Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Strong Emotions

It is quiet.

It's 10:00 pm.  The kids are asleep.  The hubby is in the basement.  All I can hear is the tick of the clock, the shuffling of the cat adjusting in his sleep, and the tip-tip-tap of the keys as I type.

We are halfway through the week. The Christmas countdown is going strong.  We are 7 days from the longest night of the year, and 17 days from the end of one of the most emotional years many of us can remember.  As one friend put it, it's been a transition year.

And I'm having all of the emotions.

Miles is getting big.  Various videos and pictures viewed over the past few days have reminded me just how little he used to be, and by contrast, how utterly grown-up he seems suddenly.  He is confident, yet sensitive.  Smart, yet distractable.  He can make his own breakfast, put together increasingly-difficult puzzles, and even empty the dishwasher and fold his own laundry.  Yet, he still crawls into my lap for snuggles and wants me to sit with him until he falls asleep at night.  He's 7, and I can see the days of needing mom for every little thing slowly, yet surely, disappearing.  He's still an unusually (?) affectionate little boy, but I can't help but wonder how much longer that will last.  I just want to curl him up in a ball and hold him in my lap as long as he'll let me.  And so I have been.  I feel so proud of him.  And so happy for all he's learning and accomplishing.  And so sad that his little voice has lost its baby-like quality.  And relieved that he's grown into a really easy-going kid.  He's a joy to be around, and I simultaneously laugh with the delight of it, and cry at the prospect of what is now well and truly gone.  His early years were tough, in a lot of ways, but goodness I miss the good parts.  (Though, to be entirely fair, I would not go back if I could - I remember all too clearly just how tough those days could be.)

And Sam.  My Sam.  She never was a baby, not really.  She had one year of infancy, during which she was one of the calmest, easiest, happiest babies I've ever met.  And then she learned to talk, and became a miniature adult.  I often forget that she's only 3.  She, too, makes her own breakfast in the mornings, and helps empty the dishwasher, and helps with her laundry.  She engages in deep conversation, ever curious, ever wondering, ever asking the next hard questions.  And so, it's easy to forget that she's 3.  When she has tantrums and moments of defiance, it's easy to get frustrated and expect her to calm herself and be rational more quickly than, probably, she is yet capable of.  She speaks like a child twice her age, or more, both in content and in vocabulary, and yet, under it all, she is still a very little girl in a very big world.  She makes me giggle with her silliness, sigh at her defiance, and sometimes, cry in frustration with her stubbornness.  I feel so proud of the fierce, determined young lady she is.  And so guilty over my (unreasonably?) high expectations of her.  And grateful for her constant over-the-top displays of affection.  She is a beautiful soul, and I am so insanely proud of everything she is. I look forward to her future, to seeing if she, too, mellows with age, or gains the confidence to be even more steadfast in her determination to do things her own way.  Given the long line of stubborn, fierce, determined women she comes from, the latter seems most likely.  She is going to make me crazy for many years to come, but I look forward to seeing what she does with it all.  For now, though, I feel so very lucky to still have the love, the affection, and the silly parts of my wonderful daughter.

In many ways, I am so thankful for this crazy mix of strong emotions.  There was a long time after Miles was born when I was completely unable to cry.  It is beautiful to be able to cry over everything again.  It is beautiful to feel so deeply, when I had become so numb for so long.  And I am trying to hold onto that thought: that there is beauty in everything I feel.

There is so much more, but what I'm feeling, more than anything else right now, is tired.  Winter has arrived, cold and dreary, with the promise of becoming more so soon.  And really, it has only just begun.  And there are so many obligations to meet in the next 11 days.  And then an abyss of probable anxiety and depression stretching out until March, at least.  And I look at it all...

And I am tired.

Friday, November 11, 2016


When I was in first grade, there was a new girl at school.

She came from far away, some place called Texas.  She spoke funny.  She dressed funny.  She had huge glasses and uneven teeth.  She was ridiculed and insulted and called names for everything she was, everything she could not control.  I found her at recess, hiding in the tunnel, and sobbing.  I found her, and I sat with her, and I told her I liked her accent.  I complimented her dress.  I told her that her glasses were my favorite color, and I showed her how crooked my own teeth were.

