This morning I am awake again in the fours, something I’ve grown used to this summer. Coming apart for me seems to require many hours of wakefulness in the middle of the night and early morning. Sadly, this is a pattern I remember.

Richard and I parted ways three weeks ago today. I haven’t wanted to write about it, feeling it is too private for the blog, hoping not to write a story that would not be true. We’ve come apart before, but this feels different. Two of my closest women friends agree.

This time around I’m not going to be the one to make it better. I don’t know how.

I don’t understand love, don’t really understand it at all. You would think at nearly fifty that I might. I feel it. I love it. I just don’t know how to hold it together with a man lifelong. That would be a fine thing. It’s too late for a chance to be with someone who’s known me all my adult life. Maybe it’s not too late to be with someone who’d like to take me to the grave, a strange thing to wish for maybe, but I do, for that person who can imagine being by my side as I pass out of this world, who would want me to do the same for him, who feels as sure as anyone can this is what he’d like to do.

It’s strange for me for there to be so much kindness in the parting, but it’s there. We are e-mailing a bit. We talked last night, not about how to reunite, but a little about the day, about the kids, about the people we each know and have seen or spoken to or wonder about and love. That shared life has to break apart, and it is. Week by week the bond gets weaker; I know less of his life, he knows less of mine; the unravelling of our shared life has begun, as has the re-knitting of our separate lives.

This week Richard is in New York and Connecticut, with many of the most important people in his life. Today is his birthday. He’ll celebrate with his brothers and some of his oldest friends. I’ll be here, not baking the gluten free chocolate cake with raspberry sauce I’ve made the last three years to honor the man I’ve loved in all his chocolate loving gluten free glory. Instead I’ll drive my daughter to the T so she can spend the day at her newly beloved Mass Art Summer Intensives, studying drawing and fashion, then maybe I’ll do yoga and if my son is up for it and the parking lot isn’t too full, we’ll go for a swim at Walden Pond this afternoon. After that I’ll have dinner with both kids if nothing surprising comes up for either one, then maybe I’ll read on the couch or we’ll watch something together on tv, and after that, night after night, I’ll go to bed alone.

Life will go on like this, parting ways. We’ll do separate vacations, one this weekend for me and two of my kids with old friends at Woodman Hill in Western Mass, one for him this week with friends and brothers in New York and his daughter and son-in-law and his family at the Connecticut shore, all places we’ve been together. This week we repaired our separate houses, major porch work for mine, minor porch work for his. Funny the outside of our houses is where the work needs doing.

The same is true in some ways for us. The outside forces have been wearing. The back and forth, life in two places, trying to meld lives in two different life stages has taken it’s toll. Neither one of us is ready to move to be with the other. Richard doesn’t want to live in Somerville or to live my middle aged life here with me. I can’t imagine moving my kids and work to Northampton or living a more leisurely life with Richard for awhile. Being apart is too hard for me, the ups and downs of life as we’ve known it are too hard for him. We are both tired of missing our homes and loved ones when we’re away and need the grounding living life in one place provides.

So, this round we part as amicably as we can. He walks and putters, run errands and goes to appointments, visits friends and family, swims, watches tv, goes to movies, travels. I do yoga, read, write, work, spend time with my kids, my mom and sister and my nephew, a few friends, the Quakers, yard sale, cook, clean, swim. We begin to make plans that don’t involve the other. This week I’ll reserve a campsite in Maine for one of my vacation weeks in August. I expect soon he’ll begin to travel more and spend more of his time visiting with friends and kids, maybe take on some new project, as other retirees might do. Someday I expect we will begin to see other people. Life will move on. There is no need to separate our belongings, as we shared none. There is no need to strip our houses of evidence of the other, as there is so little in either one. For three years we said to one another, I should put a picture of you on the fridge. We never did.

This is my first attempt to share the news with the wider world. When people asked about Richard after Quaker Meeting yesterday I couldn’t speak. So, you’re a flasher, a member of my writing group said to me about my blog. No, the writing teacher said. I don’t know. In writing here I tell myself I’m opening myself up so that others may see themselves, or some part of me that feels familiar, and in so doing feel less alone. I suppose my hope is I will feel less alone as well, and that in telling some of the harder parts of my story, I’ll give those parts a shape I can live with and better understand. So far, so good, on that end, I think. Wish me luck, in love, in writing, in truth telling as best I can.

