Mid to late August, it happens.

The back to school flyers weigh more than the news/travel/ and sports section combined.

My 14 year old daughter sighs and shakes her head-“I don’t know where the time went.”

Cunningham pool posts it’s last day. Sunblock goes on sale.
I look up from everything
To wonder how the hell that happened.

The pool might close,
assignments might be due,
but the sales are going to run until it’s time for Halloween.

Summertime is time out. Time off.
A day at the beach. An hour by the barbecue. An afternoon with a good book.

Some time at the park with your kids, grandkids,
or a bunch of dogs you’re babysitting,
spying on them on the swing in the playground,
wondering where the hell time went.

I don’t know where you’re at in the journey,
but I can pass this on.

The beach doesn’t close.
The barbecue doesn’t care if it’s Monday, November, or 4 am.

Cunningham pool shuts down,
but there’s ponds, kiddie pools,
the ocean, the bay,
and the bathtub,
all offering different water temperatures and dining options.

We can move thru life
At summertime slow,
Or fall frantic.
It’s still August, my friends.

No one is going to run out of pencils.

You don’t need to start wearing fall until January,
orange is not on the runway this year.

Revel in flip flops, sundresses, and shorts of all shapes,
until knees are blue.

Stay barefoot whenever you can, have something on hand
in case you want to enter a store, a restaurant,
or have an appointment with a court officer, or a prospective employer.

There are beaches, and the water is warm.
If the sharks bother you-
There are lakes, kayaks, italian ice, baseball, drive-ins, eating outside, eating takeout from the boxes in bed while watching Netflix, bike paths, hiking trails…

These are my summer time things.

I want to say- to myself- as much as you-

It doesn’t have to end because
the bus pass came in,
or a leaf turned,
or your son graduated high school, and all his friends are going to college,
and you want him to get ready for fall.

Summer is here.

It will not leave
until we mark
it in pen
Or email a colleague
Likely to note
it’s expected departure
On the calendar.

There is time
To call your family.
Text your friends.
Light a sparkler. Go dancing.
Sing along to the radio.
Roll down the top.
Roll down the window.
Laugh out loud.
Wish on a candle.
Look at the clouds.
Buy a beach towel that
means something.

Everything else goes by so fast, everything else-

This year,
Let summer last.

We don’t need to infringe
on the Fall season-

those that love the fall,
or make their living selling leafblowers, pumpkins, and autumn colored towels-
I respect their needs too,

I am just asking for a little room
to prepare for what needs to be done
in September.

There is work to be done in September.

This year,
I need a little extra time at the beach,
Before what comes
After Summer
2018.

This has been a dark fall.

There are the regular stressors of back to school/oh my god where the f did summer go?

There has been the gradual, overnight change in relationship with my fifteen year old son. I’ve decided to trust him and, with certain boundaries we are currently in the process of working out, give him provisional freedom. If that sounds like I don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s because I don’t have a clue.

I had tried being a proactive parent-not-friend; “this is non negotiable” coming out of my mouth during every single conversation we had. We were living in a war zone. He felt invaded which is not surprising considering I spent all my time figuring out how to sneak into his snap chat.

We share the house with my daughter, 2 cats, a dog and their father. Whenever my son and I were in the same room, every one else took cover. Cats hid in bathtubs, the dog found sanctuary inside the shoe closet, my daughter actually spent so much time outside cleaning the shed, it’s clean.

But I couldn’t stand viewing my son as an enemy that must be conquered, and wasn’t crazy about being seen as a dictator that needed to be manipulated.

We are currently experimenting with- don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t come home wasted, get good grades… and I’ll leave you alone.

It’s a process.

That was the first week of September.

Last week, I got news a girl from my childhood, a family friend, was killed by her husband. She called the police and told them she was afraid for her life. The police kept her on the phone for two minutes. The phone went dead. Her husband called them back and confessed to killing her, and told them he was going to shoot himself in the head as soon as he hung up the phone.

She was 48 years old.

A few nights ago, I went to the wake of a five year old girl that died of leukemia. The little girl was in an open casket  Her twin sister sat in a chair twenty feet away, playing with dolls.

The weather has been hot and beautiful, with September breeze and cobalt blue skies.

I haven’t wanted to get out of bed in the morning. I’m grieving for summer, the days when all I needed to parent was an agreed upon curfew and a secret stash of gummy bears, a good nights sleep, the rise of Donald Trump, the little girl playing with the doll five feet away from her cold, cold sister, and my friend, Laurie.

