We don’t even have to try,
It’s always a good time.
Owl City—Good Time
My memories of 7th grade provoke a visceral response. Awkward and insecure, I sought acceptance through conformity, applying baby blue crème eye shadow thickly from a lipstick tube, battling my naturally curly hair into something resembling Farrah Fawcett’s, and walking the halls with fake nonchalance, clutching my Partridge Family Trapper Keeper to my chest. None of it worked. I was unpopular and self-conscious. I think it was actually the worst year of my life. So recently, when the necessity arose to attend 7th grade science camp with Sydney, my thought was, “I wonder if there’s somewhere I can get alcohol within walking distance.”
I went, not as a chaperone, but as 1:1 support for my special needs daughter; the school could not provide a 24-hour para for an extracurricular activity. If I didn’t go, she couldn’t go. Short of swapping bodies with my 13-year-old daughter, ala Freaky Friday, I lived the life of an early adolescent for three days.
“Are you excited, Syd?!” I asked, as if she hadn’t been telling everyone who’d listen. Excited was probably not the word I’d use to describe my state of mind, but I steeled myself and climbed aboard the big yellow school bus packed with chattering, giggling girls, their cumulative noise already bouncing off the tin walls of the chassis. Sydney and I squeezed past arms and legs spilling into the aisle until we reached an empty seat. “Whoa, It’s hot in here,” I thought, as I clicked my window down, notch by notch. I wrestled my bag into the seat on the wheel well and anticipated the 90 minute ride ahead. Talking to myself, I said, “You can do this–it’ll be good for the kids,” and with one look at Sydney, I knew there wasn’t a choice. “Mom, take a picture of us and post it on Facebook,” she said, posing with her friends.
And so lying underneath those stormy skies
She’d say, “oh, ohohohoh I know the sun must set to rise.
“Paradise” by Coldplay
~For Richard, Heidi and Gabriel~
It was Sunday afternoon. The weekend that seemed to stretch out enticingly before me on Friday was, for all intents and purposes, over. I sat on the couch, mindlessly surfing Facebook and playing Angry Birds. I had what we call the ‘Sunday blues;’ that restless dissatisfaction that strikes around 5:00 p.m. along with the realization that my vision of a weekend filled with relaxation and leisure . . . well, it’s just not gonna materialize. This happens frequently. My days get filled with grocery shopping, running kids to activities, projects at home, work issues, and other mundane tasks and my fun gets relegated to Saturday night after the kids go to bed, but by then I’m so beat I pass out halfway through a movie.
I felt a coming shift in the weather foretold by a pounding headache that stormed my skull. Sitting alone I looked out the window at the gathering clouds. Malaise settled in as I thought with a sigh how the girls would be home shortly. I’d have to get up from this couch to start the nighttime routine; wrangle up dinner, corral kids into the shower and herd them to bed. I’d go through Friday folders (Sunday night folders?) and look ahead to everyone’s schedules, gearing up for another busy week.
But that was all before I got the news that my brother-in-law had died. Just 45 minutes earlier, while I was lamenting the end of the weekend, he had taken his last breath and given up the battle he’d waged to the finish. He and my sister were separated, but in the end, their differences didn’t matter. The strife and tension between them healed spontaneously on his journey from this plane to the next. When cancer took over his body, she took him into her home and tended to his dying. In the process she found forgiveness and focused on creating lasting memories for her son, their son. He is seven, my nephew; much too young to lose his father. And his father, much too young to lose his life. Read More
Where are you going, my little one, little one,
Where are you going, my baby, my own?
Turn around and you’re two, turn around and you’re four,
Turn around and you’re a young girl going out of my door.
Turn Around by Malvina Reynolds and Alan Greene
Autumn is my favorite time of year and there’s nowhere the season is more provincial than in the Midwest. A tangible chill in the morning air softens the heat of summer and signals a coming change. Seemingly overnight, leaves begin to turn. Variegated branches hint of color that will soon become rich orange, yellow and red, flaming briefly before falling to the ground and creating nature’s perfect playground for jumping children. The farmer’s market yields a spread of eggplant, pumpkin, corn, squash and apples; not only a visual feast, but a culinary mother lode for comfort foods that fill the house with the tantalizing aromas of savory soups, roasted vegetables, freshly baked bread, and apple pie. Thrushes, sparrows and other song birds nest mid-migration, on their way to warmer climates. The days shorten and the pull of the Earth’s orbit around the sun is felt. My own focus gravitates homeward; summer is over. It’s time to go back to school. Read More
God bless the postman who brings the mail.
And bless the cowboys out on the trail.
Bless Mommy and bless Daddy who come each time I call.
God bless the folks I love, God bless us all.
Lyrics by Tom Murray, Music by Tony Burrello, 1953
I took a quiz once to define my priorities in life, listing the three possessions I would save if my house was on fire. The answer was the same then as it is now; family photos are numero uno on my list. And two and three as well, since I would lug through the flames as many albums as I could drag or throw. Now, in the digital age, our collective family history is conveniently stored on my hard drive and I imagine in my panic, I might heave my iMac out the window. It may seem like dramatic heroics to rescue mere two-dimensional images, but these visual reflections of the past not only warehouse and catalogue individual moments, but also activate and develop the negatives in my memory, bringing the people, places, and times surrounding those moments back to life, in vivid 3D Technicolor. Pictures tell stories. Pictures reveal secrets. Pictures frame truths. Irreplaceable homages to what has been and never will be again, they are priceless.
Any fool can do it; there ain’t nothing to it.
Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill.
But since we’re on our way down,
We might as well enjoy the ride.
Sliding down, gliding down, try not to try too hard.