This weekend I was in Ashfield with my mom, my sister, my daughter and her two friends. I had planned for more people and we had too much food. What I hadn’t planned for were all the ways the universe provided. I came home with a book my writing teacher had recommended and I had planned to buy online, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Dr. Christine Northrup, which I began and fell in love with immediately after dinner on the couch, across from my boy, home after over a week away. The yard sale at the Spruce Corner School House was productive. Besides that book, I found three others I’m eager to read, Deschooling Society by Ivyn Illich, a classic that changed Richard’s life when he was young,  a lovely picture book called Home by Carl Larsson, just right for the home theme on Garrison Avenue, where we are loving the big house and a doll house into a state of greater repair, carpenters, inhabitants, and kids, and another book by a Native American scholar and writer I knew of in college, Vine Delorian, about the influence of Medicine Men. I came away with those four books tucked into a lined wicker basket of beautiful hardwood blocks, three silk rainbow capes in the Waldorf tradition perfect for day care fairy dress up, three small wooden stacking toy people in rainbow colors I expect to please our incoming toddlers this fall, and a vintage drink carrier my daughter hopes to take to her first adult apartment, that was how charmed she was by it, all for eleven dollars.

Earlier in the weekend, I realized I needed to renew my Ashfield Library Card, which one can do in Ashfield simply by talking with the librarian, sharing the basic information for an update, cell phone, address, name. My mother was amazed. Didn’t I need an actual card? Not there. I’m not just a number, I’m a name, an address, a citizen. For that, I walked away with a pile of books and dvds for our women’s weekend, all free and all returned through the slot in the heavy wooden doors before we left town today, headed back to Somerville, though not before my sister snapped photos on my daughter’s iphone of all the vegan recipes the girls had marked with orange strips of post it notes, or before we all watched Gilbert Grape piled on mattresses and beds in the small bedroom the girls had rearranged and shared with the tv in the corner on the twenty dollar bureau from the Cambridge yardsale long ago, nor before I spent hours on the beach by the lake and on the torn quilt covered couch in the living room of the Ashfield house and on the relatively new picnic table beside the shrinking pond out back reading Mary Oliver poems, some my oldest favorites, one or two darker than any I’d ever read about a father and a mother and forgiveness, or something approaching that, reading the biography of an ordinary American woman of the baby boomer era written by Susan Cheever, and the story of Alice Waters and the history of Chez Panisse, read after our trip to the Farmer’s Market and interspersed with cooking meals of local vegetables and eggs, and the story of yet another woman, Annie Lamott in her book Grace (Eventually) which made me laugh out loud at the humor in dark and unexpected places. Grace is what I needed this weekend, finding myself in a dark enough place the last week or two I’ve been up in the night and early morning nearly every day, sleeping much less and much less soundly than I’d like. But that, too, is a gift from beyond, if I let it be. Here I am writing, 3:44 am, after waking at 2 from a dream in which the Barbie underpants had interior pockets I was admiring, shown to me by the wife of an old friend, now a fashion curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, whose studio apartment my young husband and I visited (stayed in?) on one of our trips to San Francisco long ago, then the girlfriend of our friend, who came to paint this house nearly twenty five years ago, instead slept with the lovely tenant downstairs, same friend who ran the painting company my college boyfriend turned husband painted with in Providence the summer I prep cooked and chamber maided on the Cape, where I shared a small cottage behind the big house with three male college friends, one now the Ashfield housemate of my ex-husband and me, along with my college roommate and good friend, now the wife of that guy and mother of three of my kids’ lifelong friends, who have vacationed with us each year since the first of the six were one and two, my former roommate whose Dad is in poor health and up from Florida, so their family wasn’t able to be there this weekend, the tenth fourth of July weekend since we bought the house, during which my ex-husband and his new wife were celebrating his fiftieth birthday in California with the former house painter and the curator of fashion, now parents of two in London, which is no longer part of the EEU. Why I dreamed the curator shared with me Barbie underwear with inside pockets and why I thought it was so clever I coveted underpants with inside pockets for myself, I don’t know, but in so doing, she started this reverie, woke me awake bright as day in the middle of the night, got me to thinking about life and memory, reminded me of the way both are shaped by conversation and connection or not, reminded me to tell my children stories about their father, made me wonder how invisible we have already made one another to our children by not telling stories of our younger days, of the young lives of our children when we were a family, as my own mother made my father invisible, through no fault of her own, by not talking about him much, and this weekend, she told me a story including his words and I wondered if it was in response to this blog, as the last entry had referred to the mostly physical memories I retain and this morning in the middle of the night I made that connection to the missing stories not shared, as that is how children learn, not only by hearing and remembering what they hear as it happens, but also in being told stories again and again and again, stories of moments they might recollect on their own, and many they never could.