Sp this weekend, I went to the pond with a friend, and we swam across and around, and then across again. I sang along to the radio with my daughter on the ride home.

I took her and her friends to the dance, and listened to them chatter in the car afterwards, like I might find the meaning of life and how to go on inside their discussions of what happened in the Gaga pit, who likes to dance, who is going to be what on Halloween and how old is too old to dress up as fruit. It was decided that a person is never to old to dress up as fruit.

I took a different bunch of kids to Nantasket Beach today. We were the only ones in the water- it was sixty degrees. I dove under a wave, the cold stole my breath, I sprung to the surface and tilted my face to the sun. We laughed a lot, loud, enjoying how the people on the beach building castles, looking for lost phones or sea glass, looked at us. We were swimming in late September. We were laughing and diving and waiting for the tide to roll in. We wanted waves, real waves, to ride on our bellies, till we flopped on the shore with sand on our face, in between each toe, in the lines of our neck… But the tide didn’t come in and we were hungry.

We ate pizza and ice cream and came home.

This morning, “Somewhere over the Rainbow” came on, sung by the Hawaiian boy while he plays the ukelele.

My daughter let out a sound when she heard his voice, and ran to me. “That is the boy that died, mom, that died because he couldn’t breathe, because he was too big.”

She shivered. I reached over, I pulled her close to me. I put my arms around her shoulders and we stood still and swayed to the beautiful sounds of that boy singing that beautiful song.

I held onto her, she held on to me, and we listened. For a few moments, we were all in it together, I knew it was going to be all right. Never the same, times even harder and sadder are sure to come, but as long as there is someone I love around to hold me while we listen to Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s promise that “someday, over the rainbow, bluebirds, fly…” I’ll remember how blessed I am to be sharing this corner of the world with the people I love.

When there are no beautiful moments, or good friends, or sweet songs available to lift me up , there are the daily tasks to be done. There is comfort in the putting away of socks in the right drawer, matched and folded, sweeping the kitchen, rearranging the books, and selecting  clothes for tomorrow at work.

It is both the sweet, unscripted moments with the people I love and the sacred, regular rituals that I need that allow me to move forward, in times of grief and loss-

It’s raining out.

The car is wide open. Have you seen my keys?

Scratch that, can you help me find my keys.

I’m not mad.

your homework is in your backpack.

I love it when you rub my back. I’ll pick you up for dance class at 4 o’clock.

Don’t you love that song? Really love that song?

im sorry I haven’t brushed my teeth, I need to brush my teeth before I talk to you?

You need to comb your hair. Not before you talk to me, before you leave.

Where’s the peanut butter?

You took it the wrong way, you’ll see.

It’ll work itself when you see her in school.

I can’t live without peanut butter.

Oh my God- that can’t be true. What. happened.

Have you seen my black dress?  My dark shoe?

You remembered to bring me coffee.

I love you. I wish you’d stop and just think sometimes.

i love you. I love you. I will always love you, even before you brush your teeth.

I Love You.

The other night, Colin was sprawled on my bed, watching basketball. He looked up at me. He smiled. He spoke- “mom, come here. I want to watch basketball with you.”
I swooned.

These are interesting times in our house. With Colin, I am often the source of great amusement, for what I wear, what I know and don’t know, (who is Kendrick Lamar?) and how I text.

Then he wants me to listen to a song he loves, or offers to lend me his basketball sneakers to go to zumba class.*

My daughter is 10. She went to see a teacher got married and needed to ask the next door neighbor for eyeshadow, my selection wasn’t flattering to her skin tone. And while I was making dinner tonight, she marched up to me in the kitchen, in front of the stove, thru her arms around me and declared it was time to snuggle.

I packed up all of Colin’s boy clothes last week. A thousand hats, he never wore one. Fifteen different teeshirts from basketball camp and summer camp and football practice. Little boy pajamas with dinosaurs and fire trucks and skulls.

In the midst of all these changes I’ve been on a bit of a cleaning bender. The hard thing is, Colin is thirteen. Katy is nine. They are used to my bi monthly half hearted attempts to get the house in order. They listened to the speech. They made their beds. They put the clean towels into the linen closet instead of on the floor in front of the linen closet. This all lasted about three days, every couple of months. Before.

When Back To School struck this year, I decided we were going to get the house in order. And that meant all of us. I regard clean clothes perched on the stairs the way I used see Sophie’s poop when she’d been left home too long. Socks in the hallway send me into a frenzy. And stuffing all of the offending articles into the closet and then closing the door doesn’t work anymore either. In the old days, I wouldn’t open the door. Now I do.

