Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Makings of a Good Day

There was nothing particularly special about the day, other than the fact that both my husband and I were off from work. Given that we usually only have one day off together each week, I guess that was enough in and of itself to make our day special.

Our plans included running a few errands and attempting to catch up on some things around the house that had been neglected due to the aforementioned work schedules and the general exhaustion that hit whenever we were home. There was definitely no excitement in our plans for the day. Fun was going to have to wait.

My mom needed us to pick up a few things for her, and Costco seemed the best place to get them. Costco is a dangerous place for us: we can't ever seem to leave there without adding a few hundred dollars to our credit card balance. This time we were looking for something in particular, so we should have headed straight to that section of the store, picked up what we needed, and proceeded directly to the check-out line. That is, of course, exactly what we did not do. Instead, we wandered up and down aisles, my husband asking which big screen t.v. I wanted to buy, which computer, which i-Pad. He must like hearing "no" an awful lot.

As we turned down yet another aisle we didn't need to, I spotted a floor lamp. We had recently begun redecorating our bonus room upstairs, the idea being to turn it into a "man cave," a decidedly masculine room where all the males of the household could hang out. We had made good progress, but I had mentioned that I thought we should get a floor lamp for the corner by the sofa. We had yet to find one, however, that appealed to my husband. This one, standing in the aisle of Costco, I thought might actually work for our space. I pointed it out to my husband, and he agreed. So, we added the box and another $50 to our cart and continued our search for more things we weren't planning on buying.

Later that afternoon, I walked into the man cave to find my husband and son Jack putting the lamp together. Once fully assembled, my husband put it in the corner and plugged it in. I felt absolutely giddy with happiness! One more piece of the puzzle had been put into place.

It's silly, I know, to get so excited about such a minor thing. It is, after all, just a lamp. But it was the perfect lamp, just what we had been looking for when we didn't even know exactly what that was. 

I guess sometimes that's the way life works; you find just what you need when and where you least expect it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Back Seat Book Club

"Good to see you!" my son Jack greeted me cheerfully when I went to pick him up from after-school care.

"Good to see you, too, my son!" I leaned over and kissed his forehead while simultaneously trying to find the right page to sign him out. I consider myself fortunate that at 11 years old, Jack still doesn't mind displays of affection.

"You are exactly one hour and three minutes early," he declared, looking at the clock.

"I'm glad you feel that way," I said, steering him toward the door. "I was feeling a little guilty that I didn't pick you up earlier."  I was already on Spring Break, so there really had been no reason not to pick him up. 

"I'm sure you were busy," he magnanimously replied. 

"Um, yeah. I was busy reading."

"Then I totally forgive you," he said.

Thank goodness he's a fellow reader! 

Knowing I had a receptive audience, I proceeded to launch into a detailed description of the book I was reading that lasted all the way to the car.

"That sounds like a good book," he said once I finished.

From there, our conversation naturally led to a discussion of the Harry Potter series, which is what he is currently working his way through. As I drove to the high school to pick up his brother, we continued to talk about books, one reader to another. Who needs to join a book club when you have your very own personal book club in the back seat of your car?

We arrived at my older son Jared's school early, so instead of circling the parking lot until he appeared, I pulled into a spot to wait. I handed Jack his copy of The Goblet of Fire that was sitting on the front seat and pulled out The War That Saved My Life from my purse. There we sat, two readers lost in two very different worlds, yet bound together by our love for each other and the magic of reading.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Failed Compassion

I saw you 
sitting there in your truck
in the middle
of the empty parking lot.

We were there
by chance,
switching drivers,
my son taking the wheel
for the short drive home.

You didn't notice us.

I sat still in the passenger seat,
watched you
rub your face
and wipe at your eyes.

Were you in pain?
Were you trapped in a memory
that would not let you go?
Were you waiting for a sign
of better days to come?

I longed to be
the kind of person
to get out of my car,
to reach out,
to ask,
"Are you okay?"

But I am not courageous like that.

Instead I sat 
and watched
and wondered
and felt.

We drove away,
leaving you there
my heart silently breaking
for your untold suffering.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Dinner Party

I said I didn't want to go, but I did. 

We arrived at my son's friend Michael's house on time and walked resolutely to the front door, trying not to think about what the next two hours might hold in store for us. We rang the bell and immediately a cacophony of children's voices rose up from the other side of the door. Michael opened it, and we walked in. Not an adult in sight. Hmmm. There was still a chance to turn around and make a run for it. 

