February 2014


Definition from the internet, found via google search, making me feel that I am not alone in the world:

  1. Attunement | Define Attunement at Dictionary.com

    dictionary.reference.com/browse/attunement

    Main Entry: attunement. Part of Speech: n. Definition: being or bringing into harmony; a feeling of being “at one” with another being 

Today I walked to the ICA with my beau and my gal. We left the house somewhere near two, both my gal and my beau having a hard day, me wishing to cheer them up, to bring us together. We walked to Davis Square, where we took the T to the museum. Before we were halfway up the hill to Broadway, my gal in her pink coat was far ahead. She continued this way until we arrived in front of the T station, making my beau wonder if he was doing something wrong, reminding me of the time I walked her to meet the carpool, and followed her all the way there. At the museum, we wandered the exhibits, mostly on our own, coming together a few times, when one of us missed the other, for a brief shared glimpse to show another what we loved, to take a photo, and for a long time, inside the exhibit, The Refusal of Time, put together by William Kintredge.

For those many moments, I stood beside my beau, our breathing in sync as we watched the black and white images projected on three walls. For awhile, my daughter stood nearby, then she eased her way through the crowd to a place on the floor, where she sat and soaked in the exhibit. Others sat on chairs, or on the floor, or stood nearby, some in groups, some on their own, some in pairs.

On the way home, my gal and I sat side by side on the subway, across from my beau. He had searched for three seats together, but the train was too full. My gal’s arms and mine touched through our coats, and our shared gaze rested on the others on the train. Earlier in the afternoon when I had asked her which route to take from the museum to Fanueil Hall, the Greenway or the Waterfront, she had chosen the Greenway, where we could see a group of skate board dudes opposite us, telling me she wanted to people watch. So on the train, arm to arm, I shared my observations of a couple across from us, observed that the woman spoke what sounded like a Spanish accented version of Spanish, much like our friend Carla, with whom we had shared two weeks in our home last spring, and a surprisingly deep connection. My daughter observed how pretty the woman was, and I observed how nice she seemed, wondered if the man she spoke with was a partner or a friend. My daughter speculated he was her partner, confirmed her suspicion in my ear when he kissed her cheek. Then I noticed her diamond ring, wondered if they were married, noticed he didn’t have one, and my daughter said they better be. I said he could be someone else, besides her husband, and my daughter noted that if she were the one with someone besides her husband she would remove her ring.

I wake up in the night with the back of my beau pressed against my own, on my side of the bed. He arrived late Friday night, straight from his mother’s home, after making a plan to send her to the hospital, which was supposed to happen via his brother’s car, driving her to New York City from Connecticut. Instead she went via ambulance, met his third brother there at the hospital where that brother’s son is in training as a neurosurgeon. One connection to the other, stringing dots to safety, or not, his mother a very old woman, on the brink of death, threading the needle on a Hail Mary prayer, as my beau had described the days ahead yesterday morning, before calling his brothers and his mom and asking the home health aide to give him a first hand report on his mom. Four days he was by her side making plans for her to get some pain relief and to be cared for in her home after a steep decline from independence, or to go to the hospital for a treatment aimed at relieving pain. It may be the end of her life, the end of my beau’s physical connection to his mother, though the relationship will live on.

All this wakes me near five am thinking about attunement, about the way a mother and a newborn baby come together after  birth, seeking to regain that shared breathing and respiration, circulation which in utero was effortless, how sharing a home or a bed or a subway train or even space in a museum or a coffee shop brings us great satisfaction and contentment, or leaves us feeling all alone.

So, I rise, in the absolute dark upstairs, to find lights on in the tv room below and my cat Frances waiting at the door, to sit beside me and purr while I type, her body warming mine through the blanket on the couch, the furnace breathing through the pipes in the house, loud now I stop to listen, filling the house with hot air, as soon we’ll all wake and breath closer together or far apart, the shared breathing moving from sleep to wakefulness a mixture of separation and contentment.

Yesterday my beau and I made frittata. Really he made frittata and I cleaned the kitchen and invited the kids to the table, a round one in my kitchen where we sit when meals are cozy. Later in the day, my beau and gal and I shared a table in the ICA, she hungry, we craving coffee, and then at 7 we met up with my boy in Davis Square to share four plates of Tibetan food, warm light, in the company of strangers who cooked and served and cleaned, and ate and talked and laughed. Then we walked home again, along the sidewalk in the cold, stopping at CVS for a razor, a binder, some nail polish, a lip gloss, toilet paper, notebook dividers, all carried home in four bags shared between four people.

