Tuesday, April 17, 2012

just want to be sure of you

Any morning that does not have TV as an option brings Anya to me first thing. She comes over for a hug, often wordless or with a short ‘good morning.’ She might not even lift her own arms but just lean into me with absolute trust and love and need. It is one of the best times of my day and I try to be available to it immediately. When I see her coming, I drop what I’m doing: quickly wipe peanut butter off my hands, or put the mug down unsipped, or close the laptop. She is totally and completely mine in those moments, needing to feel herself against me just as urgently as when she was a baby. But I know there is an important difference. When she was a baby, I could finish making the sandwich, sip the coffee, or read to the end of the email and she would still be there, waiting for me, needing me. But this new adolescent has other resources available to her, and if I am not ready for the hug, she won’t wait. Off she’ll go to her music, her books, her journal, her sister, her friends.
I treasure our ritual hug for what it is; a safe start to the day for us both. Once we’re sure of each other, we’re ready for the rest.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Artifacts of life – my favorite coffee cup

I found the cup under the sink in my classroom. All sorts of junk had been left behind from the teachers who previously occupied this space. I put the cup up on the counter, assuming someone would come by to claim it. After a few weeks, I put it back under the sink, still believing that no one would leave it behind, that they would come back and claim this lovely gift.

For gift it was; must have been. The perfect size: not too big that your coffee would get cold before you drank to the bottom; not too small that you were constantly revisiting the pot.  The bottom is wide enough so you don’t worry about it toppling unbalanced each time you put it down. The brim is just the right thickness to avoid unsightly dribbles down your chin when you take a quick gulp. I hate those mugs that are so think all you taste is ceramic on your tongue.

Not a mass-produced Disney souvenir, but hand-made in Poland, according to the stamp on the bottom. Brush marks show on the blue painted handle. The pattern around the outside is unevenly stamped. The blue reminds me of the English imitation Canton China we had at every New England museum I’ve ever worked with. The green is mossy in artful contrast.

When I left that school, I packed the mug with my things.

Drinking coffee from this mug on my porch or at the kitchen table makes me happy. Not deliriously, laugh out loud happy, but short sigh, slight smile, ready to face the day happy. Coffee tastes better. Words come easier. Laundry is less burdensome.

There is a danger to placing too much value on the stuff of our lives. There are a few things, though, that are brought to us to add joy or peace or to bring energy. I’m grateful to the forgetful teacher who left such a treasure behind. I like to think that she wasn’t actually forgetful at all but consciously bestowed a gift to an unknown soul who was continuing the work she had started.

And, I am grateful to this coffee mug, for starting my day off well. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Artifacts of life - empty cous cous container

An empty cous cous salad container
The evidence of a poor diet and a poorly organized day. No time for preparing even a simple meal, I grab a prepared side dish from the grocery store deli and call it lunch. Is this an artifact of a dedicated writer’s life, not taking precious creative time for something as mundane as a meal? That does sound better than what it is. Makes me a romantic outcast, dealing with only the most basic artifices of my suburban life and stealing time for rebellion. I like the picture. But the picture is crap.
 Here’s my day. Woke up a few minutes after my 12 year old daughter and pulled some pants on. I checked in with her, let the dog out, made coffee and fed the dog. It took me a few minutes to calculate the time I had left and the tasks that had to be completed before I could write up a schedule in my head. Make the kids lunches, gather all my stuff for the day in my bag, get dressed, then go pick up my friend’s son and drive him and my own daughter to school for their early band practice. Calculations made clear that the shower would have to wait, but that I should have just enough time to wash my hair before I needed to get daughter number two to her chorus rehearsal. Having to drive a forgotten lunch box to the middle school threw a wrench into the works, but an unexpectedly available husband got the gears untangled again. I made it to the office 10 minutes before my first student was scheduled to arrive.

After a morning of giving writing advice to 18 year olds, I headed to the grocery store, eating into my planned writing day. Still, I went aisle by aisle and got the fixings for a healthy family and even remembered to stock up on the soft tissues since everyone has been sniffling for a week. I put the refrigerated items away, left the rest on the kitchen table and came out to the porch with my plastic tub of cous cous and started writing in response to prompts by John Dufresne. Now, near time for Thea to come off the bus and my mind is back on family track – have to walk the dog and get my exercise, do a few loads of laundry, put the rest of the groceries away, wash dishes, sweep the family room, send a card to the newlyweds, wrap a present for Greg’s co-worker’s new baby, make dinner for the family, and do some prep work for Friday’s class. But I have a few minutes before Thea arrives, so I’ll just write about it, instead.