May 2018

It’s taken me years to appreciate a quiet night in my own home. Finally, I’m in sync with my friends who didn’t experience divorce. Instead of imagining other parents with children at home, doing homework, sharing dinner, watching tv while I imagine the life my children are living with their father nights they aren’t with me, I’m in a new place, feeling like my life is mostly just right.

My friends are also without kids most of the time, or without some of their kids some of the time. My kids are mostly living life away from me. My daughter is in a boarding school I didn’t expect her to be in this time last year, is as happy as she’s been, here only every other weekend at best, sometimes an additional Sunday overnight weekends she’s with her dad and I drive her back to school early Monday morning. My middle guy lives at home, and has a life of his own, is hardly here when I am. We joke about ships crossing in the night as we come and go. My older son lives happily in New York, so happily he plans to continue with the life he’s living rather than change it up. And my new guy lives across town, not across the state or in another state, meaning we can see each other throughout the week, so nights we aren’t together aren’t so bad.

I have three house mates sharing our place and a tenant sharing the day care. Which means nights no one is home are kind of glorious.

Tonight I’m sitting on the couch, all the windows and the back porch door open, sun low in the sky still gracing the walls of my living and dining room and lighting up the maple outside where birds chirp and sing. The cars outside are going somewhere I’m not.

My drum teacher got a summer job in Maine, so for the first Thursday in many months, I am home, not drumming in the Meeting House with my Drum Circle. When I heard the news on Tuesday night, I was sad. I love drumming and will miss it. Turns out I also love a quiet night at home alone.

I don’t even need dinner. After my fingerprinting session this afternoon on Drydock Avenue in downtown Boston the fish coming from the Drydock Cafe in the first floor of the same building drew me in. I ordered a take out fish sandwich for myself and fish and chips for my son and his gal who were at home, ate mine on the porch and visited with my house mate a few minutes when I got home, then in the day care while kids settled in for nap, left the fries for a snack later.

My time is my own. For an hour or two, the house is my own, only the little housemate here with me, napping behind closed doors while his parents run an errand and I keep watch.

The breeze coming in the window is gentle. The colors in my house shift with the light. The leaf shadows on the walls dance as the breeze rustles the tree out front. The birds cheep. The keys of my computer click as I type. My guy texts every so often. I’m not alone in the world. Just alone in the house, almost. A fine feeling at last, at 51. Welcome home, middle aged lady. Its all yours and you’re here.

Last night I was home a few minutes between work and Sharing Circle. It’s my window with my son, who is living a young adult life of his own while I figure out a middle aged life of my own. Several days a week, we cross paths briefly in the five to seven hour, when I come upstairs from day care and often prepare to head out for the evening, and he is at home, working on his projects or hanging out with his gal friend, preparing for a rehearsal, show, or work.

Last night, as I do many Wednesday nights, I offered my son a salad while I prepared one for the Sharing Circle, lettuce, cucumbers, pea pods, grated carrots, chick peas, tomatoes, roasted sunflower seeds with tamari, feta cheese, homemade maple dressing with Ashfield maple syrup I made the night before so as not to run so, so late. I put the ingredients for the Sharing Circle salad into a new bowl I found at my friend’s open studio, a tidy round bowl with matte green glazing and ridges on the outside, shiny jade glazing on the inside, just the right size to hold salad for the members of the Circle. Next to that I made a salad, dinner sized, for my son, in a nice green vintage bowl I got at the Spruce Corner yard sale in Ashfield last year from my favorite purveyor of vintage crockery and Waldorf inspired day care materials and vintage clothes. A nice old black cashmere cardigan and a sweet red flowered skirt now in my bedroom showed up the same day as the green bowl.

My son and I visit briefly. He plays a song he’s been working on, using his sample pad to rework a Brian Wilson bootleg piece, and then the original so I can compare. No surprise, this mom likes her son’s work best. He offers me a second iced coffee, and I accept, knowing I slept poorly the night before and wanting to be alert for the circle. I pack my things, remember my car full of Sunday treasure, my newly repaired bike and a load of art materials and puzzles gifted to me from Macky and Michael in preparation for their retirement. I unload the art supplies and my son puts the bike away, thinks about riding it to Davis Square on his way to Central for the show that night. We still share, not full meals at the table so much, or shared bike rides, but food, a kitchen, occasional conversation, help around the house, a bike. I offered lunch out today, something we enjoyed last year and last fall and this winter, but this time, my son is busy with his gal, a change that makes him happy and me, too.

