Saturday, May 31, 2014


I was driving home from working on the brick house, my mind whirring away on this thing and that thing, like it does. I glimpsed a young girl in her front yard, trying to do cartwheels, being encouraged by a dapper elderly gentleman with white hair and a mustache, who had his hands up over his head and was standing sideways, evidently deep in explanation. She tried again, but it was more like a somersault.

That first cartwheel is scary stuff, a leap of faith, an act of courage, and you could see that she was not happy with her effort as she got to her feet. Grandpa's hands remained in the air, his feet spread, his mouth moving. And then he flipped a perfect cartwheel right there in the yard. The evening sun shone on his white head as he continued in earnest conversation with the child, who watched intently.

It was so unexpected that I laughed out loud.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Story Time

I had a request for a story, and so I went to the classroom shelf to look at the books. We settled on "Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur", which kept the kids well and truly entertained with its rhyming story line "Your shopping cart begins to spin and dings the dino on the shin. She roars a terrifying roar, What do you tell the dinosaur?" Since this is a book on manners, the proper answer is (of course) "I'm sorry."

As I flipped through the books, though, I came to an old one: 'Make Way for Ducklings'. I remembered being seated on a mat for a story time long ago, hearing a teacher reading that story to us. For a woman with a memory like a sieve, I remembered distinctly that I was already familiar with the story having heard Captain Kangaroo reading it. The memory was so clear to me, Captain Kangaroo's quiet voice reading Robert McCloskey's gentle story.

Strange, isn't it? I held that book for a moment, caressing the Caldecott medal embossed on the front and I remembered distinctly what it was like to be five.

My nostalgic moment did not last long. It couldn't. I was surrounded by five year olds who wanted to hear about meeting a dinosaur in a grocery store. I shelved that old book, and I sat down on a mat, and once again, it was story time.
In the end, I guess that I am left with one thing that I know for sure: That there are those in this world who will be drawn to chaos. I don't know why. I don't understand the draw. In the end, though, it is true: they will be drawn to chaos.

No matter how hard you try to save them from this chaos, it cannot be done. The siren song of it is irresistible to them, and like a moth to a flame, they go to it with their eyes wide open. You might well feel that your heart overflows with love for them, but in the end, they will choose what they will choose, and the closer they get to the chaos, the stronger the current. It becomes stronger than your love. Stronger than reason. Stronger than anything really. The thundering of it drowns out your words, threatens to sweep you up as well.

Finally, in the end, it is you that makes the choice: are YOU drawn to the chaos? Will you be swept away too?

I ponder these things in the dark, and quietly, finally, I let go.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Husband comes home from his mother's, clutching an old wooden wall lamp with a very dated water stained shade. I make a disparaging remark to which he replies: "I made this in woodshop," and he turns the lamp this way and that studying the work of his long ago self.

I think of all the things that I hang onto solely for sentimental reasons, things that I am fond of for nothing more than nostalgia, and I wonder, yet again, if I will ever learn to keep my big stupid mouth closed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cara's news

Cara put a post up on her Facebook: It isn't possible to tell each of you on a first hand basis, but I would like to formally announce my next position. I will be leaving in July to work at the American University of Afghanistan on a one year contract. I will be teaching three sections of first year seminar courses and directing the residence life program. More importantly, I will be working at the only higher education institution in the country that serves women. I look forward to meeting these remarkable students and do understand the dangerous aspects of this work.

She was at home this weekend, and it was a pleasant weekend. We've been having some difficulty communicating lately, but this weekend, once again, we were able to just sit and talk. This has been such a relief to me, I cannot tell you. There is most certainly relief on Cara's part that she has a job, and a good one. There is also, most certainly, an excitement to think that she will be advocating for women in a place where that advocacy is sorely need.

I study her as she talks, and I feel pride, mingled with concern, the gamut of emotions that mothers have felt since the dawn of time. I know that the biggest change happens when people DARE. Cara dares.

Her courage outstrips my own, and I rush along madly behind her, trying to catch up.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Family Bonds

Families bonds can be strong or fragile. I'm not sure what makes them that way.

I've been thinking a lot about that lately. I am not sure what it is that makes my own bonds with my children feel tentative and fragile. I know that I love them.

They are adults now. Cara graduated with her master's degree. Her dream job will take her to Kabul, Afghanistan, but she has a other more certain options that will keep her closer to home.

I have learned to be silent. I remember after Dylan graduated college, recruiters came around to the college, offering huge money to be part of the rebuild in Iraq. It was the time of the public beheadings, and after researching the under reported civilian casualties, I am ashamed to say that I pleaded with him not to go. I also cried. He did not go. Sometimes he talks about that, and the shame comes again. It was not my decision.

This time, mindful of the past, I say one thing to Cara: "You do realize that this is a job that will make you a target of the Taliban?" She tells me about armored vehicles and armed guards. This does not make me feel better, but I say nothing more. It is not my choice and the strongest family bonds will stretch, even to Afghanistan.

Dylan gets married in a few weeks. Family ties have stretched wide to welcome a new member, a lovely woman. I find myself tongue tied and uncertain sometimes, excited about their life and plans, afraid to step too far into unless I be seen as meddling or troublesome.