In the day care we’ve taken to telling stories to the children and they ask for more. We tell them about our childhoods, about our children, even recently about our parents and their childhoods. This is what I remember from my childhood, adults telling stories at the dinner table, in the yard, at family gatherings big and small where we heard about how it was so that we almost imagined we were there. It’s as though I was with my grandfather milking in the barn or tricking the kids from town into asking for chocolate milk from the brown cow or choking on horse balls with the spaghetti and tomato sauce served when they came for dinner on the farm, when in fact my grandfather died shortly after I was born. We can make those people and moments in the past come so alive in the minds of our children that they feel they were there, that those stories are part of them, that they have a history, whether in a family or in the human race.

Annie Lamott had a line today about being human and how some days she can hardly do it. That felt true, as did a story she told about her son at 10 when they moved to a new house with bedrooms further apart than they had before, and how he had to get used to it by sleeping in his sleeping bag, first on top of her bed, then at the foot of her bed on the floor, then in the doorway, then down the hall, gradually, night by night, calling out to his mother that he was there, until at last he could sleep in his own room. Annie Lamott tells us this is how we come to grace, not miraculously and suddenly, but in fits and starts, scooching down the hall. When she told that story, I had to read it out loud to my sister and my mother, as I had remembered my nephews and their struggles to sleep on their own, and as I had known Annie’s story got it right. That is the way I’d like to write, not about all the shiny, polished stuff, not about all the dark and dreary on it’s own, but somehow bringing the two together, so others (and I) may understand, we are not alone, we are not alone, we are not alone. As my mother helped to make my father invisible, so we are doing to the fathers and mothers of our children, to those who have left us through death or divorce or betrayal. It is hard to tell their stories, for them to tell ours, and for us to do it in a balanced way. It’s hard to give our children all we wanted. Sometimes being up in the night helps, so these weeks of wakefulness, I am listening, as carefully as I can to the voices in the night, wondering what they have to teach me, trying to write it down.

The universe provides, if not always in the form of good sleep, at least in the form of dreams and stories, to which we can learn to listen and respond if and when we choose.

Today the workers arrived just past seven and got to work reshingling the driveway side of the house. The kids arriving at the day care were greeted by the work happening on the outside of the house as well as a large Victorian doll house sitting on the bench on the front porch waiting outside the day care door. I explained to the first child that the doll house was sitting on the sidewalk in Northampton with a Free sign on it and Richard wondered if I wanted it for the day care and that I couldn’t resist, and it had been in my car all week. I had gotten it out last night when I loaned my car to a friend moving house and put it on the porch without looking carefully at it. I wondered if my young friend would like to bring it inside and take a look, warning her that it might be too broken or fragile for the day care, but that we could bring it inside to see. I wondered where we should put it. She suggested the back room. I didn’t want it there, but she reminded me we had a doll house table there to hold it so we brought that out to the front room. The rest of our inside time this morning we loved the dollhouse and found it a home in the day care. First we looked inside. Then we got damp rags and washed it from top to bottom, noticing the details and broken places as we did. Then kids brought some furniture and dolls and fabric pieces from our day care doll house and talked about what each room might be. Then they wanted to make dishes out of clay. I offered an old batch of playdough and they got to work. The five who is about to have triplets in her family made a baby bed. Others made plates and cups and bowls, a platter. I offered fabric scraps and soon the table was full of children cutting fabric with sharp fabric scissors, being careful not to cut their clothes, exploring a bin of luscious silks, prints, and brocades given to us by Alice. Children made rugs, pillows, blankets, and then took many of them and put them into the house.

