Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ten Year Old to Mom

Build me a fire, please
I'm cold
And it's cold
Sit wirh me and warm our souls please
So we won't be so cold.

I'm worried and confused and I don't understand
Anything but back then
I'm changing and it's all happening
Back it up for me please
Or at least tell me it's alright
I won't believe you this time, but keep saying it anyway.

It's not easy and I like easy
Can you just make it easy again please?
I'm asking the fire to please make it easy please again
It can't hurt to ask when it's hard.

When I'm a mom I'll like my cute little baby more than my Me
I know I will mom
And now I'm that Me
And I'm worried and scared and I want to go back
Tell me. Did you?

Were you scared?
Tell me.
Was it hard and was it frightening?
Were you scared and did it hurt?
You couldn't control it and I can't control this
This growing up is hard and not easy.

Sit with me mom.
I'm scared.

Post Script

The Old Man has lost his joix de vivre. It's a familiar sad tale that accompanies the retirement of passionate people who touched lives.

"Volunteer," people suggest. But he doesn't feel much like volunteering because it takes too much courage to sign up for the damn stuff. He won't know what to expect or where to go and godforbid someone should need him and he let them down. So no. No volunteering. He'll just read there in his comfortable chair because it has actually taken the form of his body. Yes. The chair accepts him and the novel washes over him like a warm bath. It takes his hand and transports him for a time.

But the novel had the nerve to end.

He studies his cuticles. Ponders plucking out the hairs on his knuckles. Remembers that those are the hairs that used to get singed off when he built campfires in his youth.

Tea. He'll make some tea. Where is that damn teapot? Rusted out on the bottom. He'll need to use the microwave. Three minutes to boil the water, right? He removes his glasses so he can see the timer. He walks to the window to watch the birdfeeder and wait.

The bluejays bully all the small songbirds. When they aren't chasing them down, they're warning them with their beady bluejay eyes, silently saying I'll come for you if you take a chance. Just try me. And this makes our hero mad, so he taps hard on the glass, hoping to show them who's really boss around here.

But the birds had the nerve to fly away.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


It was the summer of our marriage, and we were living in my parents' barn. Although the horses were long gone, we weren't sleeping in the stalls. They were filled with tractors, old wood stoves, furniture for "some day" and an old race car. We entered the barn through that squeaky old rolling door, but then we hooked an immediate right. There is a tiny apartment up the old rickety stairs next to the hay loft that we called home. I don't recall Peter actually carrying me over the threshold of that place, but it was our first digs as married folks. It had an orange carpet, lots of flies, a kitchenette, a bathroom with a camp shower and a loud water pump that went three times every time someone flushed. This mishmash of a place also had our marriage bed.

My dad was ambivalent about the fact that we were residing in what had always been his Man Turf. He couldn't really forfeit control of his pad, because it had always served as HIS escape. On the other hand, he loved that we were close by, and he loved that he could help us start out. He would make the walk down to the barn at all hours and just "pop in" to say hello or to ask if we'd like him to help us out with anything. At least twice, I had to dive in front of the door wrapped in a sheet (no locks in the barn of course) while Peter zipped up his pants.
"Nope. We're good. Thanks, Dad. We'll let you know if we need anything."

We were in graduate school. We had a golden retriever puppy. We baked chicken in the tiny oven. We went for runs and we swam in the river. We studied some, and we formulated our philosophies about education. We had big dreams in that tiny, crowded space.

When the snow flew that fall, we moved into Burlington. We rented half of a duplex on the main street leading in to the downtown area. There were three (three!) bedrooms in that place, a kitchen, a living room and a bathroom. The pump was quiet. We bought a computer. We grew tomatoes in huge planters on the front porch. We went to the local bars, played pool and rode in shopping carts on the way home. We found teaching gigs, and put our philosophies into play. We had passion to burn at work and at play. We had to swear to each other that we would never play the pouring-ice-cold-water-on-each-unsuspecting-other-in-the-shower game, because it was completely out of hand. We could hardly sleep at night for the planning and the paranoia. Taping the sprayer nozzle on the kitchen sink to the "on" position was still fair territory though.

