Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2016

Christmas snow and solstice simmerings

Has this fall been darker than previous years? Maybe. But probably not. Fall is fall, after all. You know by now, just by reading my last few posts, it's not been an easy year.I've been sad.  I've been scared. I've been angry. The world doesn't make much sense to me when I consider what's outside the walls of my own home, and sometimes even things inside my home don't make much sense. And every time someone asks, "So, you ready for Christmas?" as if they're looking for me to fall apart into a pile of frazzled nerves and broken promises, I feel my shoulders creeping closer to my ears. What the heck does that mean, really, to be ready for Christmas?
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves, our kids, our loved ones, don't we, around this time of year? I've felt an acute aversion in 2016 to the barrage of ads on television, to the glut of promotional emails in my inbox, to the manic holiday songs in every public space. I pushed back against …

What now?

“Mommy, where will we move to after Donald Trump drops the big atomic bomb to start World War 3? I don’t want to have to move again. And when will Zahir be sent back to Somalia? I don’t want him to go because he just got here and he gives really good hugs.”
These are the words Zippy spoke on Wednesday evening, after spending post-election day in school with a bunch of other 6-year-olds who have huge, scary questions on their minds. Their teacher, whom I adore, shut down all the post-election conversation. I wish she hadn’t done that. I wish she’d taken the opportunity to tell those kids the simple truth: You are safe here, our country is strong and the Constitution will hold, we adults will protect you.
But maybe Zippy’s teacher, like me, doesn’t truly feel that way right now. Maybe she is uncertain about our safety - or our ability to keep our loved ones safe. And maybe she, too, wonders if our country, this great American experiment, truly is strong enough to weather the monsoon of …

Boardwalk ghosts

“Imagine this, buddy, in the middle of summer, especially near the Fourth of July. Wall to wall people, just sort of moving in and out of each other. Flashing lights. Loud music. Screams from Morey’s Pier, laughter on the swirly rides. Oh...and the food...ice cream, funnel cake, fudge, cheese steaks, pizza, fries...the smells alone would drive you nuts!” 
It’s 5:00 on the evening before his Nana’s funeral, and we’re standing in a windy drizzle on an empty Wildwood boardwalk. My mind has flashed back to the summer of 1991, when I spent a week here with my best friend. Wicked sunburn. Tandem bike adventures. Water slides. Thrill rides. A ground-shaking thunderstorm. Friendship bracelets. College guys taking showers outside. Ice cream and VCR movies every night.

Back in the here-and-now I’m trying to explain to Zippy what this place is like when it’s not October. He’s been to Rehoboth and Ocean City and Old Orchard Beach, but none of those come anywhere close to Wildwood in peak season.…

Summer in Maine is...

Tank tops by day, hoodies by night Air so rich with strawberry smells that you stop smack in the middle of the Monument Square farmers market and giggle; the "tomato bar" in late August elicits the same responseArms stained tie-dye red-purple-orange from the popcicles you slurp on the front porch; the house won't cool down until the sun sets Slow weekend mornings -- cold brew coffee, a book, a blanket, a patch of grass overlooking the sailboat-dotted harborGigantic 10-story cruise ships, teeming streets, no parking spaces, buskers on every corner, impossibly long restaurant waits, a people-watching bonanzaSeagulls brazenly eyeing your fries as you pick apart lobsters the rocks at Two Lights Lobster Shark, laughing as the butter and salt water ooze down our forearmsClouds that build and blow through a deep blue sky, mirrored in the lake we're floating on; reach your head back far enough, and it's easy to lose the distinction between water and sky.Acrid charcoal-ro…

Middle school is happening! Some words for my big boy.

Well, here we are. Middle school. We knew it was coming, yet it still feels so big. So intimidating. So exciting. Yes, my love, I'm just as nervous as you are. Maybe more so because I've lived through middle school and I'm reveling (roiling?) in my own memories now. We've talked a lot recently, sort of casually, about what this transition means. But there are so many more things I want to tell you...

Choose friends who make you happy. And try to see them every day, even if just passing in the hall. Friends will be more important to you than ever now. You'll be meeting so many new people these next few weeks, and you'll likely want to cling to the people you know already. That's okay; you need security in times of transition. I hope you'll open up to new people, too -- people who have similar interests and humor, people who recognize how amazing you are and support you. (And get their phone numbers so you can spend time outside of school!)