At home we took time apart around the dining room, living room, tv room, three adjoining spaces, all in separate chairs, all with separate devices, my beau and boy on laptops, my gal and I on phones, my gal watching tv, the rest of us reading, looking, watching, whatever you call checking e-mail, Facebook,and searching the internet. Then the kids and I watched New Girl, my latest addiction and pleasure in the tv world, joined for an episode and a half by my beau. Lots of casual sex seemed to be the theme of those last two episodes, though in the nuances of the series I see the cast of characters fighting against it, talk with my gal briefly about all the sex we’ve seen, noting that it seems ok, that she is a teen, and it seems normal to want to play or read or watch about those older than ourselves, remember a conversation or an article I read when she was young about Barbie play for young girls, and how many think it’s inappropriate with Barbie’s full grown silly woman’s body, but how from the time we are small, we are learning about the next phase of life through story, play, and image.

Kintredge’s work, The Refusal of Time, if the words on the entrance to the museum are true, has something to do with the standardization of time, how at one point Greenwich Mean Time, even the clock, took over the world. The piece I remember was a parade of shadow puppetry, individuals, who all appeared to be black, African, danced along from the corner nearest us at the back left hand side of the space, around the front wall to the right side wall. There were sounds and images and for awhile there was a feeling of a parade, with each member moving along in a rhythm of his or her own, with style and grace. Then, as things shifted, forms overlapped, technology, even in the form of a simple baby carriage pushed by a small girl, shifted things away from human forms, and by the end of that scene, gobs of black scattered across the images of dancing people overshadowed the dancing and stuck in my mind. It’s hard to explain this work without a shared experience of being in that room. When I got home, I encouraged my son to visit with his gal, as seventeens and under get in free and I’d really like to talk with him about it, to see what he thinks and how he and his gal might react.

In the gift shop before we left the ICA I looked at a beautiful book of the Kintredge exhibit, a store copy unbound in plastic, wishing the exhibit could go on for me, wanting to read text to explain the images, and to have more time to absorb the work. The book in it’s plastic cover cost one hundred and twenty five dollars, so I went home instead with a book of houses published by Phaidon, a sort of bird book of houses around the world, houses created throughout history to reflect a sense of home in a particular place and time. Home, that wonderful word.

As we closed up day care, my friend and I talked about home, about how hard it is to find it, how hard to let it go..She gestured with her fist over her heart, telling me how she learned, after her parents divorce when she was a young child, after living in multiple apartments, feeling homeless her whole life, where home is..and I wonder still, is it in the walls of Garrison Avenue where I’ve raised my kids, does it need to be here, or could we find it elsewhere, could I without them, could I with another, not my former husband, but my beau, or someone else, if this one doesn’t pan out? It’s the attunement we’re seeking is what I think, that sense of oneness in the world, whether in a coffee shop or a museum, whether alone in our chairs with our devices inside our shared home, or in front of one tv, snuggled up on couches and cushions and soft chairs, or with our backs pressed up against one another, sharing the same bed, breathing, temperature, somnambulance in sync.

Learn more about Kintredge. It’s not all about attunement. The colonial powers might have wanted that on some level, too, when they insisted the world live and breath on their time. Apparently Albert Einstein argued that it was possible for time to move differently, for each of us to experience time in our own individual way, for time somehow to pass differently that we think. The dancing parade made me think about that, about standardization, top down education, top down time and place, about finding our own individual rhythm and way of being, about how we more organically get in sync or don’t, about the pleasure of  a conversation, whether in day care with the fives and twos, or on a subway ride with my gal, or around the kitchen table, of how that can’t be planned or forced, though it can be orchestrated, and if we don’t try, it often won’t happen, which is probably why I love so much to cook and share a meal, the family style dining part of our day care something I can’t quite give up, in spite of being up in the middle of the night typing, really now 6 am, and needing to spend a good chunk of Sunday shopping for the day care and my home.  Stopping time is worth it, to notice together the sweetness of a pear, to hear about my son’s experience of his first college class, to look into my beau’s eyes, to have my arm rub up against my daughter’s on the train. All those times are rare in days of wandering life alone, the glue that holds me together, though not the only thing. The spaces in between the togetherness are sometimes more mysterious, like when I wake up in the night and tiptoe down the stairs, only to find the cat there waiting, and I wonder what will come in the dark if only I take time to listen and pay attention and record the thoughts inside, percolating up from the day.

Somehow the exhibit felt familiar, all of us in the room with the breathing machine and the images on the walls, the sounds and movement bringing us along, reminding me of SVS, of WFDC, of life in the city and in my family, disunity into unity and back again, resonance and synchronicity, joint venture, conflict and harmony. Rhythm of life stuff, not always music, not always noise, sometimes silent, sometimes dull, sometimes cacophony, sometimes shiny as can be.

