Ease on down

I am the mother of three children. It’s a point of pride for me, my parenthood. I laud it as the hardest job I’ll ever have, yet fulfilling in its own peculiar ways. And fun, most times. But hard. Did I mention that parenting is hard?

My children are now 18, 16, and 8.8 years old. So, if you’re doing the maths that makes me 42.8 years worth of wise as I learn the art of parenting. Perhaps by the time I am 100 years parenting wise, I’ll be pretty good at it.

As you might imagine, raising two independent teenagers and one ultimately special guy, we have some great family moments and very funny stories to share. And some poignant, heart-moving experiences that we hold close. That’s family life, right? We are a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds and sensations; keep turning us ’round and you keep making vibrant images of light and color. There’s always a story to tell in this house. This is one.

16-year-old Emma took her drivers permit exam yesterday. And she passed. (Yay, Emma!). After our 2 hours of waiting fun at the Motor Vehicle Division we walked out to the car together, she a little giddy at holding a freshly pressed permit, and me a little proud that she’d knocked it out of the park with the test.  We drove out of the parking lot and then, a few minutes later,  I pulled over on a side street and swapped her places in the car.  She sat in the driver’s seat and adjusted her seat and mirrors. Anxious, giggly, with a tint of additional emotion, Emma pulled onto the road and drove. It wasn’t necessarily her first time at the wheel but it was the first time to be ultimately responsible for both the car and the journey.

Starting.

Stopping.

Starting again.

My baby girl established her presence in the driver’s seat. And though the road is long, she’s on her way.

I couldn’t be prouder.

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Where the heart is

If  I am part of your feed, it may shock you greatly to see this pop up in the reader. I’m not sure I’m sure about what I’m doing. Or how long I’ll be doing it. Again. The one thing I do know is that my fingers are itchy to write, so that is what I shall do. Right here.

Quickly, here’s the sum up. We’ve moved. Again. This time a full circle return to the very place we left six years ago. And by very place I mean VERY PLACE. We are living in Phoenix, Arizona in the SAME HOUSE we lived in before. That’s a bit of a story in itself, and it’s one that might be told here soon enough, but for now that’s what you need to know. I am teaching, the kids are schooling, and my man has returned to the world of the courts.

We are living in Arizona.

We are home.

That, perhaps, is the very thing I wanted to write about: home. If you’ve read me much, you’ll remember that I’ve oft expressed the way my writing takes me where it wants to go, far and away more often than my own thoughts dictate the course of the essay. I am used to it. The only thing I know to do when my fingers itch is to get my fingers to a keyboard and write. Here I am.

This is what I’ve been thinking about.

Home.

In recent years we, as a family, have had a few of those. In a few places. Houses of loveliness and practicality, one which we still own in addition to this one where we live. In six years there have been six houses–or dwelling places–on two continents, in two countries, two states, and five cities.  Each with their own stories and adventures attached. And, here’s the interesting bit, we’ve been home every time, in every house. Yet, I proclaimed at the start of this piece that we are home here. And while I am sure there are many who’ve waxed poetic in a variety of ways on what makes a house a home, I think I’d like to add my thoughts.

Because I get it.

Home is not a place. Home is a heart state. Meaning, when you invest yourself in the locale, the culture, the neighbors, and the whole experience of the place you live you find yourself at home. For me this is a most defined effort to create and sustain a people community. I like people. I need them. So, whether I am living near my dearest friends, finding new friends in a new city, reuniting with people from my past, or even connecting with those friends I’ve not yet met in the flesh, I know that where my people are, that is where I am home.

Arizona, Missouri, The Netherlands; it’s all the same. Home is what I carry with me.

The house location just doesn’t matter.

