My world was huge when I was in my twenties. I spent time in Boston, New York City and New Jersey, going from place to place, friend to friend, sofa to dorm room to home, with the ease of someone in their twenties. Boston had school and work, New York City was, well, New York City, and I had a boyfriend in New Jersey. I packed light, lost a lot of stuff, and borrowed even better stuff from the patient and/or clueless people in my life. I think I still have a cashmere sweater from my mom. She is neither patient, nor clueless, but she is unfailingly generous, and the color wasn’t good on her.I don’t know if she knows I have it. Please don’t tell her.

I got older, Boston became home. The boyfriend relocated to my apartment in Allston, we spent a lot of times at clubs in the city. Often, we would hire a cab to take us to Walden Pond when I missed the suburbs.There were frequent invitations to the Cape, I’m not sure why, neither of us was  particularly charming, attractive or well off. But we were happy to head out for a weekend with little or no notice, so I guess we were the people to call when a new people were needed, vacations can get boring when you’re spending time with the same people you have breakfast with all year.

In those days, I moved a lot. I liked to stay up late. I liked to invite my friends over to stay up late with me. Landlords don’t appreciate tenants that stay up late, especially on Monday and Tuesday nights, and have friends that are happy to join them for endless games of scrabble or alcohol fueled conversations about what we were going to do the next day, even though all of us knew the next day was going to start around five o’clock in the evening.

Within a year of settling in to a new place, I’d receive the eviction notice.  I lived in Allston, Brighton, Brookline, the South End, Bay Village, the South End, the Fenway, all within ten years. Finally I landed in  in Dorchester Ma, in a huge one bedroom owned by one of the friends that liked staying up late. I was living with a different boyfriend and running a profitable business from my apartment. I still went out two or three times a week to clubs or dives most nights, the cab fare was just a little more expensive.  I visited Block Island a couple of times a year, I talked to mom on the phone instead of visiting  NJ.

When the stick turned pink, and the proposal came, we drove up to NH to take our vows. We were going to get married outside. I was seven months pregnant; maybe I hoped I could hide my huge belly behind a tree. There were bugs. We got married in the foyer of the inn next to the reception desk. There was a family of five, just coming back from the lake, wrapped in wet towels, wearing flip flops, with the two youngest brandishing sand pails, that volunteered to be our witnesses. By the time the family was thru with the wedding cake- I had to offer them something and hadn’t even thought about a reception, the cake was gone. No slices for the freezer.

After child number two, we moved to Milton, a small town in Southern Massachusetts, right off the highway. Lots of woods, huge municipal swimming pool, good schools  and public transportation five minutes away from the town center. We drank the Koolaid and bought the house. My world, my big, big, world, became even smaller.

There were no last minute trips to the Cape or nights out at the club. Spur of the moment day adventures to Walden were few. Packing a bag for two small children to spend a day forty five minutes away at a pond  is more complicated than the packing I did when I was relocating to a different area code. Two cans of bug spray, three kinds of sun block, diapers, socks, extra socks, water, juice, hats, sun glasses, books, coloring books, books for me, change of clothes for all, wipes, snacks for him, snacks for her,  and Ativan for me. I think I miss packing for the lake less than the joy of car seats. If you don’t know, you might. Good luck.

I’ve lived in the big world, or at least a corner of it, in the Northeast part of the United States. Then I had kids, and my world shrunk to whatever space they occupied.

They are teenagers now. Now that they are older, I suppose I could expand my universe a bit, visit an old haunt, head to New Jersey for a weekend to see some high school friends, head to the City for a Broadway show.

The truth is I’m happy at home with just one, actually two, human glitches.  The teenagers are, quite often, here too. The space is cluttered with  chatter of youtube, the streaming of sound cloud, socks, (you can smell the stench in New Jersey) smudged plates and pizza crusts, unfamiliar voices that usually respond to whatever question or comment I make like they aren’t quite sure who I am or why I am bothering them, large and very florescent shoes, backpacks, hair products, cereal boxes, which must randomly distributed throughout the house so they will never, ever go hungry, even if they find themselves in a hallway,- sometimes there isn’t any room for me.

