June 2016


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.

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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?

I’ve missed writing regularly, missed writing here. I’ve been a bit lost, am attempting to find myself, perhaps in a 1970’s sort of inner child way.When I started this blog, it was with the intention of exploring ideas about alternative education. Gradually, it morphed into writing of a more personal nature, which supported my changing story as I found my way, moving from marriage to separation to divorce, from public school and early childhood advocate to alternative education student and charter school attempted founder, from woman with too many commitments and many connections to a more solo flier.

Here I am near fifty, a bit lost again, trying to find my way. The blog served me well those years I was writing regularly. It gave me a place to shape my voice, to try out ideas, to tap into things that were percolating under the surface, to connect to poets and writers and ideas I was exploring in my state of constant change, even at times, to share photographs I was taking now I had a camera again after many years of seeing life through my husband’s lens.

Yesterday I stopped at my children’s other house, in Cambridge where they live with their stepmom and dad, who were working in the yard with tools and wood, making what my daughter later told me were stands for the rain barrels they are installing around their newly remodeled house to capture water for their ever evolving garden. There were cherries on the tree they planted several years ago, a garden in the small corner behind the house, probably flowers out front, if they weren’t destroyed by the construction of the last two years. Upstairs in the hallway on my way to my daughter’s room, I paused a long while staring at my children in the photos taken by their father, some by me, some after we were parted, many of the day their dad remarried, others of him and his brother as children collected from the home of his grandmother, which I used to admire in the hallway outside her bedroom, taken by his mother and father when they were new parents experimenting with taking and printing black and white photos of their children. My daughter has invited me to come inside and hang out in her room while she gathers her things for the transition to my home after being at her dad’s. I remember this, stop to use the newly remodeled bathroom, head upstairs, where indeed my daughter the decorator has done her thing, her room no longer one of a lost girl finding a new home with her dad, but one of a mature teen who has lived here and made the place her own. The last weekend she was here she and her friends painted the door and hall outside her room. She’s moved the double bed her step mom bought her to a place on a different wall, hung a sheer curtain we bought together behind it to make a backdrop. All around the walls are images she’s collected, many from a calendar of children’s book art of fairies and magical worlds I gave her two Christmases ago, remembering the tradition we had of my giving her an Elsa Beskow book from the Waldorf store for holidays, interspersed with black and white photos of teens from a catalogue, looking fashionable and cool, not so much sexy as demure, lace blouses buttoned to the top, handsome brown-skinned boys and beautiful white skinned girls, side by side, content. There are candles along the window ledge interlaced with small glass dishes of pale green glass, which my daughter tells me are from IKEA, and I wonder as I write this, am I allowed? Am I allowed to find myself in my daughter’s room, in my ex-husband’s house? Is this my story to tell, or have I gone off the rails? If I write this will they read it, and if they do, will they care? This is the problem with midlife and close observing. It gets you into trouble if you dare.

Back here in my kitchen I have a candle lit. Richard my boyfriend got up before six to return to his home, letting me know before he went he is sorry he doesn’t work with me in the garden. We don’t, he doesn’t, though every so often we work on the cursed hedge, me holding the ladder, he trimming the hedge. Yesterday we bought furniture together for the first time, a small blue writing desk and an orange chair, two small round mid-century modern tables for the living room in habanero chili red. I found them at the Somerville Flea, an outdoor market in the parking lot of Harvard Vanguard, outside the offices of my ob/gyn, and my daughter and Richard approved, helped me choose. To get them home, we had to lower the seats of the Subaru, put the pieces in and fit my daughter’s bags from her father’s into the empty places left along the edge. To get us home Richard suggested he drive and Isabel and I share the passenger seat, which we did, my daughter belted in, Richard driving, me balancing one cheek on the corner of the seat, wedging my legs into the space beside my daughters’, one arm on either side of her pressing against some part of the car so as not to squash my daughter or fall into an overly uncomfortable pose. We did it. The furniture is pretty. We used the small round tables later to hold our coffee and the NYTimes while Richard read and I wrote and my daughter unpacked her bags. Richard and I carried the desk up three flights of stairs to the room Isabel and I have been working on, once her father’s office, then her brother’s bedroom, then a place for her dolls and dollhouses and the beloved playmobil castle, then a jumble, taking the room apart and putting things away, imagining what comes next.

