I wake up before my children. My guy has gone home to Western Mass. The house is quiet. While I was showering, my daughter got up, brushed her teeth, said good-bye while I dried off. Now she’s out running with her dad, third day in a row, something I never learned to do, run like the wind, other than as a kid.

In poetry class this week a classmate wrote about learning to skate and the contrast between the ease his kids found on the ice and the work it required for him to learn as an adult. Another classmate talked about marveling at the things her children have learned to do, and the adults they’ve become, often experiencing or becoming things she never did.

Meanwhile, Richard called from Northampton. While Isabel was out running with her dad, Richard was out collecting boxes for his mom’s belongings. On Tuesday, he’ll go with his brother to clean out her closets and drawers and files. Now she’s gone, and it’s spring, nearly summer, they plan to sell the house. Before someone else moves in, they’ll need to move what remains of her out.

Here I am in the middle of the two, my gal finding her way in the world, at fourteen, anticipating becoming an adult, my guy ushering his mom’s spirit out of the world. Some days I imagine going for a run with my daughter. Most days my to do list includes clearing out my house so my children won’t have to, also so we can live freer in the days we’re here. Time now to live in the moment, tea for three. My son returns from college Friday, reminding us of another cusp in life, preparing for his first full time job this summer at Lincoln Labs. Richard’s daughter graduates from Smith College this weekend, interviews on Monday a second time for an art teaching job she really wants. My middle son took his SAT two weekends ago, will look again at colleges this summer. My nephew graduates from high school in less than a month. Life moves on, whether we’re running or studying or clearing out. Tea is every day.

last night after work I rested first, then I packed my book and mail and banking and headed out. I deposited checks, put bills in the box, read my book with a salad and iced decaf at The Diesel. 

The streets were alive. The only ones I knew were a dad and two boys playing catch in the park, former day care folks. 

Earlier in the afternoon I opened my second letter in a week from a developer looking to buy my house. The last one offered to pay cash and help me clean it out. Goodness knows I could use the cash and the help cleaning out my house. For now, I also need the house. 

Out walking last night I wondered what I’m doing here.  My days in the park with my own kids are long gone. My honey lives in Western Mass, my younger kids live with their dad in Cambridge half time.  My older son is away at college, heading into his senior year. 

I’ve got a family day care in my home I’ve run for twenty years, colleagues in the neighborhood heading for retirement, our local park now overfull some days with kids in corporate day care. Life here changes fast, keeps me wondering if or for how long I still belong. 

first it was about the ewes and their lambs at Chewonki, and the young woman farmer who couldn’t keep them safe.

Then it was the baby in the day care mama’s belly, days from being born, lost beyond all our comprehension.

Then it was the tulip bulbs I had failed to plant in fall, which I put in the ground before we left for Ecuador, hopeful they might grow.

In Ecuador it was people waiting to cross the pan american highway without crosswalks or overpasses and us in the SUV passing belching trucks and slow cars on hairpin turns in blind spots trying to get there faster.

Now we’re home there is a new roof on the house and the time for tulips has passed. Richard’s mom is dying in the nursing facility, having left home while we were away. I’d like to go see her before she’s gone.

There are also the earthquake in Nepal and the Nepalese dad and children in the day care and the protests in Baltimore and those I know who stand for social justice. I wonder where I’m called and what to do.

As I showered this morning I wanted to write a poem, in spite of missing class all these weeks I’ve been away.

My dad died in early summer, July 1st. I was small. I wasn’t there when he went, only afterwards to get the news. After awhile we didn’t talk about it or him much. Over time we learn. Now sometimes we share information or stories. With the kids in our care and with the people in my life I try to be there and to say things out loud. ¬†It isn’t always possible or enough, but I try.

****

I wrote this in the early morning before going downstairs to day care. When I arrived, the children were  lively, so lively we spent the entire morning outside, first in the yard, then at the park, returning to the house only for lunch and nap, will likely return to the yard when the kids wake up.

Returning from the park, I let the kids know that Richard’s mom is dying. They asked why. I let them know she is very, very old, and her body is stopping working. She can’t eat or drink or get out of bed. They ask how old is very old, and I tell them near one hundred. They think that is up to the ceiling. At first I say it is, such a big number. Then they wonder if she is so big she fills the room, and I let them know, actually she is small, getting smaller every day, thin and not so tall as she was when she was Liana’s and my age, remind them that we stop growing as we get older, when we are three or four we are growing, then when we are adults we are as big as we get, then we start to get smaller again. The children are happy to be on solid ground. One tells me her mother isn’t forty seven anymore, but forty eight. I say she is the same age as me.. The girl says she is three and a half. Later at lunch we talk about our birthdays, which ones come in springtime, which in summer, fall, and winter. They absorb the death of Richard’s mother because this time it makes sense. The baby not so much, the earthquake hard to understand, but an old person near one hundred is the sort of death we all expect, children included.

This afternoon at nap time on Facebook I read posts trying to make sense of death and life in Baltimore, mostly teens and adults wanting to take sides, to tell the others what is right and wrong. In Ecuador our cab driver took us to see the changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace, a first for him and us. When he was in High School, he let us know, he was a teen who threw rocks at the president, his whole school did, as did two or three others full of kids wanting to fight back. Now that isn’t common in Ecuador, as he said, because the police would throw the kids in jail. We met fishermen from the coast at the palace who were there to let the president know their livelihoods as small fisherman were in danger due to overfishing by large fishing operations. They were told not to unfurl their banners lest they be arrested. I watched Richard wipe away the tears after talking with the men.