And of course, along with Back To School, the New Leaf Cleaning Policies, there are all of the Back to School Activities- swim team, football, youth group, flute lessons. And there is my job. And my other job. And two classes at Quincy college. And dinner, and friends, and the gym.

I have to go to the gym. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been struggling with asthma. Mostly at night. My lungs wheeze, it sounds like I have a choir of Who’s from Whoville singing in my chest. I can’t catch my breath. Yoga seems to help. And an extended time spent in the sauna after yoga helps even more.

It’s not surprising, I guess. My family has started careening forward towards the next part, the part where I have to learn to let them go. I can clean, watch basketball, burn dinner while I cuddle on the couch, zumba till the teacher throws me out, and it’s not going to slow down. And when I do slow down, when I lay me down to sleep, I lose my breath.

It returns. And I go back to sleep, and wake up to the most charismatic of canines, Sophie. Sophie groans when I first reach down to say good morning. And then she wags, not just her tail, her whole body. And she shivers, and sighs, and wedges closer to my body. I know she really, really needs to get outside. Even so she will stay in bed in bliss right next to me until I have to pry myself away and return to vertical.

That’s how things are right now in our house.

*Don’t ever wear basketball sneakers to zumba. Ever. They are incredibly hard to dance in, and more important, they look really, really stupid.

My feet are cold. They are still stuck inside the long, brown, polka dotted boots I wear for shoveling. The socks are a little wet, and the jeans I tucked inside the boots are also a little wet.  This explains why my feet are cold, but not why I’m still wearing the damn boots.

It is the tail end of another “snow event”. In other words, it’s still snowing. In about twenty minutes, I will head back outside in my quest to clear a path along our thirty feet of sidewalk. It snowed a lot, two feet I think, so the walls of white along the path are about three feet high. I am proud to be the one that built those walls of snow, me and my shovel make a helluva team.

Colin and Katy started their snow day out in the kitchen, making pancakes. Katy is nine, Colin is twelve. This was their first attempt at creating a breakfast that didn’t come out of a box or a bag of bread. I chose to stay out of the kitchen,  I stayed on the sofa and listened to the process.  

“I don’t know Colin, do you really think we should add two eggs? The box says to add one.”  “Katy, what did you DO with the spatula?” “Why do you think I did something to the spatula. I don’t even know where mom keeps the spatula, I don’t even know what COLOR the spatula is… Sophie!!!! Put that down!!!”

For about 2 minutes I listen to both of my children chase Sophie the Wonder Pup, as she flies around our dining room, spatula firmly planted between her jaws. Then I hear- “Sophie… treats.” Katy is using her sweetest voice, the one that promises wonderful, wonderful delectable morsels. I almost got up to go see what she offered.

About ten minutes after the spatula was recovered by my daughter’s feminine wiles, and some old slices of turkey, the first batch was done. Colin called out “Orders up.” Katy stood at the refrigerator and asked me- “What’s your poison?” meaning did I want milk or orange juice. When did my kids begin to talk like short order cooks or bartenders? Why didn’t they bug me to make french toast?

 Most snow days, we tackle the driveway and the sidewalks together. We argue over who gets which shovel, and wears the gloves that don’t match. We throw snow balls, and there comes a time where I have to institute a cease fire because one hits Katy to hard in the head.

But today, I felt like I could handle the job on my own. While I listened to them make breakfast, watched them serve breakfast, marveled at them cleaning up after breakfast… it occurred to me that maybe they deserved a break. And maybe I needed a few minutes outside by myself to get used to the idea that Colin and Katy are growing up.

The driveway is done. The sidewalk and the stairs up to our house are clear. I’m a gym rat, and I like the fact that I am strong enough to do all this work, to shift mountains of snow from one spot to another, without pause.

But I saved the other side, the sidewalk on Franklin. I have laid out our collective mittens, found a few extra shovels, and we are going to finish it up together. There will be snow balls thrown, and endless negotiations about who gets which shovel, and whether we should clear in front of the neighbors house. And if we still like each other when we are done, and can still feel our toes, I’m thinking this snow is the right kind for building a snow man.

I’ll see what they think. I am hopeful that they are still young enough to be bribed with hot chocolate, especially if I still have my stash of the right kind of marshmellows.

     I always thought of myself as a somewhat complicated person. Not mysterious, just someone that has a helluva back story, and been around enough years to have accrued quite a few, complications.

     Here is the news of the night. We, I mean every single one of us, are more complicated than I ever imagined.

