Third grade

February 24, 2012

I was up at 4:30 this morning. That’s a little earlier than usual, but I do like to wake up before dawn. I need an hour of unscheduled time in the mornings before I do anything else. Usually I spend that hour drinking coffee outside in the darkness, looking at the moon and the stars, talking myself down from my various disasters and anxieties. Once I put my thoughts in all their right places, I am ready to wake up the children and start our day.

Some morning sessions are stressful. Sometimes they start in bed, and I spend most of the morning talking myself out of bed.

This morning was a particularly helpful morning, though. As the twenty threads of thought wound themselves around each other, I caught a passing thought and brought it into focus. It was a thought that surprised me, and I had to spend some time examining it more closely.

“At least she’s almost safe, we’re almost there,” I had thought to myself.

???

“She” is my youngest daughter, who will turn nine years old this coming summer. And pretty soon, she will be safe from the Horrendous Things that happen to little girls.

Her age is important to this thought process. She is in third grade. She is 8. Horrendous Things happened to me when I was in third grade, things so Horrendous that I have spent decades erasing the memories.

And that might explain some of my responses to the life stressors from the last few years in my life.

2009 was a big year. It started with a job loss that ended my career as a librarian. My health was seriously compromised in a dramatic fashion. And also my father died. That was three years ago. I’d like to say that I’m picking up the pieces now, but in actuality the pieces are still falling. I have developed an arsenal of skills to cope and have found love and peace in delightful places with extraordinary people. But I have also been isolating my daughters and myself from the world that can and will harm us.

Significantly, my oldest daughter entered third grade in 2009.

I have spent the last three years fiercely protecting myself and my children. I didn’t need to do it like that. But that’s ok. I have hope for the future.

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Fern frond

October 17, 2011

A childhood memory:

I was with my mother in downtown San Diego. We were always riding buses back then, to the hospital for Mom’s prenatal visits, and to visit Jim.

It was rainy. That was unusual, and the streets were gray and shiny. A florist at his stall handed me a Boston fern frond. He showed me the underside, the tiny raised bumps of seeds. I ran my fingers over the bumps and smiled.

My mom let me push the button for the pedestrian signal at the crosswalk. I pushed it 3 times. But then I couldn’t remember if I’d really pushed it 3 times. What if I’d really pushed it 4 times? Then the light would never change. You have to push the button an odd number of times to make it change. So I pushed the button again, just in case. A panic set over me then. What if I had really pushed the button 3 times, and by pressing the button again just in case like I had, what if I had messed it up? So I pushed the button again. I was paralyzed. I was terrified that the pedestrian signal wouldn’t come on, and it would be my fault.

The forward motion of my mom as she moved to cross the street pulled my hand that was in hers. The light had changed. I hadn’t broken it. I rubbed the undersides of the leaves on the fern frond, the tip of my finger tracing the lines of the fern seeds. We crossed the road.

A Few Of Our Favorite Things
A Coloring Book
June 2011

My daughters and I drew a coloring book together one night last June. They are available for sale; the price including postage is:

U.S.A. $2.00
Canada & Mexico $2.50
Everywhere Else $3.00

If you would like to purchase a copy, please Paypal the amount to my account rsdchen@gmail.com

This morning I did some more sewing on the new dress that I’ve been very excited about. I’ve been feeling very orangey-turquoisey-brown lately, and this dress is just the thing to welcome spring. Over the past week I have rearranged the furniture in my living room into a slightly unusual layout. The large low room is now a work room, with tables and horizontal surfaces in the center of the room. The sofa is now unobtrusively up against the front window whereas before it dominated the room and divided it horizontally into task areas. It has become a place to lay out fabric, or to briefly rest while talking on the telephone or having a coffee.

The television is in its own little corner with a rug and a chair. I’m going to make a stack of floor cushions and a basket in which to toss them when not being used – so excited about the fabric pattern and color possibilities! I’ve been enjoying my busy, productive mornings sewing in my new workspace. The room has become very conducive to working.

