Our Messy Middle

I only know one way to write. Real and raw. I write about my daughters and our beautiful life that isn’t always beautiful. I write about my aging mother and her gray hair and how sometimes I can’t recognize the person she used to be. I write about a classroom that doesn’t always feel like home and teaching that doesn’t always shine. That’s me, real and raw on the page. 

So I guess when your truth becomes hard and your stories are so raw they hurt, you might stop writing them down. You might stop writing and doing other things you love. You might try to pause your own story.

It is the eve of Easter as I sit typing this. It is Holy Saturday, the day of in-between. The middle of the story.

I sit with my feet propped up in the recliner listening as the girls play in the background. This is a typical evening for the three of us. Them, happy and playful. Me, weary but grateful. I know we’re in the middle of our story. I didn’t want to write about the middle. I was waiting to write the happy ending.

I take my eyes off the screen to look at Maddie and Katie. They’re oblivious to me typing as they play but I’m acutely aware of their presence because they are my beginning, my middle, my everything.

I haven’t written in a long time; we’ve just been living in the middle. But I think this part of our story needs to be told too…the part on the way to the happy ending.

Share your story at Two Writing Teachers every Tuesday.

Maternal Instinct

We had our 3rd Annual Neighborhood Campout this weekend. We stayed up until after midnight and by the time the girls and I arranged our sleeping bags, stuffed animals, and pillows right where we wanted them, we were Tired with a capital T. It didn’t matter that I was on an air mattress in a tent in my neighbor’s backyard, I drifted right into a deep sleep. I slept so well, in fact, that I didn’t hear all the ruckus.

I didn’t hear my neighbor snoring loudly in his tent next to us. It was reported the next morning that the snoring was so loud it sounded like an approaching grizzly bear, but I didn’t hear it.

I didn’t hear Maddie’s friend complaining of mosquito bites, and I didn’t hear her and her mother exit their tent to find itch relief cream in the wee hours of the morning.

I didn’t hear the teenagers creep out of their tents at 2:00 am to sit on the patio and tell ghost stories. They were hot, they said. They needed some air, they said.

I didn’t hear another neighbor come home from his shift as a State Trooper at 2:00 am and come by to check on us. Apparently he came at the exact time the teenagers had decided to venture up to the patio which scared the daylights out of all of them.

And I didn’t hear Tinley, the faithful pup, who also spotted the visiting State Trooper and barked in alarm, running around our makeshift campground like only a good watchdog would.

I didn’t hear any of it. Like I said, I was in a deep sleep.

What I did hear though was the faint sound of our tent zipper opening at 3:00 a.m and the shuffling of Maddie pajamas pants. She was sleepwalking, as she has a tendency to do. When I bolted upright, she was halfway out of the tent, heading who-knows-where.

“Maddie!” I whispered in alarm. “Get back in here!” Maddie turned around and looked at me in a sleepy haze.

“Okay, Momma,” she whispered as came back in the tent and snuggled up against me once more.

I breathed a sigh of relief. That, I heard. Thank God.

Camping

3rd Annual Neighborhood Campout

 

As If

I walked down the driveway towards my car and gave my neighbors a friendly wave. Their kids were running through their lawn sprinkler, shrieking with delight at the spray of cold water. I felt that ache I am growing accustomed to every other weekend, that ache of missing my own kids.

“Miss Dana! I getting wet!” yelled two-year-old Anthony.

“Yes you are!” I giggled in reply.

“Miss Dana?” asked Emilio from his front porch. “Where are Maddie and Katie? Are they with their dad?”

Their dad.

It stops me in my tracks every time.

Their dad. As if he is some removed person, unconnected and unrelated to me. As if he is theirs and not mine at all. As if he doesn’t really exist in this world we’ve created – in this neighborhood, on this block, in this new house. As if he is a foreigner, a stranger.

As if him and I are strangers.

I blinked and caught my breath.

“Yes, they’re with their dad. They’ll be home Sunday,” I answered with a smile.

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Take It to the Trail

There is a 2 1/2 mile limestone gravel trail across the street from our new house. I’ve spent a lot of time on that trail this summer. You see, when we first moved in, I was hurting. There were personal and professional wounds to heal. Many days I took it to the trail.

