I journaled for years on paper and I expect to be doing it in some form until my last days. In short summary, I teach mindfulness to parents of kids with challenges; I garden as often and as much as I can in Wisconsin and I am working through the threads of grief six years after my husband’s death. I am very grateful for finding and chasing the joy in this unexpected life.
I prepared to read a story adapted from a blog post a few months ago. It was for a very small storytelling symposium called Newton Speaks-voices of our city. It was moderately attended, there in the middle of the day on a Tuesday but nevertheless, I prepared. Everyday for a week, I read the story out loud—such is the practice of an old stutterer preparing to speak in public. I did the same when I’ve spoken in church over the past two years. Those readings were mostly done via zoom, although I did read two poems on Christmas Eve in the church building. Those readings of my own work and the work of some poets went well. I felt I could be expressive and I was not overly concerned about my speech which was not perfect, but not bad. This time, I was interested to see what I could do, how I might feel about the reading, how I judge my expression to be and my speech. Everyone was still in masks. Recently, going without masks into a few places has got me thinking about more of the implications of mask wearing. Apart from health concerns, masks hide, masks protect, masks make it hard at times to communicate which sometimes reduces the number of words spoken, ideas exchanged. Masks hide reactions and expression. And walking around the world masked can feel very safe and comfortable. I hadn’t understood that before this pandemic.
10:00 a.am. I get a email from Julia’s inclusion facilitator that Julia is upset that she left her wallet at home. I am more or less ready to do some errands, so I jump in the car and bring the wallet over to the program. I want Julia to have as good a day as she can. She has had some very good days this week . . . talk about that later.
I read a blog post (and I can’t find it now to link it) about a mom who has a child with autism who had reached middle or high school and was more independent than he had been a few years prior. The mother felt some room open up, some possibility of freedom for herself, and asked a trusted therapist if she thought that the mom could enter the regular work force again. She had cobbled together part-time work through the years but missed a full-time job and building a career. The therapist, who knew her kiddo, told the mom that if she “needed” to work, she should, but that kids with the best outcomes have full-time moms.
My housing history after I met David was: two apartments in Cambridge, two in Summerville, two dorm years in Bronxville, New York, five apartments in NYC including one in the East Village and one in Park Slope, a town house and a house in Bloomington, Indiana, two houses in Indianapolis, one house is Madison, Wisconsin and now, one flat in Newton, MA.
I come from a family who generally planted themselves in one place and never moved—my parents lived in two houses in two north Jersey towns, David’s parents lived in one apartment and one house in the same Jersey town, my aunt moved to the second floor of her mother’s house when she married and stayed there until infirmity forced her to move to her children’s home late in life, my sister has lived in two homes in Jersey and one horse farm in Virginia. Had there been an available horse farm in Jersey, I imagine her never moving from there ever. And I imagine that Cheshire and Justin, who moved last year to a 300 year old house, are planted for a good long time, if not for the rest of their lives.
The pace of life is picking up and has been for a while although I admit to becoming aware of it long after other people who are more of the busy world. I know many people who have already gone to far away places, stayed for a month and come back with healthy looking skin and bright eyes.
This coming Sunday, I am scheduled to teach pysanky writing at my church and a friend wanting to sign up noted that there are two others events going on—a zoom Moth Story hour and an in-person music rehearsal. Wasn’t it just last week when every gathering happened in front of a computer monitor? How glorious that there are now conflicts. How glorious that travel time is now part of many plans!
But I live a small life.
On Sunday, on our way into church—we arrive an hour before services begin to go to choir practice—Julia and I noticed perfect small yellow narcissus blooming in corners around the back of the building. Without a spring garden of my own, I notice and cherish those brave little yellow blooms. I know that even though the day may be warm and sunny, there are cold days ahead. Silently, I wish the brave blooms are sheltered enough to survive another freeze.
And I wondered, had I seen blooms in this place before? I might have just before we were locked down two years ago, but what I remember from that time is only the spring flowers we saw on our Covid daily walks. I think it is probable that these little narcissus bloomed in 2020 after no one was walking into the church building and last year it was the same. I think to thank them for their perseverance and persistence, their willingness to be so beautiful even when no one was looking.
A few friends, knowing of my Ukrainian heritage, have asked me about the war. One asked if I was writing about it and I stuttered my way to some answer. What can I say to possibly add to the conversation? I know what I read in the Times and hear on NPR. I hardly belong to that part of the world.
