; that only rationalizes it. And more importantly, that’s not who you are. You’re not a sugar-coaster, Mom. You’re not a sledgehammer [anymore, I added], but you’re no spinmaster when it’s just too plain and obvious…”

He’s right and I know that I haven’t been writing with my intention of it coming from a place of peace because that would be inorganic. How can I try to find the love in an experience when love is absent and fear is the engine that created it? 

I was just talking to a dear friend from college. She and I share similar stories of our lives. She was talking about how she needs to say “no” more often; about how it’s ok to opt out and not do things for other people, especially if your heart isn’t in it. We talked about how sometimes we have to / end up doing things we’re not especially proud of or invested in because we happened to be there at the right time and while most of those experiences were inocuous in their own right, over time in the aggregate, they add up to a lot of “regret pebbles” that we end up carrying around. They encumber us and they unconsciously set us up for more similar experiences and repeated behaviors. 

I listened to her describe some of these experiences. I was patient and when it was right, I chimed in and she laughed in her usual way because she knew I was coming at this from the opposite corner. Not that I’ve figured it all out, but that I do believe that reframing (optimism is my ambition) helps us out. A lot. When we don’t know what to do. 

“Instead of coming at this from an aspect of saying ‘no,’ Bipsy, can you reframe it to include yourself instead of excluding others? Can you come at it from a place of ‘yes to myself’ instead of ‘no to you’?” We both laughed harder because we knew what I was proposing was basically inverting the entire paradigm of how we’ve been conditioned all our lives — because when we say “no” the whole world falls apart; people die; people suffer — to be hyper-vigilant, mistrustful, self-deprecating, and sarcastic… all these behaviors to cover the pain of being raised in a state of chaos by adults who really weren’t the best at “adulting.” 

We, as codependents, tend to have an issue / conflict with saying “no” to people because we want to be liked. But we see now that saying no is essential to our survival as healthy people with healthy boundaries. “Oddly, we were conditioned to say ‘yes’ to people who almost always communicated ‘no…'” I said and we both laughed again. Sort of. And then sighed at the same time. We were almost 3,000 miles apart at the time, but we were in the same space. 

I have no problem saying “no” to someone when my children or my husband or dear relations are at stake. Sometimes, however, it’s those same people I’m protecting that sometimes need to hear “no” from me. Or “yes” to something else. Compromises are the sweet elixir of the recovering codependent. We put that elixir on our ice cream. We indulge in it as liquid courage during difficult conversations. One of the best types of comments I’ve learned from my father to say to someone or about something that we just can’t see ourselves doing is to say, “That sounds like a good idea” — because it does, it’s a good idea to someone, but that’s it.    

I saw a person I used to know several months ago at an event of mutual interest. Our friendship break-off was sudden and horrid. We both chose our children over the other. That’s fine with me. I never will forget this person’s friendship and meaning in my life when we were fast and furious friends, but that time is over and that ship has sailed winded by an unforgivable act of betrayal. I decided at this months-ago event to just bite the bullet and say hello. Chances were very high that we would encounter each other at least half a dozen times in hallways or at the water fountain. We caught up in a superficial way and I dialed in and told her that it was nice to see her and catch up and that I will always hold her and our experiences dear in my heart. She said she missed me and that the ball was in my court about resuming our relationship. 

That was when I had to go with my gut. As much as I meant all the things I said to her in that moment, I didn’t have to say them. I felt like saying them because it’s what I was trained to do: take a shitty situation and make it better. I sipped from the elixir and I shouldn’t have. When I remembered why she and I were in this state of non-relationship it became clear again as to what happened and why. So I simply said, “Yeah. This is where we are. I loved you, but I don’t see it changing ever. My kids need to feel safe.” And that was that.   

It’s never to late to start to say no. 

I feel strong as a parent when I say no or choose us / me. Saying ‘yes’ to health and intelligent living doesn’t have to look like ‘no.’ It doesn’t have to feel exclusive. Because it’s not. You’ve weighed the options and decided to follow a certain decision. 

Take drinking, for instance. I don’t drink at all like I used to. Rarely do I have more than one glass of wine and if I happen to have two, that’s it. Socially, I will have a beer or a wine or a G&T and generally that’s it. This is at home, too. I’m not stupid: I’m genetically fucked. I’m primed to be a world-class alcoholic and if the way I feel — lighter, warmer but not hot, relaxed & easy like a Sunday morning, smooth in the muscles, sign here and everything will be taken care of to your liking, I’ll take another with a straw this time — less than 2 minutes after drinking a beer or a halfway into a glass of wine are not an indication that I’m playing with fire, nothing is.   

So I drink less. Or not at all. I try to stay present. I don’t let people pour for me without my awareness anymore. I don’t like waking up and feeling like shit. I don’t like not being able to fall asleep because it’s too hot it’s too dry it’s too hard it’s too soft it’s too much. Nothing –to me– is worth that feeling anymore. Will I slip up? Will I have three glasses of X? Yes, rarely but yes, and man, I tend to feel like a newborn the next morning. You’ve seen newborns, straight from the womb?

So instead of saying “no” to my friends or the booze, I say yes to a restful sleep. I say yes to remembering the evening. I say yes to acting responsible. I say yes to not terrifying my children. I say yes to my peace of mind. Should I falter, I have been very good though about no longer emotionally beating the shit out of myself. What’s done is done. You can’t nursing a bell, says Dr. Phil. I realize that beating myself up for something I can’t undo is a complete waste of time and mental bandwidth. 

But beating ourselves up sure keeps us in the spotlight, don’t it? So stop. For everyone’s peace of mind: stop flaggelating yourself. It’s embarrassing. It’s cyclical. 

I’m losing my train here. The point of this was to share that it’s hard to write or approach things from a place of love when you’ve been hurt. I try to paint a lot of stuff with rose tint but I think that’s more codependency at play. 

I saw a Mary Oliver quote the other day and it took my breath away. It was in a post at a blog I follow, “Adventures in Overthinking” titled Crescent Moons and Critical Morons.  


What is it that we plan to do with this one wild and precious life? 

I am going to be kinder to myself and write things the way they present themselves to me and I’m going to be ok with not always arriving at a conclusion that makes it all ok. Because sometimes it’s not. Sometimes when you’re treated like crap by people who are supposed to be your family, the anger is too much and it all feels waaaaaaaaay too familiar. As though you’re on a treadmill of your childhood’s worst possible moments because these are more people who have told you to count on them, despite all the flake flags you’ve ignored for years. 

