20 years

It was 9:30 in the morning, 20 years ago today.  I sat in the familiar salon chair, my stylist Lisa’s fingers entangled in my curls, pinning and spraying and pinning some more.  I remember feeling worried that my makeup artist was running super late… she had planned to be there by 8:30 and had just called to say she was still a half hour away.  I was frantic at the possibility that I might have to do my own makeup… gasp… and on my wedding day!

My mom had already come and gone, and was waiting for me back at the house.  The ceremony was at 11, and the car would arrive at my parents to bring us to the church at 10:30.

At 10:15, I remember bursting through the door of my house in my flannel and birks, veil in place, hair in cascading curls and face set with more cosmetics than I even owned.  The photographer had been there for an hour, and was more than fussy at my lateness.  One of my one bridesmaids was hysterical over a forgotten padded bra, and another over the lack of her specific shade of foundation.

But, in the back room, next to the air conditioner (which was cranked, combatting the midsummer humidity) I found my Mom, patiently and calmly waiting for my arrival, the eye of the storm.  My gown hung elegantly from a curtain rod, crinoline beside it.   I frantically pulled on stockings and tripped through lace, while Mom’s steady hands zipped and buttoned and adjusted.  After a series of pictures hastily snapped by the irritated photographer, we were on our way to the ceremony.

Our wedding day was perfectly beautiful and memorable.  There was sunshine hot enough to cause rivers of sweat throughout the wedding party, and bursts of rain that caused rivers of purple dye to run from crepe paper streamers strewn across Rob’s white Toyota.  There were mishaps and frustrations, like when the priest introduced us to the crowd as “Mr. and Mrs. Joe DiFiglio” or when Rob’s champagne flute crashed across the table and broke in two during our toast.  There were moments of pure perfection that I recognized as truly special, even in the moment… like when we danced our first dance, when I danced with my Dad, and when Rob and I posed for a picture with three healthy and happy grandmothers.  I remember watching our parents dance beside us, two examples of what we had to look forward to.

We were so young.  I had just turned 23 four days before, and Rob was 26.  We were living in Rochester where I was finishing up graduate school for Speech and Language Pathology.  I had decided I wanted to work in a hospital.  Rob was already working in his field.  We registered for fancy china with gold edging and neutral colored towels that would match our rental apartment’s bathroom.  Our social calendar was packed, and we spent way more money than we had right or reason to on frivolous things.  We thought absolutely nothing about having kids, ever.  We thought we knew our plan.

We couldn’t have known what life had in store for us as we stood up on that alter in a church I’ve since separated myself from.  I was sure I was destined to be a medical speech pathologist; classroom teaching had never entered my mind.  While parenthood was never out of the question, we could not have imagined that three kids (including twins!) would be in our future.

20 years later, today, I’m sitting on the couch with 9 year old Chloe literally perched on my feet.  Next to me, Remi is licking her chops having just stolen/inhaled a cheese bagel off the counter.  She pooped four times on her walk this morning, just to be extra fun.  Madeline is still sleeping upstairs, fully immersed in preteenhood.  I dropped Ben off at goalie camp this morning and lingered a minute as I marveled at the immense length of him as he walked away from the car.  I have a pile of curriculum to read and plan from in my kitchen and a second grade classroom that feels almost as much like home as my home does.  A pile of clean, unfolded laundry and a half refinished coffee table glare at me as if reminding me to finish the projects I start. Rob is at the library, doing a job that he loves, in this amazing western Massachusetts town we call home.  Our lives are full, and we are happy.

We’ve learned so much about life and love in these twenty years…  lessons of gratitude, perseverance, optimism, hard work, and joy. He gets me in a way that nobody ever has… he sees my good intentions but calls me on my bullshit and he pushes me to do my best.  He reminds me to lighten up, I remind him to breathe. Our partnership has never been one of dependence… but I do think we’re more ourselves, better versions of ourselves, because we have the other.

So, today, amidst all the unfinished projects and beside our growing babies, in the middle of our perfectly imperfect, sometimes stressful but always joyful life… I still do.  💓

 

 

 

heartbroken and happy

Today one of my closest friends brought her daughter for her driver’s permit.  She passed with flying colors, and my friend wrote to me that she wondered if one could feel heartbroken and happy all at the same time.

Yes, I responded.

Tonight as many nights, I snuggled three kiddos before bed on the couch.  We watched the Spring Baking Championship and I reached out for them to join me, so that I could hold them… but tonight was different.  Try as I could, I couldn’t figure out how to make my lap, legs and arms hold all three of their lengthening, solidifying bodies.  My body creaked under their weight, my bones shifting and muscles flattening.

