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The Day Before

Jr in our happy place

 

 

I used to write.

Constantly and continuously.

Like breathing in and breathing out.  I wrote.  In journals and blogs and letters and cards – long essays and stories; short perfectly crafted emails; for pleasure, for introspection, for work.  My life was filled with the beginnings of ideas jotted on scraps of paper or margins of more formal notes for work.

My entire understanding of the world came through how I wrote it down.

But I have realized – completely – I don’t write anymore.

 

In March I sent in the deposit for a membership to the local private swim and racquet club that I had been saying for years we should join.  I told no one – not The Mr, not Jr., not Dr Sissy or my parents.   I just filled out the membership, got the confirmation, and held it in my head as a signal that I believed better days were coming.

And the school year ended – summer opened up for us like a blooming carpet of possibilities, leading us to find a new level of freedom in the outdoor spaces Colorado does so very well.

With few exceptions, Jr and I found ourselves at the club every day – weekends were marathons with fully packed coolers and gallons of SPF used.  Weekdays he would amuse himself around the house until I wrapped up my workday and we found our way to our favorite table in the late afternoon shade. 

It was our happy place.  Our safe place. There in the uncrowded expanse of the pool deck, with space to spread out and ample access to snack bar soft pretzels,  we could frolic fully without sacrificing our care of the work and the warnings from Dr Sissy and BIL and all of their medical professional counterparts who were (and still are) pleading for caution as we navigated our newest version of “normal.”

There were other activities too – lunches on the patio of our favorite local haunt, backyard happy hours with our favorite winery friend, and long weekends for Jr and The Mr spent with my parents at their condo in the mountains while Binky the aging wonderdog and I enjoyed the silence of a temporarily empty house. 

It was supposed to be our in-betweener summer.    “Outside good, Inside bad” was the motto, and we felt like we were so far away from the previous summer spent circling our little neighborhood and floating our tubes in the extra large backyard paddling pool.  We were on our way to Jr returning to school safely, and in the meantime we were just lounging in our little oasis – me refilling my mimosa while Jr practiced his front flip off the diving board endlessly.

Life was good.

But it staying that way wasn’t in the cards, was it? I started to see the worry and hurt overtake my sister and brother-in-law on our frequent Duo calls again.  Nervously glanced at the calendar as the first day of school crept closer. Did my best to temper Jr’s concerns about upcoming changes in his world.

I have been blessed with such a kind-hearted kid. Actually, I would bet we all have – kids are amazing, aren’t they?

He wants to know everything (sometimes he thinks he already does,) and he wants to try everything and he wants to show people how to care about others.  Which is awesome, but is also a lot.   Goodness knows as a grown up, I certainly haven’t found a way – so instead we took advantage of every last minute of summer we had together.

The day before the school year started, we found ourselves out in the center of the pool, Jr on his watermelon floatie, me whirling him around and around playing “washing machine” as he likes to call it.

I spun him away, laughing and waving as he floated just out of reach – and he momentarily stopped smiling and paddled back quickly.

“Mom – don’t let go.  Spin me and spin me – but hang on.”

And so I did – and there we were –  just him and me hanging on to each other – laughing and spinning in the sun and willing time not to move and stretching the moment out into forever.

I knew I wanted to write about that moment – to capture it and keep it and hold a piece of it.

But I don’t write anymore – because writing it down won’t keep tomorrow from coming, won’t let me protect him or anyone else I love. Won’t make the world kinder or the truth less terrible than it really is. 

And because like all who are not entirely consumed by selfishness, and like our world itself, I am forever changed.

Still, somewhere in my mind and my heart – him and I are spinning alone together in the clear blue water, sun on our faces, not letting go.

 

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Mother of a day

Mothers’ Day is interesting as a concept…. And even more interesting as a reality. (Amirite, Moms? Where my sisters at?)

I always talk big about it in the lead up – “Mothers’ Day is coming, so maybe you can get your own stuff together in your Lacrosse backpack and give mom a break this weekend, eh?” “Mothers’ Day is tomorrow, so how about if you wake up in the middle of the night, you head straight to Daddy’s side of the bed and let Mommy sleep this once, maybe?” It’s Mothers’ Day, so how about when you see NeNe and Pop pull into the neighborhood, you come right back in from playing with the neighborhood gang and wash up so we can have brunch without me having to belllow down the street like a loon?”