So you try to talk to them about conditions, the situation, but you’re frequently interrupted by your host’s constant narrative of victimization and drama; the imprisonment of the golden handcuffs. They say they “hear” you and that they are your soft place to fall, yet instead after driving 460 miles they make you or your child sleep on the hard floor for three nights in a row. You cycle in your head about how they strung you along for months preceding the event, constantly changing the agenda  — and they connect with you about their time in Hawaii when their baggage was lost and they had to sit on the beach outside their condo for hours waiting for it to arrive. 

You try to discuss their reactivity, how the cellular reception is wonky and that you waited almost three hours for them to show up but yet they expected you to read their minds and you hear back from them that they bought all this expensive organic and healthy and non-GMO and locally produced food that’s gonna go to waste because you never showed up (because you were never instructed to). You try with love to listen sympathetically to their monologue about “bad” friends and betrayal by lovers in favor of those friends yet you remember watching them all open two bottles of Veuve Cliquot at 9am outside the window of your room. 

You then try to walk around the challenges of how they put drug-addled near-strangers ahead of you because they’re afraid of losing their love interest with the healthy investment portfolio (oh yeah, it’s getting real right now) and how they somehow managed to accuse you -hissingly- to third parties of taking their children to dinner, as if it’s a war crime. And how on your final night of “we can’t take it anymore” they somehow thought it ok to place their hand in the face of North America’s Kindest Man, my husband, when he tried to smooth things over — because that’s what he does, he’s The Smoother — and then drive away in a Neiman-Marcus grade huff of self-righteous indignation and fury, leaving their children -again- for you to shuttle back to Hotel California. But woe upon you, family relation: when you lose the endurance of The Smoother, may God have mercy on you. Because that’s when I get involved. 

I got involved because I’m done. Because as I mentioned in my post about our cat being stolen, that when I step in, you can almost count on it going nuclear and being totally FUBAR. I was ready because I was not going to do this again.  

This person made my husband swear and say, “That’s it. If it weren’t 11:45 at night and we had somewhere to go, we’d be #)C%!>@ leaving right now.” I unleashed the shitstorm of reality that people like me (tired of sipping the elixir of codependency and expecting different results) unleash. The results of unleashing that shitstorm can never be predicted because when you start your conversation, no matter how challenging, no matter how uncomfortable the details of how it all went pear-shaped (because very little of it had to do with me, it was a lot of projecting, looping and recycling of weird childhood feelings this person has NOT resolved), it’s very possible that you’ll be left standing amidst a cloud of gravel dust and disbelief in a driveway watching the driver of a European station wagon haul ass to Mommy. 

The Mommy who enrages them. The Mommy who doesn’t “get” them. The Mommy up the road.   

Those are just the highlights. 

But I won’t bore you with this story despite your pleas. I’ll incorporate it into my memoir or a “fiction” instead. 

Suffice it to say that this summer we opted to surround ourselves with people we love and people who love us and we hightailed it to North Carolina for an absolutely beautiful experience. While I was there I had two dreams about my mother. In one of them this relation and the father of this relation appeared at an event I was apparently hosting and serving a well-known (to my family) classic meal. I was approached and admonished by this father whose boisterous persona when alive was just as unfettered in my dream. He shouted at me in the dream the same strange, tribal id-chant he used shout when things got out of control to him. He was red-faced and utterly furious with me for behaving the way I did toward his child, reprimanding me for and accusing me of picking a fight…. I remember seeing my mother in the dream and she made fists and her jaw became set and she stared at him from behind with squinted, wild eyes. She was maybe 70. I said in the dream, “[TRIBAL CHANT] BACK TO YOU, MORTIMER! And what the hell are you doing here? You’re DEAD! You don’t belong in this dream!” And my mother (who is also dead) stood up and shook her fist and her signature bangles and said, ‘Great! Get ‘im, Maaal!” He bellowed at me, “This is not how you treat family!” And I bellowed back, fearless, “If you knew the whole story, you’d be on a different team, I promise you that, Morty.” My eyes darting between him and my mother, “We were NOT treated like family … or [hissing on my own now] maybe WE WERE…” and he and my mother both vaporized. They knew when to bolt.    

I’ve been told that it’s gossipy, uncouth and coarse to write about impolite things. But what if what you write about is people who treat people horribly? Doesn’t the story deserve venting? Doesn’t the fault lie more with the precipitating jerk than it does the person who decides to share the crappy behavior and end the delusion? What about when the person who recites the martyr narrative about the luggage in Hawaii and the expensive baby-dandelion-fed veal burgers is really the Veuve Cliquot-sipping despot? An inverse narcissist? Don’t roll your eyes.   

I can’t not write because I’m afraid of upsetting people. I read recently in Mother Land by Paul Theroux (awesome thick tome which reminds me of my mother and of the aforementioned relation): “At the end of his memoir, Family History, John Lanchester comments, ‘Once my mother wasn’t able to read my books, I finally began writing them.'” Theroux also continues to write about Miller, Wharton, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Lawrence, and others about how they dealt with their families’ and friends sentiments of their writing. It is empowering and it brings me back to Mary Oliver… what are we going to do with this wild and precious one life? 

I think the first thing we do is stop saying “no” and say “yes” instead. Yes to things that quicken our pulse. Yes to things that scare us. Yes to things we’ve not done before. Yes. 

This is it! This is the moment we’ve been waiting for! If you’re not there yet but you want to be, we can do it together. We just have to keep at least one hand on the steering wheel while we wave at the moon. 

Thank you.

Non-Attachment: An Update

Standard

I have friends who know the intention I set for 2017: to practice non-attachment as “best” (ha!) I can.

They ask me from time to time, now that it’s May and we are more than 1/3 into the year, how it’s going.

I tell them, “it is what it is,” and laugh. Because that’s all there is and yet, there is so much more.

My beloved older brother and I were together in February on a 75˚ sunny day that made us feel like we were in Florida in February — when the angle of the sun is so distinctly “winter” that you know the experience is novel — when we weren’t. We were running an errand and I drove with the top down. I was thrilled to have him all to myself for that special hour. He’s a busy man, husband and father and we were all together as a family again to celebrate our “Second Christmas” because we are all in different places on actual Christmas.

