pomp and circumstance

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Last Wednesday, the 9th of June, Julia finished high school.  It was a great day.  Julia was excited.  It didn’t rain.  The day was so hot that I pitied those poor graduates sitting in the middle of the football field with black robes on.  I pitied their teachers and administrators more because their black robes were made of heavier material.  Spectators were also melting in the 90+ degree weather but. we all survived, a bit damp and frazzled but very happy.

A few days before graduation, the principal emailed that the graduation was going to happen on Wednesday no matter what the weather was.  Some showers were predicted at the time.  He wrote that if there was rain, the ceremony would hold off until the shower passed, but the class of 2021 would graduate on Wednesday.

Now, I may be remembering his email worded a bit stronger than bit actually was.  In my imagination, he was putting his foot down, wresting control of just this one day from the vagaries of the past year, the past 15 months.  The principal is calm and appears laid back and incredibly capable, so, I could be merely projecting my need to gain some control over life and completely wrong about his needs.

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prom

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It was winter and we weren’t going anywhere much that wasn’t absolutely necessary when we found Julia’s prom dress.  The Lord & Taylor’s in a nearby mall was closing.  We were cutting through that store from our parking space to the Apple store because my laptop was ready to die. My laptop is necessary. Rushing through the store, a short dress with a sequined bodice caught Julia’s eye and she pointed it out as we passed.  I agreed it was pretty and then proceeded at due speed to the Apple store. 

On the way back to our parking space darting through L&T again, I noticed the dress and this time I asked Julia if she wanted to look at it for prom.  At that point we had no idea if and when a prom would happen. I thought in that instant that buying a prom dress would be absolutely aspirational.  She still liked the dress and was eager to try it on.  It fit and looked very cute (it was also marked down to a very appealing price).  It was a promise dress, a hope dress.  I couldn’t promise that there would be a prom, we could hope for a prom.  And I promised myself that I would find some event sooner or later for which pink sequin would be appropriate.

It has hung on the back of her bedroom door since then.  Now and again, I thought it was haunting me.  Us.  But now, it is just a prom dress.

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almost

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Every day for a year, I have checked the new reported cases chart in the NYTimes.  I wanted to will a change, make the numbers come down when so many times, for so many months, the counts only went up.  Yesterday, the shape of the chart resembled the Little Prince’s a boa constrictor who has swallowed an elephant. And I almost smiled.  One corner of the horror melted away.  Truthfully, the chart doesn’t really look like Santoine de Saint Exupery’s drawing but . . . it was a playful imagining that I’ve have far too few of during the year.  

Can I sigh with relief now?  

I do want to sigh with relief.  But South America, Mongolia, India and France still struggle. We are in this together.  No, real sighing until we are all safe, until we are all vaccinated and I can feel the mist in front of Iguazu Falls and the silence in the Amarbayasgalant Monastery, stand at the tip of the reflective pool of the Taj Mahal and watch the repairs being done on Notre Dame. Then, a big sigh, many sighs will be in order.

Even here, coming back to what was normal, what will be normal is a slow slide, no giant leaps.

The three-day Memorial Day weekend was cold and wet.  Heat clicked back on and outdoor plans were quashed—Julia refuses to enjoy the rain. We went to a first movie, played indoor miniature golf and shopped for graduation shoes.  We had a weekend guest. I noticed how often we wore our masks making our way in the world.  And although, I felt incredibly daring going to a movie, ordering and eating popcorn without a mask (taking the mask off only once we sat down), there were only about a dozen movie goers in a big theater and social distancing was not a problem.  I did not need to test any daring tendencies after the decision was made.  

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noticings

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Last year everything shut down, quickly in a single week.  It was a dizzying time of cancellations and closings.  During the last two weeks, we are in the middle of openings.  I remind myself repeatedly not to forget—not forget how closed we were and how hard that was, not forget how slowly we opened and what an unusual challenge re-opening has presented to us.

I appreciate that Massachusetts is opening slowly with much deliberations.  Probably not perfectly, but what has been perfect about this time?  The mask mandate expires on the weekend and I am grateful that Governor Baker announced the end of the mandate two weeks before it was to happen.  Although very happy to imagine being maskless, I find I have reservations about completely abandoning our facial protections.  Is it really that I cannot trust two shots and two weeks?  Or is it that I cannot trust that those who will walk around maskless on Saturday are vaccinated? As of today 50% of Massachusetts are fully vaccinated; 69% have had at least one dose.  The percentages are higher in Newton. During the weeks between announcement and maskless days, it has been comforting to be in stores and garden centers and see everyone masked.  A year of protecting myself, protecting Julia, has left its mark.