How did this happen seemingly overnight?  That suddenly the dimensions of me are no longer enough to accommodate the dimensions of them?  Could I remember the last time I could hold them, really hold them, all together?  Was it two nights ago?  Last week?  For something seemingly so trivial, I could feel my heart ache with recognition… yet another last had come and gone… another step forward and away, as they grow and change.

And so I held them in shifts tonight.  His curls no longer wind around my fingers in perfect baby ringlets, but it’s still as soft as it’s always been.  Her hair no longer smells of milk and baby shampoo.  I can smell the sweat of a workout we did together at the gym this afternoon, mixed with the slight scent of Clearasil.  Her fingers are too long to fit perfectly inside my palm, but they rest beautifully entwined with my own.

I know that these days are fleeting, that they won’t always let me cuddle them, that really I’m lucky they’ll still let me now.  I know that someday soon I’ll be bringing them for their driver’s permits.  So, while I can, I’ll hold  them… in shifts… and I’ll feel my heart swell and break, heartbroken and happy, all at the same time.

Trees

Once upon a time and ending six months ago, our front yard was lined by huge old trees. Ancient relics with twisted, gnarled limbs that disintegrated in the weather, shooting spears of sharp edged branches inches deep into our lawn.

The front yard was deemed a “no play zone”, for fear of passive TBI from falling shrapnel.

The trees blocked more than childhood fun, they also shrouded the sun; our yard comprised of moss and dirt, decaying leaves and two gargantuan rhododendron.

September came, and our town decided the trees should go.  I felt a mix of relief and sadness, happy to lose a potential problem, yet reminiscent for a time that I had no connection to.

One day was all it took, and 4 out of six were gone, reduced to ruts in our lawn, a broken front fence, and pounds of sawdust everywhere.

The last two stood, like elderly soldiers, regal place keepers for the lost.  I think their fate was sealed, for in Autumn they seemed to lose their leaves with increased urgency, and in winter shed their own daggered branches.

Now, they stand withered and exposed, pitiful in their presentation.

Bizarrely, about a week ago we got a notice from the electric company that one should go, given possible impact on the wires.  There was a big blue mark on the front of its bark, and we were thrilled.  We gave permission, but with a request… take them both down, please.   There was no response for several days, until this afternoon.  We came home from work to see they’re both now marked with blue, and again I’m happy and sad.

In the spring, I’ll have a nice clean yard, with grass and flowers and sun.  But I can’t help but wonder who might drive by, and find them gone; sadly remembering that long ago time that I don’t.

An ordinary, extraordinary day

Today I broke the birks out, pulled them from their winter slumber underneath my bed.  There’s still snow on the ground, and patches of ice all around, but there’s also bare ground showing through and the temperature rose above 40.   There’s nothing like March in the Berkshires to bring out the optimist in me…finally, there’s hope for spring!

I had a PD day today to be part of a diversity training session, which I desperately wanted to attend.  As a teacher of second graders in a predominantly white school, I feel like I’m in need of  constantly updating tools to add to my toolkit of how to teach about diversity when there is a lack of (at least outwardly visible) diversity in the room.  The training was phenomenal, and I walked away with many personal insights, A-ha moments, and enduring questions to research on my own.  I love teaching, and I love my days with kiddos, but there is something so special about being in a room full of like-minded educators who want the best for our kids… I left feeling truly energized and motivated to continue the work.

I came home to discover that Maddie’s basketball party had to be rescheduled, and that she was free for the remainder of the evening.  So… I took her to spin class with me!  It’s been a long while since I’ve taken a spin class with my pal D, and it was everything that I remembered it being…encouraging, hilarious, and just a little painful.  This time, I had the added benefit of my girlie on the bike next to me.  After losing five pounds in perspiration alone, I gave D a slippery hug and headed home to finish our dinner of chicken soup with barley, which came out pretty tasty for chicken soup with barley.

Fast forward to tonight, where Rob and I are currently munching on kimchi and beef jerky, respectively…  because Rob “craved something salty” and I am on day 4 of sugar detox (otherwise known as hell).  It’s quiet upstairs, the British Baking Show is on the TV, and aside from occasionally wanting to lick the television screen (it’s the cannoli episode), all is right with our house.  My heart is full, and I am grateful…  and ready to tackle tomorrow.

For the love of God, give me back my hour.