We started talking about life in a way we hadn’t in years. It was just us. We got around to “new year’s resolutions” and I spoke of my new year intention. He is a really smart guy and he’s read a lot of amazing books and philosophers so he’s willing to go down the rabbit hole with me at times and I love those talks. I summarized up saying that “non-attachment” feels like a trap because I end up wondering if I’m “doing” it right. “Like, how do I know if I’m doing it the right way? If I try to stay in my own zone and let go of shit my kids or other people do, isn’t that like not caring about my own standards and personal space and boundaries? Do I stop caring about my family and dogs and just let them figure it out on their own? What if my not caring about something means that someone could get hurt or be negatively affected? Say, if I see a toddler walk into the street, of course I’d stop my car… when is non-attachment not good? Do I just keep driving and say, ‘well, he had it coming…’…”

I continued as rainclouds gathered above us on our way home and I wondered about whether I should close the top but decided to keep it open… it’s just rain… I can always pull over…

“Am I good at non-attachment??” We laughed.

Then I said, “Ah, fuck it.” We laughed louder and the rain began to gently fall around us amidst a sunny sky, and we were moving fast enough to stay dry.

The truth is that it’s hard. It’s hard to be soft when the world wants you to be broken instead. It’s hard to be aware when the world seeks to numb you. It’s hard to be open when you would rather clam up and turtle yourself in.

I have the true gift and blessing to host a “restorative / yin” yoga practice. This class centers and restores me in a way NO physical practice can. I have to be centered, or near-centered in order to give it fully. Sometimes that is easier said than done. I’ve been caught up in traffic or arriving on the heels of a disagreement with someone.

“Fake it ’til you make it.”

My therapist once mused about 10 years ago when I spoke of the crushing feelings I had about my mother and my father; about my childhood in spite of being a mother myself. A family event was on the horizon and I was a bit raw from the Work he and I had been doing in my head and heart. I didn’t want to attend but he said “fake it ’til you make it…”

I so dislike that phrase. I can’t fake it until I make it, because what if I never “make it”? And then, of course, what if I’m already there? What if the “what if?” is really “so what?” Because I dislike that phrase, teaching restorative classes means I can’t share what I don’t have, so I have to “rally” to let go. I realize it’s as much for me as it is for them.

I begin by inviting everyone to sit and to “soak” in their space. I propose a slow breath in. I suggest a flowing, peaceful breath out. I suggest an awareness of the heart rate and a connection with the energy in the room… after the first two minutes, I’m centered. I’m present. I’ve made it.

In those restorative classes, I talk about the poses and their effects on our bodies’ systems: circulatory, immunity, digestive, pulmonary, lymphatic and more… I read poetry, quotes and essays by Rumi, Chodron, Emerson, St. Francis of Assisi, Thoreau, Mother Theresa, Buddha, Lammott, Brach, Jesus… sometimes the stories are ancient and sometimes they are contemporary. Sometimes the readings are fresh to the class and sometimes they are repeats.

My sense of “non-attachment” means to me that it doesn’t matter if the quotes are the same, because every time I read them, it’s a new day for the listener and for me. It’s how our day shapes up which leads us to how we hear what is being read. For some people it might be the first time they’ve heard it and for others it could be the sixth. The point is, that life throws us experiences that shape HOW we hear those readings.

I remember going to Mass and being irritated by having to hear the story of Lazarus or Jesus Calming the waters, or of his curing a blind man by spitting in the mud that he rubbed in the man’s eyes, or of the woman at the well, or … or … or … until I realized: oh… this isn’t about repetition… it’s about lessons. For me, now in retrospect, it was about choosing to be irritated or choosing to NOT be irritated and listening.

Why am I harping on repetition? . . .Wait for it. . .

After a recent restorative practice, I was told that a new student loved it, but that the readings were the same as the week before. I got the impression that it felt stale to this person. It didn’t affect the same way as the first time.

NON-ATTACHMENT BREAKDOWN. BITCHY DEFENSIVE YOGA TEACHER BREAK-IN.

What is ironic is that I was also told by another student that what I read in that very same class was EXACTLY what was needed. People tell you things in these spaces. They feel safe in their vulnerability. A marriage was dissolving. Sobriety was new. Children were raw and wary from years of hurt and neglect. A rebirth was taking place right in that studio; right on that mat; right before us all in a private, silent, and beautiful way. This student found the readings both soothing and buffeting and it was all very needed.

As an adult child of alcoholics, I could identify with the children this practitioner had injured. I rested my hands on my heart and bowed to this yogi who is boldly stepping into the light, no matter if one reading is exactly the same as the week before. No matter if one pose is repeated.

justbeyoupillow

The whole point of a yin practice is to “get down” with who you are. To get close to the discomfort of being in your own skin and letting the feelings well up and breathe them out so we can let them go. The whole point or a restorative is to let stuff ride through you and try to practice non-attachment, to truly BE “it is what it is.”

So the conflict: Do I change what I do to please the one person who itched that night when I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing and people tell me this class is like their church? That they wait all day for it? That they count the minutes until class? That it’s a form of body prayer for them? That it’s their sanctuary from the world? That it lets them go soft when the world insists they stay hard? I’ve been teaching this type of class this way for three years and I’ve never heard a “it was great, but…” and maybe because that’s people are too nice? Mmmmmmmnnnnope. Not around here…

“It’s not me it’s them.” Isn’t that a fun line? The truth is, it’s all of us. The insight for me, however, is that I’m keenly aware of my own shit and that any reaction I have to anything is mine, including this person’s reaction to what I did. Carl Jung said basically that when we don’t like something or someone, to pay attention to it because it gives us insight into ourselves. I used to really dislike that concept because it was right. It means “work”; it means we look in the mirror and parse out what we are and grow up and stop being little babies.

Are we judgy? Are we reactive? Are we irritated –in a restorative yoga class?! REALLY?!– breathe, molly . . .  by a repetitive reading SO MUCH that we are going to talk about it, or are we going to do some digging and wonder why we are so irritated…? So attached? What are the expectations of this person? Levitation?

NnnNgnnn. Breathing. . .     

So ok.

I love feedback and I am all for mixing things up, and frankly, some of the readings have felt repetitive for me. That said, I feel strongly that I must be guided to read what I read; that if I “preselect” what I’m going to read, that it’s not authentic, it’s “planned” and when is life ever really that way? As a yoga instructor, there are times when you think you have the best idea ever and then you get to your place of practice and you “read the room,” and your initial idea vaporizes. The moods of the people or the events of the day or the week DO NOT mesh with what you had in mind at all. That happens more than I’d like. In that way, I have to be responsive.

