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Greta was a fellow teaching assistant in graduate school whose office was across the hall from mine. We had met on the college newspaper staff a year earlier, and although we weren't close friends, we
talk. One morning she burst through my office door and collapsed in a smiling heap on the floor. She then began to tell me--very excitedly--about the night she had spent with Bill, another TA. I thought it was strange that she was telling me and not a close friend, but I guess I must have been the only one around.
I overslept this morning, which has been happening more and more frequently lately. I had one of those heart-stopping moments where something woke me up (thankfully), and I sat up quickly, pulse racing as I realized that the clock said 7 a.m. and not the 6 a.m. it needed to say. My daughter's two-year checkup was scheduled for 9:30, which made my getting up late all the more difficult to deal with. Before I had kids, I never imagined how hard it would be to leave the house on time.
Now I know.
What they say about living in a small town is true: everyone seems to know your business. I grew up in a town of about 5,000--if you counted the outlying areas. My dad came from a large family, and when people found out my last name, they'd usually ask which one I belonged to. It seemed that everyone knew me. Once a cop caught my boyfriend and me parking near the lake, and I was sure that my parents would find out. They never said anything, though, so I wonder if I lucked out and no one told.
I wonder if there will ever be a time in my life when I feel like I'm on the right path. Since the days leading up to the end of my first marriage, I've often felt lost, searching. But how can I ever know for sure if the decisions I'm making are the right ones? I heard someone on television last night say that she never thought her life would be the way it is. I nodded when she said that. I never thought that mine would either: married, divorced, remarried, so many mistakes along the way. Who can know?
My stomach is in knots this morning over the things I said to him yesterday, the way I acted, the things I did. I have so much anger inside, anger built up from so many years of pain and misunderstanding and hurt, and every once in a while, it boils over, bubbles out, burning whomever happens to be there, even though the fault isn't theirs, even though whatever they've done or said may only be a tiny thing, a nothing in the scheme of things. I hurt someone I love yesterday. And I don't know if I can fix it.
I took the night off yesterday. After a long couple of days, I needed to relax. Instead of writing, I watched five episodes of
The Real World: Boston
, which debuted in 1997, back when
The Real World
series was about very different, very real people learning to find commonalities and exist together. From what I understand, nowadays the show is more about beautiful young people with large breasts and six-pack abs who spend their days sitting in hot tubs and drinking. It's not real life--or it's not the type of reality I can appreciate.
Next week at this time, my husband, kids, and I will be leaving for our vacation in Michigan, where we go every summer. I wish we could go more often, but it's a 1,000-mile drive, and with gas prices the way they are, we can only afford to go once. I love going home--I miss my family so much--but I always feel a little cut off when I'm there. I'll only have sporadic Internet access, so I'm not sure yet how I'll post these entries and update my blog. Online life is important to me too.
I woke up this morning with an ache in the pit of my stomach, the kind of pain that comes with the realization that something wonderful will soon be ending. It's an ache that fills me with dread and loneliness and sadness, all premature, yet I feel it weighing so heavily. The suddenness of it all, its imminence, has hit me--slammed into me--and I hurt.
My son starts preschool in the fall, only a few weeks from now, and I'm not ready to let him go. He's always been with me--every moment. I feel lost.
He'd been stalking her Facebook page for more than a year, checking every day to see what she was doing and who her friends were. Each time he breathed a sigh of relief to find that she didn't appear to be dating anyone. Even though they hadn't been together for years--even though he was now married--he knew that seeing her gush about another man would crush him.
He was right. Last week he saw those words, felt her excitement through the lines. His heart splintered as he remembered what they'd had and what might have been.
It seems like things seem to break at the most inopportune times--although I suppose no time could ever be called ideal. Last year we were getting ready for our vacation when our car suddenly needed hundreds of dollars of repairs. We had to buy a van. Flash forward to this year: yesterday, the washing machine broke, leaving me unable to do all the laundry that needs to be done before any family--and certainly any family with small kids--can go on vacation. The repairman will be here today. I just hope the machine can be fixed in time.
