School’s Out Forever

I won’t even regale you with the traffic I must repeatedly suffer through each morning as parents slow down to drop their kids off at school, often not bothering to pull over to the curb. It’s ghastly. I have a small window of opportunity, about 15 minutes, in which I can get in the car and make a mad dash for work, but if I miss it, I’m toast. I might as well throw in the towel.

To give you a better picture, I have a K-4 elementary school that is catty-corner to where I live, a middle school two blocks to the south, a high school four blocks to my north and another school, just for 5th and 6th graders, is due west of me, somewhere between the public library and the rec center. Which was all well and good when my own kids were in school, because you couldn’t beat the convenience, Lord knows. After all, it was great for my kids to be able to walk to school and not have to pay the extra fees for them to take the bus.

But now?

FullSizeRender-3Well, these schools are constant reminders of what I no longer have: young children to see off to school each morning. Little kids who need me to pack them a lunch, help them with their homework, or help them memorize their lines for a play about the California Gold Rush days. Nor do I need to provide assistance in creating a miniature replica of one of the California missions or fashion a doll to look like an historic figure such as Louisa May Alcott, who was once my daughter’s choice for the project.

The schools presence in my community remind me that I no longer need to help my son create a scrapbook album of his favorite author, James Ellroy (“The Black Dahlia,” “L.A. Confidential”), who shocked us all one day by phoning my son in response to a letter he’d written the best-selling author, as part of his school project. Oh, and I no longer have to help edit such letters.

I no longer receive invitations to see my kid’s class do a square dance recital that ends in mayhem and laughter, with the parents joining in for a rousing finale. I no longer get notices that the Scholastic book fair is coming to town and go with my kids so we can all experience the wonder of browsing through the selection of new books.

Nor do I get the excitement of learning my child’s been moved to a math or English honors class. And no longer do I have to buy all the supplies needed for the first day of school or for sixth grade camp. I certainly don’t need to make sure my daughter makes it on time to after-school gymnastics, Hebrew School or Girl Scout meetings. Those days are over.

As another school year draws to a close, I realize I’ve graduated from all that. It’s all in the past for me. And right now, there are parents, whose children are in the class of 2015, who are seeing a chapter in their child’s life come to a close. As Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” would say, “Sunrise, sunset.”

But there’s one thing I still have, and that’s my memories. For as I walk Henry and Oliver to the park, and pass the elementary school that my daughter once attended, I am overcome with memories. Hearing the peals of laughter and shouts from the children playing outside on the blacktop, I close my eyes, and for a moment I pretend I hear my daughter’s laugh among the din. She is there once again, a child filled with hopes and dreams. From the distance of my mind’s eye, I can see her immersed in play with her friends, running and skipping about, filled with a joyful innocence. And secure in the knowledge that no matter what, the schools will be there to teach the children, to mold them, to motivate and inspire them to become upstanding citizens of the world.FullSizeRender-1

In this moment, I hear the youthful voices loud and clear. The children who are there now, and the children who were there before them. They’re all there once again. My daughter, my son. Perhaps your children, too. As long as these schools surround me, they will be there. Always there in my heart, remaining forever young. Continue reading

Happy Birthday, Mama

Happy Birthday, Mama

Happy 90th, Mama.
I wasn’t ready for you to go. None of us were. But the hard part–and it was achingly, stabbing-pain hard–was that by the time you died you were already gone. Alzheimer’s had stolen your memory, your thoughts and your good sense, leaving you vacantly confused, and the light in you snuffed out. Continue reading

The Road Taken: Euphoria

I have a plastic container. I keep this container burrowed in the back of the closet that I share with G. It is mine.  One of two filled with letters, poems and countless journal entries. G and I have been married almost two years now. He is still steeped in graduate school, classes, research, late night study groups.  I am a graduate school widow. I might as well be single and living alone.

We left the treehouse for a two-bedroom condo in this place.

G and I had moved out of the tree house and into a condo we’d purchased in the Northgate area, about 10 minutes north of the campus.  Fifteen in traffic. It stresses him to be so far from the school, since he has to be there all the time.