This is all pointless. This will not happen. This is just not how things will ever be…..

Bright and early last Saturday morning, Jr trotted off to walk Binky-the-wonder-dog with The Mr, and when the Mr. and Binky returned, Jr did not. He was off on his scooter or skateboard or bike, playing with his friends. No Lacrosse prep made for his practice and game later that morning. No no no.

But later that day, when him and I were having our typcial mother/son Saturday lunch date, his little freckles were blinging away as he gazed up at me and I kinda forgot that we had a total smackdown about getting all his crap to the field earlier…

And much later, in the wee small hours of a newly-begun Mothers’ Day, at 1-something a.m., Jr did NOT direct his attention to his father’s side of the bed… instead he trolled around until he found me – not on my side of the bed, but where I had decided to stay after falling asleep on the sofa in front of the TV in the family room. He woke me out of a dead sleep by sticking his pale, wide-eyed face as close as he could, and tapping me ON MY FACE and then I demonstrated to him just how high an aging woman can jump when provoked. I confess I started my statement to him with “oh buddy no no nope, it is dad’s turn, bro!” Then we went and he made me wake The Mr to lay with him, because getting me up = good, getting dad up = not. (Side note, I still did it, and I slept the sleep of a woman who made a good damn choice, yo.)

At the exact crack of dawn (ok, it may have been 6:30 am, BUT STILL,) Jr was up and asking when Nene and Pop would arrive for brunch. Hint – NOT at 6:30 in the dang a.m… Just sayin’.

I swore this year I would keep brunch simple since, while I love to treat my mom on Mothers’ Day, I also love to not have a lot to worry about on Mothers’ Day so this was the spread:

Lox, roast beef, bagels, fruit, and a steady supply of coffee, juice, mimosas, and morning mules.

It was perfect – especially since it did INDEED take much convincing to get Jr to come in from playing outside and sit and eat with us.

Sigh.

I would LOVE to say that when it came time to take mom (dat’s me) out for her early bird Sunday dinner at her favorite fried chicken joint, he came willingly running home ready to spend some quality time.

But lying is wrong, and he was a total pill about it because even HOURS AND HOURS of playing outside isn’t enough at this point. (Don’t get me wrong – playing is good. So is family time….and eating. And not making mom hangry on Mothers’ Day.)

So midway to the restaurant we had to have a “pull the car over and get serious about it” talk from Dad about how the rest of the day was going to go down – and dinner was yummy, though a little bit pouty at times from one side of the table.

BUT THEN – bedtime rolled around and we started reading my favorite book from when I was in 3rd grade (which he will be in fall,) Superfudge.

#judyblume4eva

He was howling with laughter along with me, which was kind of really totally awesome.

And when we had read our chapter of that book, and moved on to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (our current “fall asleep to it book”,) he rolled over, sighed, and fell asleep like this.

And much like the Grinch that is still his bedtime buddy, my heart grew three sizes that day…

Another ride on the Mothers’ Day emotional roller coaster completed without running off the rails, and just like all the best rides it was a total hair raiser that scares the heck out of you, and leaves you grinning from ear to ear at the end.

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overwhelmed.

I can’t remember the last time all the flags weren’t at half-staff.

This is not at all what I wanted to write today – not at all anything I want to have to say.

But it is true.  It struck me, ironically, on the MORNING of February 14th as I drove past our area’s city and county government buildings, and then also by 2 schools.   The flags were half-raised, and I thought to myself that I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen a flag raised to the top of a pole.

We are a nation always in mourning, it seems.  And within a few hours of my trip through town, our mourning would be renewed.

Maybe “compounded” would be a better word than “renewed,” as it seems now to come not in waves that ebb and flow, but instead in quick hailing succession that floods our collective soul in an endless, bottomless ocean.

The deluge is crushing.  It overwhelms.

That is the truest word I have.  It overwhelms me.

Hearing and speaking the truth that in 2018 there have been so many shootings AT SCHOOLS in our country overwhelms me. (Evidently we have reached a place where we also have to split hairs over WHAT TYPE of gun use on a school campus actually qualifies as a “school shooting,” which overwhelms me.)

