“It’s Wisconsin,” Julia said Friday morning as she stepped outside. As if Wisconsin was a season or a a weather description like sunny or cloudy. It was cold yesterday and overnight and this morning it is colder—cold enough to run a bit of water in the kitchen sink to make sure the pipes don’t freeze.
But it is hardly Wisconsin.
And I check myself to see if I miss those brilliant sunny and frigid days in Madison.
Yes, somewhat. What I miss is my people, my community, my chalice circle, my Quest group, Julia’s teachers and therapists and some very good friends.
I do not miss the cold. I could feel nostalgic for every one of those people if temperatures there never once dipped below freezing.
We are a week in the new house. There are fewer piles of boxes in the corners, there is a somewhat comfortable arrangement of furniture in the living room, there are some books on shelves.
Sitting in the small built-in nook beside the fireplace, the same one Julia sat in when we first arrived at the blue house, the day before furniture came from Madison. I snapped a picture of her looking both wistful and content that day. Or is it just that I am feeling that way today and projecting onto an old picture that I only dimly recall?
I have spent the best part of a month packing and with the help of my VNM have moved everything we could possibly carry to the new apartment. This is not like the last move or the one before that when I packed up everything and moved very far away. Right now, those moves feel so much more organized—labels on every box and everything in a box, except for me and Julia and Muta and the cello, a few plants and a carry on bag. This time we carried boxes and plants and plastic bags and clothes on hangers. I labeled a lot but not everything and the piles in the new house are not orderly. Why does it feel like so much bigger a job?
The movers—three very nice guys—have worked hard for the last two hours, emptying the house of what we could not carry. The head of the moving crew, Mark, comments on the moldings and built-ins and wooden archway and we fall into conversation about the empty flat. And I cannot help but start missing this pretty blue house. I get wedded to spaces. They are hard to leave.
This is a time of deep diving into chaos and it is not over yet.
We are leaving the blue victorian house that has held us safe and warm since we left Madison three and a half years ago. It has never been the perfect space but it has served us well through lock down and Covid, through the rough months without services for Julia and through her toughest transitions—the last of which was a bit more than a week ago when she turned 22 and aged out of school-based services.
The end of her transition services program, Community Connections or “CC”, was marked by a pizza party with most of the students and faculty and staff of CC. When her Inclusion Facilitator and I first talked about her party, we thought that something small with a few students would fit her best. Something like going out to get nails done, Asian noodles and a bubble tea with a few people. But Julia knew what she wanted and she wanted a big party with cake she made herself. She invited me and VNM but when we joined the party and I asked if we could sit with her, she preferred sitting with the teachers and aides who have been part of this experience. It was great to see her chatting and holding court. It was great to see her happy.
She misses everyone at CC and especially those staff members who she spent time with. I think she is texting with at least one of them and she wants to go back to visit. Connection has always been so important to Julia and it was good to see that she had made some in this program after those last years of high school which were so isolating and difficult.
On Christmas Eve morning, I wrote: there is a feeling of the jiggling of a snow globe, of not-quite-righted-ness, possible-upsidedown-ness of the day, and also feelings of those shape shifting holidays of the early years after David died when we were untethered from what had come before and striking out, however clumsily, reaching for something that was akin to honest hope.
I had no idea when I wrote that overlong sentence that I had captured this holiday week spot on.
It began on the Thursday evening before the Friday, last day of school which was called off due to the possibility of wind, rain and ice, a storm that never materialized. Friday morning was gray and chilly but only a little rain and a a few gusts of wind. And I put 20 bags of cookies into the freezer, 20 bags that Julia was going to bring into teachers and staff of her transition program that day, 20 bags that I had spent the best part of week baking.
Then came the Christmas plan. Cheshire, Justin and Wilbur were scheduled to travel to Colorado in the early evening of Christmas Eve. Earlier in the day, we celebrated Christmas, opening presents, with a bit of Hanukkah slipped in so we could light candles together. The plan for the rest of the day was simple: after late lunch I dropped the little family at Logan Airport, and Julia and I went to the VNM’s family Christmas Eve celebration. And much later, Julia and I went to church in time for choir rehearsal and the 10:30 pm service.