The Cape isn’t an option on a Monday night, I have work in the morning. Clubs are out. I don’t want have friends over at three am, I don’t know anyone anymore that likes to stay out until three am, and as I recall, things didn’t really get interesting until three am.

So when I need to escape, I pull on a yoga top and yoga pants. I wear the yoga pants because everyone wears yoga pants, I wear yoga tops because when you spend a lot of time touching your toes, or doing that downward dog thing yogis are so fond of, a yoga shirt stays on your body like a one piece one size too small. I wore a tee shirt once, and spent the entire class confronted with the fact that I need to eat less food, plank more, or buy a yoga top. I bought the top.

I actually have my own yoga mat. The fact it is the same yoga mat I started with about six years ago is a miracle. I lost Colin at Canobie Lake Park, I lose my parking card so often the sour face attendant gives me a high five when I hand it over. I have six different novelty key rings, with the trackers that make the funny noises in a drawer somewhere. If they ever turn up, I could probably play a song with them.

I go into class. I take off my shoes and silence my phone. I step on my mat. I sit on a block, ( why do you need to sit on a block you might ask? I don’t know, but everyone else sits on a block, so I sit on the block like the sheep that I am, see comment above about yoga pants,) We breathe and I wriggle a bit, on our blocks until the teacher begins.

We move through the poses, each time it’s different. The music changes,  I take classes in  vinyasa flow, meditative yoga, hot yoga, whatever is offered whenever I get there.

I listen to the teacher. I move my body. I arch my back, I lift my arms, I balance on one leg, I breathe.

I am at home inside the space of my mat. Even at the end of class, during savasana,  (time for muscles to process all the work is the party line, I just think it’s a power nap,) I am thinking about dinner, work tomorrow, if I will ever be able to support my entire body on my elbows, whether or not it’s worth it give up pasta, but I am not wondering where I want to be next.

I’m on the mat. There’s plenty of space for me and all that I am on a flat piece of blue rubber, slightly ridged, two feet by six feet, in Milton, Massachusetts.

It took me a long time to get here.

There was a band concert tonight at the high school. All ages were playing, in the post recorder years-. 6th grade thru 12th.
 
I don’t usually get that excited about school concerts. My daughter plays the flute in a sea of fifteen other flautists. Since it’s classical music, and she’s a little older now, it’s not considered good form to kneel down in the orchestra pit to take photos where I can actually see it’s her, instead of one of the other little girls with long hair and a silver rod sticking out of her chin.
 
The music was lovely tonight.This is the first time Kaitlin performed on the same evening as the high school band. There was a eclectic combination of jazz, a smattering of avant garde, I think, or maybe it was modern, and some haunting classical pieces. If I’d known I was going to write this down for the world to read, I would have stolen a program so I wouldn’t seem like such an idiot.
 
I arrived late. Right after I dropped Katy and her friend off to warm up (sorry about the insider musical terms, I was in high school band too,) I had a call to pick her big brother from a friend’s house.
 
I suggested Colin join us at the concert. He said “no, thank you”.
 
Actually, that’s not what he said. The terms he used would sound mean in print, and he’s not a mean boy. I don’t think he’s a mean boy, he’s a fifteen year old boy and he certainly acts pretty damn nasty sometimes, but when I took him to the drive thru he shared his french fries. And he’d been working out. Everyone knows french fries are a key component to muscle recovery.
 
So I had to pick Colin up, get him food, check my teeth for lipstick, remove lipstick, reapply lipstick and fill a go cup with yesterday’s coffee. By the time I was back and parked, far, far away from the front door, I was five minutes late walking into the auditorium.
 
Rock’n roll concerts start late. Band concerts start exactly on time.
 
I staggered up the stairs. In the very top row, and I saw a couple I knew. They did that wave thing, 2nd level, which means “we are saying hello, but we also have a spare seat for you if are willing to climb all the way up and over to join us.” I joined them.
 
I tucked myself into the folding chair and settled down to listen. I looked at all the people in the audience. Colin’s soccer coach from 2nd grade. My friend’s daughter. A yoga classmate and fellow church goer who gives the best hugs in the world. The two people who had welcomed me to sit next to them; they don’t know me well but they have offered me wine on more than one occasion and they’re funny and they think I’m funny so I think I love them too.
 