Check it out at the ICA, on your own, with a child or a friend, even in a group. Then tell me, if you can, how the experience was for you.

http://www.icaboston.org/exhibitions/exhibit/william-kentridge/

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Today at meal times and on walks to and from the park I found myself in interesting conversations.  My meal and walking group, put together by two visiting fives, consisted of those two, a full time five, and two twos. As we sat down to breakfast, after serving the kids, I let them know I was going down to check the furnace, because it seemed a bit cold. The furnace was fine, and the conversation took off from there. We talked about furnaces, different heating systems, warming ourselves over forced hot air vents, radiators, how the furnace works to push the hot air or hot water or hot steam through the house to the vents or radiators, then about other heating systems, propane heaters, electric baseboard. The kids were not bored, they wanted to know more, their questions made sense, they brought their home experience to bear, I learned something about my own limited knowledge of heating and furnaces.

Then at some point, either at breakfast or lunch, we talked about the holes in the day care kitchen floor, two holes in the wood flooring near the base of the stove, which are covered with clear tape, because kids over the years have loved to look through them to the basement below, and have also loved to figure out which things in the day care fit through those holes. Every so often the tape gets peeled off and I find piles of tinker toys and pencils and marker caps and other slim things on the basement floor. The kids this time were curious about the possibilities the hole might have in terms of houses, though..and I really don’ know the story of those holes. I thought they might have been put there to accommodate pipes to drain an icebox and I explained how I thought that might work, and one boy wondered if there would be a puddle in the basement, and I had to admit, I really didn’t know what the holes were for and that I might like to ask someone who knows more about these old houses to tell me.

The other five wondered how the hole got in my floor..I thought a drill, but he thought maybe an animal chewed it. It is clean and round, and the first five and I thought not..but then we talked about animals who chew wood..bugs in particular, termites and carpenter ants, and the time we found them in our porches and stairs eating up the house..and had to get rid of them..and the third five was sure to tell us she has no bugs eating her house.

Later we talked about mail..the two had asked who the man was walking on the sidewalk as we returned from the park, and I talked about him being a mail carrier, and the five wanted to know why he was doing that and I talked about how mail goes from one house to the post office to another post office to another house, in this day and age and part of the world, carried often by mail carriers and trucks..and about the pony express, which the kids thought was a funny name for a pony..and then we talked about the GPS truck, the name one five had for the truck that delivers packages, and I thought maybe it was UPS, and he thought so, too, was sure that is the quickest way to deliver a package or mail in Cambridge, and my disagreeing about the way the service works didn’t matter at all, the five moved on to planning to mail a UPS package that afternoon to his other friend the five, and we talked about a book we read last week where Frog mailed Toad a letter by Snail Mail, and how long it took..

Then another part of the day we talked about where my laundry machine is, a question my five just had to ask..and when I said it was in the basement, he said his was on the third floor for his mom’s apartment and in the basement for his dad’s. Then we talked about our houses and what is on each floor, and his friend the five told about her bedroom being on the second floor and what was on her third floor..

Somewhere in there we came upon the topic of mice, probably after the termite talk, and I was bemoaning the mouse who ate my Valentine candy yesterday and the mouse who ate a pecan out of our Thanksgiving Pie and I think a bite out of someone’s Christmas birthday cake, and the poison that doesn’t seem to work, and the present my cat Frances left by the trash can two weekends ago, when I was away, and my five gave the cat credit saying she must have left it there because she couldn’t open the can, which she couldn’t, so I suppose he’s right. The kids thought and thought of creative ways to trap and kill the mouse, the fives inventing traps of tubes and poison and chocolate, even a cheesecake dangled out the window on a string, to ward the critters off before they reached the chocolate, and the two reminding me I might just like a pet mouse, which she herself would like, and I let her know that when I was a girl, that is just what I wanted, even made a shoe box house and kept it in my dresser drawer, in anticipation of the mouse moving in and having a cozy bed. And I let the kids know we used to trap the mice by using a special trap of a paper towel tube hung off the counter top over a tall trash can with peanut butter on the trash can end of the tube, and the mouse would walk the plank to get the peanut butter and drop into the can and we would wake up in the morning and take the mouse to Alewife Brook, over and over again, which is something I no longer do, but the poison isn’t working either, nor the cat, at least neither can keep my candy safe, so perhaps it’s time for more humane treatment, which my two continued to remind me even as the fives invented ever more dastardly traps.

It’s been ages since I’ve had conversations like this in the day care. I’ve missed them a whole lot, these big kids in small groups asking and thinking and wondering together. Nice to have them back for February vacation, hopefully next summer again. During after school I tend to be busy these days, doing desk work and dishes and diapers and resting my weary brain,  while Liana or Jen hang with the older kids, but at meal times on vacations, I get my fill of interesting talk.