Next stop: suburbia. We rented a whole house 8 miles north of the city. It was a collage of a house, made from old barn materials, salvaged lumber, Uncle Fred's this and someone's grandma's old that. It matched our passion with its character. One night we found a cat prowling around in our basement. The down side of this place was that the owners, older hippies who had just a bit of extra sadness, kept all of their discarded junk stored here and there in that house. Their stuff somehow oozed their grief, and I never could quite shake that.

A year or two later, we actually scraped together the funds to put a deposit down on our very own house. It had orange counter tops, hollow doors, a sandbox, and an incredible flower garden I loved. You had to drive very, very slowly as you approached it, as tricycles and red wagons in that neighborhood outnumbered cars. This place wrote the book on cul-de-sac living. I have a lifelong friend from that neighborhood. We brought our beautiful newborn Chloe home to this, our little grey home, ten years and a lifetime ago today.

Whispers of greener grass haunted us there. They would wake us up at night, daring us to venture. We took our baby and our dog and our medium sized U-Haul to Baltimore. We had wanted to challenge our liberal ideals, wanted just a little less predictability, perhaps some more culture. We openly scoffed at those who warned us to be careful what you wish for. In that big, somewhat southern city, we became real teachers. We were robbed. We made more true friends. We brought home our beautiful newborn William to that brick cape we called home. We had four (four!) bedrooms in that home, but sweet Will had to sleep downstairs because there were two up and two down. I wanted him closer. We planted our own flower garden, and tended it too. We buried three family members when we lived there. And our dog. We learned to be careful what you wish for, but also to pursue it anyway. But we needed to come home because we weren't home at that home we lived in for six years in Baltimore.

And now we are home. It's a big happy home not far from a moody ocean. There are five (five!) bedrooms in this home, the floors haven't been sanded since they were laid down in 1927, and the mouldings are spectacular. When we were cleaning out the basement of this happy home we had just bought, we found their teenage boys' porn and a pinch pipe stuffed into an old crawlspace. We have a new golden retriever now, and he loves this home too. We hung a tire swing on the oak tree in the back yard. The mantelpiece is a bit crooked, the kitchen tiles are horrendous, and the old steam heaters need to be repainted, but we have time to fix all this. We've got all kinds of time in this home. Recently, we redid our bathroom, and where the tiles had fallen out and couldn't be replaced, we carefully added our timeless seaglass. All four of us, plus the dog, sleep on the second story. We are a stone's throw from friends we've known our whole lives. My parents are close, but not THAT close. We're home now. Now we're home.

Friday, January 2, 2009

An Introduction

We were on a honeymoon of sorts in Jamaica. It had taken us five years of marriage to scrape together the required cash, so "honeymoon" is a liberal term for it, but we were having the time of our lives. We played on the beach, sipped endless tropical drinks through straws, swam in the pool, played tennis, met some friends, and laughed. This is a very relaxed me on that heavenly trip.

A few weeks after we arrived back in the the still deeply frozen tundra called Vermont (our then home), I felt like I might die. Of nausea. I felt like I was trapped inside a milk carton that had been left in that Jamaica sun for quite some time. Peutrid. I started to barf, and..wait...what the???

Peter was vaccuuming when I told him I was pregnant. He looked at me, blinked twice *blink.blink* and kept vaccuuming. He crossed the floor with slightly more intensity and very straight rows. He frowned and squinted at the rug: no crumb was going to escape HIS hoover!

A few minutes later, carpets cleaned and dust settled, he found his wits and sat down next to me on the front step to help me find mine. Together, we rallied for this new adventure.

Enter Chloe, the beautiful wise baby who would take on the job of raising her parents with endless grace and courage. When she was born she looked at us, blinked twice *blink.blink* and started nursing.

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating: this child was born worldly and knowing. She had compassionate down before I did.

She feels things deeply and delights in all things new. She's a flower child living her life in the twenty-first century. She's "home" when she's ouside talking to the animals, admiring the moon and stars, or riding the waves.

Chloe is a writer and an artist. She finds endless joy in creating. And imagining. She's always wondering.

She has a great sense of humor, too. BOO!

Chloe's going to be ten in a few days. She must be exhausted from all the teaching she has to do for us every single day, but we'd like to think she's proud of her efforts. Molding your average people into parents is a tough, tough job.

Of course she's had a little help for the past six and a half years, but nonetheless, she's done a bang-up job. I'm very proud to know her.