Small town concerts are different than small town sports events. I had a chance to take stock. I studied the faces of acquaintances, friends, neighbors, gym buddies, and kids. Kids that I’d known first in strollers were tiptoeing down the stairs and out into the lobby to buy snacks by the themselves.
 
I closed my eyes and was swept inside the music. In between songs, I peered onto the stage for a glimpse of my daughter, or Madeleine, or Andy, Colin’s friend from football playing jazz saxophone.
 
It was long. Sometimes it was boring. Sometimes it was fantastic. Sometimes it was sweet and sometimes mysterious. Throughout the entire concert, I felt so blessed to be there, at Milton High School with all of these people I’ve shared so many moments like these with, most of whom I don’t know by name.
 
We share a town. We are sharing our lives in this town in this turbulent, scary time. But inside this town, at the spelling bee and the soccer match, day to day life is still familiar and naive. Yes, there is bad stuff happening here, look at the thousands of beer cans in Cunningham Park.The high school has been on lockdown more than twice in the past couple of years. We fight like crazy people on Facebook, and then seek out a yoga class or head out the back door for a run in the hope of finding some peace.
 
But inside the high school, last night, we were all in it together.
 
I know your daughter, look out for my son. I’ll keep an eye out for your cat that sleeps sprawled in the street. I promise to buy cookies from your niece if you’ll smile at my daughter when you see her standing alone in the morning, waiting for the bus.
 
If you don’t know me, I’m Colin and Katy’s mom. Lately, they’ve been growing up way too fast. So be kind to me too. This is hard. Not just having teenagers in the house, but knowing that the days of band concerts, doling out money for ice cream, helping with homework, and liking the same songs on the radio are pretty much on the way out. All that’s really left are band concerts and football games.
 
I’ve got seven more years of concerts and games.
 
So when you see me, say hi. We will sit on the sidelines together. We will applaud for the people we love, the people we know and the life we are living right now- in the stands, walking the dog, and driving the streets in this little corner of the world.
 
It’s nice knowing I have friends, even if we don’t all know each others names.
 
I’m Julie.Band concert

Maybe by Breakfast

May 2, 2015

5th grade dance

Tonight was my daughter’s fifth grade dance. After careful negotiations, I was allowed to serve as chaperone.

I was the cotton candy ice scooper.

When the 5 gallon canister was empty, I had a chance to linger on the sidelines. I would have been dismissed, but I was the ride home.

I talked to some of the other moms, but mostly we looked toward the dance floor and smiled and nodded and sighed. We moms would shift our weight from one foot to the other in time to the music. We would flutter around the floor with phones and cameras aimed at the action or picking up half empty water bottles and forgotten cookies. We juggled and stowed coats, sweaters, pictures, snacks, and ipods.

And we watched.

The kids were fireflies and shooting stars. I know it sounds like I’ve been listening to too much Katy Perry, but they were. I couldn’t even get a decent snapshot, Katy raced from one end of the dance floor, to the water fountain, to her friend with the long hair, back up to the stage. She was a laughing blur that knew all the dance moves, even from songs that came out before she was born. Her friends, all the kids, moved with grace and confidence and joy. They took photos of each other, without pausing to rearrange themselves, or find a smile or a pout. They held and shot and moved on to the next thing, a snack or a dance or another photograph.

Tonight was a beautiful blur, and I wonder if any of the pictures we all so diligently snapped will capture any of it.
And now it’s almost ten, and Katy’s brushing her teeth upstairs and I’ve got the Macarena stuck in my head.

Good night, Kaitlin.

Please be my little girl again by breakfast.

Just until it’s time for lunch.

My husband never sees the kids. So when he pulled in the driveway at 7 pm, and announced we were going out for fro yo, it was a Big Deal.

Of course, I had to finish writing a letter for work.

And Katy wanted to pick out an outfit for tomorrow. Because tomorrow is Monday. And it’s important to pick out Monday’s outfit in advance.

Colin needed to find the right pair of sneakers. The forty pairs of shoes in the bottom of his closet were not the right shoes for fro yo consumption with the fam.

