Those Long, Long Days


I remember when I was a young Mom, feeling as if some days just lasted forever.

Like. For-freakin’-ever.

I remember hot, hot summer days, the ones where I was home alone with all three kids. I can clearly picture myself looking at the clock after having cooked, served and cleaned up breakfast, broken up two fights, done a load of laundry, swept the floor and helped to make four beds.

I remember it like it was yesterday, glancing up at the kitchen clock and thinking, “Damn! The battery must have run down. No WAY it’s only 9:15 in the morning!!!!”

I remember being wrong. It was, in fact, early morning and I had many, many hours ahead of me.

At the age of 35, that was not a pleasant realization. I remember the way that those days seemed to tick by with each second taking longer than the one before it.

I just wanted to get to dinner time, to have Dad home, to get everyone into bed and to Go. To. Sleep.

But now I’m older and wiser.

I’ve made more than a few journeys around the sun on this old planet. Now those long, long days have a whole different feel to me.

I’ll give you an example.

Yesterday was one of the very few gorgeous fall days that New England has experienced this year. It was breezy, cool, bright and perfectly sunny. The sky was a deeply calming blue, with cartoonishly puffy white clouds drifting slowly by. The leaves were gently twirly and falling through the soft air.

The kids wanted to go outside, so outside we went. Coats on, mittens slipped over reluctant thumbs, sneakers firmly attached to feet, out we went. All three of us stopped on the front step, breathing in the clean, clean air.

Ellie, our three year old explosion of joy, threw out her arms, twirled on the wet grass and crowed, “I am Elsa and Anna and we are so so happy!!!!” Little 16 month old Johnny looked up at me with a drooly grin and chortled, “aha!!!!”

They ran, they jumped, they picked up leaves, they screamed at the pure pleasure of jumping into puddles.

I was happy that they were happy, but to be honest, I was also tired. Nonni here has been fighting off a strangely lingering throat infection, and sleep has been eluding me. So as we walked down the driveway and splashed in every puddle, there was a piece of me that kept thinking, “Is it time to go in? Is it time for nap?”

I wanted to lie down.

Then I remembered those long, long days of my children’s past. I remembered the yearning I felt for bedtime.

I stood there, watching the kids play. And I looked up at that sky and watched those swirling, dying leaves.

And it occurred to me that I don’t have as many days to wish away as I did all those years ago. How many more fall days do I have left out there? How many times will I stand in the glorious sunshine watching two beautiful, happy, beloved children dancing with joy in front of me?

I pulled in a breath, smelling the wood smoke of my neighbor’s chimney, the wet, earthy musk of the decaying leaves, the sharp pungency of the pine trees around us. I looked at the kids, both jumping in the mud, both grinning, sharing a moment of pure bliss with each other.

Life is short. And every year it gets shorter.

If one of my days stretches out and takes forever to pass, well, that can only be a good thing. Now I’m old enough to know that a day like this is a blessing unsought.

Let all of my life slow itself down and take its time to pass.

And may I have many more days to simply stand there, motionless, watching beautiful children at play.

slow time

Heaven is a puddle on a sunny fall day.

Just a Ripple in Time


Girls at play

I was standing outside today, watching the kids play. It was a beautiful, cool fall day. The leaves were swirling around in the wind and the kids were running up and down the driveway. The smell of the air was musty, leafy, wet and so familiar.

I remembered walking through piles of fall leaves as a kid. I watched my grandchildren kicking the pine needles and leaves in front of themselves, and I remembered how the crumbly mix used to remind me of old cereal left in the bowl. I could feel myself back 50 years ago, walking through the neighborhood where I grew up.

As the kids raced by me, shrieking and howling and spinning with that special toddler mix of joy and unbounded energy, I realized that I was standing in Momma alert mode. You know what I mean? Johnny was running off to my right, and Ellie and Ella were off to my left. I stood with my feet apart, my hands clasped behind my back. I could survey the entire yard that way, keeping everyone safe and in my view, while still keeping my distance to let them play.

Ellie

There was, I swear, a little ripple in the air, and I suddenly realized that I had stood in that very same spot, so many times, watching different children run and play.

For a moment I almost felt dizzy. I looked hard to my right. Where were my little boys, my Matt and Tim, who used to ride bikes up and down this very same driveway? I turned to the left. Where was my baby girl, my Katie? Shouldn’t she be chasing her friend Jessica across the grass on this beautiful day?

I tilted my head back, looking through the branches of the pines at the bright, clean sky.

Of course my little ones weren’t there. They are grown now.

