This morning, like so many this spring and early summer, I’m up and wondering just after four. The birds in the trees ringing my house twitter while my mind shifts from dreams to day and the light comes into the sky. 

This morning I think about home, about my mother and sister and nephew getting together in Western New York the weekend of Richard’s birthday, about the Iris Dement concert I thought we all might like, about the gorgeous concert venue in Rockport where she’ll sing, about my kids and whether or not they’d like it, about the beach nearby and the sand and the outdoor showers there will likely be there and I wonder if we can get the sand off our bodies if I manage to get Richard and the kids and I to that beach before dinner of fresh seafood and her show, about the free tickets I want for the kids and the best seats Richard has offered to split, about the big glass wall behind the stage overlooking the ocean I keep telling about to sell the show, and I listen to Iris on my iTunes, Sing the Delta, an album I found in Boomerang Records on an outing with James and all our kids in 2012 just after it came out and my surprise in finding Iris in the world of music again, after a haitus, as I was, so I bought but hardly listened, but this morning I do, in hopes my children and Richard will love her enough to make the day I wish for come true, beach, outdoor shower, seafood dinner, Iris by the ocean, singing at her piano in front of that glass window while I sit with my beloveds all around me soaking up her sound. 

Happy Birthday Richard, Happy Family me!

Turns out the song I want to hear hits it right, gets me to writing as I used to, sun and Iris and I aiming to offer a little light while the rest of you sleep. Thanks, Iris. I love the 4th of July reference and the way you make me feel so much less alone, this early morning and all these many years since I met you when I was a young woman out with a bunch of friends and Eric and you opened for Ricky Lee Jones at Symphony Hall. 

http://www.metrolyrics.com/the-kingdom-has-already-come-lyrics-iris-dement.html

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sTPGBIPxajo

Wednesdays, and I say that with some pride, Wednesdays, which for the last three weeks have followed a pattern, middle guy off at Improv, other two at home for dinner, have been quite nice, oldest and youngest and I sitting around the table on the porch eating, laughing, and talking, oldest and youngest showing a fondness for one another that is rebuilding after three years of college keeping them apart, oldest now twenty, youngest now fourteen, gap not shrinking, but there is the attempt to reconnect with old affection at the base, with new teen/young adult topics to explore together. We start with some talk about the World Cup. As a sports know nothing, I have questions to ask, which I hope will make the youngest feel more in the know, which give the oldest something to be expert on, again.

After eating, the youngest disappears to her room, leaving the oldest and me to talk about this and that. Partway into our conversation, I start to cry. Mom, are you ok? my boy asks..and it is that is has been such a long time we’ve all been falling apart, it feels so good to be put back together again for weeks at a time. I let my boy know its the first time in nearly six years I’ve had the kids with me for over two weeks, which is what brought the tears..When he asks if I’m ok, I can only say, It’s been so long, which launches us into a discussion of divorce, how it impacts the oldest and the others, about the Penelope Leach book on divorce and children I’ve been reading, about research he’s read and statistics he finds questionable, about courses we’ve taken looking critically at studies which are often flawed, about some mathematical/statistical concept my son explains at length, which takes all my concentration to follow, and we talk about my children in the day care, the charming story of the day, the concept that they shared that love is not without fighting, and I ask about his gal friend, and then hear about their summer plans, until it is nearly time to Skype the gal friend. We start the dishes together, he unloads the dishwasher, I put away the food, and I ask for some of his music I heard and liked earlier in the summer..we figure out who it is, Bill Callahan, and he plays a song, then goes off to his room, leaving me to listen to Pandora on my iphone, which last played Anais Mitchell, who I’m happy to hear again, will save Bill Callahan for another time, and I’m in my zone again, mom in the kitchen with Pandora on the radio, singing Skinny Love over the sink, looking out the window at my neighbor Michael’s darkened porch, all of us in for the night, and I’m grateful to have my center back, grateful for two and a half weeks together, hoping for more, knowing this is it for a long while, won’t be another two weeks with all three kids under my roof for a long time again, if ever, and that is sad and good, sad that I long for it so and can’t have it, good that they are growing up happy and strong. Mom’s dilemma, that, divorced mom’s dilemma more specifically; supporting my kids’ relationship with their dad means I have to make peace with their living half time in my home and make the best of the times I luck out and they’re here more.

Today walking to the park my day care gal noticed a statue on a lawn. “That’s Mary,” she let us know. “Yes, she is,” I replied. “When I was a girl, Mary was important to me.”  My little Jewish gal wondered why she was important, I wondered how she knew who Mary is. Her mom told her. I grew up Catholic, in a church named The Immaculate Conception with a statue of Mary out front. “I was Catholic then,” I said. “Mary is important in the Catholic Church. She shows us what it means to be a good mother. She was the mother of Jesus, according to the stories that are important if you are Catholic.”

“God is important in my religion.” my little Jewish gal says.

“Yes, that’s true. God is important in a lot of religions.” I’m struck by the joy of conversing with my turning fours, by the way the world opens up to them and to me when we talk.