We put the dollhouse in the front room against the radiator while we dressed into bathing suits for the park. We wonder what else we will make for it, if we will find ways to repair the broken places, a missing door, a broken window sill, wallpaper coming loose from the wall.

Meanwhile in the project room Anne was surrounded by children working with Brio Mec Builder, a set of tools, plastic hardware, wooden pieces, and two pounding boards. Some simply filled holes with pegs and hammered. Others made complicated constructions. Everyone had fun.

As we left for the park, we watched the workers on the house outside. We talked about how they got up so high. I explained the pump jacks they had raised in the early morning before day care began, and showed them the ladder the workers ascended to get up to the third floor. One child asked where the workers lived, but what she really wondered was how they could rest, if they could nap. She had noticed how hard they were working and how long was their day, and we talked about the stamina and energy they needed to fix the house. We visited with the general contractor’s dog. We watched him load contractor bags of debris into his truck and waved to him as he rounded the corner. One three asked where he was going and we talked about taking away the old materials and bringing the new wood. We admired the work they’ve done thus far, talked about how nice the gray shingles and white trim look on my house, talked about the colors of the children’s homes. One girl thought it was interesting that her house is orange and her favorite color is orange, and yet her house was painted before she was born. Another child said he doesn’t like blue, and it turns out his new whouse is blue. Oh, well.

When we returned from the park the workers were working on the front of the house. Some thought it was scary to see them on the roof just above our heads. We found insulation on the porch and walked around it and wondered about it.

While we waited for meals and after meals we looked at a books of babies in the womb and studied caterpillars we expect to become butterflies, all versions of home of sorts, and transformation.

We didn’t write down a curriculum or theme or even think about the day much ahead of time. Today houses, homes, ¬†building, and transformation were what interested us and what was in our lives. That, in my mind, makes for a wonderful day.

 

 

 

This morning I spent another hour and a half doing yoga. This is the first week I’ve gone to class two times. Before going to class I read from a book by Eric Schiffman about how yoga can make us strong in our bodies and minds and spirits and how that strength can make space for love. Last night before going to bed I listened to the Align Your Story module where our teacher talked about listening to our bodies, meditating, doing yoga, finding strength and connection, and our voice. All these things do seem to be connected.

As I walked home from a rare lunch with a friend, poet, writer, and teacher, I was in a rush to get back to work. I could feel the new ease and strength in my body as I picked up the pace. This morning when I aimed for a headstand in the yoga class after trying once on Tuesday with help from my teacher, my legs kicked up unassisted like those of a young girl, second time’s a charm. As I walked home after lunch I remembered watching the home movies of my early life and being surprised at how strong, active, and lithe I was in my early years, jumping, running, happy in my young child’s body, athletic as any of the active children I spend my days with here at WFDC.

Somehow, before watching the home movies a few years ago, I hadn’t remembered that feeling. I hadn’t known that was me. I wonder if the loss of connection to my active body was connected to my dad dying, if it could be a loss of the animus that children who grow up with a father grow as they play catch, get tossed around and teased. Some of the few memories of my dad are of horsing around after dinner, riding on his back, working in the garden, sitting on the arm of his chair while he read, having him rub my back when I was upset, eating the fried potatoes he left me on his breakfast plate when he went off to work, holding the back of the bicycle while I learned to ride, handing me his beer for me to sip while he played cards in our garage with his brothers. All these are physical memories. I haven’t got any words or conversations, no words at all to connect me to my dad, save a letter written on small notepaper my mom sent me recently, written his last week in the hospital in a cheery tone, the last words from him to me.

So, when I find myself back in my body, it is surprising. A few years ago I returned to the water, enjoying swimming as I had as a kid and teen. While my kids were little, I only waded. Once they didn’t need me on the shore, I swam out deeper, making my way half way across the lake or pond, wondering how long until I could go all the way, still wondering. Around that time I also returned to my bike, something I loved as a kid and also didn’t do when my kids were young. With six years between them it was hard to get all of them riding bikes we could ride together. Once they all had large wheels, I gave my old bike to my son and needed one for me. My friend Michael gave me one that made me feel light and young. I still don’t ride much and am a bit nervous on city streets, but I can do it and occasionally I do.