Yesterday's repairman visit turned out somewhat well. We asked him to look at two other appliances in addition to our broken washer. He was able to fix the oven, and the dryer is fixable, but the repair isn't necessary. The washer, however, was, in the repairman's words, "toast." He told us the repairs would cost at least $600, so last night, we went to Home Depot and ordered a new machine. It won't be here until Saturday, though, which leaves me just part of one day to get all the laundry done before we leave for our trip on Sunday.
After dinner last night, as the kids played in their sandbox and I sat in a patio chair, watching them and reading, I did something I've since realized I rarely do: I looked up, and for the first time I
saw the sky, the robin's egg blue of it, its never-ending vastness awesome yet comforting at the same time, a mother folding her arms around her child. Birds soared, ascending through the blue, and squirrels leaped from tree to tree, dappled sunlight playing across their bodies.
Last night I realized how small I am.
Growing up, I was always somewhat of a homebody. I attended a college that was only about an hour and a half away from my hometown, and I had no intention of beginning my career too far away from my family. As my graduation from graduate school neared, though, I realized that college teaching jobs were scarce in Upper Michigan, and, finding myself carried forward by the momentum of my friends' enthusiasm for the job hunt, I applied for work all over the country. The result: I was offered and accepted a job in Nebraska, so very far from home.
It's nearly 1 a.m., and I'm still up doing laundry for our trip. We're leaving in a few hours to visit my family back home, and while I'm very excited to see my parents since I go home only once a year, I know that I'll miss my computer time, which seems cheesy to say--but it's true. I'll only have sporadic Internet access for about two weeks, so I guess I'll be writing these entries longhand each day and then posting them all at once when I'm back. It will seem strange not to write here every morning.
About four years ago, my parents moved out of the house I grew up in and into an apartment in town. Since then, they've been working on cleaning out the house, packing up boxes of things--childhood toys, old clothes, school papers--for my two siblings and me, and selling or giving away most of the rest. My husband and kids and I are staying in the old house on our vacation, and as I walk through it, I remember the past so clearly--so many good times--and I realize how hard it's going to be to let go.
My brother is also visiting my parents now. He emailed me to let me know he'd be coming, but he asked that I let him surprise Mom and Dad. They were thrilled when he showed up at their door! We hadn't seen him for three years--not since our parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary.
I don't really know my brother well. He's thirteen years older than I am, so by the time I was in kindergarten, he was graduating from high school and leaving home. We've started emailing each other more, though, and he's planning to visit me soon.
I look around my parents' soon-to-be-sold house, and there are so many memories, so many things I'm going to miss. So much has already changed since I left home: the tree house where my sister and I spent so much time has been taken down, as the boards were starting to rot and the old trees are no longer strong enough to hold the weight. The pine tree I used to gaze at out my bedroom window fell one day, and the marks on the wall indicating our heights at various ages are gone now, faded away.
It feels so strange to be without Internet access right now. I have my phone, of course, but it's difficult to do more than Tweet on a BlackBerry. I certainly can't post blogs or type these 100-words entries. (I'm trying to write them by hand each day so that I can type them in when I return home.) I miss my blog. I write there daily, and to be away from it makes me feel off, like something just isn't right. It's one of those good addictions that one finds hard to give up, even when circumstances demand it.
Today is my birthday--number 39. This next year, then, will be very important, as sometime before my fortieth birthday, I need to decide if I'm going to "hold" at 39. If someone asked me that question today, I'd probably say that I intend to go ahead and own 40. I've never felt my age, and I've been told that I don't look it. Why should 40 be any different? My 52-year-old brother was carded the other day; he was ecstatic! As long as that stuff keeps happening to me, I'm happy to be truthful about my age.
In addition to being my birthday, yesterday was also my wedding anniversary. My husband and I have been married for five years now, and as he said one night last month, those years passed very quickly. I think that our children are probably the reason. They make the days go by faster--too fast sometimes. I don't remember the years flying by like this during my first marriage, probably because my then husband and I didn't have kids to help fill our days. Or maybe it's that we were never really meant to be, and so the days dragged on.
When my sister and I were kids, there was a group of trees out in the front yard that, for some reason known only to her, my sister named "Mr. Tree." The trees were growing in a square, one tree at each corner, forming a room that we would use as our secret clubhouse, although I remember that my sister told her classmate across the street about this supposedly secret place. Once we tried to use sticks and branches to build up Mr. Tree's walls, but the whole process was too tedious, and we gave up after a short time.