This morning when I get up early to say good-bye to Richard, I realize I have time to write. The beauty of getting up in the fives is having hours before anyone else cares where I am. So here I am, not at the new small writing desk upstairs, but at my kitchen table, candles lit here and in the dining room, the one in the kitchen beside me a gift from my previous boyfriend James, moved finally from the bedroom to the kitchen when I was ready to burn it down, and the other a gift from our Ashfield housemates years ago who thought we’d like to decorate candles to put out for family dinners, found in a recent clean out and decorated by my girl, to her teenage dissatisfaction under my older mom of disappearing kids loving gaze. This is my home, ex-boyfriends, ex-husband, one kid left this fall, one boyfriend here part time, one mom here part time, too, all five of us here together for a brief time between my older son arriving near midnight and Richard leaving in the quiet of the morning, a rare moment of togetherness observed in the night when everyone was sleeping, the sort of moment that might have inspired me to write this piece if my boyfriend hadn’t mentioned the garden.

This is what we are doing, coming, going, collecting a rare piece of used and lovely furniture, driving in our cars and van to be where the others are, then back again to get our grounding in our other homes, whether across town in Cambridge, across the state in Framingham or Western Mass, at college or with a girlfriend or in a new apartment in New York, soon in downtown Boston for my younger son. We have many homes, many parts to our family, friends old and new, some with us, many not so much. Lost and found, lost and found, lost and found.

Some days I find myself to be an exceptionally angry person, jealous, sad, let down. I do not wish to stay that way, and hope to write my way out.

Last Friday I said yes when our mechanic of many years and many old cars told me the van needed transmission and radiator work. On Saturday I called in my credit card number to pay the bill to the tune of over a thousand bucks. Who does that?, I wonder, besides a mother of a twenty one year old just graduated from college about to embark on a cross country road trip.

“Is it really worth it?,” he asked me sheepishly, sitting beside me on the couch when we got the news, having driven over from his dad’s after getting the van jumped by AAA who told him he ought to have it seen by a mechanic, as something was draining the battery.

“It’s worth it if you want to drive cross country this summer,” I said. “Eli says after this it’s good to go. He thinks it’s good enough to drive long distance if you want to.”

“Somehow I thought it would hold out for the summer,” my son pondered. “I just figured nothing would go wrong this summer and by the end of the summer we wouldn’t need it anymore.”

“This is how it goes,” I told him. “Adult problems come in the hundreds and thousands of dollars. Six hundred for the wiper motors. Five hundred for the ignition. A thousand or more last summer for brakes. Hundreds for tires, for AC. Like Eli says, “It’s got lots of new parts. After this you should be good.””

I should go back and revise my budget, update the total expenditures on the van repairs this year. But what would be the point? If my boys are going to drive cross country, if my son is going to visit his girlfriend on Long Island, who’s back from study abroad, if he’s going to play on the ultimate team in Albany this summer, move himself into the New York City apartment he’s yet to find, the van will do the job, just like it’s gotten him to the grocery store and the mall and the ultimate tournaments and his summer jobs and home again the last two years since I handed it off to him and handed myself the first car payment of my life, handed his brother the keys to the new Subaru which he drives to school, which I keep thinking I hear on the street outside, as I wait for him to return from Improv, though I imagine he’ll stay and watch as many shows as he can, now he’s back from his week of camping and into his Improv world.

My older son imagines driving cross country with his futon in the back of the van. I counseled him to take only what he can carry with him or leave behind, to be prepared to abandon the van. He considered this advice seriously, as I offered him a less good futon from the day care instead of the nice one rolled up in his room amidst piles of stuff he dumped there one day last week with his dad while I was at yoga trying not to think too hard, thinking “This is my new life. My newly gradated kid drops his stuff from college in his room and in the basement and I am out at yoga. The stuff could be there in thirty years, as my stuff is in my bedroom in my mother’s house nearly thirty years after my college graduation.”

