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.
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.
20 years. I remember so well going through the metal detector at the federal court build in Indianapolis. The security guy telling me that the world trade center was hit by a plane and we assured each other it was a fluke. A mistake. Then, upstairs to my office and then into a judge’s chambers to watch the second plane hit and the buildings collapse on tv.
I remember trying to wrap my head around the unimaginable in the midst of distress, chaos, sorrow and worry. But a tender memory from that time, in the days and weeks afterwards, midwest friends, neighbors, colleagues and acquaintances, remembered I was from there and asked how I was and how my family and friends were. I had lived in Indiana since 1989, and it was never that easy being from New York. People could be downright mean at times, talking about where I came from as if it was the pit of hell. Not everyone but enough to make David and I shy about that ‘where are you from’ question. During the days and weeks after 9/11, everyone became a New Yorker. Suddenly, I was just like them because they were just like me. I hadn’t expected that and I felt for almost the first time there, that I had community.
First day of Julia’s transition program at Community Connections designed to teach her independent living and employment skills. They have a huge hill to climb.
Anxieties of the morning: The van didn’t come (It showed up at 9:15, a half hour late) and it was less stressful for me to drive her than for her to wait for transportation. She brought drawing materials with her to the program and I encouraged her to use them if she has time. Julia has a brand new rash on one arm (although it might be moving to both arms). I don’t know what it is. There is Sarna in the front of her backpack which works to calm the itch much of the time. She also brought her phone which has proven to be disastrous at times but it wasn’t worth a morning tussle.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
I wrote the following yesterday. It doesn’t have an ending that I am satisfied with; however, the week will only get busier. So, I’m posting it today. Perhaps some ending will come. Perhaps not.
An online friend suggested we keep our expectations low. Which ones? The expectations that I usually hold close are diminishing, falling like leaves after the first frost. Truth be told, I’ve always juggled such a plethora of hopes and dreams, long and short term goals complete with due dates, many expectations, many hopes for possible futures. I have lived for long periods of time holding expectations as a nervous bride clutches her bouquet. But today, after a year away from my old Wisconsin home and loving community, after 10 years away from the love of my life, after 17 weeks of quarantine, I bear witness to an increasing number of plans, goals and expectations dramatically dashed upon rocks or quietly slipping away. If there be a life lesson here, it must be that living in the present is what is essential. Life can be, at times, gently shaped, tended more like an orchid than a row of sturdy marigolds.
Last week, Julia’s inclusion facilitator (a post previously called “case manager” and hereafter IF) told me that Julia was not put on the bus list in error and if it was possible for me to drive her for the week, she would get the bus this second week of school.I agreed, jotting down the bus as a topic of conversation for our meeting this week.Sunday evening, the bus service called me to tell me when Julia would be picked up on Monday.This morning the bus was early and so tooted its horn for us.I went to the door and Julia was out a few minutes later.I talked to the driver who actually seemed to know the the time quoted to me was too late and that they were still making adjustments.She apologized that I did not get phone call before this morning about changes.I feel like I’m living in some utopian bizarro world!In Madison (I’m not going to repeat the bus saga, the sped bus never tooted its horns if Julia was not waiting for it.A bus pulled up to our house, waited a few minutes and then left.There were a few times when I complained the bus never showed up and the dispatcher said that the bus was there, waited and left.If the bus was early, especially in the early days of ninth grade, it could have escaped our notice.So, this little curtesy, a tooting of the horn seems like a miracle to me. Continue reading →