Today I’ve chosen to spend a quiet day at home. So far, at nearly 11, I haven’t heard a sound except the wind rattling the loose screen on my bedroom window, now the furnace kicking in downstairs, more wind rustling in the leafless trees outside, hurling itself around the gray of February at this end of the quiet neighborhood. When I pause I can hear the clock tick. It sounds loud, as do the computer keys clicking under my fingers. Even the steam in the bathroom radiator comes into focus as I think of what else I might have heard this morning.

What I have not heard, are voices. What I suppose I mean when I think of silence, is the absence of other humans. The quiet is solitude. It’s my daughter on a mountain with her outdoor leadership class on their winter outing. It’s my son at work in the cafe, moved to his first adult apartment last weekend. It’s my older son in New York, waking up in his apartment in East Harlem, where I helped him move this summer, for frisbee day, which I know because he happened to be home sick when I called on my way to visit my daughter at boarding school Thursday night, where I had a rare sighting of her world, her teachers, her new guy, the play for which she was Assistant Costumer. I was grateful to sit with her, to have our legs brush under the table, to give her a hug and bring things from home to her room and things from her room back home.

I’m living now in a house of single women, me upstairs, my tenant downstairs, when day care is closed. We are quiet. I may hear her bustling around in the early morning putting things back together for the day care before heading to work or vacuuming Sunday night as her weekend comes to a close. We may meet up in the basement doing laundry, looking after the cat, or putting something away that doesn’t go in our private living spaces above ground. But mostly we travel separate paths, live separate lives, live quietly and in our own spaces, much of it in silence, save the sounds that travel between floors, sometimes her voice on the phone down below, likely my footsteps and music overhead.

My partner lives across town, a 35 to 50 minute drive along the river on both sides, with a bridge in between, in a house in JP he’s owned almost exactly as long as I’ve owned mine. We visit one another and spend time in both houses. He shares his with his daughter and her mother who live downstairs as I share mine with my daughter when she’s home and the day care and tenant downstairs. Today for breakfast he’s making french toast for himself and his daughter while I eat muesli I’ve had too long, leftover from a trip to Iceland a year and a half ago.

I’m finding myself eating through stores of food I have had in the house from days others shared it with me. Last week I pulled out two pounds of stew beef and two pounds of ground beef. I made beef stew on Saturday and chili on Sunday. I’ve shared them with my guy and eaten them every night this week except last night when I had a last minute dinner invitation from old book group friends and we ordered pizza, and tonight, when I’ll meet college friends for dinner to celebrate a birthday. There are still leftovers in the fridge, which I’ll work at for lunch, may freeze or toss, as I did with the food I had made the weekend before when my daughter was home and I roasted a tray of vegetables, cooked her favorite tofu, and made quinoa to make a “quinoa bowl”, the latest treat for my favorite vegan kid, only to toss the leftovers early this week.

The compost bin is overflowing with these cooking projects I make on weekends, try to eat all week, give up on the following weekend. I allow myself to feel ok about the waste, trusting the earth to take back what I cannot eat and knowing my intentions are good, to feed my family, to feed myself, to spend time cooking as I love to do.

This is the fifties for me. I don’t monitor my high school daughter’s whereabouts or have teenagers hanging around. She’s doing three years in boarding school and hopes to go far away to college. I am not married, don’t share a house and it’s upkeep and life full time with a partner, have not for ten years this month, if you count from the day we announced to the children we were splitting up and stopped living as though we were married. It’s been ten years of transformation, of partnering, endings and beginnings, re-partnering, re-figuring the future day by day and year by year.

Most, or at least many of us, face surprises in life all the time. This has been a stretch of hard ones for me. Today I’m getting my center back in solitude. My three-year-old day care friend has taken to using that phrase, getting my center back, after she’s been upset and has calmed down. Its a funny thing to find myself more centered in some way, and still somehow to feel lost, having gotten through the year since the day care closure, the six months since Liana stopped working regularly in the day care, the year and a half since Richard left, a little more since my daughter left for boarding school, the nearly two years since the day my children’s father had a terrible bike accident and my son left college mid-semester after a semester and a half of hard times.

I’m here. I’m still standing. Extraordinary generosity from friends and the world and a fair bit of hard work and creativity has kept the day care open and kept me on my feet. I’ve been worrying so much and working so hard I have hardly had time to stop the last year or so. It’s taken much of my time and energy managing crisis after crisis, learning to live in the ever-emerging new realities.

Tonight, though, the news arrives just as I’m typing “ever-emerging realities”, that I’ll dance with two of my oldest friends, in celebration of one’s birthday, at the Quaker Meeting house, to the music of two friends’ band, Opposite People, a dance I enjoyed so much with my daughter last year, when things also felt odd and new. We loved to dance in college..danced as much as we could. Tonight will be an early night, for fifty somethings not exactly in our youth. Reason to celebrate, get up off my bum and away from the computer, motivation to clean the house! Who knows what other fun may lie ahead..stay tuned.

Out of the silence and into the mystery we go.

And the mystery continues..in fact, it turns out dancing is too much for the friends, one a geriatrician raising three young daughters, married to a hard working lawyer in Providence, the other a high school librarian married to the Director of Emergency Medicine at Rhode Island Hospital. One has a head cold, the other has had a hard start to the new year and has become an early to bed regular. Instead we’ll meet halfway between us, in Sharon, a sleepy suburban town, for Indian Food, maybe a glass of wine, laughs and conversation. I’ll save dancing for another time, and hope that we all regain the energy it would take to dance together someday soon. We met when we were seventeen and eighteen. At fifty two and nearly fifty three, we are all grateful to be able to sit in a warm restaurant in a quiet town and talk and laugh together and go home afterwards to our husbands or partners and call it a night. Could be a whole lot worse.

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