I remember a power vinyasa class I was preparing to teach. I had a whole line up all set. And as the people streamed in, the mood was SO unlike what I’d prepared to experience. I had to think on my feet; I had to find a way to ease into the place I wanted to bring us because while the tone of the room might’ve been heavy, the truth is that people come to that class to revive and to work, so I had to steer the ship.

But I’m attached. I don’t like what I heard about that restorative class and the readings. Do I say “fuck it” and do what I’ve done? Not if you know who I am I won’t. I will roll up my sleeves, do some digging about my reaction and serve the class to the best of my abilities. I could decide to blend both my worlds: write my own essays for the class that I teach, and maybe that has traction. I could write essays based on a reading and that would blend it all together. It’s a consideration. It’s got legs, actually.

And so RIGHT NOW, as I previewed this post, I find myself bowing in gratitude to this person who spoke up. I find myself utterly awake: I can change this, I can write up thoughts. I can share myself in a way that will never be experienced again. Why buy or read other writers’ works when I’m a writer myself…? Why not share me? Weave me into the readings?

Holy cow.

My prescription for non-attachment: lean in to what chafes you. Roll in it. Get its stink all over you. Decide if it’s worth learning from or letting go. There is no right or wrong answer, and my experience has been that if I can’t let it go it’s because I’m supposed to grow from it.

Thank you.

Preparing for the Push Off

Standard

I’ve been in denial about this for months.

It’s almost here. Three weeks from this past Thursday will be it. The day my first, my oldest son pushes off for college.

It started out subtly enough, the departing. In May, he had his final soccer game of his pre-college life. The U-19 league. So, soon after that last game I found myself repressing a lump in my throat as I confronted a simple thing. Just a swipe, really, but it felt as though my hand were made of iron and it was dragging along a magnet. Trying to move, trying to get my finger to drag over my laptop’s touchpad to deliberately press the “delete event” prompt from my family’s calendar and alerts for his soccer practice reminders.

I shouldn’t be so maudlin. I hadn’t been driving him to practice for months. He was a late-blooming driver. It was my pleasure to take him to practice or ride shotgun as he drove. Our conversations in the car varied from laughing about a Ben Bailey stand-up routine to talking about his friends, class work, or social disappointments. Sometimes it was just silence. Or really loud Kanye West. But those days are over. I no longer need to see the alerts on my phone about his practices. So I drag my right hand with my left hand to click “delete” on the alerts.

I don’t want to click “delete.” It is really hard to click delete on that alert.

I couldn’t possibly be prouder of the young man he’s become. He’s handsome, funny, really smart, creative, clever, sensitive, caring… all the things I wanted him to become. I didn’t do it though; he came with that software already installed. I suppose I helped him learn to use it, but we all know our kids are pre-formed before we get them.

I met him in the middle of the night more than 18 years ago. He was just eight pounds and almost 21 inches long. I remember, he was so quiet, the doctors thought there was something amiss. Perhaps he wasn’t breathing well. Maybe his brain was misfiring. But his eyes… his father knew he was just fine. His eyes were bright and blue-green and so serene. So calm and observant. “I knew those eyes the minute I saw them open,” his father said. “They were your eyes. They were just like yours…”

They put him in the “french fry warmer” as we called it, to keep him cozy. They invaded him with their suction devices and wiped him of his vernix. Soon he let them have it, a robust and brief goat-like bleat from that enormous head. It was just after midnight when he was born and I was totaled. I’d been dealing with dormant but annoying labor for about 25 hours. I wanted to see him.

IMG_5980

They did their tests and pokes on him. They were stupid, I think now. “Haven’t you ever met a mellow baby?” I remember thinking about them the next day. “Look at him, he’s perfect…” I would sigh and stare at this beautiful son… “Connor. Hello.” I met him in the morning, around 4. It was dark and he was hungry, so I learned to try to breastfeed him. It took a few days, but we figured it out.

Look at him now! 5’10” and 150. Hair almost as dark as mine when I was his age and his big green eyes.

“You should write Batman’s in My Shower now, Mom,” he said about a month ago. Batman’s in My Shower is the title I decided to give to a memoir back when my boys were 10 years younger than they are now. I wanted to write about becoming a mother and how it’s changed me.

The title comes from the truth that in my bathroom shower for years was at least one Batman action figure for my sons to play with while they bathed. The book would be about how my life melded with theirs and how my space became theirs as we grew into one another and gradually apart from one another. I remember holding one of the boys while he played with the doll and I washed his hair and cleaned his little squirming body as he would have Batman and a squirting goldfish battle it out under the Water-pik shower head typhoon.

Washing a child in a shower is like trying to wash a hairless cat that won’t scratch your face off because it actually likes the water spraying in its face. The cat is animated, no doubt, but it’s not deadly and it’s writhing and hissing joyous coos of delight as the baby shampoo (remember that smell?) lathers and runs down their faces.

The sole remaining Batman has a layer of soap scum in his armpits and crotch; his cape is hard and stiff like a chamois that’s been hung in the sun. He’s covered in a layer of dried soap and hard water residue from years of torrential cleansing. He’s perfect.

I haven’t dared to write more than a page of BiMS because that would mean that I’ve crossed over a benchmark, that the “memoir” is activated because the moment is past; that the “mothering” is over. So I sit here, in wait. Wondering when the feelings of the intensity of his impending departure will pass and I will feel light and airy again.

“Raise your hands if you have a student who will be living on campus and you live in the area…” said the admissions person at new student / new parent orientation last week. Her eyes scanned the ballroom. At least 30 hands, including my own, went up; some sheepishly, some defiantly.

“Make no mistake. If it’s five minutes or five hours or across the street or across the country, your child is leaving home,” I almost broke out into tears at that moment. I had to keep it together. She was right, that hag. My kid is leaving home. He is about a good run’s distance, 4 miles, from home, but he’s not going to be here every day when I wake up. Nor will he be here when I avoid making dinner.

You see, Connor has been my wingman for better part of a third of my life. He has grounded me, helped me chill out, provided a better reason than a paycheck to get up every morning, and has generally made me a better person. He has made me a better mother for his brothers. He has made me a better friend to my friends and he has made me a better daughter to my parents. I don’t want to foist too much upon him because that’s not fair. I’ve done a lot of Work too, he just made it a fantastic reason to do it.