The plane did not take off at the scheduled 6:30. Instead, they were delayed from hour to hour. I texted with Cheshire around 8:30 and she expected to board any minute. Then, as choir was rehearsing close to 10, their flight was cancelled and Cheshire tried calling and texting me. Unfortunately, my phone was in my coat pocket back in a pew. After we rehearsed, and Julia and I were settling into our seats for service, I took out my phone and saw the texts and phone calls.
Sunday morning we sang Where the Light Begins (music by Susan LaBarr, text by Jan Richardson) (a pretty version to listen to here):
“Perhaps it does not begin, Perhaps it is always. Perhaps it takes a lifetime
“To open our eyes, To learn to see
“The luminous line of the map in the dark, The vigil flame in the house of the heart, The love so searing we can’t keep from singing, from crying out.
“Perhaps this day the light begins, Perhaps this day the light begins in us, We are where the light begins.
“Perhaps it does not begin, Perhaps it is always.”
This is one of those songs, whose melody and words pierce the heart like an arrow. I sang it every day at home last week to learn it. Sometimes it takes me so long to learn music, but singing it every day moved me closer to meaning. And after singing it in choir amidst many voices, I carried around a lump in my throat all day.
I’m up before the alarm, that I turned off last night, would have sounded and ready to . . . back in some old day, I would be . . . um, I wonder how far back I should be going to say what I mean to say today. This is the traditional time of gathering beloved souls together for cooking and eating and hopefully taking a walk before falling asleep in front of some movie on a cushy couch. And this time has been hard won.
I cast the net far enough back to state that my mother’s traditions did not fit me well; and during our East Village days with baby Cheshire in tow, we started to cook for ourselves and our friends. Cooking and talking and laughing and eating. Sometimes too many people crowded into our tiny apartment on First Avenue and sometimes we all went to Park Slope and celebrated in Carolina and David’s sprawling apartment. On a marble topped coffee table with one chip out of the wood frill frame, Carolina served glorious antipasto and David made margaritas. And we got to the turkey much later. Cooking and talking and laughing and eating.
Julia had a very bad day at her program on Friday—perseverating on her body that she finds many, many faults with, making lots of self-harming statements, banging her head against the wall, putting hands on a staff member. After an initial melt down with lots of shouting, it took 40 minutes for her to gain some calm which is far longer than usual. She took a walk with staff which seemed to restore equilibrium, but once back at the program’s building, she slipped back into melt down.
And I did the unthinkable. I was not available and could not be immediately reached.
I am not feeling badly or guilty about this absence, but the fact remains, her team tried to call and text me and I was not available—available to talk to them, available to talk to Julia, available to come and get her. And my unavailability made everything worse. And she does not have the tools she needs to self-regulate, to regulate with the help of people who know her well. There are times when she can not regulate without my direct intervention.
I am all poetry and the small waves of this Maine ocean.
Yesterday, I started a post about the last week—challenges, transition planning, things that stoked my unhappiness and my anger. Granted, they were things that inspired forward movement and the business of the next months.
But this morning I walked the beach in meditation. Walked with some friends after reading the beginning of a Pablo Neruda poem:
I need the sea because it teaches me. I don’t know if I learn music or awareness, if it’s a single wave or its vast existence, or only its harsh voice or its shining suggestion of fishes and ships. The fact is that until I fall asleep, in some magnetic way I move in the university of the waves.
I went up to Cheshire and Justin’s house on Wednesday with the promise of holding Wilbur for an hour or two. Two weeks old and not spending too much time with eyes open. He had a doctor’s appointment earlier in the day and it tired him out. He nestled in my arms, moving his extremities the way a new baby does—random and without purpose. Amazing how dear such movements can be. And I cannot help but remember when his mother was that age and we brought her home to First Avenue in the East Village.
All is well at Wilbur’s house. Baby sleeping in adequate chunks of time; his bodily functions all working at full tilt. When else is farting charming? He has a good suck, fills his diaper regularly and cries in protest every time his little body is without clothes. Mama and Papa are content, and not as exhausted as I remember being.
Baby Boy, now officially named Wilbur David Borick, was born on September 7, at 3:02 a.m. Cheshire did a great job, getting through a long labor ending in a C-section. She birthed a beautiful little boy who is a joy to behold. And lots of joy holding the little man.