Two Mondays ago, I woke up in the morning, kids with their dad in Cambridge, on their way to school, me in Northampton with my beau, to find my son on Facebook, in a photo posted by a friend saying something like, Playing for the Trudge in California with Ben West and (another guy whose name I now forget). Well, The Trudge is my son’s college ultimate frisbee team and I recognized the guys in the picture, but I was so unable to believe my boy was in California, I had to search the internet for the tournament shown on his jersey before I would believe the landscape behind him was across the world from me, not a staged photo of the Hudson Valley near where my boy goes to school. First I posted, Nice photo, but I’m confused. Then, shortly after, his dad posted a similar message of confusion. Shortly after, I texted my boy, then later he called, let me know he thought he had told us he was going to California, but perhaps he had just thought he had, given he had discussed going to Georgia for Spring Break.

This is how it happens. Our kids grow up in ways that throw us for a loop.

Five years ago this month we told our kids we were getting a divorce. Last night at dinner my thirteen and seventeen and I talked about the new plan to alternate weeks with me and weeks with their dad, and in the next few weeks, this means they’ll not see each of us for two weeks straight, as they also have a week away at Sunday River, snowboarding with their school. This is hard for me to grasp, two weeks apart from the kids I love to call my own. My gal, on the other hand, tells me to get used to it. What, I wonder, are you on your way to boarding school, at thirteen, what am I preparing for, I ask out loud, asking if I’m not supposed to miss them when they’re gone. That’s not the point, she seems to say, and I am struck again by how much we bring our children in the world only to let them go.

This morning I’m headed to the day care, where the group will be mostly twos, but also two threes, a five whose with us full time, and two more fives returning for the February break. Yesterday one of the alumn’s mom asked me how I’m doing, how are things with me. It was hard to know what to say. This is not where I thought I would be at 47, single parent nearly five years now, running the day care nineteen years, shoveling snow after snow after snow in the makeshift way I do, with a snow shoveling fairy helping on Tuesday night while I was out, the cleaner’s husband and Liana tossing out sand yesterday when I was still asleep, Jen helping to hack the ice in the sunshine midday before we went in to take over for the other teachers, my sons helping when they can. It’s a makeshift life, is how it feels most days, one day at a time, holding it all together with schedules and budgets and sheer grit and endurance. mixed with ecstasy and joy, not following the plan I made  in Barbie world so many years ago, though in some ways I am, raising and caring for the children, keeping track of people, making the house a home something I’ve been playing at my whole life long.

And now, time for shower and shoveling, my new routine. I miss writing. Not sure how to do it at this stage of life, as most of what is on my mind is less to do with formal education and child care than how to get through life, assuming I know less than I thought I would, improvisation and flexibility and openness to change proving more important life skills than I ever knew.

I’m waking up and going to sleep, walking around town, driving long drives thinking about my projects. The kids and I are going to Amsterdam with friends in April, my first time in Europe since junior year of college, second time altogether, kids’ first time ever. I’m revved up about my research/writing project, collecting ideas and resources, researching, talking and thinking about what it’s all about.

This is the sort of place I like to be, excited, energized, inspired, a little on the edge of holding it all together, a bit on overdrive to sort out something I  can’ t quite name. Mystery, I suppose, wondering what might be next.

Today my beau and I walked downtown, my new downtown, Northampton, and added to the usual stops at the bakery, coffee shop, grocery, and the frame shop to say hello to his gal, I requested a visit to The Raven used book store, where they have had a surprise waiting for me on the shelves each time I’ve visited. Today was no different. After half an hour or an hour sitting on the floor in front of the Education section, a few minutes perusing the Latin American and Women’s Studies sections, I came out with a short stack of books I can’t wait to read and share and a slightly better idea of where I’m headed, topics ranging from urban education, writing, composing a life, growing minds, becoming a teacher, observing and writing about the children in our midst and our interactions with them, reflecting on our work and mission in life, evaluating the changes that occurred in British primary schools from the 70s to the 90s, teaching and testimony, finding a voice.

This afternoon it’s back to a project of the more mundane variety, data entry for day care bookkeeping, tax and financial aid purposes. The music is on, the tea is made, the toast and jam and almond butter nearly eaten, the rice is cooked, the leftover Indian food in the fridge for a meal break an hour or two down the road. This writing is my last break, I promise myself, before getting down to business, having put off this business too long, all weekend, for walking and talking, eating, cross country skiing, eating, even a movie last night, Gloria, and some music and dancing, living room style.

Reminds me that kids are no different. All work and no play makes us all dull folks..as would all play and no work.. Here I go:) Will feel good to log the hours and knock a bit off the to do list..nice also to wander into the world of playing with ideas, of playing in the snow, of browsing in the world and in the mind of another for ideas which may or may not take hold, which may or may not lead to a concrete, predictable end.  This, on some level, is what I am trying to understand, the nature of learning, the nature of meaning and life well-lived..how to master it or to be good enough at it, and how to create places which allow all human beings, children and adults, to make the most of each day. Ciao for now as I disappear into the world of Moneydance…tax appointment looms..sometimes I need a deadline to make time for the things which are hardest for me to do.