It’s just a lovely ride.
James Taylor—The Secret ‘O Life
I don’t always recognize I’m headed for collapse until, speeding down the freeway at 100 mph, dashboard warnings flashing, I veer off the road to make an emergency stop. I’ve gotten so good at disregarding my maintenance lights, by the time I realize I’m in trouble, I’m already sputtering and careening; out of gas, overheated, or worse, out of control, crashing and taking out everyone around me.
When we moved from Missouri back to Austin, Texas in 2003, circumstances combined to create a fusion of indescribable stress that will go down in Kent family history as The-Time-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named. Every member of our family was a hot mess; Haley, 5 weeks old, a textbook example of a colicky infant, emitted a type of banshee wailing that could literally wake the dead, and was silenced only when nursing (constantly) or sleeping (rarely). Sydney, 4 years old, with modulating sensory integration issues, experienced overstimulation, auditorily and otherwise. She was confused and jealous. Her ‘elopement’ was at an all-time high and, thanks to a very ambitious preschool teacher, potty training had begun in earnest (it took two years to fully train our sweetie and it wasn’t the potty that was so much the problem). Let that image crystallize for a moment: Clingy, wailing infant on the boob and pooping-in-her-britches toddler on the run. Read More
To watch us dance is to hear our heart speak ~ Hopi Tribal Saying
My daughter Sydney is turning 13. Thirteen. As in teen-ager. When she was born with Down syndrome, we couldn’t have known that watching this beautiful creature grow from infancy to adolescence would be astonishing, but considering that ten years ago we nearly lost her to pneumonia, it becomes positively miraculous. She would have remained forever a cherubic 2½ year old, arrested in toddlerhood, innocent and unchanged. It causes my chest to constrict painfully when I remember the weeks she spent in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, when I realize how close she came to dying. But, to our great relief, she didn’t. She stayed with us. And she’s no longer a baby. Through preschool and potty-training, through primary school and pre-pubescence, my long-legged, lanky daughter, emerged, poised on the cusp of puberty. Ready or not, world, here she comes. Read More
Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away! Dr. Seuss By the time Sydney was born I knew firsthand how quickly babies grow up. The journey away from their mothers and towards their own becoming begins with the first breath. I knew that my job as a mother was Read More
The way I walk I see my mother walking, the feet secure and firm upon the ground. The way I talk I hear my daughter talking, and hear my mother’s echo in the sound. The way she thought I find myself now thinking, the generations linking in a firm continuum of mind. The bridge of immortality I’m walking, the voice before me echoing behind. by Dorothy Hilliard Moffatt
The hostas are coming up; tiny shoots penetrating the soil and unfurling, the coils of their leaves break the earth in a luscious green array. The newness of each eruption symbolizes advent, a beginning. Winter’s end yields to a yawning genesis of pure potentiality; at its origin, the verdant metamorphosis of a living thing is simply breath-taking. And sensual. It is the caress of a gossamer breeze across the face; the warmth of sunshine on skin; the lyric birdsong of nest-makers in flight. It is, too, the delicate scent of a newborn’s hair inhaled, the soft curve of a cheek traced, the exquisite beauty of a child’s form realized. Senses awaken. Life, lying dormant, regenerates. From nothing, something. This is how it starts—the dawning of spring. The cycle of a human life.
My Grammy died a few months before Sydney, with a full head of copper hair, was born. My fiery Irish matriarch of a grandmother called me ‘love,’ drank Olympia beer from the little cans and quoted A.A. Milne. She was the first person I loved to die (“Don’t say ‘pass away’ when I’m gone, FOR GOD’S SAKE. I’ll be DEAD! Say, ‘She died.’”). I was bereft she wasn’t there to hold her great-granddaughter, but the significance of one life ending and another beginning wasn’t lost on me. Ancestral generations come full circle and begin again. I must fade so my children can blossom.
Sister, you been on my mind.
Sister, we’re two of a kind.
Oh, sister, I’m keepin’ my eye on you.
‘Miss Celie’s Blues’ from TheColor Purple.
My little sister thinks I hung the moon. Even though I tortured her when we were young—literally—to this day she affords me hero-worship of which I am entirely undeserving. And when she’s in pain, I still find myself wanting to make everything better though she’s across the country and not in the next room. 2,000 miles separate us now and our visits are too few, too far between. The reunions are bittersweet. Even still, after a few days together well-worn patterns resurface. I can be controlling and bossy. She tends towards flighty and irresponsible. But we have the same nose. And thighs. We laugh at the same jokes. We share memories of times both good and not so good. When we’re together we are children again and neither time nor distance can alter that connection. Sisters; the love/hate bond of this relationship is like no other, making it one of the most sustaining to span a lifetime. Read More
Simple, profound truths come in quiet moments. They descend gently in the warmth of a setting sun. For me, it’s an altered perception, a shift; when time stretches and slows, and epiphanies unfold in brilliant clarity. My daughter, Sydney lives in those moments.
Life moves fast and some say time itself is speeding up. The efficiency of our amazing technological advances allows for rapid, immediate digital interactions but rather than creating more space in our lives, it generates a frenetic, frenzied pace as we move faster and faster, trying to do more and more. As a mom I’ve certainly succumbed to the pressure of technostress. The conveniences intended to make my life easier actually increase the expectations I place on myself until I am perpetually, chronically, frantically busy. I’m weary of hearing my own response to the question “How are you?” “So busy. Crazy busy! But great!” And I mean it; I love my life, but too much doing, not enough being resulted in everything going out and not much coming back in. Before I knew what had happened the joy I felt in living was shrouded by the responsibilities that living demanded. Read More