I wake up with my hand across my chest, just as it fell around midnight last night when I drifted off to sleep. My three kids are back, after a week of sleeping at their dad’s. My man is gone, after a week of being here. The life shifts are challenging.
I wake up wanting to write something, to read something inspiring. I read the Writers’ Almanac, which is a poem from a father to his son’s girlfriend. It rings true, but doesn’t feel inspiring. On Facebook I find it is my son’s girlfriend’s birthday. I feel badly I forgot last night when I asked my son about his plans for the day and he said he was spending most of it away from home, was going out to breakfast with his gal. I post her a happy birthday message, wish her a good time hanging with my son, begin to write here.
I thought first to edit my writing class pieces. For tomorrow I’m meant to have put together a small booklet of the work I’ve done the last ten weeks. I worked on it Monday, the first day of the vacation my son and I sat at the kitchen table working on his college applications, and haven’t gone back to it since. Betwixt and Between is the title I’m giving it. Feels about right for my life, which is what I’m trying to make sense of when I write, not that different from my son putting together his college applications, trying to make sense of his life while he writes, or my older son sitting at the dining room table writing to an employer last night, canceling an interview for a job he thought only a week ago he wanted. We change our minds, we convince ourselves, we make up a story we can believe, one we can follow, another we wish we didn’t have to, we connect to what we hope is our true self and with the world outside which we hope is ready to receive us.
I spent New Year’s Day mostly in bed and on the couch, watching the second season of Transparent, reading a new book I got for Christmas, M Train. I can’t say either one has inspired me in the way I used to think of the word, leading me on to a better place, to be more productive or good in some way. Instead, after watching and reading, I feel connected to the loss in the world, to the struggle that allows us to go on trying and loving, even when it’s hard. I had expected to spend New Year’s Day with my guy and his friends at a party in Western Mass and then at home with my kids, eating dinner together and helping my son finish the college applications due at midnight. None of that happened. Besides watching tv and reading, during the middle of the day I drove halfway to Western Mass thinking I was going to the party and back to get my gal from a sleepover, reversing plans on an offramp from Route 2. At dinnertime I made pasta my gal and I ate at the table before she and I sat on opposite couches awhile where she was on her phone and I read my book. Around 7:30 my son returned from his dad’s and a frisbee game and ate some leftovers at the dining room table near where my daughter and I lounged on the couches. Near midnight my son applying to college invited me by e-mail from his father’s to edit an addendum to his transcript, the transcript which because he has attended Sudbury Valley is really blank, so the addendum is it. Life in 2016, some subconscious and conscious parts of me must have been thinking, is not what I expected.
As I pause to reread and edit what I’ve written I get a pop up window responding to my Craigslist post offering the stove on the curb for free. I hope he’ll take it, have some trepidation that he will. My friends brought me their stove yesterday, an old and well-loved electric one to replace the like new but smelly gas stove I bought some years ago and can no longer trust for oven use because of a high CO reading and bad smells. The new/old one won’t work until the electrician installs a new 60 amp outlet on Wednesday and who knows if that will be easy in this old house without updated systems which I have been told will need electrical updating if I am ever to remodel my upstairs kitchen and bring it up to code. It’s that kind of house, each small problem solved can easily create a large one that makes me feel on the brink of keeping it all together..so yesterday when another friend who happens to be a day care parent posted on the Facebook page I’ve subscribed to in order to increase my day care business by connecting with local families, I wrote her back expressing interest in the free appliances she’s about to put on her own curb, a smaller gas stove and two fridges, as both my fridges are old and the ones she’s getting rid of are small, which I need if they are to fit in my small kitchens,and newer, and I’d just as soon have a gas stove as an electric, if I knew it wasn’t emitting CO into the room. The whole kitchen renovations aren’t happening here. They may be happening in my friends’ home in Rhode Island, or in my friend’s home across town, but for now, I’m still taking things others don’t want or need and making due. Which isn’t to say I don’t have choices, which I do. I bought my daughter new snowboard gear this year, from coat to pants to boots to board to bindings, not without some anxiety about the money I was spending, but hoping it is a wise decision to buy rather than rent for four more years, now my gal’s stopped growing, and like her brothers before her, is ready for her own gear. I bought our holiday food at Whole Foods, spent more than I usually do for some fancy cheeses and chocolates, piles of clementines and Satsuma’s, fixings for taco night on Christmas with my sister’s family and mine, celebrating the holiday with the dinner my Christmas birthday daughter had requested which made us working moms and busy kids all happy.
At ten thirty I’m planning to be quiet in the Meeting House in Cambridge. It’s a hard call. My son will leave before I do for the day with his gal. My other son and daughter will leave just as I arrive home from Meeting, on their way to the Cambridge Y to work out in the gym. I’ll miss the chance for a breakfast or lunch with them in trade for quiet in the Meeting and coffee across the way. It’s a trade I question as I write it, wonder if I’ll be able to make once it’s written. Time with teens is fleeting. It involves a lot of waiting. The best it gets some days is a conversation at the table, or time on opposite couches with our devices and the paper or a book. The only outing we had together this vacation was to my sister’s for those tacos. It’s that kind of place in life, betwixt and between on so many levels even the writing here can’t seem to tidy them up. The kids and I are on our way somewhere on some as yet unclear path and I’m searching, we’re all searching, to find the next place to put our feet.
Richard kindly painted two rooms of the day care over the vacation, the front room and the entrance. I helped a little bit in between working with my son on his college applications. The day care now looks fresh and clean and warm and happy when you enter. I moved furniture around, hoped to clear out more stuff, must return today to secure a tall cabinet and a mirror we moved to paint, return the kitchen table and chairs to their positions from yesterday’s stove project, make a menu and buy groceries we can cook the first part of the week without a stove, put away the bags of stuff that travelled downstairs from my home over the vacation. I talked with a young woman who might share the place in the new year, an art student from Lesley College whose mother and grandmother are friends of my friends, so perhaps I’ll also be cleaning out the back room to make space for her and her things.
Standing at the day care kitchen counter yesterday talking to my man on the phone, scrubbing the new/old stove with Fantastic with bleach, I wondered how I’d leave this place and how I wouldn’t. That is one of the big betwixt and betweens, how to change a life for love, as my friend might say, the one who advises me when I feel I’ve lost my way, who told me last night when I thought I had that if we follow love we won’t get lost, but in her own words I can’t remember. I want to believe she’s right, even as I scrub the new old stove, talk to my boyfriend on the phone about how on earth I will ever shift my life enough we’ll really be together–while saying good bye to my children as they grow up and leave home (and me)–shut down my business, clear out and sell or rent my home, leave friends and connections of thirty years, find new work, new friends, new community two hours from the only home I’ve known since twenty four, make a new life with a man fifteen years my senior, all in anticipation of being alone again, assuming statistics prevail. I don’t know how to do it, I tell him through tears, I haven’t got a clue. And yet, I haven’t got a clue how to part ways, either, and he isn’t moving here. Big betwixt and between. But that is work for another day. Time to shower and get ready for Meeting, assuming I’m going, or to make my kids a nice midday meal, assuming that I’m not. Wish me luck in all the decisions, big and small.
After writing here I got a note from the guy coming from Quincy to get my stove. I had checked in the midst of writing to see if the stove was still there, wrote him saying it was and that I’d put a note on it to save it for him, and not to worry, and when I went down to put the note on the stove, it was gone. Feels symbolic, how we count on something, believe it will be there when we’re ready, and just as we are ready to claim our prize, it vanishes (into someone else’s hands, truck, life, story). Weird.