My eyes are so tired I can barely keep them open.  I keep resting them as I’m writing, only to jolt awake to find several lines of kkkkkkkkkkkkk, as apparently my right middle finger doesn’t take breaks.

I’m wearing my glasses because contacts seem like one deployment of energy too many, and I’m still wearing my work clothes because my pajama drawer was hopelessly far away.  I’m absolutely exhausted.

I always have a hard time adjusting to this time change, and this year seems particularly rough.  Maybe it’s due to the same function of aging that gives me my newly fast-growing “glitter-grey” temples, and also required me to acquire multifocal lenses at my most recent eye exam, but I’m not sure.

I’m noticing this difficulty with my children, as well.  Maddie’s been sleeping through her ever-buzzing alarm for a full hour before she gains enough wakefulness to rise out of bed, becoming a cyclone of shower/teeth/clothes/hair all within ten minutes.  Benjamin moans and mutters, then covers his head with a double layer of blankets until I start the inevitable countdown, and Chloe… Chloe, my ball of energetic perpetual motion, fell asleep in the middle of her floor yesterday, clad in half of her clothing, while getting ready for school.

Perhaps as frustrating as the fatigue itself is the fact that Rob seems completely immune to the effects of Daylight Savings Time.    His alarm goes off and he bounds out of bed, launched as if by a catapult.  He does what he needs to do, and there is very little complaint.  Like a spectator at a circus, he watches me frantically pulling on socks and mismatched boots while I struggle to organize my perpetually disorganized life through my newly expanded brain fog.

He smirks to himself.  I have semi-violent thoughts.

‘What must it be like,’  I wonder.

When heartbreak becomes hope

Tonight I sat in the presence of heartbreak and hope ; a quiet witness to pain, an attendant to a growing spark.

Voices spoke of community, and love, disappointment and fear, anger and betrayal.  They were steadfast in their strength, powerful in their sadness.

I felt lost… impotent.  Deep inside I felt the need to say or to DO something…  but in that moment, I just sat and listened.

As I reflect now, maybe that was exactly what I needed to do.  To bear witness.  To listen not just to hear, but to understand.   Maybe in that moment, my voice wasn’t what was needed.

Their voices lit a spark, and now I carry it with me.

Tonight, so many voices spoke of so much pain.   I wish there had been more witnesses there, more ready fuel for the inevitable fire.

 

Things I said “No” to today… and the opposite.

Things I said “no” to:

  1.  An early morning workout.  Because, Daylight Saving’s Time.  Fine…in all truthfulness, because early morning, ever, period.  😴
  2. My birkenstocks, which winked at me from underneath my bed as I got dressed.  “Too soon, friends.  Just a couple more weeks…” 😏
  3.  A surge of guilt as I drove into school Re: lack of workout, again.  😒
  4. One of my second graders, attempting to use the handrail as a slip and slide.🤨
  5. Another one of my second graders, asking to watch the youtube video that goes with an Arianna Grande song she’s dancing to in gym class.  😬
  6. Half of a chocolate glazed donut, which I don’t even like, but which is still a chocolate something. 🍩
  7. Being an obnoxiously loud b-ball mom during my daughters’ games (GO BLUE)💙
  8. A heaping bowl of buttery pasta with cheese, because while it would have made me feel good, it wouldn’t have made me FEEL GOOD.  🍜
  9. Procrastinating until 11:30pm to write my daily “slice of life” blog, hence ensuring that I won’t be one of the last couple bloggers to post at 11:59 tonight. 😁

Things I said “yes” to:

  1. An early morning snuggle with my Chloe, instead of a workout.  💕
  2. My warm and comfy boots, with fuzzy socks to keep my toes warm all day. 👢
  3. A silent drive into work, without music, without Audible, with time to think and breathe.  🔇
  4. A second grader who needed to hear that I knew she could do better, and so did she (And she did!) 👏
  5. A hug for a second grader who needed to know that it’s OK to sometimes have  feelings too big to handle on one’s own. 🤗
  6. Half of a dumb chocolate glazed donut, which I don’t even like, but HELLO?? CHOCOLATE?! 🍩
  7. Cheering for all four teams that played ball tonight, because all of our girls are all of our girls. 🏀
  8. A heaping bowl of spinach and protein, because I know that I need to take care of myself.  🥗
  9. A long, fast paced walk with Rob and Remi, in the sunshine.  🐶
  10. Reading and writing, and thinking and doing, and loving and hoping, and trying.💖