Several years ago I had a similar window with my older son. He worked at Lincoln Labs the summer after his junior year of college. I was working in the day care. We’d get up in the morning together, my son in his work clothes for the first time, khaki pants, button down shirt, belt, shoes, freshly showered and shaven, and I’d be in my day care garb, shorts, t-shirt or blouse, sandals, and we’d commune in the kitchen a few minutes. He’d make us freshly ground and brewed coffee using the fancy beans I’d buy and the fancy burr grinder he liked to use and had brought home from college, and I’d unload the dishwasher, admire my grown guy, talk with him while he fried eggs or emptied cartons of yogurt into his bowl, my son of enormous appetite.

I basked in the sunshine of those mornings, will remember them in old age, as I’ll remember the Thursday Tamper lunches with my second son, and the Wednesday night salad making in two bowls, as I’ll remember the toast with almond butter and cherry preserves and chai tea in Karma travel mugs I share with my daughter at 6 on Monday morning when I drive her back to boarding school, as I’ll remember the kale and peppers and garlic and onions with eggs and half caf coffee with shaken soy milk I shared this morning in JP, as I’ll remember the little trays of almond butter and cherry jam on Hungry Ghost bread with pieces of fruit and a mug of tea with milk and a bit of sugar Richard used to make me in the early days when I left Northampton in the dark on Tuesday mornings to return to day care in Somerville, as I’ve remembered all my life the plate of fried potatoes and eggs my dad would enjoy before work, cooked by my mom and sometimes shared with me.

Food is my love language. As my kids get older, I take it where I can, quick salad left for a working performer, coffee and conversation over dishwasher unloading and egg frying with my tech intern the last summer he was home, toast and tea in the car for my gal and me as we part each week I send her back to boarding school.

I’m also finding ways to share meals with folks when my kids aren’t around, something I’ve been learning the last nine years since their dad and I parted ways and we’ve shared custody and the kids have grown up and away. I’ve been a single mom, with kids at home part time, most often with a partner who lives elsewhere, so dependable meal partners haven’t been my blessing or my curse. I haven’t worn out on too much meal prep or too many dishes for endless family meals. These days I make my salad on Wednesday and share it with the Circle and my son. I cook weekends my daughter is home, and now sometimes Tuesdays for my guy, sometimes weekends if we are together. Other nights its often catch as catch can, sometimes leftovers from the weekend, one night last week I just slept through dinner, one night this week it was yogurt and berries near ten, sometimes in the past it was ice cream and potato chips, very rarely it’s a meal with friends.

Daily, though, when I’m working, I eat with my small friends. We serve food family style, with small bowls and serving utensils and pitchers to pour, glass plates, real silverware, and lots of conversation and talking about the food. That is a part of the day care I evaluate and decide to continue over and over. Getting and storing groceries for ten kids and two adults a day is a lot. Preparing and cleaning up from two meals and one snack a day takes time and juggling. But, my love language is food, so it doesn’t really feel negotiable.

I love it when my two sits in the Trip Trap chair beside the counter and visits while I cook. I love to see the children enjoy the food. It makes me happy when parents ask years later how I made this or that food that their child came to love. My own children still find foods they had in day care to be their comfort foods, pasta with cottage cheese and sauce for my second son, cous cous with corn and chick peas for my daughter, rice and beans for all three. One six thinks I should serve quesadillas every Friday, or long pasta. Some kids take as much pleasure in telling me which foods they don’t like, again and again and again, often until they become beloved. That, too, is a love language, giving children and people foods they can choose to eat or refuse, a luxury of modern life to be lead by our preferences, rather than to be told what we must eat or to be eating out of desperation or hunger as so many have and do.

One older friend of Liana’s lost her husband a few years ago. In order to keep her sense of connection she aimed to share at least one meal a day with another person. Sometimes members of the Sharing Circle have said our Wednesday dinner is the only meal they share all week. We all value the community and companionship we find there, over food at the table and around the candles in the circle. What better way to be restored, to be reminded of our shared humanity, to connect, to love, than by sharing a meal with those we love and care for? Thank you, universe, for continuing to help me find ways to share meals as those around me change and as my life and routines shift and take new shape.

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This morning I woke up early, in the fives, after staying up late, past midnight. I woke up dreaming about the new children about to enter the day care, now and in the summer and the fall, about my new life, taking shape day by day by day as my children grow older and more independent and I settle back into my life, post break-up of my long term relationship with Richard, post break-up of the WFDC, new relationship with a new guy building, new relationships with new day care families building, life taking shape in ways I couldn’t have expected, as it always has, though for some reason, in my fifties, I’ve finally recognized this unexpectedness is the norm.