I have two large pots outside, right now, planted with ferns and white calla lilies, one for each side of the trellis we bought for a wedding present, the one that they will take their vows under. I like the idea that this will go home with them, and for years afterwards, they can look out into their expansive backyard and see it, and remember their special day. The lilies can go on either side of the front porch maybe, or at each side of the garage doors. I don't know.

But I study the shoots every day, willing them to grow faster, and taller. They've only got a month to become flowers. I hope they'll be blooming by then, because I need them to carry a message to my children, to silently whisper: "I love you. I wish every good thing for you."

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mrs Spit.

I have read along with Mrs. Spit for years now. I don't remember how or why I ended up on her blog, but I know that my friend is brave and strong and smart as hell. She is practical. She has a good heart. She also is a truly excellent writer.

It has been a busy time here and I have not had a lot of time to be on the computer. The weather has changed, and I am able to be outside, and there is a William to be entertained and company coming, and thing led to another and...

Last night, after a long well spent week at work, I sat down to a quiet moment with the computer. I clicked on Mrs. Spit's blog, and I began to read, and found myself thinking, 'Whoa. Wait. What?' in complete stupefaction.

My brave, strong, smart as hell, practical, good hearted friend has just found out that she has MS.

Wander over there and encourage her, okay? Maybe you can find the words that I cannot.

Friday, May 9, 2014

And along came a spider...

William and I were at the local dollar store to buy a pile of bouncing, prism-like balls which have rainbow lights inside. I use them at work to keep kids moving and active and throwing. They are tremendously helpful for gross motor skills. So are rolls of brightly colored crepe. I tear off ribbons of them and kids run around the gym screaming and watching their 'flags' flutter out behind them. The local dollar store is a very useful place.

In any case, William was walking with me talking about his plan for macaroni and cheese for supper when suddenly he stopped dead. He saw a very large spider. Huge. Now William has quite a love/hate relationship with spiders. He has masses of toy spiders that he loves. I try to point out how interesting spiders are, and we have read Eric Carle's 'The Very Busy Spider' at least 519 times. We admire any spider webs that we come across, but the fact is, the boy does not like them.

This spider was so large and so still, and it was, as I said, in the middle of the aisle of the store where a great many of his beloved toy spiders have come from, so I don't believe that initially he thought it was real. He walked right up to it and studied it, talking about 'the giant spider' in rapid fire 3 year old chatter. When he began to squat down to inspect it, it suddenly skittered away.

The shock of it nearly caused him to fall on his butt.

Wide eyed, he charged off down the aisle and around the corner, and I heard him saying shrilly, "Lady!!! LAAAADY!!! There is a vewwwwwwy giant spider!! Come ON!! Huwwy up!!!!!! You don't want to miss it!"

Bless her heart, the clerk could have ignored him, but she didn't. She acted as if there were nothing more important in this whole wide world than seeing a very giant spider.

William dragged her back and then pointed the spider out. Quicker than a wink, her sneakered foot shot out and STOMP! the spider was mush.

William was a little shocked by this, standing quite still. When he got his words back he said, "Poor little, vewwy giant spider..."

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Wave

Remember this woman?

I was driving to work this morning, and I stopped at the stop sign at the end of my street. I looked both ways and proceeded. My attention was caught by this woman, sitting on the bench I put there so long ago. I left a couple other gifts, small things, tokens really when I thought of it last fall, but there has been no interaction, no talking, no meeting. I think of her, and then quickly dart over and set a small gift on that bench, and dart back to my own home.

I never thought about it really, and I am ashamed to admit that over the winter, there was no sneaking over to her house, not at all. I continued to see her throughout our long cold winter, sitting on that bench, smoking. She always looks lost in her thoughts.

Today, though, as I drove through the intersection between our two houses, I saw her sitting there, smoking. This time, though, she looked straight at me, and smiled. She waved. I waved back.

Seems like a small thing, but really, it made my day.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Singing a different tune.

William loves to sing. His favorite tune is the Darth Vader theme. Although it has no words, he lustily sings out 'Da da da DA da da da da DAAAA!' It took me a bit to figure it out. It's so repetitive and he was so precise. It never varied. I figured he was trying to sing something. It made me laugh out loud when I finally recognized it. For the record, he also does Chewbacca, a "3CPO", and R2D2 imitations.

So every day we sing. He amazes me with his memory. His current favorite song is 'I've Been Working On The Railroad'. We sing it in the car, and we really belt it out. He really enjoys it, and as soon as we sing it through once, he asks to sing it again.

I caught myself singing with him in the grocery store the other day. Not loud, not like we sing in the car, but he asked to sing, and I absentmindedly sang with him as I picked out fresh fruit.

I realized that a couple people were smiling at me. I was a little surprised to find myself smiling back. I wasn't embarrassed.

I wasn't embarrassed.

For as long as I remember, I've been embarrassed about one thing or another. I've come to accept my extreme self consciousness as just how I am. But I was 56 years old and a couple days ago, I got caught singing in the local Aldi's, and I did not feel embarrassed.

I'm not sure why.

You know, I don't remember singing with my kids. I wish that I had.