We were best friends for the next 5 years.

When I was in sixth grade, everything changed.

We were in a new school, a Middle School.  I spoke with words that were too big.  I dressed in clothes that were too modest.  I had big glasses and uneven teeth.  I was ridiculed and insulted and called names for everything I was, everything I could not control.  My best friend found me in the hallway, sobbing by my locker.  She found me, and she insulted me, and she slammed my head into a locker.  And she laughed at me.

I had no friends that year.

That year, I was in the 8th grade orchestra, because of a scheduling conflict with my gifted classes.  I was tiny.  I had huge glasses and uneven teeth.  And I worked my ass off to keep up with kids who had been playing for years longer than I had.  And it showed.  Slowly, slowly, I earned my way to the second chair, in spite of everything.

That day was the first time I was locked in the instrument closet.

I went to put my things away, and a big eighth grader named John closed the door behind me, and locked it.  I was trapped.  I tried not to panic, and instead pulled my violin back out, and in the tiny space, I made music until the teacher found me an hour later and let me out.

It was to become a daily occurrence.

Everyday, I'd try to get there early.  I would put my things away, and try to get out first.  And everyday, I was locked in anyway.  Sometimes, I was shoved.  Sometimes, I was physically lifted and placed inside.  And everyday, I'd try to contain my panic as I heard the lock click into place.

And everyday, I'd play music until my teacher let me out.  Sometimes after only a few minutes.  Sometimes after more than an hour.  Everyone else in the class knew it was happening.  The teacher knew it was happening.

Not one person ever tried to stop it.  Not once.

There is a reason I cannot abide a bully.

But even more, I cannot abide a person who stands by and watches the bully, and does nothing.

And if you don't understand the relevance this has to current events, then you're not really paying attention.

They had their reasons.  They were too worried about their own lives.  Too unwilling to give up the mirage of power from being on the same side as the bully.  Too scared of what he'd do to them if they spoke up.  Too caught up in their own lives to bother helping me.

But I would have helped them.  Just as I had once helped that sobbing little girl in the tunnel.  The one who would later forget the kindness in exchange for a selfish taste of the power of fitting in.

I would help you.

Friday, March 4, 2016

My Week in Short Stories

A friend recently started a FB page encouraging people to write a short story everyday. The rules are simple: 55, 150, or 300 words. No critiques. Just practice writing.

I've been doing them when I remember (and feel well enough), and the collection of them from this past week explain our current lives fairly honestly and succinctly. With no further ado:

Monday, February 29, 2016 - 55 words
Sounds of bathtime - splashing water, giggles, rubber toys squeak. "Uh-oh!" Daddy got wet, too. A room away, she coughs, rolls over, restless from fever, desperate to be a part of the often-avoided routine. Rush of water, drain plug pulled. Sleep claims her once again, leaving her to wonder if this was reality, dream, or hallucination.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016 - 55 words

Armful of toys, bending over to pick up more, humming along to the children's show in the background. These songs will never leave her head. Dumping toys into the toy box, grabbing a diaper. Chasing down the toddler. "Don't wanna change!" Diaper changed. Dinner started. Homework begins. Sighing, frazzled, knowing she'll miss this one day

Friday, March 4, 2016 - 150 words

Holding her close, but loosely, while the coughs rack her little body, rocking her back and forth, gently. The hacking subsides, and she slowly, but completely, collapses against me, breathing hard, trying to catch her breath. A moment's peace. Then, the tell-tale heaves of pre-vomit, the rush to aim it at the floor, gathering her hair while her stomach empties of the little she's eaten today, plus the medicine that's supposed to make her better. Gasping sobs, from both of us, until it's impossible to distinguish one from the other. It finally passes, and there is only the clean up. Naked, and scrubbed with baby wipes, she folds herself into my lap, crying silently, wishing, I'm certain, that this could just be over. I squeeze her tight, and wish the same, wanting to watch her dance and laugh, hating whatever illness has befallen her. And suddenly, I understand true helplessness.