This past year I tried again with yoga, after having dipped into a class or two the last several years. My friend Ferriss invited me to join her at a yoga class in Arlington on Thursday nights. We went together once or twice and I liked the place enough to go on my own. I went a few times, then stopped, being tired after work or wanting to be with my kids, but I was drawn in. After having a bad back this fall, I found my way back to a class at the same place on Thursday mornings that happened to be taught by a woman who wrote a book about yoga for a healthy back. I’ve been hooked ever since, going to class first every other week on when my kids didn’t need the car for school, then every week and walking the weeks I didn’t have a car. Now I’ve discovered there is a Tuesday night class and I’ve got that free, having given up my old Tuesday night commitment. It’s been a slow process, but I love it. I’m drawn and suited to yoga, to the slow pace, to the attention to the body and what it can do, to the the building of flexibility, strength, and focus. And in a week of caring for others, it’s a fine thing to have a yoga teacher caring for me, guiding me in learning to do new things, noticing when I am getting things wrong and right, introducing me to a room full of women older and younger, more and less experienced, with issues in our bodies our teacher attends to with modifications, attention, and care.

We are all getting older. Fifty is a marker I want to honor with strength. At forty I focussed on getting on with the second half of life, making big external and internal changes that sapped a good deal of my energy. My children needed a lot from me, and after taking on the challenges of separation and divorce, shifting adult relationships, and career upheaval and change, I needed every ounce leftover for my kids. Now I’ve got time again for me, and I’m interested to see how it feels to turn some attention to my aging body, no longer a vessel for making babies, a bit flabby and weak in places, but getting stronger every day. I didn’t think when I started yoga again in October about where I was headed, but today when I kicked up easily into a headstand I felt a thrill. As a girl I loved doing cartwheels and somersaults, hand stands and headstands, round offs and back bends. Last time I tried a cartwheel I was in my thirties and I thought I would split in two. Tuesday I did a near split, assisted by foam blocks. Today I did a headstand unassisted, a shoulder stand with help from my teacher to orient my head, next time who knows?

If you haven’t already found a way to love your body, think of a way to get there today. I can’t say I’m adoring mine, but I’m learning to live in it, and I’m hoping to find may way not only in it, but also to find a greater connection in my body to my mind. If Eric Schiffman is right, great things could happen, love, insight, even connection to the divine. How fine.

For much of my life I’ve had house dreams. When I was a girl, my best friend and my sister and I all made houses for our Barbies, towers of cardboard boxes decorated with scraps of fabric and carpet, filled with furniture made of recycled milk cartons and toilet paper tubes, with dishes made of toothpaste caps and the rubber discs that used to be inside the caps of soda bottles. In those houses lived families with many members, mothers, fathers, children, uncles, aunts, cousins. The families of my sister and of my best friend were related. At holidays they gave each other gifts, handmade books, purses made of the fabric scraps left from dresses my grandmother made for me. They may have even written each other letters. I spent a lot of energy in middle childhood creating my Barbie home. When it was time for my family to leave our home and move around the corner, the Barbie house fell to pieces. It didn’t make it to he home I lived in after that. A box or two filled with some of the furniture and accessories went into the attic. The rest went into the trash while I was away in Michigan visiting my best friend, making a play with her siblings and neighborhood friends, using old sheets for curtains, making costumes from old clothes, charging neighborhood kids to come and watch.

My daughter is a house maker, too. On the third floor of our house she has the remains of her childhood home making, one grand Playmobil Castle filled with couples marrying which she constructed in the years her father and I were failing at that, two lovely doll houses, filled with furniture her father and I bought her and she collected in the years she was learning to live in two homes. Last night at bedtime we were texting about our days, she in her dad’s house, me in mine, and she told me she had a wonderful day, started by waking up to a dream her brother and her father said reminded her of mine. Before she could say it I knew it was a house dream. I let her know I had one, too, early Monday morning, after visiting a an open house on Sunday that was a real life dream of someone magical I’ll probably never know.