I’ve prepared him a bit I hope too. I stopped washing his clothes for him about four years ago. He’s got it down — brights with brights. He’s good at it. That transition began subtly enough too, and I will own that I’ve relapsed a few times. Like a junkie, I’ve slipped back into Mom-mode for him and folded his t-shirts or even turned them right-side-out when they come out of the dryer. I have to stop myself sometimes from unbending his jeans from of the mind-boggling twisted rebar-like clump they’ve morphed into as I heave the next crate of wet clothes into the dryer. Some articles are easier than others to let go. Socks for one… I would rather eat McDonald’s, no. I take that back. I would still sort his socks over eating McDonald’s.

My father said to me about two weeks ago that what I’m about to experience, my child leaving home for college, is in his estimation one of the most emotionally arduous and profound experiences in my parenting. “I don’t know what it’s like to watch a child leave for college from such a deeply loving and supportive home, so you’ll have to excuse me as I soak all this in vicariously,” he admitted during that conversation. “My own mother, she was difficult. I couldn’t wait to get out of there, but she made it awful hard on me. I never looked back,” he added, “when I left for school.”

I never left home for college. I went to university locally. It was part of my life I suppose: my mother needed my vigilance. I would’ve loved to have lived on campus. I remember visiting my friends who lived in the dorms. Music, “The Cult” was always playing and the halls smelled like popcorn, pot, ramen, vanilla body spray, coffee, patchouli, Dr. Pepper, Finesse shampoo… beer…  I promised myself that if my kids ever wanted to live on campus — even if they went to school locally — that they would live on campus. I’m really glad we have chosen this.

I asked Connor about his own thoughts and impressions; if he’s ready to go, if he’s looking forward to it. “I’m excited. It’s nice though, to not want to leave, too. I’m lucky to be going, to be able to attend college, and I’m lucky to be not terribly ready to go… That it will be hard to go and nice to go… Does that make sense?”

He couldn’t have said it better.

I know I haven’t been writing here or personally anywhere is because of this. How do I go from being a hands-on, non-helicopter Mom of three to this? It is really perplexing. I bought a comforter set for his bed; sheets, pillows, all the towels and textiles. A 28-oz size bottle of Pert (his favorite) is in a bag and waiting for that first pump somewhere in his shower. Without a Batman, likely. I thought I was finished shopping and then I caught up with a bestie today who’s oldest son is also heading out soon for the first time (he’s very tight with my son) and I realized I don’t have pens for him. I didn’t buy pens or notebooks or a stapler. WHAT KIND OF A MOTHER SENDS HER KID OFF TO COLLEGE WITHOUT PENS??

I’ll tell you: the mother who really doesn’t want her kid to leave. Sure, he’s got a computer, but who needs that? We all know learning happens with a pen and paper. No. The “real learning” my son will experience will not be contained between the end papers of a textbook or in the hushed whirr of a hard drive. It’s waiting for him in the dormitory, in the lecture halls, at the dining hall, and in the random conversations with exhausted students in late-night study groups and eating fests.

Really? Did I just write ‘the real learning  … will not be contained between the end papers of a textbook’? Someone shove then trip me when I leave this room. I deserve it. Who knows where the real learning takes place? I hope it’s been taking place all along.  

I expect I will be an emotional disaster worthy of FEMA assistance when I leave him on the 25th. Every time that damned song from “Narnia” comes on my playlist, “The Call,” I start to blubber and sob, really deep ugly crying. It’s not ok. When he walks in the room, I’m all super sunshine and smiles! No, I’m not, and he gets it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from witnessing my mother, it’s that “the show must go on, kid” mentality is a one-way ticket to Xanaxia. I expect the music at the dorms on drop-off day will be Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” or some unknown genre which will pulsate and grind and moan. It will be played at a precise megahertz to annoy the shit out of aging parents and get them the hell off campus tout de suite.

There’s a part of me which needs to go for a drive, a long drive to, say, Charlottesville or somewhere similar so I can process the reality that he’s out. If he were a challenging kid or obstinate or disrespectful or basically horrid, this would be so much easier. He’s not. He’s a GEM of a human. I’ll be real with you, we argue at times, and I think it might be happening more a little now than it ever did, and I wonder if that’s because we know what’s coming.

Is it like one of those “distancing-prep” dynamics wherein people begin to isolate and curl into their corners before a big departure? I am not sure, we are pretty real with each other. He’s all-too ready at times to tell me I’m the reason we are SPEAKING LOUDLY AND CURTLY AT EACH OTHER.

Maybe not Charlottesville… Maybe  I’ll go to the parking lot of his college and stalk him.

My youngest asked me the other day, “Do you think Connor will come home, Mom? You know, just to hang out…?” I honestly didn’t know what to say. I have no expectations. My youngest and my oldest are very similar in temperament. Five and a half years rests between them; we refer to those two as “the bookends” because they are so grounded and rational.

Connor needs this though, to have his own experiences, and I’m so happy for him that he will have them. I’m equally happy that my other sons will miss him a lot. My middle son is excited for him, and he’s really bummed out. “It will be weird around here, without him,” he said. “Like, for every morning of my life, he’s been here to play with or annoy or learn from. He’s taught me so much…” he turns away, stops talking and leaves the room. I start to well up. I know he’s welling up. It’s a frequent occurrence, these bloated, trailing-off conversations about Connor leaving for college.

We talk, we parents, about how we’re robbed of time with our kids. How they grow up and change so fast. How the days drag on but the years fly by… All the clichés and adages and truths. In the end though, we don’t want them here when they’re 33. We want them out and about and falling in love and starting their own families maybe or going to graduate school or getting married… we don’t want them in our basements. We don’t want them in their footie pajamas all their lives — EVEN IF we could have them at cute and floppy, sticky-fingered, sweet-smelling 22 months, all their lives, we wouldn’t want that. Not ever. Don’t tell me you would. “Just one more day… like this…” No. You want them to grow and learn and thrive and shave.