Sometimes I wonder if some people naturally carry more guilt than others. I don't want to, but I can feel guilty for things that have very little to do with me. My kids have picked up on this, of course, especially my four-year-old, who knows how to play the Mommy Guilt card in order to get what he wants. He understands the art of the well-timed pout; the teary eyes; the sad, hurt look. I've teased my husband about our daughter having him wrapped around her finger. It's clear, though, that our son can easily manipulate me.
I visited Tim, a friend from college, today. My husband, kids, and I met him at a restaurant in Marquette, one where Tim and I and several of the other teaching assistants used to eat dinner before our night classes several times a month. We also used to go there after class sometimes; order our favorite beers, which for most of us seemed to be Killian's Irish Red; and talk about things like relationships and classes and what we planned to do once we had left graduate school and ventured out into the "real" world. I really miss those days.
It's funny how being home makes me want to wax nostalgic all day. Tomorrow night I'm going to visit another good friend, one that I've known since we were eleven years old. We shared a cabin at camp in the sixth grade and have been friends ever since. We see each other only once a year now, but we try to stay in contact as much as possible. Even though we don't talk as much as we'd like, whenever we
meet, we just pick up where we last left off. That's a mark of a good friend.
We'll be beginning our drive back home tomorrow morning--or probably more likely tomorrow afternoon, knowing how slow we are to pack up our van and say our good-byes. I hate leaving. If I could, I would move back here, but my husband's job and the higher mortgages won't allow us to. I jokingly told my husband today that he can just leave me and the kids here and go on back by himself. I don't think he thought I was being very funny. Still, maybe I can convince him to retire here someday. It's such a beautiful place.
Someone recently started a group on Facebook where members share memories they have of the town where we all grew up. Mostly, the things people share have been fun, amusing stories about after-school jobs, friends, and classes. However, recently some people started posting comments that I think are mean: stories that make fun of some of the town's more colorful characters. I'm disappointed that so many grown people--people who should really have moved past high school antics--are acting this way. I'm certainly not perfect, but I guess I've grown to be more compassionate in my "old" age.
We're driving east on the Ohio Turnpike right now, on our way back home to New York, and we've seen convoy after convoy of utility trucks on their way to the Coast. I can't imagine how it must feel to experience something like Hurricane Irene. Throughout my life, I've lived in places that sometimes experience extreme weather--tornadoes in Nebraska, for example--but I've never actually lived through it. I'm grateful; hearing about all of these storms is scary enough. It seems like more and more of them are hitting--or else the media is just focusing on them more.
We arrived home from our vacation last night, so now that I'm back to a computer, I can type in the entries I've been working on.
As we drove east yesterday and Friday, we saw several convoys of utility trucks going the same way, no doubt because of Hurricane Irene. We had beautiful, sunny weather all the way home, but now the sky is gray, and a strong, cold wind is blowing through the windows. We're about 400 miles from the coast, yet Irene is reaching out to us even here. I pray for those in its path.
I've been back in New York for only two days, yet I'm already homesick. Although I can think of many good things about living in a large city, I still miss the small town I grew up in. Mostly, though, I miss my family. Neither my husband nor I have relatives close by, and that's really a lonely feeling. I'm not the type of person who has a large circle of friends, and even though I've made one close friend since moving here--a friend I would miss so much if she weren't in my life--the loneliness doesn't subside.
My four-year-old starts preschool in a few weeks, and the thought makes me want to cry. I'm not ready to let go of him. He and I have been together every day since he was born.
We don't have family here, and I have a difficult time trusting babysitters, so we've never left the kids with anyone. My husband says I'm being ridiculous, but I don't think that's fair. He works outside the home; he's had practice being away from the kids. I haven't had that. This is going to be hard for me.
I'm so exhausted, and I think I've felt this way since the day my son was born in February of 2007. I thought that going on vacation would help, but we didn't have many chances to sleep in. Children, of course, like to get up early and play, and ours are too young right now to do everything for themselves. So we got up too.
It's true that people need a vacation from their vacation. I need several. I'm going to try tonight to get to bed earlier. Hopefully I'll feel at least a little more rested tomorrow.
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