I wake up this morning in the threes again, my life again disrupted such that I am unable to sleep, and I did not have a dream this time, at least not while I was sleeping. Instead I lay in bed til five attempting the deep listening which is the theme of this week’s writing class, then get up to shower when the second or third round of meditation doesn’t put me back to sleep. In the shower, I think about what next. Will I sit at the new writing desk as I had yesterday in the early morning and write in my journal? Will I start the morning as I had yesterday by sitting on my bedroom floor doing yoga while watching my teacher on the video with my tiny phone propped in front of me on the couch against the air conditioner Richard layed down there beneath the window, carried up three flights of stairs, stopped short of making it into the place where it belongs?

Instead I return to bed, the place where I used to write and write, entry upon entry in this blog, when I was lost before, hoping maybe after writing I can fall asleep, though I don’t have much hope for that. Outside my windows it’s quiet except for birds. The sun seems to have been up for hours. The mourning doves are in the yard below, the song birds in the trees. There are birds that sing here now all night long, which seems strange to me, as I had thought songbirds sing in daylight. Not these. One night a few weeks ago I woke to hear an owl. It used to be that when I wasn’t sleeping I would wait for the birds at sunrise to keep me company, along with the leaf shadows on the curtains. Now the birds sing all night long I have less need for Writers’ Almanac, which was my former mid-night partner, coming out just past three am to remind me I wasn’t alone.

Also outside my windows are the pump jacks, set up by yesterday’s workers, who are stripping the old shingles off the third floor of my house. Before bed last night I went to inspect the work from the back porch, was sad to find scraps of shingles on the floor, trampled blackberries down below. Just yesterday morning the day care kids and I made jam with frozen raspberries, anticipating the day we could make it from the berries in the yard. Again, that dream is unlikely to come true.

On Monday I woke up happy in my house dream, as my daughter woke up yesterday happy in hers. In my dream Richard and I were visiting the house I had visited in real life the day before. I approached as he was talking privately with the realtor, saying something he stopped when he realized I was there, something about “if this happens..” and that was all I got. Later, driving home from an appointment, hostility filling the car, Richard spotted a doll house on the sidewalk with a free sign taped to the roof. “Do you want it for the day care?” he wondered. I debated, could not resist the irony in the moment, stuffed the house in the backseat of Richard’s car, transferred it to the back of mine when we got back to Richard’s home. The house has been in my car on Garrison Avenue since Monday, laying on it’s side, a few pieces broken off, waiting for me to take it out.

This morning in the shower, I wondered what would happen to that house. Would I put it in the yard for the day care kids to play with, allowing it to decay with the weather and abuse? Would I bring it to join Isabel’s houses and castle in the third floor space we are making our own? Would I decorate it myself, as I remember imagining as a child my adult self would do? Do I leave it on the curb, sending it off to the next house dreamer ready to take it on? I don’t know. Tomorrow I’ll need to decide, as it won’t fit in the car with my daughter, her two friends, and our stuff for Ashfield, where I had expected to spend the holiday weekend with Richard’s kids and mine, my sister and her family, my mom, my housemates and their children, and maybe even friends of Richard’s and mine from Colrain. At this point, it looks more like a girls’ weekend, my mom, my sister, my daughter, her two friends, and me. If it weren’t so big, I’d take the doll house and see what we would do with it there. I’ll take the day to decide,let you know what happens.

I’ll have lived on Garrison Avenue twenty four years in September, since 1992, until 2009 with a husband, since then on my own. A few years ago Bill, the neighbor and handyman who works on the house I share in Ashfield told me, as I was thinking out loud through a project I felt needed doing on my Somerville home, You won’t be able to keep it, meaning, a single woman like you can’t afford to live in a big old house in Somerville on her own.

Tomorrow the re-shingling of the third floor dormer will begin, redoing work that was done poorly when my family was young and we hired a contractor who installed cheap windows, for which all of the screens have fallen apart and no replacements are available, since none of the windows have product id numbers and the company who I believe made them won’t work with me unless I can provide those numbers. That contractor also installed cheap white cedar shingles, not primed or dipped, or whatever shingles are supposed to be in order to last, and so this summer, I’ll have the curling, falling off shingles replaced with red cedar shingles that are dipped, and the carpenters will add trim to the third floor windows, where the first contractor added none, though new windows will have to wait, so this contractor has offered to install the trim work with screws, allowing future window installation to proceed with ease.