My younger son imagines driving cross country with his brother. He also imagines spending the summer at Improv Boston. With four call backs this weekend, he’s debating how many shows he can commit to if he is offered more than one, given he’s starting college in the fall. After dinner tonight, before he headed out the door, just in from camping, now on to performing with his Indie Improv group, we talked about what is reasonable for a college freshman, how many hours and days a week he can work and perform at Improv and keep up with his work and life at school. None of us know. We also wondered how he’ll manage a trip with his brother this summer. Fortunately, his brother is a decent solo flyer, but all of us would love for the two boys to do some of the adventure together, driving the 2003 minivan we bought when their sister was a baby and we could barely shove the doors shut on our Honda Civic with the three carseats across the back seat, the minivan that did carpool all through their elementary and high school years, until Ben’s college sophomore summer, when he got a job on campus at the last minute and I decided to buy a new car in time to give him the van, hoping he’d be able to play ultimate on a local team and come home a bit so we would see him some, which he did, and not only was it worth it for him to have the van, it has been a pleasure the last two years to drive a reliable smaller car. This weekend on my way to Colrain after driving to Northampton the night before and back to Framingham for a picnic and before driving to Ashfield for the night, Northampton and Amherst for the day and back to Somerville again, I was so happy in my little car, good radio, decent mileage, reliable and comfortable, even if not paid off, that I didn’t have one regret about paying the eleven hundred dollars to repair the van..freedom all around, reliable car for the old lady and high school kid, old beater van for the adventurous college guy, hoo-rah! Now to come up with the cash to paint the house!

I am having a sleepless week. This morning this means I am up in time to sit at my kitchen table for breakfast before work. I reheat some leftover day care oatmeal, slice a withering strawberry over the top, make myself a cup of tea in the mug I bought for myself on Richard’s last birthday, one of a set with a mug for each of us, dot the oatmeal with strawberry rhubarb jam I made in Ashfield on Sunday to go with the yogurt on Monday before we closed up there and headed back to town, made with strawberries and rhubarb we found at the farmer’s market in Northampton the day before. When I prepare to light the candle on the table, the match box is empty, 300 stick matches bought to light the candles and start the charcoal grill, to keep the fires burning, all used up. I write matches on the shopping list and sit down here to write.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written here. I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been writing so much for writing class, but that’s not so. I don’t know what to say there, either, have written nothing this round, revised one piece, am due to share another for the last class on Monday and haven’t got a clue.

It’s been a long time since I started this blog, a lot has happened in these nearly eight years. I’ve burned a lot of matches, mostly lighting candles for family dinners and times I’ve been alone. It’s been helpful to have that flickering flame in the room. The kids have been away two weeks. We said good-bye in the parking lot outside the Indian restaurant where we celebrated Ben’s college graduation, all of us sharing a table, his dad and stepmom, Jonah, Isabel, Richard, and me. We got through it and the kids drove away in their dad’s car, Richard and I met Ben at his place to collect a few of his girlfriend’s things, and drove to Ashfield for the night, where the place felt off, garden paths disrupted and dishes out of place since I was there last in October, been a long time this year, been a busy year.

Tomorrow night Jonah and Isabel will return with Richard picking them up at school after a weeklong school trip to Nickerson where the kids camped with friends, last time for Jonah, whose Moving On Ceremony is on Wednesday, then on to the graduation party for both boys next weekend here at my house, with a lot of missing rsvps on the EVITE reminding me that my/our circle has been shrinking for awhile, though that is not true for the kids in their own lives, which are growing as mine shrinks.

All week I’ve been tucking in early in the quiet house, eager to get to my book, Spinster, Making a Life of One’s Own. I found it in Troy the day of graduation, out on a walk behind my kids and their dad and stepmom, Richard in the coffee shop reading a book, and I like it, part memoir, part women’s history, part literary love story, the book hits a lot of soft spots for me. Maybe I’ll write more about it later. For now, day care calls..One entry down, one lifetime to sort out.