The shrieking, jumping, dancing little whirlwinds in front of me are Kate’s children, and Jessica’s.

The sky is the same. The grass is still my grass. My house stands right where it has stood for all these years. Some of the pines have come down, and there are newer, smaller trees. But the wind is the same, the smell is the same, the crushed brown mixture of cereal bowl leaves and needles is just the very same as it has been for all of my adult life.

I stand in the cool sun, my hands clasped behind my back. I close my eyes, just for a moment, standing perfectly still.

I hear them laughing and calling, I hear those playful voices. In this moment, I am not sure who it is I’m listening to.

 

Try To Remember….


….the kind of September….

When I was a teacher. Try to remember the late August days that used to bring me anxiety, excitement, joy, a sense of purpose, lost sleep and far too many credit card charges at Michael’s Crafts.

I do remember.

I remember what it felt like to watch those precious days of summer begin to fade. I remember the excitement of facing a new school year.

I remember seeing my class list, and recognizing some of the names. I remember knowing some of the siblings of “my” kids. Knowing some of their parents. Recognizing the faces and thinking, “how can she be in fifth grade already?”

I miss those days. I miss them.

I miss the little heart flutters that used to come with printing out the tags to go in each hallway cubby. I miss the pleasure of opening up new boxes of clean, pure notebooks.  I miss throwing out the old broken crayons and replacing them with new, whole, optimistic replacements.

I miss the new books. The clean desks and shiny new pens.

I miss it.

I miss the long walks that I used to take in the week before school started, memorizing my list of students in alphabetical order. Walking, and reciting, and walking some more. “Adams, Bates, Cohen, Chevaliar, Dulakis…..”

I miss the first day of school, when I would look each child in the eye and tell them how nervous I was about meeting them. I’d tell them about waking up at night, worrying that they might not like me. I would laugh as I told them about picking out my first day of school outfit, and changing my mind five times before the first day.

I loved being a teacher. I loved the joy of taking a group of disparate souls and helping them to form a cohesive classroom unit.

Mostly I miss those completely unexpected moments when all 25 of us would break out in laughter.  I miss the hugs. I miss the snacks. The history lessons, the incredibly touching and surprising written words. I miss the smiles, the frowns, the pushing back against my “authority”.

I was a good teacher. I loved being with my students every day.

I wish that I hadn’t been pushed out of my classroom by an insecure and over controlling administrator.

I wish that this was that week when my stomach would fill with butterflies and my heart would skip some of its beats. I with that I was in my classroom, placing name tags on desks and getting ready to know and love and laugh with a whole new group of inspiring young people.

I remember what it felt like to come to the end of August knowing that you were about to enter a demanding and fulfilling September.

I remember.

And I’m sad.

I wish that I was one of those lucky teachers spending this week opening boxes of brand new markers.

I miss it.

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My old self……

What used to be…


For so many years, this was the week when I felt my energy rise and flood into every pore. This was the week when I thought about the new kids who would be in my care for ten months. It was the week when I unpacked the boxes of new folders, new notebooks, new pencils, new markers, new crayons.

For so many years, this was my week of starting over.

THIS would be the year when I’d finally understand the science curriculum and I’d engage the kids in such excitement about heating and cooling! Or THIS would finally be the year when I’d be able to make perfect small math groups so that every single child would finally grasp the wonder and joy of multiplying fractions.

The last week of August, for this teacher, meant a chance to really get it right. To forget the errors of the past, to embrace the shiny new textbooks of the new year, and to charge forward into a year of challenge and growth.

The last week of August is the time to shrug off your doubts and open your heart to your new classroom family. It is a chance to reinvent yourself and to create a new, harmonious home for your teacher heart.

I used to love this week.

Now I am in a different place. Now I watch my teaching colleagues set up their classrooms, label their desks, put names on their hallway cubbies.

Now I sit at home, feeling the cool evening air. Now I set up the pack n’ play, string the toys across the top, and organize all of the toddler snacks.

Now I sit back and appreciate the cool breeze. I think about the apple farms and the local parks. I plan trips to the lake, knowing that the only people there will be young mothers and happy grandmothers, all of us chasing little ones who are too young to worry about the first day of school.

Life is a big old circle. And I am riding around and around.

 


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I was thinking tonight, as I walked outside after supper, that I get some contentment from knowing that every fall will feel the same.

I know that every late summer the air will start to smell sharper. I know that the days will stay hot, but the nights will turn cool.

Even though it hasn’t happened yet this year, I know that the leaves on the Burning Bush will turn bright red. I know that the goldfinches will lose their color and that the turkeys will start to march through the yard every morning.