Another friend and I were talking last week. Her son who is Connor’s peer is her youngest of four. He and Connor “played soccer” together when they were five. He is leaving too, for a college five hours away. She was telling me about their conversation they had about his “drop off” at school. She said she asked him if he thought it would be like hers, when her parents helped her unpack her room and they made her bed, and put her posters on the wall and hung up her clothes in the closet… they met her roommate, and then they all went to dinner and walked around the town a little… then her parents spent the night in town and had breakfast in the morning together before they left her alone with her “new life.” She asked him if it would be like that for him or would it be the type of situation where they unpack their car, drop off the boxes and leave him in the dorm to figure it out. No lunch together, no walk around town, no overnight at the local Marriott. She waited, she said, her eyes uncertain, a twitch betraying her calm.

“He said, ‘It will be the second one, mom. Dump and drive. I’m ready. You’re ready. I’ll be back…'” and she sighed after she told me what he said, and we laughed about it, because it was so “him” to say that.

“But I’m not ready…” she said, quietly, her lips pursing as her eyes gazed around her roomy kitchen. Empty of chaos and crusted mac & cheese pans.

And the friends are leaving too. That’s a part of this gig that no one really tells you about: that when your kid takes off for college, his friends are likely doing that as well, so all those faces and sounds and cups you cleaned up and backpacks you danced around won’t regularly be in your way again, either. We’ve been blessed to know lots of his friends, and his girlfriend? Don’t even get me started. Every time I think of her leaving too … it’s not good. I am like Mike Myers playing Linda Richman and having to take a break during “Coffee Talk” and ask you all to tawk ahmonst y’seves becawse I’ve becohm verklempt.

Right now, it’s late. I’m up writing and he’s in the other room watching “Bob’s Burgers” and I can hear him snorting and giggling. It’s really late. He should be in bed.

I’ve got 20, shit, 19 days before my father watches my son eagerly leave his home reluctantly. God help me. If it’s so good for him, why does it hurt so much?

Thank you.

 

Goodbye, Terra Centre

Standard

After 13 years of near daily walks to our elementary school, it has finally happened. We are no longer part of the TCES community; we have “aged out.”

It started in 2003, when my oldest began kindergarten. My youngest was still inside me; he had a few more months to bake. Save for those early postpartum winter weeks after my youngest was born, and about 30 days to use Kiss & Ride on “weathery days” I walked my kids every day to and from school.

The path to school is gorgeous.

 

It was perfect to quiet the mind and give the body just a little jump start to the day. Often it was leisurely and we did see all the things in the images above. I am not a huge believer in stressing out being late to elementary school. What do we miss? Perfect attendance? Or the little TV show they broadcast each morning which announced the cafeteria menu, the weather outside, TC birthdays, and anything else of note … but … please. All of my kids say no one ever listens to that broadcast. I could often be overheard saying to the boys, “It’s not Harvard. We have time. Look around the path… look around this place…” And we would.

Once the final baby came along, so came the daily use of the double stroller, that godsend and albatross. I remember grabbing the leash of our faithful golden, Maggie, wrapping it round the handle of the stroller and pushing off for school as she would keep perfect pace with me, never wavering from her parade. My middle son who is my mirror, often made the experience more melodious than many people were likely ready for so early in the morning. Because he wasn’t a student there yet, he saw little need in going to school to drop off Big Brother. We disagreed daily.

We had a song for him,

Oh I won’t ride my stroller to school
I told my mommy I’d walk
But now my mommy won’t pick me up
So I’m gonna screech like a hawk.

More often than not, we were just on time.

Our first year at the school, around winter break, it was struck by a Norovirus outbreak. Norovirus is a vomiting illness. I was walking home the first morning back from break and a TV crew was outside on the main road leading to my house. A well-known female roving reporter, Gail Pennybacher, asked me if she could interview me. With her cameras. I was a new public school mom, recently postpartum with Thing 3, and she wanted to talk to me about the outbreak.

“Are you a parent at the school over that way?” she asked, pointing to TC which you could see now the the trees were bare.

“Yes… what’s this about?” I asked, I’m sure.

She talked about her intentions.

I had no clue about the outbreak. It was over. I guess there was some form of communication from the school before it opened after winter break but I was barely functioning.

I noticed that the disgusting low-pile industrial carpeting was replaced by shiny linoleum tiles, but that was all I knew. Gail told me about the outbreak and asked me if she could film my then-kindergartener son and me washing his hands. I said yes, immediately followed by the caveat that my student son wasn’t home and that I had to put my kids down for a nap. It being a Monday, a half-day back then, I assured her he would be home in three hours.

But I felt weird, as though I was betraying the school. Being a new mom and knowing NOTHING about FCPS and Terra Centre from a parent standpoint (plus people can be assholes), I didn’t want to make enemies over there. During the meantime, I reached out to the principal to let her know that the news crews were stalking the neighborhood.

That was my first interaction with that principal. She called me back and asked me for intel. She said I sounded like I was someone who was media savvy. She was gooood. I said I had worked in PR and was a freelance writer. She said I would be helpful to her. She prowled up to her saucer, got down on her haunches and wrapped her tail around her hips, slowly lapping. “Tell me more…” she said. I told her about me, and then she asked me how to handle the news crew.

That night, the news was on and I saw our segment. My jaw hit the floor when I watched that woman OWN that reporter. She played me. I was so naive. Over the remaining nine years, she and I barely spoke. Outside of the Carter administration, I considered her one of the least effective leaders I’d ever witnessed. I learned over the years that parents had tried unsuccessfully to oust her at least twice before we got there.

I made friends through Terra Centre. Some I still know, others have faded away or moved away. But while I have faded some, I have not moved, which is an oddity here, in one of many communities referred to as the Pentagon’s bedroom.

Most families who roost here are military or somehow entwined with the federal government in public service, civil service or as a contractor.

Once again, my team is an anomaly of two anomalies. I do not hail from a government family, nor does my husband. His family, I think a third-generation Washingtonian tribe, was in private business and my family was in journalism. I feel confident saying there are not many of us around here, those who’ve been here consistently as long as we have.

We moved into this house in 2000. I met this home when it was under contract.

“It’s under contract and it’s higher than your range. Forget it,” Barb, my ever-enthusiastic realtor said.

“I don’t care. I have to see it. Get me in there.” I said.

Barb used her keypad and we were in. I felt dirty, as though I had to whisper everything I said and thought. It was like breaking into a bank vault.

The house wasn’t well-appointed, but it had my requirements: a fenced flat backyard and a basement. It also had other things I didn’t know I had to have: hardwood floors, a playroom, a main floor bedroom with full bath. It didn’t have what I really wanted: a garage, but I’ve found over the years that those just get stuffed with crap no one uses.