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thoughts on the coming transitions

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Julia put on a red plaid skirt, a green plaid shirt and a tiny white shrug today, together with some anime character knee socks and her white sneakers. The sneakers a concession because she has track after school.  When I saw the clothes heaped in a pile on the bathroom floor, ready for after shower dressing, I made my sour lemon face which Julia did not see—those clothes do not go together.  And admittedly, if I tried to put them together . . .  but then again, I would have never attempted to put two plaids together let alone a dark red and a light green.  Julia put them on and they looked okay, interesting even, somehow not outlandish at all.

Julia has her own style.  Always. And she is on her own learning curve.  I have said these things, thought these things for a long time.  The mantra has seeped into my soul and I am beginning to believe it.

Julia will be walking in the high school commencement ceremony in a few weeks.  She will not get a regular diploma—something that was hard to give up on when she was in 9th grade and something that I am so grateful that I did not hold onto.  I think she might have been coaxed and prodded through the requirements and MCATS at Newton North, but not during these crazy two years, not during her rough transition from Madison in the months before shut down.

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a walk, a house and a challenge

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It is spring, and then it’s not, and then it is, and we get to open the windows for one day.  

Last Saturday was that day.  I almost wished I could have spent it in my little garden plot. —Yes, indeed, I can once again plant tomatoes and basil, a pumpkin, some chard and salad greens.  I did nothing to enhance the soil last year but as this is my second year, I am thinking.  But last Saturday was for walking and walk we did in The Gardens at Elm Bank in Wellesley.

Elm Bank was a private residence built in the 17th century. At the turn of the 20th Century, the owner engaged architects to build a neo-Georgian manor house and hired the Olmsted Brothers to design and improve the gardens. After various owners and various uses, the site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 and it is now owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In April of 1996, after a public process that included thoughtful consideration of all aspects of the sited leased Massachusetts Horticultural Society. The old manor house is in need of deep restoration but the garden beds are laid out and ready to be worked on for spring.  We enjoyed the bulb flowers and the flowering trees, and I enjoyed just being in a working garden on the verge of a season. 

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This I believe

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On Sunday, March 14th, I delivered my This I believe to the congregation of FUUSN (First Unitarian Universalist Society in Newton). Had it been ordinary times, I would have done it standing the the pulpit looking over the congregation. I don’t know whether that would have have been more or less intimidating. As it was, I was safe in my little zoom box sitting in my study seemingly talking to myself. If you’ve read anything on this blog before, you will recognize ideas and passages. I am grateful that Erin asked me to do this and grateful that I was daring enough to say, ‘yes.’

Good morning.

I hesitated when Erin [Erin Splaine is FUUSN’s minister] asked me to speak today.  After all, I still count my FUUSN membership in months, and I’ve gotten to know so many of you, not in person, but in these little zoom boxes. That could make me just a bit shy about sharing my heart today. And then, I write all the time about what I do and think, but I don’t think I have many conclusions. “This I believe” sounds, at least to me, like the speaker has come to a few conclusions.  Of course, we ask our COA teens to take up this task and they always do it brilliantly. But it seems to me that the older I get the fewer conclusions I have.

There is a line from my husband, David’s last play, the play that was performed a few months after his death. The line goes like this:

Just suppose you are now doing and have been doing for quite awhile exactly what it is you are supposed to be doing.

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almost spring

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“March went out like a lion
Awakin’ up the water in the bay . . . “
~Carousel, Rodgers and Hammerstein, “June is Busting Out All Over”

Funny, I remember this line and sing it in my head as “March came in like a lion” every year this time of year.  So, according to my lyrics, March came in as described.  We have had warm hatless days and the snow is disappearing—we are not in Wisconsin anymore! When there is sunshine, the sky is a shade deeper than pale blue and we are searching for the first signs of spring breaking through the earth. I have to go on neighborhood walks to find those signs of spring instead of my own garden. Still missing my own little plot.  I need to ask my landlords if I can use their side garden for vegetables and a few annuals again.  I have another month or so to ask.

Signs of spring — tulips and eggs and pasanky dye

The lay of the land, so to speak, has been more interesting in the last few weeks than in many months, although there have been bumps.

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