Sometimes I ran the whole way without stopping, music blaring in my ears, leaving all my anger and hurt behind me with each step.

Sometimes I tried to run the whole way but couldn’t. I would walk for a bit, catch my breath, and give myself a little grace.

Sometimes I jogged, but stopped at the crest of the hill to wipe my tears. Like I said, there were wounds to heal.

Sometimes I walked and talked to my mom. Sometimes I walked and talked to God. One time He answered.

Sunset

Sunset on the trail

Anyway, I spent a lot of time on that trail this summer. That trail holds all my secrets.

Last night, on the eve of starting a new school year as a classroom teacher after nine years in another role, I took it to the trail one last time. I ran the whole thing, no music, just the sound of my feet hitting the gravel.  I thought and I prayed and I ran.

And I felt happy.

The Summer of Yes

This was meant to be the summer of no.

No to cheerleading camp and dance class. No to daycare and camps. No to conferences and workshops and classes. Just no. The girls and I, we needed a minute. It’s been a hell of a year for us, and we needed to catch our breath. We needed to settle in to our new house, our new neighbors, our new life. So I decided to say no.

Instead we spent our time doing things that really matter with people we really love. There were pizza nights and sleepovers and playdates. There was ice cream and after dinner walks and jumping on the trampoline. There were lazy mornings and fun afternoons. It turns out that saying no gives you the space in your life to say yes.

All parties must come to an end though. The summer of yes is ending and yesterday brought dentist appointments, grocery shopping, a pick up at the library, a stop at the bank, and loads of laundry to do.

We were enjoying a late a breakfast and getting ready for our day of errands when my phone binged.

Do you and the girls want to meet us at the pool at 11:00?

I set down the phone and looked at my grocery list. I mentally skimmed the day’s To Do list and considered whether the library and bank would be open tomorrow. I couldn’t.

But then I looked at Maddie and Katie, sun-kissed and smiling from our long summer of yes.

Sure! I texted back.

“Girls, go grab your swim suits.”

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Slice of Life Story every Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers

 

 

Day 31: It’s Like Riding a Bike

Last summer Maddie learned to ride her bike without training wheels. It was tough for her, and she struggled with fear and doubt. She did it though, and we celebrated with kisses and cheers.

The long winter months have left Maddie’s bicycle sitting unused in the garage, so at the first hint of spring I said, “Maddie, let’s go outside. You can ride your bike!”

Maddie was reluctant. She pedaled slowly and swerved down the sidewalk, stopping every few feet to get her bearings. She was unsteady and unsure. I followed close behind spurring her on with encouraging words.

We made it around the block and we were approaching our house when we saw a neighbor who had stepped outside to enjoy a bit of the sunshine herself. I stopped to chat and Maddie waited nearby, perched on her bike seat, her toes keeping her balanced on the sidewalk. I could see Maddie out of the corner of my eye slowly inching herself closer to home.

I guess she became impatient because when I said good-bye to the neighbor, Maddie was gone.

My eyes searched the horizon. There was Maddie, soaring down the sidewalk on her bike, her hair and her confidence swirling around her.

“Maddie!” I called as I ran to catch up. “You did it!” We celebrated, again, with kisses and cheers.

“I did it, Mommy! I did it!”

Of course you did, Maddie. Of course you did.

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Thirty-one stories in thirty-one days as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge at Two Writing Teachers.

 

Day 30: Joy is A Little Trot

My children have filled my life with joy. There have been big joyous moments over the years of course: celebrations, milestones, their first this and their first that. But the real joy, the purest joy, comes in the small moments every day.

For instance, I was standing at the stove stirring a simmering pot of soup when Katie approached.

“Mommy, I’m playing dolls in the basement. The two dollies are on the horse. They’ll go for a little trot, and then I’ll change them into their swimsuits for the beach,” Katie told me before skipping away.

A little trot.

What an interesting choice of words for a five year old, isn’t it? She could have said they’ll ride the horse or go for a ride, but she said they’ll go for a little trot.

I stood at the stove smiling to myself as I stirred the soup.

These are the moments. These are the moments scattered throughout my day which I gather up like fallen leaves. And at night when I lay my head on the pillow, these are the moments that send me drifting off to sleep with a smile.

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Thirty-one stories in thirty-one days as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge at Two Writing Teachers.