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For two

The kettle is whistling on the stove, making its plaintive cry of boiling-boiling-the-water-is-boiling, as the steam races from the spout. I love that sound. For me, it’s the reflective recall of dozens of lovely tea memories. As a child, in a non-tea drinking household, the whole concept of tea was a bit foreign, though I did my best alongside my sisters and friends to affect a proper tea party with our miniature dishes and stuffed animal party guests. I discovered tea as a drink proper when I reached my teen years and began sipping herbal concoctions and felt altogether sophisticated for doing so. In my early adult years I was lovingly chided about my lazy-tea preparations, and then instructed in the proper way to brew, prepare and enjoy a cuppa by a Londoner lost in the desert southwest. I do love tea, even when I’ve lapsed to the lazy microwave-warmed-water-teabag-in-a-cup preparations.
When we arrived here to this midwest home last summer and did our shopping for the essentials we needed whilst waiting for our shipment to arrive from The Netherlands, I bought a kettle. It is a cherry red, metal, stove-top kettle with a handle and spout. It’s my favorite kitchen appliance. As it whistles today, I watch the steam rise and listen to the song it sings, and I see the metaphor of my morning tea. As the water pours over the teabag today it occurs me that in order to make it work you have to jump right into the hot water. Jumping in headlong allows something to be released; then something wholly new  presents.

I’ve struggled lately with my feelings of displacement, homesickness, and the touch of lonely I feel here. I understand intellectually and conceptually just what it takes to move and settle into life in a new place. We’ve done this before, we’re simply doing it again. But as I watch the steam rise gently off my cup as I write it’s suddenly very clear to me:  the time has arrived. It’s time to jump in, release the fear, find the new and drink it in.

Time to share a cuppa with a local friend.

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My-my-my-my generation

“Woah! White out? Who uses white out anymore?”

“Um. I guess people who don’t have a word processor with a backspace”

“Uh, what’s a word processor?”

“You know, a fancy electric typewriter”

“A typewriter? Oh, mom. You’re old”

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What you will

The truth is, there aren’t many moments in my life where I am without words or thoughts to share. Not many, no, but  there are a few. And in those times it’s not as if the words have dried up, or the thoughts don’t flow. It’s more that there just isn’t time to chase them to completion and align them into coherent structure.  My mind runs chaotically, directly counter to the way I wish it did.  If I could design it, there would be nothing but linear logic flowing out. Instead, what I’ve got is a convoluted water slide structure where tubes cross but never connect, waves splash wildly, droplets disappear into other designs, and it’s never, never quiet.

Reflection of the way I was raised, possibly.

I am the third of six children, my entrance into the world just four years prior to the dawn of the 70’s. That puts me smack dab in the middle of my 40’s this year, in case you’re wondering. After two boys, I was first born girl and following me are two sisters and a final baby brother to round out the even-steven three boys, three girls family. A family of six rather individual individuals. Among us, there are dancers, musicians, actors, writers, teachers, bankers, therapists, and craftsmen. Some of us are all of those things.  Not one of us is a particulary quiet person.  When the six of us began gathering mates, dates and spouses, the common theme in response from all of those “outsiders” who would soon join us, was the response of just how big, and loud, and warm, and overwhelming , and wonderful it is to be among us.  It’s a fact and an unchangeable one at that.  Truly, I didn’t know what still and quiet actually meant until years after leaving my family house and discovering the joy of such a place inside me and without.  I don’t say that to knock the noise and wonder of living it all out loud, but only to mention that the quiet has merit of its own.

So, I’ve been quiet here. You may have noticed, and even if you did not, I’m telling you so now. Quiet can be good for someone whose water park thinking had stayed open round the clock past the season. It’s not a shutdown, just a visit for maintenance. I’d say all kinds of things here about the whys and the wherefores of this feeling like neccessity, but that tends to make me sound as if I’m whining. Whining, I don’t do, if I can help it.

Writing, though, that I will do.

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Whistle stop

I stepped into the entrance hall of my high school with some measure of trepidation. An odd, surreal, sense of familiarity and ultimate strangeness mingling just past the place I could grasp and hold it. The sensation that my long ago memories and my current self were about to collide was almost overwhelming. Still, I placed my hand on the door, swung it open, and walked in.

