Wednesday, July 1, 2015

This Is Summer

Of all my childhood summers the one that might stand out the most clearly is the summer of kick-the-can. One evening my dad taught a bunch of hoodlum neighborhood kids and his own sheltered daughters how to play the 1950's classic, and for the next few weeks it was all we could think about. The games started first thing in the morning, and I remember being resentful of being forced to eat dinner while the rest of the bunch played on without us just beyond our dining room windows. It didn't matter that the kids we were playing with weren't our best of friends. As I recall it was mostly boys, the same boys who always got in trouble on the bus. When we were running and hiding, yelling and chasing, our differences melted away. Sometimes I'll see one of those guys from a distance, and I remember that summer we were almost, sort of friends.

I wonder what memories will stand out in my own children's minds, the things that stick, things that will stay with them for twenty years and beyond. Afternoons spent at the water park on Tuesday when town residents get in free after four. Evenings spent swinging with friends. Late night Minecraft marathons in a basement full of kids spending the night. Again.

Neighbors come and go. An old friend stops by with her children for a visit before heading down to the beach. We order pizza too many nights. My house just won't get clean. Someone drops off a dozen steamed crabs. We eat far too much ice cream. My kids are tan and bug bitten and in need of a good, long bath.

Friday, June 26, 2015

To Be Known

Our fleet of SUV's and minivans makes its way into the parking lot. We all use our turn signals. Our eyes dart left and right, prepared to break at the sight of a wayward toddler. We are careful people. Outside, children stand with their arms outstretched as they are doused with a fine mist of chemicals used to shield them from the sun. Waxy sticks get rubbed across freckled noses for the same purpose.

These children will be kept safe. We send our sons and daughters to these fields because there is little danger and even less pressure here. No child will shine, but no child will fail. It is a sport without great consequences.

Some children are being dropped off by working parents, a few by grandparents, but mostly we appear to be a mass of stay at home mothers, a fact made obvious by our ill-fitting clothing and fuss free hair. We are practical and styleless. We are indistinguishable. Faceless. Nameless. Defined only by our offspring.

I want to scream that I used to be someone. A person all my own. Interesting and excitable. Maybe a little wild, a little weird. I want to make it known that I am not one of them. I am altogether different. But the baby on my hip, the toddler on my hand, the eight year old with his ball clenched to his side, they tell a different story, a story we do not star in. We are just extras in a giant scene of sameness.

I look at the women who pass me. I wonder if they too want to be known. If they too want to be understood. If they want to be altogether different.

Among them I begin to cling to my flakiness as a prize, as if it proves that I must have other thoughts and desires that keep my mind from catering to my children's every want. I never remember to sign them up for  teams in time, and I am happy to hold on to my Saturday mornings and weekday dinners. This week of camp becomes my oldest son's only foray into the world of organized sports. And I desperately want it to stay that way, but I can feel the pull, his desire to be a part of a team, one of a crowd, a desire I don't think I ever felt, but one which I certainly do not feel now as I dream of wildly fleeing from this parking lot, my children in tow, into the woods beyond the campus, away from these children with braces and mothers with sensible shoes. Away to a place where I am known and understood and yet, still, altogether different.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Group Shot

This is who we are, right now, relative to one another.

Next year, we will be different. Next year, each of us will be changed.

Next year, our numbers may have grown, and these babies certainly will.

We are an ensemble cast, except in the versions that plays in my own head, which I, of course, star in.

 Dunkirk Baptist Church's Father's Day Car Show / 2015

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Our Tribe Has Grown

I have to keep telling my heart that Jettie Blythe isn't mine. But my heart won't listen. My heart has grown to hold her, and my arms constantly ache to hold her as well.  She feels nearly as much a part of me as my own children. I am overwhelmed with the deepth of my love. My mind now ticks through five people, constantly taking inventory of where they are and what they are doing. 

Oh Jettie, I love you so very much. I love your long arms and your raspy cry. I love that you look just like my beautiful sister, and that you will be my youngest daughter's best friend. You showed me that my siblings were not lying; I know now that they do love my children as they would love their own. I never really believed them, but Jettie you have shown me that their words are true. Because my dear wild nice, I love you in a way I never knew I would. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

This Weekend We // Alumni Weekend

I really want to find all the words I'm looking for, the one's that explain how special this place is, how special the people I met there are, what it's like to get to return there year after year, with more and more of my own children in tow.

The weekend makes me feel. Feel everything. All at once. With every inch. It leaves me nearly empty at the end.  I spend forty-eight hours wanting to be everywhere, with everyone, all the time. And I simultaneously want to be with every single person, one on one, alone, somewhere quiet over looking the water, reminiscing, catching up.

If you didn't go to St. Mary's and you're around St. Mary's people, it would be easy to find us pretty insufferable. We are all so damn pleased with ourselves for having gone there, for having found each other.

I have become increasingly disillusioned with the concept of college; as it turns out, a college degree doesn't mean as much as people told me it would. I feel like my generation and the ones coming up behind us were sold a bill of goods. And yet, I would never want my own children to miss out on what college can be. Those years practicing being an adult in the most contrived ways while discussing politics and poetry and art and philosophy with trippy music playing in the background. Best done along the banks of a river surrounded by brick buildings.

Those years meant a lot to me. They meant a lot to a lot of people. We needed them. Need them still. They continue to influence us and to shape us, even after nearly a dozen years since we were in those classrooms.