“It’s under contract. You can’t be here…” a little woman whisper-shouted in broken English from the top of the stairs. I remember her to this day: graying hair in a bun, half glasses perched on her nose. A floral quilted housecoat. She thought she was protected by the UNDER CONTRACT sign on the post outside her house.

“I understand. I had to see it. I’m compelled to be here. I have a son, he’s 2 and I’ve got another one on the way,” I said, patting my newly swelling belly with the same hand holding my toddler’s wet sticky palm. He flashed his enormous green eyes, long lashes and deep dimples at her.

Her shoulders softened. Her voice warmed and she descended the stairs to just three from the main floor. She was Filipina.

“My name is Corazon,” she said.

“That means ‘heart?’ I said back, smiling. We nodded.

“If the contract falls through,” I said, “Please call my realtor. She’s leaving her card. Please. I need to be here.”

Corazon gestured to the kitchen and said, “the yard … for him.”

For them, I thought to myself. Peering through the windows, I agreed, “it’s lovely.”

“Shade,” she said.

I continued out the kitchen door on to the “deckette” to look at the flat fenced back yard, feeling a little breeze and cooler air than the front. We were nestled beneath a canopy of Oaks, Dogwoods and Sugar Maples. I tried to keep my composure. I needed to be in this house.

It was August. We were still in our bright and airy seven-year-old townhouse. Well, sort of.

Y’see, we don’t have much luck with real estate endeavors. Long story short, our first buyer was under-qualified. I knew it when I saw him cross the threshold late during our open house. When you’re pregnant, you don’t ignore your gut. They wanted to close within 30 days. They were hot to trot. We hadn’t found a house yet. So we got cooking.

Most of the houses around here don’t last long on the market, but it was a weird time. The ones that lingered were absolutely horrendous, smelly, dark and dreary as though the people in them were having to leave against their will. “Aren’t these people motivated to sell?” I would ask my agent, shaking my head and feeling lost every time we unlocked a door.

After living here, in Burke, for almost 16 years though, I get it. People DON’T want to leave here.

Eventually our townhouse sold. It might’ve even been larger than the house we’re in now. My husband likes to think so. I heartily disagree. Doesn’t matter. The first buyers of each house fell through. Our buyer was a cabbie. I knew it was him and he was a cabbie when I saw him drive by in his work vehicle and slow down in front of the house, indicating to his riders (I think his mother and wife or sister) that this was going to be their new home.

My stomach fell out of my body, My vision honed and I got prickly all over my skin witnessing his gestures and sitting there in front of my house under the hot sun. There was no way they had the money. I panicked. I called my husband, he was certain I was wrong. I called our agent, she was telling me I was pregnanty-nervous. She used to be a nurse. I’m really glad she got out of that gig, she had no empathy skills. She listed “weight lifting” as one of her hobbies.

I knew it would fall through. It did. It fell through likely about two weeks after our contract on this house was accepted. The good news is that I wasn’t nuts and pregnanty-nervous. I pointed at my husband and chided my agent. The bad news is that we were effed.

The first buyers of this house walked on the contract because of a Radon issue. Two days after we dropped our card for Corazon, they walked. Her agent called my agent at night. My agent called me. The next morning we went to put an offer on the house contingent with Radon remediation, which she had a contractor there installing that afternoon. My husband hadn’t seen the house until we wrote on it.

Our agent was all “this school and that school… and oooh and shopping and oooh metro… and banks and conveniences…” and I was all, back yard. Shade. School? What do I know of schools… It turns out we landed in a really good school district.

I remember when my husband first stepped on to the tiny deck, “Land!” he said. It’s not a lot, but it’s ours. The kitchen is modest. When my children were very busy and smaller, it was manageable. We did finger painting and conducted general mayhem in the kitchen. Now that they’ve grown, it’s a little tight a lot of the time, even after our renovation. They “eat” (it’s more of inhaling and grunting) at the breakfast bar. We don’t have as many family dinners as we used to. I have two man-childs and another one, the one who just left elementary school, burgeoning. Soon though, the biggest man-child will be off to college so it will be less man-childs.

I’m not sure I’m ready for that either. It feels like it’s all happening so fast.

Terra Centre used to be underground. Well, not really underground, like sub-level, but it was covered in grass. We used to call it the EduCave. But it’s been renovated and that renovation came with a new principal who is leaving…. TC teachers are strong, many of them have been there for at least 10 years and despite the administration being yet again in flux, I have very few reservations about TC’s promise. The class sizes rarely hit above 28 because our neighborhood is 30+ years old; all gross residential development is over. It’s a good school. It’s so good that it’s hard as heck to find a house in this ‘hood.

The other day a realtor came to talk to me about the house next door to me that sold in 4 hours. I had met her clients when I was staring down my sprinkler. They asked me questions about drainage and the walk to the school. They didn’t win the bidding war and the husband was in tears. They loved the house. They loved me too.

The walk to Terra Centre, for me, was part of my routine too. It is 1/3 a mile door to door. Going there and back twice a day ensured I saw other people. It meant exercise, community, sisterhood. I volunteered at the school to assist the teachers, absolutely, and to help the children, no doubt. But I also volunteered to improve my life. To not feel like a failure for not having a job, and for not sitting on my ass eating bon-bons.

I’m not a nostalgist in the least. I’m a “GSD” (Get Shit Done) person. But I am sort of taking my time here. I think that makes people nervous: when someone like me, who’s normally driven, Type A and a go-getter, decides to sit, feel and write and emote… it can be off-putting. Luckily for me, my boys know how I value feeling the feelings so we can process them and get through them. They know I’m not going to run off to the basement with a bottle of vodka and deny myself into oblivion.

The fact of all of this is that I’m a little blue. I feel like I’m losing a part of myself. And I guess I am. Will I get over it? No, I will get through it. I don’t want to “get over” anything; I want to process things.

Undoubtedly, people tell me to think of the happy memories. That change is good! That I should remember to concentrate on the tremendous growth the boys have achieved. It’s hard to witness it all, frankly. There was a time when I felt that their growth meant I stagnated, but I see it now, we’ve all grown.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: EVERYTHING and EVERYONE we encounter is our teacher. Sometimes they are teachers reminding us to hold our ground, and other times, they are teachers telling us to get our shit together. Terra Centre taught me about service, friendship, neighbors, boundaries, and duty.