I watch. My heart breaks. I am angry. I want the world to respond. I understand why it doesn’t. I have no answers. The fact that I have the privilege of sitting, of watching, of thinking, of even writing that I have no answers breaks my heart again.
My job, to ready Julia for adulthood, is ever present. She hears the news I listen to. Sometimes she comments. She wants to know about the war. She is a black and white thinker. She does not understand inference.
So, when she asks if the war is wrong and bad, I quickly say yes. When she asks if Putin is bad, and when she asks this she remembers that Trump liked Putin, I say yes again. She is able to put together that they are both bad people and she would never vote for them. Then she asks what will happen.
For Julia’s birthday, we were ultra careful. No eating out, no movie theater, no concert, no activities where we would be with many people for too long a time in close quarters. Sometime during last week, possibly in the days after the cello break, I grew very weary of the ultra careful life.
And so, on Saturday, Julia, Cheshire, Justin and I went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner. It was delicious and as Cheshire commented, it was food that would have made awful take out. Julia had asked earlier in the day if she could have an alcoholic drink with dinner. She has never before asked for such a thing, didn’t even ask about it for her birthday, but she is 21 and I would rather have her experiment with us than on her own. And considering that she does not go anywhere on her own right now, it would be some undisclosed time in the distant future before she could order her first drink.
“For the sake of old times!” As close as I can get to a translation that makes sense to me of the words “auld lang syne.”
“Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon”
A slight variation of the Robert Berns words, but the words that sang out to me this morning. Yes, I admit to wanting to not cast too many glances back. It has been a hard year. It has been a brutal almost two years, and all my heart wants to do is to turn and face the winds of the new, hoping and praying that the new will be much, much more pleasant than the old. As a friend wrote as a wish to another friend, a wish for a more cooperative new year.
I have kept a blog for a long time. Julia came home from China in 2006, my first post on my first blog was in September, 2005. The focus has changed over the years—adoption and its fall out, diagnosis and more fall out, more diagnoses, more fall out, therapy, school programs, transplant, death, single motherhood, autism, attachment, travel with my girl, moving, transitioning, shut down, covid and all of its fall out. And through it all I’ve kept writing, not always every day or even extremely regularly, but I’ve kept at it and, dare I say, somewhat improved in saying what is in my heart as much of the time as possible.
The process of writing is essential in my existence but rarely have I studied the process or routinely subjected my work to critique, save the kind words of friends and visitors to this blog. David was the one who took the courses, got the graduate degree, taught multiple kinds of writing; and he was successful in finishing and publishing novels. I have merely and persistently written—mostly journaling since a teen with a few forays into fiction.
But now. Now. Now. With a new year. I feel the tug of what may be next.
Man, what an emotion ladened weekend! I have been weepy, tears just behind the eyes, catch ready to happen in my throat for two days. Yesterday, some of that was relieved by a walk around Walden Pond.
It was an incredibly beautiful fall day, a bit warm for my still Wisconsin standards, but delightful to walk. I was looking for a contemplative walk in the woods, a la Henry David Thoreau. Instead, the biggish beach and the tiny beaches all around the pond had families, picnickers, swimmers and kayakers chattering and enjoying the day. And the path around the pond has a layer of small stones and our shoes made noise as we moved along. Julia didn’t mind at all and I had to smile that I actually expected a quiet, mystical stroll. There were a few moments, a few feet of the path every so often, where there were no small stones and where we were not close to those playing in the water. And for those few moments, it was blessedly quiet—once I turned around to make sure Julia was still in back of me. And the quiet captured some of what was in my heart.
A 3-day heat wave was predicted. It might last longer. It will not break sooner. We missed the first heat wave here and lived it in Maryland where our nights were air conditioned. Then, there were a few hot days about a month ago and our air conditioners were still in the basement. I could not bring them up alone and I have not yet found a handy person like my Ed of Madison who knew my house better than I did. Of course, this is not my house, except for the term of my lease, and my handy person tasks are few.
Cheshire and Justin brought one unit from by basement at the end of last week, just in time for yesterday. And I did what I have done since I moved to Wisconsin and met the cold: I closed up the house, windows closed, blinds and shades down, doors to rooms not used closed tight. And left the air conditioner on through out the night. This is so odd for me, I sleep with open windows, but the house is cool, even the bedrooms are tolerable.
Good, hardworking little machine. Thank you. And thank you for the grace of children who will do those tasks I am unable to.