Be as smart as y…

Take me to the sea: A poem for our mothers

This is a week of bittersweet milestones, dates on which we may celebrate and grieve simultaneously. My mother, Carol, would have turned 67 this week. My mother-in-law, Kathleen, would have turned 75 just a few days later. We took one Mom's ashes to the sea 19 years ago; we'll take one Mom's ashes to the sea in a few weeks. We'll celebrate their legacies of love, family, resilience, and laughter; but we will always grieve the empty spaces that won't fill in. They've both gone too soon.
Happy asked me recently why we take the remains of our loved ones to the ocean when they die. He and I were floating on boogie boards in the North Atlantic at the time, near a sheltered beach called Kettle Cove, a serene and lovely Maine-postcard beach. My first response was, "Because that's what they wanted." 
He was quiet, plaintive, mulling it over. "But why?" 
I thought of my mother, my grandmother and grandfather, so many childhood memories that float…

Kayak mind drift

My mind drifts across Scarborough Marsh. No to do list. No schedule to keep. No children chattering. I’m alone. Sunshine on my face. Wind in my hair. Nothing between me and the sea but a bright red plastic shell. Nothing to focus on but this paddle in my hands.

Paddle left. Paddle right. Paddle left. Pull the water with your waist. Suck in your tummy. Paddle right. Keep your back straight. Push your feet into the foot wells. Paddle left. Paddle right. Oh we’re moving now. Into the wind. Over the chop. Paddle right. Cross the current. Paddle left. Use your back, not just your arms. Paddle right. Paddle left. Pull. Pull. Pull. Pull.

The tide is coming up. There’s more wind today than usual. The bow of the boat bounces over the choppy waves. My hat blows off. The laminated map on a lanyard around my neck whips my cheeks. Why do they give me this map anyway? It’s not like there’s much more than some twisting branches of water between marsh grass, a bridge, the sea. I can’t see beyond the …

The battle for blueberries . . . and compromise

I completely lost my shiz this morning. I'm not proud of it, but shiz got lost.

The morning started casually enough. "Hey guys! " I smiled as I walked down the stairs on this gorgeous August-in-Maine Saturday, "We're going blueberry picking today! And to a new lake!" Both children, sitting on the sofa with overflowing bowls of Cheerios, sighed and rolled their eyes. They stomped around the house. The little one even started crying. WTF?

They actually got mad at me about the prospect of doing fun things. This happens often, in fact, and I shouldn't have been surprised. But that made me even madder. I was so pissed, I couldn't find adult words -- just yelled my own childish nonsense like "I just want to do fun things with you! Is that too much?" and "fine, then I'll pick blueberries alone!" -- and I sent Happy to his room because I didn't know what else to do. I fumed and fussed. I even said the F-word (and the image of Zip…

"When they go low, we go high"

I've had a hard time collecting my thoughts this summer. Writing has been harder than usual. The world has been harder than usual. I don't have to recap every instance of violence, hatred, and anger that's taken place this summer...this year...by now it's part of our wounded national psyche. 
In the midst of it, my husband's mother died. She has been my mother for 20 years, my children's grandmother. And she has been my friend, someone I often turned to when things didn't make sense. For two weeks I walked through this very hard world wondering why it just didn't stop for a few days. Just stop! I needed to sit still and grieve, I needed time to remember happier moments with her and time to talk with my kids about very big concepts like hospice care, death, heaven. 
Yet even in those weeks, more instances of violence, hatred, anger filled the news, cycled endlessly through social media, office conversation, personal correspondence. Just stop, world. STOP. …

Family living class

"I have never heard anyone say 'vagina' so many times in one hour!"

So begins my 5th-grade son's dinner-table recount of his first Family Living class. (By the way, since I was a 5th grader I have giggled at this colloquialism for sex ed lite. What the heck does it mean, really?)
"And we talked about arm pit hair and how boys get all...um, excited... easier," he continues. I don't even know what he means by that last bit nor where to take the conversation from there, so I just keep spooning rice pilaf  into my mouth and let him continue. "It was mostly vagina, vagina, vagina. She said BABIES come out of vaginas, Mom... but I know I didn't."
Such confidence! It's true that neither of my kids came out of a vagina -- they were C-section births -- but I'm not entirely sure if his statement is motivated by personal history or denial of the entire how-babies-come-out story. But mostly I'm giggling and fighting the urge to tell hi…

Beyond typical fidgets

Zippy meets me at the cafeteria door at 4:20, wide eyes and pale face. I told him I'd be there at 4:00 today but got delayed; he'd been staring at the clock for 20 minutes, waiting, worrying. When I hugged him, I could feel his little heart pounding in his chest.

The phone rings and the Rec director is talking excitedly. All I can discern is the word "thunderstorm" and my son crying in the background. He's inconsolable because he overheard an adult mention that there might be thunderstorms in the forecast. It takes me 5 minutes of me repeating "You are safe. Hear my voice. You are safe..." until he stops crying...but I know I'd better hurry from work to get to him, because he doesn't believe he is safe. He is beyond reason right now. And sure enough, when I arrive, he's sitting on a log near the door, next to a blessed 4th grader who is holding his hand and trying to soothe him. When I hug him, he melts into tears. His body shivers despite th…