Next week the crew will replace the rotting railings on the upstairs back porch with mahogany, a luxury material he assures me will not need regular replacing, as those rails have been replaced twice already in the years I’ve owned the house, once when we rebuilt the porches fifteen years ago, once when those railings failed about six years ago, now again, as the paint is sheeting off and the soft wood crumbles in places under my toes when I press against it. Later in the summer the painters will come and repaint the whole house, top to bottom, which hasn’t been done in nine years, though the lower level trim was painted just three years ago, and pieces were done three years before that. This round they won’t paint the original windows on the first and second floor, as it’s beyond the scope of what I can afford, and what makes sense. According to the installer of the storm windows I had put in over the last eight years, I can take each old window out myself, set it on a table, reglaze and repaint it, and put the whole thing back together good as new. We will see if and when I do that, but for now, the storms are doing their job keeping the weather out and the original windows on the first and second floors, like the newer dormer windows up above, will have to wait for painting and/ or replacing.

I’m nervous about all these things. Will Bill be right? Can I not afford to keep my house, my home? Do I know what I’m doing? Am I doing the job too soon? Much of the house looks great. When I look up after dinner at the house I’ve loved and hated, or when I come home after being away, I wonder, was this really the year to do it? My house looks pretty good, especially compared to some others around me with peeling paint and crumbling exteriors, but in my world of day care licensing visits, in my family tradition of taking care of our homes, I can’t let the house go. The rotten sills revealed by the ladders of the guys installing the storms two falls ago, the rotten boards up near the roof the roofers didn’t replace two springs ago, the railings on the upstairs back porch and along some of the side yard gates that turn to powder when pressed, the shingles curled and falling out on the third floor, all those decaying bits of the house are scattered and need addressing. Painting just the upper two stories since the trim of the first floor was done three years ago would leave the shingles down below for future jobs and would not address the places down low the inspector will see where paint is failing.

So, I’m spending more money than I expected, again, to keep this house my home, wondering again where the cash will come from, grateful my older son has found work at twenty one that will allow him to live on his own in New York City and cover his own expenses, once the apartment deposit is settled with the help of his dad, I hope. I’m grateful my ex-husband and I have come to an agreement about how to divide the costs of education for our younger son and daughter and that I can somewhat predict and count on that. I’m grateful that I live and work in Somerville where I can provide the sort of care for children I believe in and mostly afford to take care of my home and live a decent life with my children. But again, it’s a leap of faith. Single women in my field, early childhood care and education, mostly can’t live how I live, in my own home, with a bedroom for each of my children, even the ones moving ¬†on to college and work, with a separate apartment for the day care, so my family can have privacy and the children and caregivers can have the space we love. And I’m aware of that every moment of the day.

 

 

Thursdays mornings I am not in the day care. For years, I worked with children in the day care four or five days a week, until the year after I was at Sudbury Valley and WFDC, when I realized I worked too much; single mom lost in the world, long distance relationships, trying to find what next needed time to find her way. Now I am in the day care three full days and one afternoon and I do lots of day care work interspersed with my regular life, shopping, home maintenance and repair, finances, bookkeeping, communications, enrollments, all sorts of things happen outside those three long and one short days. But on the days I am outside the day care, I had hoped something else would find me, maybe writing, maybe something else.

This week I’m starting a new online course with my writing teacher, Nadia, called Align Your Story. In the first lesson she talked about finding time to write and how when she had very little child care (and I read, when her lovely child was cutting pineapple in my day care kitchen beside me), she took all of her child care time for herself, for her writing. I think about that when I wake up today, full of hopes for writing at my new writing desk, of doing the yoga and meditation sections of the online course as well as responding to the writing prompts. I am so eager to begin I wake at seven, even though I was up past midnight and could in theory use more sleep. I dress without a shower, go downstairs, thinking to put just a batch or two of granola in the oven before I begin.