Seeing my 6 year old not-so-much scared anymore as angry and indignant – hearing him tell me that someone should fix it because “Spiderman says that with great power comes great responsibility” and even he, AT fucking SIX YEARS OLD knows we are falling down on the damn job as country overwhelms me.

Coming to grips every second of every school day from the time  I pull into the tuck and roll hug and go circle and watch him walk toward the school – a little life I have the sworn universal directive to protect with every fiber of my being – that in spite of all his amazing teachers and administrators do, something beyond horrific may happen to him because that is now-more-than-EVER-before a possible truth cripplingly, awfully, and completely overwhelms me.

It makes it hard to leave his sweet, sleeping self in bed each night after our chapter of Harry Potter, so I lay in the half-dark of his superhero night light, watching him so quiet and calm and begging every power in the universe to protect him.

It steals my thoughts during business calls – leaving me wondering what he and his sweet little classmates are thinking and feeling and doing during their days –if they are safe physically, but also if any hearts are hurting, or feelings are ignored….

Or if any of the multitudes of intricacies that make up the growing little people in his class and his school are maybe going quietly unnoticed or being harmed  – and what can I do, and what can we as community do, and a country, and why are we not talking about it, and WHY THE FUCK ARE WE NOT ALL SHOUTING ABOUT IT EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL OUR KIDS DAMNIT WHY WHY WHY!?

So yeah.  I am overwhelmed.

Scared, and angry, and sad, and confused, and desperate, and mortified, and tired, and brokenhearted, and in pain, and incensed, grieving, and raging, and lost…

Overwhelmed.

But fighting.  For him, and for always…Fighting like hell.

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The hugeness of ordinary. 

Tomorrow Jr “graduates” kindergarten…

Yesterday he started intensive swimming lessons in a building that I remember being a department store.

This week my social media “memories” keep reminding me that 5 years ago I was saying my final goodbyes and leaving our treetop brushing condo for the last time, and pointing my packed Keri-mobile toward the town we had selected.

The town where I was raised.

I’m going to tie this all together, I promise… stay with me here.

Time passes.

Amirite?

Time. Freaking. PASSES.

And the version of me sitting, this afternoon, in the present-day, in my newest (and still unnamed) MUV, waiting outside of the school to get Jr after his last full day of kindergarten?  Well, she was scrolling through Timehop cooing over pictures of younger days in her kiddo’s life when this came up:

Today… 5 years ago today, after a particularly (shameless) emotional last night spent in wine-soaked bitterness deep reflection, I walked out the door of a home that had meant so much to me and to our little family, for the last time.

It was SHIT timing to see that particular gem, people.

The bell was going to ring, and I was about to walk, FOR THE LAST TIME EVER, and pick up the kiddo who in this family is THE kiddo, from kindergarten for the last time.

EVER.

Just like that time I shut the door to my beloved (though outgrown) Tree House for the last time.

EVER.

So I hiked down the grassy slope toward the kindy playground in a blurry haze of ridiculously-ill-timed but totally appropriate tears, and waited for my ginormous son to emerge from the door where I had dropped him off a pretty-much-pre-schooler just a few months ago.

He is fairly used to my being misty eyed, so he just handed me a paper light-saber he made with his friend and told me he didn’t forget his jacket as he burned stride-rite rubber  up the path away from the school.

He ate his snack and added to the Lego world he is building in our family room while I stared at him more than my spreadsheets for the next hour or so, then it was time for us to leave for his swimming lessons.

When I was growing up here (yep… right here, in this town, where you’ve been back for 5 years so get over it, Keri,) I took TONS of swimming lessons.  I was a TERRIBLE pupil.  I was scared of everything.  EVERYTHING.

Until my mom abandoned the lessons we had been plugging away with, summer after summer, and tried a totally different place.  With teachers who were supportive but still firm, and a bit of a different approach.

BOOM,  I was a fish. You couldn’t get me out of the pool. (You still can’t get me out of the pool in the summer.   Pool good.)