    Our bodies are covered with about five layers of skin. All different kinds of skin, with different names, functions, lifespans. We have bones, so many bones, all different shaped bones, and then there are the tendons, ligaments, and the great glorious cord that slides up our spine that, hopefully, delivers intelligence (in the spy sense of the word, data, information, not actual thought out positions on the Middle East) to our brain.

     I just spent two hours on the cranium, lots of bones involved in brain security, and I need to know the names of all of those bones. And the names of the places where they meet, the rivers that divide one chunk of brain bone from another are called sutures. One of them is called a lamboidal suture and I can’t figure out how I can tie a picture of a baby sheep in with a grey mark on a skull, but I ‘m working on it. There are cavities and cardiums, viscera, planes and positions, organelles, and a complex run by a fellow that goes by one name, Golgi. Not sure how to pronounce that.

     We are all very, very complicated people. My mind boggles at the thought, and the only reason it can boggle safely is because it is protected by all those bones of different shapes bordered by all those sutures, with impossible to remember names.

     Knowing that doesn’t make me feel any safer or closer to passing the test.
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I recently returned to college with the hope I might eventually figure out what I want to be when I grow up. In the course of this journey, I’ve studied math, computer science,  two subjects out of my comfort zone, but I think I met my nemesis in the form of a course called Anatomy and Physiology, no, it’s actually Applied Anatomy and Physiology, ( does this mean we have do dissect frogs, or are we going to play doctor?)

I have a quiz this week, but I when I sat down to study, I was seized by a very, very unfamiliar urge. I wanted to clean my house.

It was quite a bender. I washed the walls, I took everything out of the refrigerator, wiped the shelves, then re -organized it’s contents. We now have a space put aside for cheese, I’m happy to say. But the highlight of my afternoon was when I tackled the  receptacle in my kitchen known as the library box. On the bottom I found, buried under Highlights magazines, National Geographics and takeout menus, a “Mom’s Got It Together Calendar”. On the cover is a picture of a very happy mother, I assume, and a sticker that says “keeps the family in order”. Along the bottom it promises “Stay organized- so you can play!” It is a 24 month calendar good from September 2010 thru August 2012.

I had a golden opportunity, and I blew it.

6 am wake son

7 am wake daughter

715 am wake daughter again

750 am drop daughter at school bus

800 am yoga

900 am shower

940 am first class this semester, physical evaluations and assessments

1100 am second class this semester, strength training and endurance

1 pm third class… Anatomy and Physiology, the human body will never look the same now that I’ve seen it in quadrants.

255 pm run to car so that I may

300 pm pick up daughter

330 pm go to store

430 pm pick up friend’s daughter

500  pm cook dinner

530 pm eat dinner

535 pm clean up after dinner

540 pm start conversation with kids about why they should help me clean up after dinner.

542 pm kids remember homework they have to do right away…

Etc. Etc. Etc.

It was a long, long day, and I wanted to record it all for posterity, but I’m too damn tired. So if you would like to fill in the blanks and imagine the details- the funny and/or insightful comments I made, or just how great my hair looked, go for it.

If you’re a realist, I usually have lipstick on my teeth.

   Life for the next month or three is going to be nuts. I have got homework and labs and each weekday  begins with the quest for impossible parking. I have an NCAA player in the making, and an Olympics contender on the verge- in the midst of my stuff my athletes need to be ferried to and from practices and competitions and fed something other than last night’s pizza.  

     There is my homework, their homework, playdates and hangouts, and the constant challenge of keeping them in appropriate footwear that fits. And I can’t forget the new kitten, the not so new puppy, the cats and the turtle and the dead bird in the shed, ( I have to find Whitey an everlasting home where Sophie won’t rip him to shreds.)

      I have a lot on my plate, hell, I have a lot on my casserole dish that is roughly the size of Portland.

      So as I move through these days coming ahead, I will plan for the moments just after.

      When it’s done, when grades are in, championships won or lost, animals buried or tossed, living animals getting along or banished to individual rooms, doctors seen, paperwork done, I am going to find me a night on the town.

     I don’t want to do shots. I could care less about scintillating conversation. I don’t need to dress up or eat morsels of strange food at ridiculous prices.

     I want to go to club where I’ve never been. I want to sip a cold drink, take my time. I want to be asked by a gentleman, who, when he asks will act like he isn’t sure of my answer, for a dance. I will say yes. When I take his hand, the band will start playing just the right song. (I don’t know what the right song will be but it will be Just. The. Right. Song.) And we will slow dance round that floor like we have all of the time in the world. And we will.