We left the house by 8. We took the dog. Sophie the Best Dog Ever doesn’t really like rides in the car. None of us are good at sharing dessert. But since was such a unique situation, (I mean he’s never, ever at the house at 7 pm, ever) there was no precedent. Sheldon wanted her to ride in the trunk. One step away from a Republican, I’m afraid.

Sophie rode in the back seat. She sat in the middle so that she was able to devote equal attention to Colin and Kaitlin while they licked and nibbled and spooned and dripped. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched her watch them ignoring her.

She didn’t even get to lick the cups.

So we took her to Andrews Park. It was 830 on a Sunday, one dog peeing on the baseball field, one dog owner on a smartphone.

Colin ran out first, Sophie followed. Katy, in hot pursuit behind Sophie. Katy back to the car for a sweatshirt. And to tell her mom to get out of the car. Now.

I followed Katy, and Sophie, and Colin.

I thought we’d play some kind of catch, or walk around the field arguing about who had to the dishes when they got home, or even just look up at the sky, agree that none of us can recognize a constellation and go home.

Colin had unlocked the gate to the play ground. Katy was twirling around on a swing, one of those big swings, with a reclining seat for a chair. When I asked her to push me, she hopped off. She pushed me. She pushed, heaved, twirled, I was spinning around, rocking from side to side, swinging up, crashing down, laughing and nauseous. There was no time to look at the stars.

I pushed Katy on the swings as hard as I could. I wasn’t able to make her twirl, swing,crash and rock all at the same time. Katy will be a better mom than I am. I hope she’ll take me to the park again.

Colin had taken Sophie to the jungle gym. When I walked over, he was perched at the top of the slide, Sophie seated on his lap, paws up, tail wagging. It wasn’t their first time.

And then we decided it was time to go. We got back to the car, realized Sophie had taken a detour, and Colin had left the leash on the monkey bars, and that none of us wanted to help find either, but we did.

I didn’t write down the last time Katy asked to hold my hand while crossing the street. I didn’t take a picture the last time Colin opened a present he thought was from Santa Clause.

Tonight, I went to the playground with Colin, Katy, Sophie and Sheldon.

I can’t tell you what the stars looked like, or if they’ve filled up the sandbox yet.

But I can tell you that tonight I found out Katy is incredibly strong, and Colin is still the magical boy who can convince Sophie the Scared to sit on his lap and slide all the way to the bottom.

Then get her to do it again.

Letter from New England

February 14, 2015

Milton, Massachusetts feels like another planet. (For those of you not in New England and aren’t interested in watching the weather channel to hear about the weather in New England, we’ve had some snow.)

The ground is elevated about two feet, it is glows ivory under the moon.

Katy and I went to Andrews Park last night. Instead of swinging on swings or throwing a frisbee, my girl scrambled up the side of a glacier. For the first time in her life, she cried out “I’m king of the glacier.” I didn’t follow her up to the peak, I don’t want to be king of a glacier. It’s never going to make my bucket list.

The sidewalks are lined by white walls about five feet tall. People are more prone to lean on their horns in traffic and more likely to make conversation while waiting in line for coffee. Of course, all anyone talks about is the weather, or shoveling because of the weather, or where they are going to escape the weather. But there is a sense of – we’re all in the same frosty boat, let’s share a moment and make it suck a little less.

We aren’t traveling this February vacation, so it helps a little, with the overall frustration, the shovel/bad hair day burnout, and the claustrophobia, to try to see my hometown through a strangers eyes.

It is a beautiful, fierce, quiet place at night. People stay home, even the teenagers. The only noise comes when a car gets stuck and the peace is shattered by gears grinding and wheels spinning. Or when the plows go through and all the dogs bark because they are convinced it’s the end of the world. It’s the end of the world about three times a night.

During the day, all the white blinds people. I walk the dogs, with my hand shielding my eyes, like a farmer surveying a field. I’m looking for spots with the least slush, and a path wide enough to accommodate me and two dogs. Both of the dogs require large amounts of personal space. I try to do my best for all of the people and animals I love right now. We all need to be extra kind to each other while we live in this strange, cold world.

Of course, when there is finally a few days without snow, it will look a little less ethereal and exotic and a little more this is what comes out of the car exhaust and the Christmas puppy.

But I don’t think that’s going to happen for a while.