I was a train wreck in high school. Long before derailed by a history I keep on the secret side, and bruised by the bumps and jolts in my journey, I was no more ready to take the passage through those years than a newborn is ready to walk. What I didn’t know then, but am beginning to understand now, is that most of my fellow passengers felt the same way I did. Each of us off track yet hurtling full speed toward our future selves, having no concept of what that future ‘we’ would, or could, be. In those years, barely 15 to barely 18, day-to-day survival was my only focus. I had no sense of a marked plan or even a destination, but merely held on with white knuckle grasp to make it through the dark tunnels of growing up.

I attended high school in a posh area of Salt Lake City in the early 1980’s. There, at the beginning of a new decade attempting to define and separate itself as different from what came before, I stood, feebly attempting to understand who I was and what that meant anyway. Define me at that age? Impossible. Scared spitless and feeling remarkably out-of-place inside my own skin, the idea of fitting in or finding a niche was something which fully eluded my young self. I went to class (sometimes), I socialized in the corridors, I participated in activities–some of which I even loved, but more than anything, I just didn’t fit. And more importantly, didn’t know if I wanted to fit. But that last, mostly, because I didn’t know how to fit.

Surrounded by kids who truly seemed to have themselves together, I was in awe. So, I floated. From group to group, philosophy to philosophy, habit to habit in an attempt to try it all on, assess the comfort level and push through my misfitted self toward a sense of belonging. Somewhere; anywhere.   The dominant religion of Utah has a strong cultural base and, without making this about that, it must be noted that the social nature of my high school was steeped in that religion. My actions for or against that organization had impact on how I meshed (or didn’t) with peers and how I felt about me. God guilt, I call it now. And it guided me then, or trapped me, depending upon perspective.

But, here I was in the hallway of my school, this place where I spent my days talking, laughing, crying, and angsting as I passed through years of growing up, uncertain what I was growing toward. Now inside the building, I grabbed my sister’s hand as we entered the auditorium and looked for a seat. We settled into a row and wiggled out of our coats, then followed protocol and set our mobile phones to silent. As I sat there, in a room which was exactly as it has always been everything–EVERYTHING–came rushing back.  Suddenly, the very middle-aged me, was only 17 and back in high school.  As I sat with my sister and a few old friends that evening I was caught up in the rush back in time moment. We whispered together, and giggled, and, yes, because it’s 25 years gone, we also texted as we sat side by side in those rickety padded theater chairs.  The overriding sensation which carried me along that night was the distinct feeling that this was exactly where I belong. Surrounded by friends who knew me when, yet love me still, I had a place.  I felt attached and grounded in that experience, most especially as after the whispers in the dark came the confessions over coffee that he felt out-of-place in high school, and she felt like she never belonged, and they felt like, well, like train cars hurtling toward destinations unplanned and unfathomable. Like me.  

In that experience, I see something precious to hold.  My train car is attached to others now and has traveled along many tracks. It’s (I’m) weathered, worn and marked by the journeys taken, but, and hang with the analogy here,  the settling onto a track, and getting the groove set in  wheels which would carry me forward, that all happened then. Way back then, at a time and a place where I was undefined and my plan to advance in my tracks indefinable. But it happened; in whispers, in tears, in laughs, and in grating angst. All of it prepping me to leave the station and ride forward, to this point, without looking back.

I would submit here that I still haven’t a clue where I am going, but that the lack of objective doesn’t mean lack of purpose. It also doesn’t mean that the jolts and bumps of the track don’t throw me and bruise me a bit. Though I might, however, wonder at the boredom of a smooth ride.  What I don’t wonder, is just how I made it through the rubble. That, my friends, is by grace of my friends. Those folks whose trains ran alongside mine, whose chug and rhythm I can still hear in my ear. I came of age there, with them. At an age and stage of confusion and feeling lost in the vast train yard, I was carried along. It mattered for this train wreck of a girl to feel rescued from her own fear. Aware or not of what they were doing, my friends did that for me then, and do that for me still.  

Here we are, now, each of us making good time on our own journey; none of us stuck or at a standstill, all of us marking our path in a purposeful way. I sense that the steady hum  and repetitive clack-a-clack-a-clack of  strong, well worn wheels which carries us, individually and collectively forward, will be with me a long time coming.

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