I spent the afternoon with Emily and Matilda, and then Tallulah also. While still at Johnny’s of Carrboro getting our afterschool snack, Matilda struck up a girl talk conversation with Emily and me. The topic was “how to tell a boy you like him.” I self-deprecatingly described my own poor track record in that field, and Emily tried to be be helpful, with her amazing and genuine intuitiveness. It was an adorable conversation. That’s when I realized what the name of my new dress was going to be. Every dress has a name.

We came home, still with a few hours of golden sunshine remaining in the day. I cleared a path deeper into the thicket of bamboo and wisteria, metal loppers in hand, slogging through in my rubber galoshes and red plaid skirt, gathering dust and insects and god knows what in my hair.

The girls used the bamboo to reconstruct their settlement in my front yard. I’m very impressed by the clearly delineated structures and areas they built with bamboo poles, wood stakes, cardboard trays of pinecones and stones, and stacks of windfallen branches.

Late winter has arrived, and it’s such an exciting time, when the days between cold snaps stretch longer in number. Some days are sweater weather days, and the sun shines, and the air is filled with energy. This year’s blooming and greening is about to begin!

And then at night I shiver in my absurdly orange cashmere sweater and nubby wool hat before curling into the feather duvet and warm quilts for my night’s rest.

Tender is the night

September 5, 2010

I walked back through the door after giving the dog it’s One Last Chance To Pee before going to bed.

Surprisingly, I found a sleepy Matilda on the couch mumbling, “Remember the things that carry across the water? What are they called?” I had been about to go to bed myself, but she hadn’t eaten well that day and her stomach hurt. so I got her some applesauce and pita chips and hummus. We sat on the couch together, eating in the dimness of the half-lit room.

After she had her fill, she asked me to walk with her back to her bed. Instead of helping her onto her feet lifted her up into my arms. She put her arms around my neck. I carried her to her room. As we got near to the bed I softly told her, with calm joy in my heart, “I can still carry you.”

Matilda is a few months beyond her 7th birthday. My older daughter is almost ten years old. She is a leggy, lanky girl, and recently when she wanted me to carry her somewhere, I realized she didn’t fit anymore, she was too long for me carry. I’d had to put her down.

Matilda murmured, and with the tender sadness parents feel while their children grow older, I said, “I can’t carry Tallulah anymore. But I can still carry you. You still fit.”

I tucked her in, and she returned to her dreams of crossing rivers. Leaving her room I felt thrilled that I would have maybe one more year left in my lifetime that I would have a child of mine in my arms so completely. The first child surprises a parent by suddenly doing something more adultlike than before. Every first time she shows a newly-acquired talent I am startled. I beam proudly. A second child, however, reminds a parent of the expiration dates of tender moments, and the fleet passing of time.

Tonight she reminded me that she will soon not fit in my arms. When that time comes, I will have been moved to another phase of parenting, putting behind the time I could hold my baby in my arms. There will be no more babies, and there must be a word in German to describe this, the sadness upon realization that you will soon never enjoy a particular tenderness again.

Each phase has opened, and sometimes, burned, my heart in its own way. What a strange thing it is, to love and care for someone and be wholly responsible for their sustenance, while teaching them how and when to leave you. Parenting is profoundly, sweetly melancholy sometimes.

I recently regained access to all my digital photos, dating back to 2001. I have just started to look through them. These were both taken within a week of their respective births – the first in January 2001, the second in June 2003.

The brand-new Tallulah, January 2001

The brand-new Matilda, June 2003

I love seeing the beginnings of their distinctive features on their wee baby pictures.

Matilda made me a card:

Top 10 Things I Love About My Mom

10. You “make” me nice clothes.
9. We spend time together.
8. You let me play on the compter.
7. You make me “healthy” lunches.
6. You take care of me.
5. You love me!
4. You read books to me.
3. We go shopping togther.
2. You make me you heavenly cookies.
1. You never mind when I burn your toast.

(directly transcribed from her card.)

There were other cards and pictures, and Tallulah made me a mulberry tart. It was a lovely mother’s day visit.

My two girls (on the way to crazy hair day at school last week):