After several rounds of typical rec center lessons for Jr, I am after the same water epiphany moment for Jr, so I signed him up for THE swimming lessons that get results in our area.

It isn’t your typical pool – it is a fancy-pants situation built just for swim lessons, and it is in a shopping center that has been around as long as I can remember.

Actually, it occurred to me today (of course) that it is in the spot in this particular shopping center where a location of a small Colorado department store called Eakers used to be.  Where my mom used to take us to get school clothes and birthday presents for family and coats and all of that… Where my sister and I probably picked out bathing suits for swim lessons when we were Jr’s age.

If you are thinking that this thought made me tear up AGAIN while in the observation area of my kid’s swim class as I also saw him finally stop fighting his back float in his teacher’s arms – you are clearly catching on to my uncontrollable blubbering unique sensitivity.

Because Time, effing passes, people.

Department stores turn into swimming pools, hometowns get left, and sometimes returned to, babies become 1st graders, and a million other insignificant-yet-everything little changes connect our pasts and our futures and on and on into forever.

 So I guess it’s just another “no big deal except everything” kind of week in Keri-land.

Pass the kleenex and the wine. 

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Six.

 

six

sigh.  SIX

So last month Jr turned 6.

Six.

S.I.X.

I still can’t wrap my head around the concept.

Don’t get me wrong, he is every bit the 6 year old, all full of energy and sass and silliness, and sucking up knowledge like a brain vacuum clad in an ever-rotating sheath of superhero wear.

But still…  He’s just a baby, right? I mean – he was JUST a baby. In his itty-bitty baby-wear, cozied down with me in his nursery all dozy and smushy and sweet….  He was JUST a toddler.  Clinching his tiny little potato-fists as he teeteringly ran around the back yard collecting rocks and referring to himself in the not –quite-correctly pronounced 3rd person. (“Coo-Cur fill bucket with rocks, mama.”  OK buddy. Andplusalso please never stop saying that.)  He really was JUST my tiny little guy.  And now he is an almost-1st-grader, leaving me in the dust on his two-wheeler with no training wheels needed (Hey – he beat me,) and just generally being a super big boy.

So this year when we talked about what kind of birthday party he might want, he wanted “just friends mom!”

Oh.

(We compromised and had grandparents too – a decision which saves my mommy butt a bit later in this fateful tale.)

So, after closing my eyes and saying a little prayer, I sent out invites to 6 of his little buddies with the words “parents welcome to drop off, or join in the fun” included.  On Purpose.

Um yeah – they ran like the freaking WIND from our lego-birthday-décor-laden house that day, people.

Straight up – I felt the breeze off their backs.

I don’t blame them a damn bit.

And anyway – it would be FINE, right?  I mean come on- one kid couldn’t even come, so it was 6 boys including Jr.  I had lego-themed activities to do, there was cake to be eaten, and presents to be opened…  It was only 2 hours – it would fly by, and I was totally prepared.  No Problem.

Um.

Problem.

So each of them had 2 little lego guys and accompanying cars to assemble, and we all got together around the table so they could get started.  The first set was tough for them, and I thought I was sitting pretty – PLENTY time consuming and yet entertaining for them, it seemed.

BUT WAIT.

They. Got. Faster.

The second set went super fast for each of them, and suddenly we were moving into “guess how many legos are in the jar,” a good 20 minutes or so before I had hoped to.    Plus, there was yelling.  EVERY COMMUNICATION from 6 year old boys in a flock is apparently done at MAX volume.

The Grandmothers must have smelled my fear – both have backgrounds in education, and they swooped in, offering the cheddar bunnies and veggie tray to the kiddos and creating an on-the-fly coloring contest while I regrouped.

Cake was eaten and gifts opened in what MUST have been record time, and then we ushered everyone outside to play (and yell some more) in the back yard.  It immediately started to gently rain.  We did NOT immediately go in.

At the two hour mark, parents (looking relaxed and refreshed,) returned to collect their offspring, now happily attempting to build the tallest structure they could from Jr’s collection of duplo blocks.

Jr looked happy, the Grandmas looked tired, and the house looked like a nursery riot had broken out.

So I guess that = success.

But hear me now people.  Believe me.

Next year? Next year we are going to the damn skating rink.

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