I remember early in my volunteering that it had occurred to me that I wasn’t much of a volunteer. I sort of got down on myself a little about that. I grew up in a largely narcissistic environment, so I was conditioned to deal with and for myself because, well, that’s how a kid survived narcissists. You had to be a narcissist… When in Rome…

But I also gave myself a pause. How do we change? By changing. So it was at Terra Centre. It was the first time I was a mom of a student somewhere. At the preschools, they’re all about getting moms out of their houses and out with others: shopping, doctor appointments, taking care of themselves. They are purposely short days 3-4 hours apiece so the kids don’t get antsy and the moms can maybe get a nap.

I was nudged by a neighbor to volunteer at Fun Fairs (think mini carnival populated by  drunken toddlers). She is a child of service members and married to one. I learned that Fun Fair isn’t my jam. So she suggested a dance. Tried it. NFW. Movie night. Nope. I realized eventually, while jumping through the proposed hoops, serving on the PTA, presiding over the PTA and other involvement that I’m more about GSD than telling kids to stop running or to “put that down” and getting other parents to see me as a performer.

While I’m an extrovert, when it comes to getting shit done, I’m a silent partner. I bought a tiger suit for the school mascot. Either they hadn’t had one in a decade or they never had one (since the present principal at the time arrived). So I bought one and the PTA paid me back. I’ll never forget the first day I wore it. It was after school. The Friday before Columbus Day in 2008 and a young teacher was walking the halls and I was in the tiger suit. She screamed and JUST ABOUT passed out. She almost fell down running away. She left the school after that year. I want to say TC Tiger had nothing to do with it but … phobias be powerful… The story is that got engaged and moved to Ohio…

I had no idea she actually had “masklophobia”: a real phobia of people in costumes / mascot suits. She told me about it later. She wasn’t around to see me when I took the tiger head off my head and said “It’s OK! It’s ME! It’s Molly!”

I wore that suit for school events for little over a school year. It didn’t fit me. I looked like a malnourished fake tiger. “TC Tiger” was the mascot name and the kids simply could not get enough of TC Tiger. I was ready to pass the baton despite my obsession to make sure TC Tiger was well-handled: you can’t see less than 4 feet in front of yourself in a mascot suit and so accidentally mowing down a kid is entirely too possible.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 6.15.07 PM

This is me in the mascot suit the day it arrived: the Friday before Columbus day 2008. It’s from an album titled, “TC Tiger Visits School and Molly Loses 4# in the Process.”

The funny thing about being inside that suit is that you’re smiling but people can’t see you. So when tiny children run away traumatized but you’re in there cooing and making “It’s OK Toodles, it’s just me, Molly,” faces, they can’t see that. All they can see is a giant head, fangs and a stupid smile and huge hands trying to hug (NOT GASH) them.

The principal at the time wasn’t too thrilled with the PTA being so “school spirit-y” she felt that was her job. Sitting in her office, hiding most of the day, biding her time until retirement. She was lukewarm to TC Tiger. Or maybe it was me she was lukewarm to. It was most likely me… By this point, I think all three of my kids were in the school and she and I had cooled from that first encounter when she gaslighted me after Norovirus. Often she was content letting the school be “cleaned” by employees who’d rather be hanging out smoking at Starbucks across the street… Truth. We had issues with that. Hence, the Norovirus.

I learned that exercising my talents: writing, public relations, empathy, awareness of our connection to others, art, rallying for a cause to benefit all, enthusiasm for other people, their right to live on Earth and their promise, is really what works for others and what makes me hum. Doing all the volunteer stuff I was talked into doing didn’t further anythig of any value, for me or them. I learned to advocate and get the attention of the County on important matters such as hygiene, safety and communication.

At Terra Centre, as in any school environ nestled in Power Play central, the real work can be in dealing with adults.

Now I’m talking about the parents… persons with multiple degrees, fancy letters or abbreviations before and after their names, ranks, and connections. I also learned about projection, inadequacy and self-esteem issues, drama, need for excitement, and the predilection for some of those parents to stand on the narrow shoulders of or behind the gentle chests of their children.

The children? They taught me kindness and patience. They taught me boundaries. You have no choice when a little girl grins at you through her gapped teeth, “I GOT IT I GOT IT” when you try to help her with her milk carton.

In May, my youngest banished me from the walk because he wanted to walk alone to school for the last three weeks. A helicopter parent, I am not, but the kid seldom gets out on time, and I like the exercise. We also use that time to chat about stuff. He banished me from the walk home back in November, “I’m 12 now…” so … yeah. There was no excuse / little brother onto place my interest. He was the excuse. He was the little brother.

So we made a deal: he gets out of the house by 8:27 and he could walk by himself. He did alright. But on the last week, I pulled rank. I told him I would be walking with him on the last day of school. To and From. He didn’t balk. I think he got it. For 6th graders, the last day is traditionally a “recognition” ceremony. The kids get “certificates of achievement” of being a student at the school and passing 6th grade. Other awards are given out — it’s lovely actually.

The morning of the last day, it rained, so his dad drove us. The walk home though… I was not giving that up. I would NOT make the day before my last walk home from school. I did not give up a career in corporate communications and PR to miss this moment.

Here’s how it went:

If you watch that video until the end, you’ll see he turns around to look at me. The fades in the video were not my doing, it was the light coming in as we left the shade of the path. The house in my comments is not mine.

At first I was self-conscious about doing it but I quickly put that away. As you will see, our walks to and from school are Rockwellian. I’m good with the video now. I didn’t discover his backward gaze until I watched it last night. That it’s 1:43 in length, “143” being our code for “I Love You” makes the capture all the more lovely to me.

In a sense, I grew up here at Terra Centre. I learned that persistence overcomes resistance and that a gaggle of noisy parents who give a damn can effect real change on a busy over-traveled street. I learned that school principals are just people too and they come with their own dreams, fears, alliances, and hesitations. I learned that rational people can run a school and that kids needn’t be afraid of principals.

Most of all, I learned about myself. I learned that it’s ok for me to miss the school. After 13 years, I felt like family. To my kids, it’s a place they where they learned to tie their own shoes. To me, it’s a place where I liked to walk. I always appreciated my walks to Terra Centre.

I will miss it very much, and so I get it when I see moms of kids in high school or college or medical school or living in Manhattan on their own with a family walking their dogs with the moms of kids in third grade… just to see a little kid again or to mosey beneath the shade on the way to another day to ourselves.

Thank you.