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.
Snail slow and in ever decreasing increments, I come back to and move onto some completed changed old self. Never walking into the same river twice, but stepping on the same stones, recognizing the direction of water flow. The books strewn around the house—some closed with bookmarks, some open, face down on the coffee table, on the desks, on the edge of the bed far from where I sleep—they were not there six month ago. I walked around the house this morning looking for the book that I’ve decided to start my mornings with. I almost cannot write, cannot think a single thought before I read the reading for today.
I am my own delicious throwback to days before Covid and quarantine and autism and moving and death and heart transplant and a wild child. Who was that me way back then? I have almost, but not completely, forgotten her.
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.
This was not the post I intended to write this morning. No, what follows is what I expected to write. It is this morning’s latest catastrophe that I did not expect. Julia turned 21 this weekend and I guess I should have written and posted with pictures before this morning because . . . well, because stuff happens and in this house, it happens like a hurricane or a tsunami.
We had a long, quiet weekend—celebrating with a big shopping at H Mart, an Asian supermarket, where Julia picked out old favorite noodle packs, candies and cookies. We found frozen pork buns and the best frozen dumplings we’ve ever had. She ventured into a jar of kimchi, found BTS merch and of course, we got some mochi. It was a black sesame mochi ball that held the lit candle that was ceremoniously carried into Cheshire’s dining room after we had feasted on Korean take out. We sang, Julia blew the candle out. I wished that we could have some sort of a normal birthday celebration at some future time, at the same time grateful for the generous scraps of what we have.
“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.
Whew! Yes, I’ve gotten this far. This far into this year and this far into life. But I’ve been wasting more than my usual share of days dithering. I wonder if I am alone in this? Courtney Martin, whose, newsletter I subscribe to, called this a “liminal pandemic moment.”
“We’re opening back up. We’re not opening back up. We want to open back up. We sort of actually don’t. We forgot how to socialize with a wide variety of people or in larger groups, so it all feels heightened—like waking up from a nap and being violently thrust into a brightly lit room of smiling, chatty people.”
Well, I am not intending to burst into any rooms of chatting people in actuality or even figuratively. Still, I feel the liminality of the moment. We are gathering tomorrow with our ‘pod’ from the last two years—Cheshire and Justin, his parents, Julia and I–which is quite comfortable. There remains, however, the rest of life–transitions, community, and what the future holds.
So many Facebook posts about dropping offspring at college. Parents wondering about how very responsible children will live with strangers, pick courses and move around unfamiliar campuses, and how they will deal with empty nests. Parents crying as they drive away. Had Facebook been available back when Cheshire was college aged, I may have said the same. Now, I look from such a different view. I want to hug them all and tell them—Celebrate! You are unbearably lucky! You are so blessed! You can see what your parenting has produced. Your child is excited or at least willing to learn and be taught, to plunge into an interest, to make friends, to take on adventure of a new place, new people, a whole new culture. And you can support them—financially and emotionally— in this journey. You will certainly miss them but this, this very thing, is what you’ve trained them and yourself for.
It is telling that after two years I only noticed on Friday morning at 4:30 a.m. that my street has no street lights. We are catching a 6 a.m. plane Boston to Philly and then a later plane to Dayton, Ohio. It was China Sisters Reunion weekend. A Facebook post announced that this is the 16th reunion if our trip to China is included.
Ah, a trip to China. I am still marveling that Julia and I have not gotten on a plane for more than 2 years. How is that so?
And yet, we were picked up and dropped off at Logan and entered into the swarm of early morning travelers. The check in lines and kiosks buzzed with people. People everywhere! Carrying and pulling, asking questions and commenting excitedly, making people noises that made something of a soundtrack as we made our way to the departure gate. I remember but I am hearing it all for the first time. Like riding a bicycle, we quickly adapted to the old routines—printing boarding passes, finding security, getting into the TSA line, showing identification and pulling down each of our masks for a moment to make sure that the picture on the ID matched the person carrying the ticket. Julia asked if she had to take off her shoes and we both forgot to take our phones out of jacket pockets.
I am sad and angry. Trying to find thoughts to share but it is all too raw.
I do have three things to share that are lovely things that should not be hidden away because of all that makes me sad and angry.
First, is Julia’s senior pictures. The sitting for these pictures, like everything else that Julia does, was not typical. One of the two photographers who was working that day was immediately sensitive and took extra time and care, trying to make Julia comfortable and trying to capture some of the joy that is Julia. From the proofs, I picked four. One will go in the yearbook.