But it is our own place, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, on two floors. What more could we want? On this particular Saturday, G had left early for the lab, as usual, and I am organizing. One of my favorite pastimes.  I pull out my containers to see what I can trash, what I can consolidate.  Every letter my mother has written me is here, so are the letters of my friends from school, my friends from Maryland, my friends from camp.  I’ve kept them all.  Even notebooks and composition books from elementary school, I find these hard to discard. My life is in these containers.  Here, too, are letters G had written me when he was already in Seattle and I still in Maryland.  Folder after folder, I open and lose myself, once again, in memories of old friends.  Which is when, I come to a folder marked, simply, “R.”

“R” is for Rick. It has been quite a while since I’ve thought of Rick. Even longer since I last saw him. Two years. And now, I feel my heart aching all over again, for him. My yearning for him hasn’t abated one bit. Here are my journal entries, poems I’d written about him. About us. Euphoric, is how he made me feel. I’d never felt that way about anyone, not until I met Rick. His passion for life was contagious and here on these pages is the proof.  Proof of what we had, of what he meant to me, and what I meant to him.  His notes, his desires.

There are aspects of him I shall never forget. Like the slight Southern twang in his voice.  His honesty and warmth, the love in his heart, and the longing sensation I’d get when he smiled at me. The memories of the days we spent together, so short, so fleeting, still feel fresh. And now, the memories are all that are left.

Rick slipped in and out of my life seamlessly, barely noticed by anyone but me. We were like children, exploring, touching, testing the limits of our senses, in ways I have not tried since. There were no boundaries, no fears. While I may be comfortable and settled with G, I felt challenged and delirious with Rick. Suddenly, everything was new, waiting to be discovered.

I pulled out the journal I’d kept then and opened to a random page, more than two thirds in. There it was. Remember? The one full day we spent together. It was all documented here, page after page of a recollection of a singular, cosmic day where we were as one and nothing else in the world mattered. That was the day we went to the zoo in search of Jimi Hendrix. That was the day I will never forget. A perfect day, and in the end, how I hated saying goodbye.

We met one more time at a cafe in the University District and finally faced our truths: my marriage and his yearning to keep running. Running towards the next adventure. Running to see the world. I wasn’t ready to give up on G, having only just begun, and Rick’s journey, his restlessness was too real, too strong. We held hands as we poured over our words, finding no relief in the conclusion. I held my tears back as long as I could. One last hug, one last kiss on the cheek and one final memory of walking away. Away from Rick, away from joy and the promise it held. Away from me. I watched him leave until he became a pinpoint on the horizon, until I could no longer see him. He was gone and, as I got back into my car, I let the tears wash over me.

And now, reflecting on the day at the zoo, and what happened after I returned home to G, I know I did the right thing. I had already gone too far on that road and needed to return to the one I’d started with G. He was waiting for me, after all.

So, there is only one thing left to do. I gather the poems, the journal entries, and Rick’s notes to me. One by one, I destroy them all.  No trace, no record. Wouldn’t be right for anyone to see this, especially G.

For, G had returned home early the day Rick and I went to the zoo, to surprise me. He was sitting at his desk, his back to me, in the dark, with only his desk lamp on. He didn’t see me open the door. He was quietly playing solitaire, and it made my heart lurch. Is this what we’d come to, so soon after marrying? This was my husband. We were just starting out. I was young. G was young–and so was Rick. And just like that, I knew what had to be done.

As I sat in our condo, with my boxes of letters and mementos, tearing up the evidence, I keep two items:  A short story Rick wrote and gave to me, and a poem I wrote for him about the night we missed class.  All the memories, all the wonder and delight between us, reduced to these two items.

But closing my eyes, I can see once again. Rick. And, there I am, by his side. We’re running, hand in hand. He looks back at me, his face flush with joy as he pulls me along. Almost there! My feet skimming the ground, barely touching. Just around the bend. Feeling light, light and free! We are as one, and we are laughing. Yes! I close my eyes and I am once again, euphoric.


Missed a chapter? Read past installments, by visiting the page, The Road Taken.