I was thinking that in a way it’s kind of boring. It’s predictable. After 26 years in this house, I know what color the leaves of every tree will be. I know that the pine needles will turn golden and that some will fall. I know that the snow will come to cover the stepping stones that I’ve placed in the garden.

Ho hum. How routine.

How safe.

Then I started to think of life  as seen through the eyes of my sweet granddaughter. Ellie is in her second autumn, but last year she was barely aware or alert. This year she notices every falling leaf. She laughs out loud at jack-o-lantern faces. She smells every marigold as if it is a miracle.

Every day when we go outside, she searches in the garden for “nomonos”, her favorite little cherry tomatoes. They are almost gone, and I understand that. For Ellie, this is an affront to her sense of order. “Where are my orange snacks?” I can hear her thinking. “I want to come out here every day of my life and eat sweet tomatoes!”

Life just goes around and around in such a repeating circle. Ellie doesn’t know that yet.

I think that the secret to loving life is to always find a way to see the circle as new. For me, that means surrounding myself with children. To them, every day is a brand new adventure.

How delicious!

 

Perfect.


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Today was a perfect day.

I didn’t plan to write about it, but as the day draws to a close, the perfection of it all demands to be heard. Words are bubbling up in my brain so quickly that if I don’t write them down, something up there just may burst.

It was that kind of day.

This was the first weekend of the school year.  I came home on Friday, after a mere 2 1/2 days of teaching, completely exhausted and thoroughly exhilarated.  It’s still early, I know, but I get the feeling that this is going to be one of those years when I just fall in love with my class.  I can’t really explain how or why it happens, but there are certain collections of children (for lack of a better word!) that simply reach right out and touch my heart.  This group seems to be that way.  Already.

So I came into the weekend with a lot to do, but a happy soul.  Yesterday was mostly errands and chores around the house.

Yesterday was also the sixth day in a row where the temperature went almost to 90 degrees and the humidity was nearly the same.  It was an uncomfortable, breathless, sweating, nasty day to be shopping and cleaning, but I did what had to be done.  In the evening we weathered a tornado alert and a huge, torrential thunderstorm, and I went to be praying for the stickiness to dissolve.

And we come to this morning.

I woke up at 7 to a cool breeze.  I went into the living room, trailed by my faithful doggies.  I stepped onto the deck and into a world of golden beauty.  The trees were drenched, but as they dripped, the sun shone through every drop, as if they were coated in diamonds.  The breeze blew, and a shower of sparks came down through the woods, lit up from within with a rainbow of incredible fire.

Paul woke up and we started the day with a long soak in the hot tub, breathing in the cool, crisp scent of almost-fall, and drinking our coffee as the steamy water eased the kinks out of our backs.

I had a lot of school work to do, but I was excited to be doing it.   Right after breakfast, I jumped into those tasks. I scored some math tests, prepared tomorrow’s math lesson, read some student folders and started a vocabulary sheet for our first science unit.

As the day went on, I realized that I was also determined to enter the upcoming week as fully prepared as possible.  I did all of the laundry, thinking that I would need enough clean clothes to see me through to Friday.  I washed the floor and cleaned the bathrooms: I knew I wouldn’t be doing that on a Wednesday morning any more!

And I cooked.  The coolness of the day, and the adrenaline of the new school year, combined to push me into full on Italian-woman mode.

I boiled six eggs for easy breakfasts; they were local eggs, but were two weeks old!  On Friday I picked up 2 dozen fresher chicken eggs as well as six beautiful duck eggs.

I marinated tempeh for this weeks lunches: we’re trying to cut down on the meat, but I am determined that its still going to taste good! Marinated tempeh in spring roll wrappers it is.

And I cooked down ten fresh and gorgeous tomatoes, adding spices and wine and homemade meatballs. Dinner for at least one night this week!

When everything was done, and tonight’s dinner was still waiting to be started, I sat outside on my deck, turning my face to the sun.

I am acutely aware that very, very soon, my afternoons of sunshine will be gone.  My garden-fresh foods will disappear under a layer of ice.  My casual soaks in the hot tub will be replaced with a frantic run between the hot water and the house.

Everything comes to an end.  Even this wonderful summer.

And so I am stocking up on everything I need to get through another long, cold New England winter.  I am stocking up on love for my class and on jars of fresh tomato sauce.  I am freezing fresh and local peppers and corn, and making refrigerator pickles out of those crisp and delightful little cukes.

And I am writing down the memory of a perfect September Sunday, so that I can pull it out in February, when the winds are blowing and the noses are running, and when winter feels as if it will never ever end.