Thursday, May 31, 2007

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

I am not one for bookmarks. I own them, but I never use them. Whenever I get a new one from the library I insert it cleanly into the vertical lines of my over-desk cubby (the one chock-full of thank-you cards without matching envelopes, expired coupons, un-filed pictures and a small Klutz book on juggling.) This cubby holds just a taste of all that I will never get around to doing. Learning to juggle is at the top of the list, but that's another post.

Bookmarks. I don't think they're for people like me. I think they're for organized people...those who read one book at a time, one chapter at a time, one evening at a time. I think such people borrow one book from the library at a time (and quite possibly return them on time.) I imagine these bookmark people yawning at the close of a particularly exciting chapter, even though the heroine is dangling at the edge of a cliff and the crocodiles in the gorge below are snapping their jaws in anticipation.... I imagine this tidy reader settling the stiff rectangle of card stock neatly into the crease of her book and then snapping it shut with a settled sense of satisfaction that I'll never have.

Her bedside table doesn't have a leaning Tower of Pisa book pile, three water glasses and some wadded Kleenex balls littering it. She doesn't cast around, when stopping for the night, for a scrap of paper or an old Reader's Digest open inelegantly on the floor. I do. I rip off the back cover, the one with the drawing of American Life on it. And I place it in my book. And I put the book in a pile of other books, all half-read, with jagged pieces of postage-paid postcards, magazine ads and thank-you note envelopes sticking out of them.

Then I collapse into a deep sleep. Because I could never stop at the end of a chapter. Never. I always stop somewhere mid-way through a chapter, a strategy I adopted from my habit of reading until I could not keep my eyes open any longer. Midway through a chapter, I've found, there is quite predictably a lull in the action, or a long, descriptive paragraph. On these small safe islands I can rest before plunging onward with the crocodiles the next evening.

I love to read. I love the smell of libraries. I love books and people who love books. And honestly I love the idea of bookmarks. They suggest, kindly, that one might want to stop reading sometimes, to go to sleep, or to eat dinner, or to feed the cat. They stand, poker straight, in the free pile at the library, or slip quietly into the paper bag along with a new book purchase, or lie, forgotten, in my vertical file of things that I will never do.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Last Day of School

They're home!

The whole day, spread out in front of me like the unblemished skin of a new jar of peanut butter, is something long gone.

Now it's gonna get crumbs and jelly in it.

Ah, the mess of summer. I love my days alone, so for the life of me I can't figure out this childish excitement that wiggles in my stomach on the last day of their school.

It's something new, I guess. And my life slows a little. They don't sleep in, but they play quietly in their bedrooms all morning. They are outside for a while and then we bring naptime back from the antiquity of their respective infancies, and life is very good for an hour or so. The witching hour of suppertime returns, and boredom appears, bedtimes are relaxed, popsicles show up in the freezer again...

My girlfriend had an interesting dream - she said she had three babies at the top of a hill, and she sat each one at the top and then pushed them gently down. They slid to the bottom of the hill and bumped up gently against a fence that was there. She said to me, "I don't even know who those babies are!"

I said, "Well they are your babies," (she has three adolescent children), "and they're no longer little, but they're still safe with you. You've let them go, but not all the way."

That's how I feel at the beginning of a new season for my children: two third graders, a sixth grader and a freshman in high school! They are my babies, but I'm letting them go, little by little, year by year.

I'm glad that they're home, still within my grasp,
still bumping into that fragile fence.

Welcome Summer!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Buddy Bolts

And he's off!

Someone has left the door to the garage open a half-second longer than necessary, without the required body-blocking of the space to keep our mini dachsund from hurtling himself through and out to freedom.

The entire family explodes from the house - I follow the distressed middle child, who chases him toward the road, not noticing that he keeps looking back to see if she is continuing the game....the girl twin skips along happily with us, slightly worried but mostly excited from the drama, the boy twin is already in the front yard, beelining it, glancing down to be sure his stride is indeed as lightning fast as he thinks he is....the husband trips out the front door and hollers as they near the driveway, and the oldest avoids running over the dog with the mower, jumps off and joins the fray.

From the back of the pack, I yell, "Stop CHASING HIM!" and somehow, after three or four tries, they hear me over their own cries of joy and terror, and stop. Buddy immediately lays down on his tummy and wags his tail, ready to re-ignite the chase with any encouragement. He lays still long enough for someone to pick him up, and when we all turn back, relieved, that's when we see our neighbors up on the hill.

It seems we have achieved a standing ovation in only about 45 seconds this evening! "Yeay for the Show!" they call from their deck. Waving back, I say,

"be back in about a half-hour folks."

and we probably will.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Field Trip

This morning my middle child (squashed between the oldest and the twins), left for Greenfield Village with her father. I was feeling a little queasy at having wiggled out of this one....and every other field trip of the year. How did I do that?

The last field trip I attended involved riding a school bus, and from the moment we rattled down that dusty road, an open window ahead blowing my hair flat, and 60 voices singing something loud and off-key....eating a soggy sandwich in the middle of the grass, trying to keep the plastic from flying away and the bug out of my hair, listening to the chatter of the 10-year-olds and the drone of the presenter at the museum, smile pasted on my face, warm juice-box in hand....I promised myself I would never be trapped like that again. I survived the whole school experience years ago, and I don't want to go back. I really don't want to go back.

But this morning, I felt uneasy. I had spent the year neatly side-stepping those chaperone requests, and apologizing to my dear daughter about my inability to fulfill this particular duty of mommyhood...and with two days left of school I was suddenly guilty.

Momentarily chastened and ashamed of my lack of involvement, I looked up at the husband and offered with a thrust of confidence, "well, next year I may do a field trip..." and he turned slowly to stare at me. He knows me, this man.

"I LIKE this sort of thing," he says.

Well glory be to God. I'm off the hook.