So many surprises shape our lives, illness, injury, gifts, new loves, old losses. The only way we can possibly make sense of it all is by dreaming each day into existence. What will I do today? is only part of the story. What will happen to me? Who will I meet? How will my life take shape? all play their parts. How will I cope? How will I help? How will I stay open to possibility? are frames I’m learning to allow to shape my days, as I aim for more resilience and hope, more love and connection, less discouragement and despair and isolation in the face of what will inevitably come, challenges and surprises I plan and don’t.

So, yesterday I had a fine day, visiting with my therapist, my new guy, my housemate, prospective parents, my son, my day care partner, my old friends, my daughter, some in person, some over e-mail, some by phone. In my solitary moments, I drove around the city that is becoming more my own again. I drove along the river on both sides, through Somerville, Cambridge, Boston, Brookline, and JP, my world expanding, old sites becoming familiar again, new places becoming mine having been here all along.

I also cooked, tacos for my solitary lunch with a red tablecloth on the back porch in the sun, and for my son’s second dinner in the kitchen late at night after his improv work, and baked, chocolate chip cookies I started near ten, my energy strong after two record breaking good nights’ sleep, following too many of sleep deprivation.

And I worked, cleaned my house, did laundry, worked on schedules and enrollments, budgets and contracts, banking, hard to distinguish work from play, maybe not necessary to distinguish, and I dreamed bigger, making a list of things I want to do to keep my house and yard and day care in good condition, into the future, whole and happy, shared those with my new guy, who has offered to help with some.

From my old friends and from the internet I learned more about a new school opening in the fall in Somerville where my old friend and former day care teacher, and now incoming parent has applied to work, Powderhouse Studios, a place for kids 13 to 15 and up to learn by making projects and telling stories, started by a team including a young woman I met when we were trying to start the Somerville Progressive Charter School and when I was looking for alternatives for my own kids and she was working in supporting both, as a resource and ally for our Founders Group, as the leader of a small math group my son attended briefly, and as another person working in our community with homeschoolers, as I was also doing.

Now, she’s making a public school in an image I admire, in a building that once looked to me so like a prison I remember telling my husband when we bought our house in 1993, that I would never send my kids there. The place is under construction now, no longer a cement fortress of an elementary school with few windows and asphalt for a playground, but a site of innovation and investment by the city and a group of young idealists who want to make something different.

Change happens, not always in the ways we think we want or in the ways we try to make happen. Sometimes we are the change agents and sometimes we are the observers.

Our day care is back in business. My friend and colleague Michael, with whom I visited last night, who has missed his last year before retirement from family day care due to leg pain that’s disabled him, asked me what its like to be back at work. Its great, and it’s been hard, I said. The first weeks we had so much to do, sorting out finances, redoing enrollments, adjusting to all we felt we needed to and were required to do to address the demands of the EEC, taking care of the children full time, that it was exhausting. Nearly a month later, things feel lighter.

Today I look forward to going to work with less anxiety about how I’ll do it all. The finances have become more predictable. The taxes and my own kids’ educational needs for fall, which had been up in the air and on hold during our closure, are clearer. The enrollments are nearly settled. I’ve got a fine new guy in my life, who’s stuck by me through six months of ups and downs. I’ve let go some of the losses of the life I thought I was going to live with Richard, have found myself back here in my own life, in my own home, in my own work, in my own city, and in the larger world of Boston, surrounded by friends and family and colleagues and museums and parks and festivals and music and movies, by good food and conversation, even in my home by a new family of three, all of which are making me really, really happy. Some of the richness I’ve built from living here every day, from working hard and being mostly kind, much of the treasure that surrounds me has been a gift to me I can’t hope to repay.

And there are the Quakers, who are there whenever I need them. For Drumming, for Sharing Circle, for Meeting for Worship and Meeting for Business, for Potluck and Simple Lunch, for Threshing Sessions and Support Committee and After Thoughts, for forums and films and art openings and committees I’ve been invited to join, and for love, and meaning, for conversation and contemplation, even recently, for prayer.

Life is rich in meaning and in love. I’m a very, very lucky woman. Who knew? I think I did, that i have, though at times, I’ve forgotten, or haven’t had the certainty or gratitude I’ve needed to remember or believe it. Thank you, universe, for holding me through good times and bad, and for allowing me to wake up today with dreams.