Subconsciously, we must have decided to play nice because our feet carried us further into the house. Michael's mom appeared at last, greeted us, and led us to the kitchen where her husband was busy with dinner preparations. He was standing at the sink, back turned toward the room, and he remained that way for quite some time. Even my introverted self thought it was strange that he did not turn around and greet his guests, especially when he was meeting us for the first time. But who was I to judge? I hadn't really wanted to come; perhaps he hadn't really wanted us to come.

The evening had all the earmarks of being awkward at best, downright painful at worst. We stood around the kitchen island making small talk about I don't know what with the wife as the husband did his best to ignore us. It was going to be a long two hours.

Then Alex appeared.

Michael's family thankfully had invited another family to dinner. More people meant less burden on me to carry on a conversation. We learned rather quickly that only the dad and son had been able to come as the wife and daughter were sick. (Or were they? It's not like that excuse hadn't crossed my mind.) It didn't matter. With Alex's appearance, the evening was saved.

While introverts may not be great at talking, they are rather adept at listening. Put an interesting person who likes to tell stories in the mix, and the introvert is going to be put at ease. At least that's how it works for this introvert. And Alex filled the bill.

Turned out he was an artist. Not just an "I like to paint in my free time" kind of artist, but an actual painter who made his living selling his artwork. He told of many of the places he travels to selling his art and showed us pictures of his paintings on his phone. Born in France, raised in Canada, he seemed to have an unlimited supply of fascinating stories, which took the pressure off of me. All I had to do was listen. And listen I did.

Fortunately for me, our conversation filled up our time, and the game playing that had been threatened in the invitation was successfully avoided. We all had children to get to bed at a reasonable hour before school the next day, so we said our thank you's and murmured "we had a lovely time" before bidding adieu and scurrying out the door.

So, the evening I had been dreading turned out to be a pleasant one. Sure, I felt a bit inadequate after listening to Alex's stories, but I had enjoyed the stories nonetheless and appreciated being in the company of someone whose life experiences were so different from my own. At one point in the evening, someone mentioned being in awe of people with his kind of talent, to which he replied, "Everyone has a talent. It's just a matter of finding it."

And, of course, recognizing it when you do.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

But I Don't Want To

I don't want to go.

I feel terrible, even just typing the words. But those words have been circling around in my brain every since I accepted the invitation.

I don't want to go.

It wasn't like I didn't know the invitation was coming. There was that offhand remark made when she came to drop off the Girl Scout cookies I had bought from her daughter.

"We should get together for dinner and games some Sunday night," she said.

"Sure. That would be fun," I responded. I didn't really mean it, but what else was I going to say? There she was extending an offer of friendship. Who was I to shoot it down? Besides, people say things like that all the time and fail to follow through. 

Then the text came. We didn't have plans, no valid excuse to say "Sorry, would love to, but we can't." There was nothing to do but accept. 

But this is sooooo not my thing. A friend posted on Facebook yesterday "6 Things Introverts Hate." Every single one of them - crowds, talking on the phone, noise, social gatherings, being told "you're too quiet", small talk- described me perfectly. Yet, here I am now gearing up for an evening filled with noise and small talk at a social gathering of people I don't know well. That's pretty much the definition of hell for me.

So, why am I going, you might ask. The answer is pretty simple. I am going for my son. The woman who invited us is the mother of one of his friends. He has had several play dates at her house, something I've never been good at setting up (see the list above), and they seem like a nice family. My son enjoys spending time with his friend and seeing his face light up when I told him we were having dinner with Michael's family made all the anxiety worthwhile.

I don't want to go. But I will. 

Two hours of extreme discomfort seems like a small sacrifice for my son's happiness. And who knows? Maybe I'll surprise myself and have a good time.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Small Victories

The email was just one line long. Sometimes that's all you need. One line to attest to the fact that what you are doing is somehow making a difference. 

The desire to make a difference, after all, is what prompts most of us teachers to go into education in the first place. It's easy, though, to feel like you're missing the mark on most days when you live in a world that measures value only by test scores. Some of the most profound progress a child makes doesn't show up anywhere in their precious data.

Sometimes it appears in an email from the speech teacher:
A. told me he would like a different speech time because he doesn't like missing writing...
It was just one line long, but it felt like a victory nonetheless.

Friday, March 16, 2018

I Could Have Stayed

I could have stayed
and watched those two ducks 
swim across an impromptu lake
bathed in sunshine too weak to chase away the cold.

I could have stayed
under pale blue skies bordered with menacing gray,
your warm hand tucked comfortably in mine,
content just to be.

I could have stayed
wrapped safely in the moment,
the rush and noise of the outside world
dimmed to a quiet hush.

Yet, obligation called
and dutifully my footsteps carried me away.
Oh, but how I wished
I could have stayed.