Now I find myself near eleven, hoping that at eleven thirty my son and I will be off to the bank to set up our new joint account, where we will deposit the first college payments from his dad and me so that next week I can set up the payment plan and on July 1st, Emerson College can begin receiving the first of our money. I’ve cleaned the kitchen. I’ve read a lovely article in The Sun, which I never read, in spite of subscribing at Christmas for myself and my mom and sister and sister-in-law, a family of friends, and a co-worker so we would all be reading the same inspiring things, but this time the article catches me as though it was waiting just for me, an article by a man whose book I read near forty, James Hillman, who spoke to me then about how my life was about to change, as many of our lives do in midlife, and who now speaks to me about the misunderstanding we’ve all had about the value of therapy, and how there may be other ways of greater engagement with the outside world to feed and make use of our souls. He talks of the creative process and how we might find our way in that..So here I am, as the three teenagers emerge from the third floor, two friends of my daughter and my gal, my son still asleep, day care kids and teachers off to the park, and I’ve found only a few minutes to write between cooking, cleaning, laundry, a short bit of reading, and kids entering my world.

This is how it works for moms who want to write. We find the quiet time and we try to use it however we can. Sometimes for me, it means getting the house in order so I can find the physical peace I need to write. Sometimes it means I don’t write for a long, long time. For several years, I didn’t sleep well, and I wrote in the night or in the early morning. For as long as I’ve run the day care, I’ve written in the afternoons, daily observations of our days with children we share with the larger community of teachers and families. Having had a long distance boyfriend the last six years, I’ve written e-mails several times a day attempting to maintain a connection and to give my lonesome adult self some company which I have needed whether or not the kids have been here.

For me there is something about writing that comes with being alone, except for the writing I do in the day care, which I do while settling the children for nap, with the other teacher on the opposite couch. I first wrote with devotion in college, using several of the precious few courses I could take in the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell to take creative writing classes, the last of which introduced me to my now ex-husband, who has written ever since. We fell in love that way, reading and responding to each other’s work and to the work of the others in our class. We also fell out of love when I began to write again, which somehow, when it happened, I had expected and feared. For the many years we lived together, he wrote and I didn’t, other than the day care observations. Same with taking pictures. I had taken photos when I was studying abroad in London and taking a black and white photography class, and had a nice camera that got rained on and ruined upon my return, then another film camera or two given to me by my young husband, but when the world went digital, I lost my muse, until the spring my husband and I fell apart and I took our kids to Disney World and realized I needed a camera of my own. For the few years after that, I needed a visual attachment to the world, as my mind often felt as it was unraveling. Capturing the beauty in the world felt new with the camera, children at play, sunshine and shadow, dishes in my newly solo kitchen sink, flowers at Gilchrist on Retreat, mushrooms in the year there were more than I’d ever known springing from the leaf mulch in Ashfield. I needed that camera to remind me all was not lost, and I needed the words here to remind me I was not alone. Those things worked. I found my way out of a very dark time, and as Hillman reminded me this morning, part of me is just as it has always been, and part of me is irrevocably and astonishingly changed. Without the words and photos, I don’t know how I would have managed all the change and feeling. As Hillmans says, we may not be able to process our lives, but we can become more sensitive to the world and that itself is worthy.

In the last in person writing class of our last term, I shared my work and got feedback not so much about the piece I was sharing but about writing and what it is doing now, how it might be about home, or about what abides when so much has changed, about how to transform chaos into something worth sharing with the world. I don’t know what I’m writing about anymore. I’m not writing to get myself out of a marriage and into the next thing. I’m not writing to start a school or to learn more about alternative education. I’m not even writing poems, which I hoped to learn to write by taking Nadia’s class. I’m writing my way into something, though, and if Nadia and Hillman and the writers whose pieces on writing Nadia shared this week, from Orwell to Joan Didion to Annie Lamott are right, it’s as much about finding what we are writing as we write as about knowing before we begin.

So I’m trying again, giving up on intention to aim for one particular thing, this time writing for writing’s sake, to see what comes, what form it takes, who cares, and how it feels. Wish me luck. I had thought at the beginning of the last in person writing class that I might aim to publish something somewhere other than here, but for some reason I’m back right where I started, finding this voice the one that calls, not sure how to organize myself on a regular basis some other way, on paper, in a journal, in short pieces that aren’t connected by a blog. I’ll try this again, see how it goes, may come and go, try other things. Another class mate said my writing was about wandering. Wise man. All who wander are not lost. Or maybe many of us are, and that is a state we can embrace. As my son said when I asked him last week how he felt about his upcoming solo road trip across the country, Great! I’ll have lots of time to think. What will you think about? I wondered. I don’t know, he replied with assurance. That’s what’s so cool, don’t you think?

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