I couldn’t picture whole high schools of kids in the US throwing rocks at the president in protest, nor ten small fisherman driving five hours to speak to President Obama. I also couldn’t picture someone being arrested in the US for peacefully holding up a sign. When we returned Facebook and my inbox were full of teens and adults and the press trying to sort out the situation in Baltimore. The news of the earthquake in Nepal is on our minds, too, with a Nepalese family in our day care. All around the world at all ages, we’re thinking about injustice and hardship, about death that’s right and wrong, about our place in understanding and fixing things. I find it fascinating. Time to write the day care observations, the small and large details of our days that keep us following the thread between home and school, morning, afternoon, and night, day after day, week after week, month after month, twenty years this year. Writing it all out may not make it right, but it helps makes sense of things that otherwise might float away unnoticed.

Two years ago I visited Northampton for the weekend with a new friend from Spain. We stayed with Richard, a friend of her friend who agreed to show us around.

Tomorrow morning we’ll board a plane to Ecuador, Richard, Jonah, Isabel, and I. When we land we’ll be met by Marita and Ricardo, my friend from an exchange program we did at age fifteen and her husband, who I don’t yet know.

We’ll spend eleven days visiting with Marita and Ricardo and exploring their home country by plane and automobile, maybe a raft or a rapeling line or a bike, depending on our adventurous spirits.

One day this winter, in the midst of the heaviest snow, my daughter and I dreamed up this April vacation. I wished to travel again with my kids. She wished for New Orleans. The plane tickets to Quito cost less. I wanted to go more. Tomorrow we will.

That day in between shoveling, we started to make a longtime dream come true, returning to a place I’ve until now been too afraid to go, traveling with my teens and my guy. That weekend in Northampton I didn’t know I’d be here with Richard. We took a chance, stepped right out of our comfort zone.

The last two years I’ve done more traveling with Richard and the kids than I’ve done since my early twenties, California the first summer we were together, The Netherlands with the kids and our friends last April break, Spain last fall, now Ecuador, with many weekends and weeks away in closer places, Rhode Island, Western Mass, Maine, Martha’s Vineyard, Vermont. I couldn’t predict this happiness when I escaped a weekend without my kids two years ago, when they were off to Texas with their dad and I was feeling all alone.

Life surprises. Often when we least expect it a person or an adventure crosses our path. If we extend a hand we can catch him or her or it and go for a lovely ride.

Wish us luck on this leg of the journey. We have our shots, our medicines, our travel guide, our reservations, our place with friends, our itinerary, our passports, our tickets, our suitcases, and our wallets. The cat will be fed, the roofers will come, the day care will run, then close, then reopen. In two weeks I’ll be back, hopefully reminded to keep stepping a little outside my comfort zone.

its fifty cents an each. 

Not today. Once a day a week. 

That’s a long time ago. 

I don’t think so. 

Today’s breakfast conversation. Time fascinates. So does money. So do units of measurement. So do children. 

This morning I tidy up from last night’s tea party. I wash the tea pot and the small creamers which are too delicate for the dish washer, wipe the crumbs on the dining room table, leave the cushions on the living room floor to remind me of the circle here last night of people who came together to be together, memory of those we’ve lost in the room in my china cabinet and in the mother who needed to sit down.

It was a fine evening in my home, a place I’ve shared these last twenty some years with many. My favorite gatherings have often included tea in china cups.

This morning I remember my grandmother saying she drank tea out of fancy cups because for so many years she worked so hard she didn’t have time for a cup of tea.

This morning I make tea and sit at the table to eat my granola before heading downstairs, a rare day I don’t eat on the run, in honor of my grandmother and myself.

On Monday I return to poetry class, third one for me, and this time I am eager. Last group was in our teacher’s living room, another circle of people gathering with intention to learn and to remember. The last week and a half I’ve thought of my teacher’s question, what do I wish to gain from turning my words to poems, rather than prose? I still don’t know, but the images have been gathering like clouds in my head, and I’m hoping somehow this weekend to turn a few into a poem.

Drip, drop, the rain outside keeps falling. The kids and Anne and I will have another day of raincoats at the park. Wish us well on this cool April morning. It’s been a week of sick kids and parents, last night Liana fell, and I’m hoping I’m not next.

I learned late morning of a terrible loss in one of the day care families. I had spent the early morning setting up medical appointments for my kids and myself, sorting out things with my guy and with their dad and stepmom, and when I got the news, all my own minor things fell back.

The family is one of the loveliest we’ve encountered. Another reminder in this world that most of the bad isn’t deserved, it just is. Still, it’s hard to understand when there is nothing we can do to protect ourselves and each other.

I decide to make granola, comfort food for my family since the holidays, a large batch I can share with my kids and Richard when they return tomorrow, and the family experiencing the hard time. I listen to music, wash the dishes in my kitchen, make a batch of soup, too, just in case that feels right to deliver to the girl when she goes home tomorrow with her grandparents. Granola can be left on the stoop at home. Soup is only good if folks are there, and right now, the hospital is home, and grandma and grandpa’s house.

Tomorrow it may be day care for our little gal. I write with the day care parents and and caregivers and colleagues, read online about grief and loss and comfort and healing, talk with my guy, stir the pot, listen to music, even talk with the dad, so I understand his gal’s and family’s experience, hoping to create a place of shelter in the storm.

Its an honor to know children and families well enough to be the one they tell when things go so terribly wrong and to provide care trustworthy enough it feels like home to a child going through a very hard time. As my friend Macky has reminded me, there isn’t one right way to behave in tough times. I’m hoping we can be good enough, and get this little gal and family through to the other side of unfathomable loss.

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