Later as we’re walking home, we talk about marriage. My nearly four asks what a marriage is for, and I have to think, say it is about sharing a life, and my nearly four wonders why a person would want to share a life, and I say it could be about having children or sharing a home or sharing money or decisions, and my four and older three, both girls, talk about marrying girls, then plan to marry one another, plan a wedding for the afternoon, with fancy dresses and lipstick and makeup and permission from their parents, but the nearly four is not sure who she will marry, first thinks she will choose her papa, then thinks she will choose someone far away not in her family, and I let her know she has time, that I did not choose the one that I would marry until I was twenty one, and we didn’t marry until we were twenty four..all of this started when the older three told us her grandparents were married fifty years ago..such a long time, so much longer than my nearly twenty years. But it is a fine thing to be a mother, which came for me from the marriage, and that, at least, goes on for life, and beyond, to which Mary can attest.

This morning I put Write Something somewhere near the end of the to do list I made for myself, which mostly included house and desk chores, and needed something fun. Now, just past 11, I decide to make it happen, two hours after my oldest son checked out and went to his room, one minute before my second son arrived home from his night on the town, eight hours after my youngest, the gal, headed to Harvard Square to meet her friend, on her way to Holliston, far, far away, to spend the night with a group of friends, first sleepover of boys and girls together.

I’ve hardly written here this year. Life has been a little weird, not so writable. I tried writing poems for a class, found myself too busy in June even for that once a week commitment. So here I am, nearly into July, trying to think of what to say.

We spent a lot of this weekend and this morning syncing calendars. On Saturday my daughter needed help transferring all her summer plans onto the paper calendar I gave her for Christmas with children’s book illustrations of the classical, fairy in the wood sort adorning each month. This morning we added her medical appointments, after calling the dentist and the doctor, and then my middle guy and I edited the family online calendar so he could let his new job know his availability, a task he did on their online scheduling calendar he found hard to understand.

At dinner, my older son and I talked about various weekends he’ll do his thing and not our thing. That seems to be the way it goes.. As I said to him, I feel like the keeper of the calendar..without much of a life of my own to schedule..but I’m learning that, too. Tomorrow at 10 to midnight Richard and I will be at Johnny D’s listening to Afropop music, hopefully dancing, too. The kids will be all over the place, oldest at a dance festival in Cambridge, middle working tech at Improv Boston, youngest fast asleep in her bed, or texting, recovering from a couple of days with friends. The summer is shaping up like that..I’m learning after a rough start hoping for two of three weekends to be spent together in Ashfield, that this round is about syncing calendars, about knowing where everyone will be, or at least sorting that out in an ongoing way, rather than planning time together.

There are a few plans for some of us to hang together. One weekend I’ll be at Woolman Hil with two of the three kids and Richard. Another few days I hope two of the three at least will be in Ashfield with Richard and me and the housemates and some combination of their three kids. I invited my mom and brother and his family and my sister and her crowd of kids and teens and our Ashfield housemates with their three teens and young adults  to join us in Ashfield one or two of three weekends in June and July. After wrestling my three and waiting to hear back from the others for nearly a month, I’ve given up. Not to mention Richard’s two young adult kids who figure in there somewhere, too.

I’m starting to catch on. Planning with teens and young adult children is a bit like Improv, a bit of a mystery, requires tenacity, patience, humor, more self-esteem than I had when I began, a willingness to let go of the need to be together, and hope that the small connections over dinner, before and after work, late at night, will be enough to bind us. In this awkward stage of life there is also the beginning of the life that lies ahead, of the return to life alone and/or as a couple from a life of being mom, some parts ease, some parts loss.

This winter/spring I signed up for a poetry class, even though I can’t remember ever writing a poem. The instructor was a former day care mom and friend who had invited me to join, whose class I had hoped to join for years. I only made four of the eight or ten sessions, wrote only three poems, but the third one made me feel I might write more, and the class made me so happy I hope to join again if and when the timing works. Thank you, Nadia, and the poetry group, for making my winter into spring so much lovelier.

Here is the third poem, which the class seemed to like, and which made me think I might learn to write a proper poem.

A Week After Mother’s Day

Mothers learn later than fathers
that our children can live without us.
I’m learning today,
taking a mac and cheese out of the oven,
mixing up the batter for a banana bread,
while all three children go on
eating and making plans
outside my kitchen.

Later, they’ll eat what I’ve made,
standing at the counter,
over a laptop at the dining room table,
in front of the tv,
maybe at the table on the porch with me
if I ask and we time it right.

When I pause from mixing to take my mug out of the microwave it shatters.
Milk and love splatter all over my kitchen.
I hold back tears and step away to write this poem and catch my breath.

A week after Mother’s Day I lose what feels like the last of my children’s father’s love for me.
The handmade mug, part of a set now split between our houses,
a glowing purple globe that matched the kitchen cupboards he painted to make me happy, breaks just where a whole cupboard of Mother’s Day mugs and wedding plates smashed over my daughter’s high chair many years ago,
making us grateful our girl wasn’t buried in the dishes.
That day my mother helped me sweep the shards, next Christmas she replaced the wedding plates.
This round my son walks into the kitchen, looks on in amazement, says,
There sure was a lot of milk in that mug!, goes to his room, shuts the door,
comes out and calls good bye as he leaves the house, late to meet his friends in Boston.
I’m on my own, sweeping the shards into a dustpan I’ve had for years.

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.

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