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.

My son was due at a game at 8, so we left at 7:30. The Parish where his team plays is only a mile away, but he wanted Gatorade and I wanted to take my time.

When I tried to pull out of the driveway, I got stuck in a snow drift. I gunned the engine. I spun the wheel. I tried to reverse. I spun the wheel. I snarled at Colin to get out of the car and “do something.”

He hopped out, ran to my side of the car, watched my wheel spin in mountain of ice and more ice, thru his hands up in the air.

I told him to get back in the car.

Well, I didn’t tell him anything. I think I honked, twice.

He got in, eyes looked straight forward. I gunned the engine, hit reverse, thru the car into drive and somehow, something somewhere gave. The car rocked forward, then shot back, straight into a snow bank six feet high.

I put my foot on the gas, and we lurched forward towards the gas station, toward the church, toward all the other mini vans shuttling their boys to the game on a night that really should have seen everyone home wearing flannel or footsie pajamas.

I said- “Colin, you gotta believe in me. I’m a complete bad ass!”

I had broken a wall of snow and ice. I had conquered my minivan and made it my b^&*ch.

“Mom, bad asses don’t tell people their bad asses.”

All of the sudden, there I was.- a suburban mom in a 2008 Dodge Caravan with an unfortunate predilection for listening to Eminem at the gym.

I dropped him off and wished him luck.

So maybe driving in the snow doesn’t make me tough.

But I got him to his game on time. And I didn’t bang my fists on the steering wheel, or curse New England in February or try to run over a squirrel.

So maybe I’m not a bad ass.

But this winter has made me fierce as hell.

Bring. It. On.

About 8:30, I slid into some black snow pants. Katy put elastics round her mittens to keep the snow from slipping down her sleeves. I kissed Sophia The Summer Time Dog goodbye on the nose and promised I would never, ever take her along sledding.

There was no one at Andrews Park except some fool with a dog. Well, he’s probably a very nice guy, but his timing wasn’t good. Katy and I were there to sled.

There was a streetlight a few blocks down that blinked and flashed like fire flies or shooting stars, orange, slightly industrial shooting stars.

The snow was vast, an ocean of snow, and the hill was a mountain.

After I finished my first ride, Katy got mad at me because I didn’t want to climb all the way to the top of the hill to start the next one.

I was afraid of ice. She told me to follow her, to walk sideways, to crawl forward like a bear.
I sat down in the middle of that hill and enjoyed a very nice ride.

By the end of the night, Katy and I raced, from the top.

I didn’t fall down on ice if I walked sideways or like a bear.

I won three times, thought it was because I weigh a bit more than my 11 year old daughter.
Further experimentation showed that I had been using the better sled, when we switched, she crushed me.
Of course, she also could have been letting me win all along and gotten sick of it.

I don’t want to know. But I wouldn’t mind going tomorrow night to find out.

And the world looks very different when I’m sprawled on a boogie board, head tilled back. The trees are upside town, the sky is closer and the snow smells sweet in it’s natural habitat.

Dripping on kitchen floors, clinging to mittens on the radiator, snow reeks of chores and arrogance and endless loads of laundry.

While I lay on my back, head tilted back off the sled, watching the sky, seeing for the first time how long the branches are on the oak tree that Katy crashed into six springtimes ago, the first time she took out the two wheeler, everything looked and smelled and sounded different.
Then my daughter called out- “Mom, I think it’s time to wrap it up… Where are your gloves… And why is your head in the snow?”

And we went home.

It’s All Been Done

January 21, 2013

It’s Martin Luther King day, February 21, 2013.

In other words, we have survived Christmas, and Christmas vacation, and New Years Eve, and back to school. I started a new semester at Quincy College last week. Work there has been busy, I’ve been lucky enough to have the honor of being part of the team that welcomes first time students. ┬áThis involved giving speeches, standing in the hallway asking anyone and everyone that looked even a little confused if they needed help finding where they were going, and making phone calls. I’ve spent my whole professional life making phone calls for various reasons and have never tired of talking to strangers, even when they obviously have no interest in talking to me.

And thru all of these days of rest and then return to “real life”, in the back of my mind I’ve been listening to my own thoughts, and observing our own lives… is there anything here that merits sharing whatever it is I’m thinking and we’re doing?

Here’s the thing… Katy and I are still dancing around in the kitchen. Sophie the Wonder Pup is just as delightful as she ever was. She still has dreams of being a bunny, or at least frolicking with a herd of bunnies in a field. ┬áThat still hasn’t happened.

School is school and work is work. It’s cold outside, I love late nights with the pellet stone breathing and the radio on. Colin is insanely good at basketball and from time to time I see glimpses of the man he is becoming.

I love my friends. I am so lonely sometimes I talk to the person that makes me coffee. I miss the nightlife. Nothing makes me happier than curling up on the sofa with a good book and a glass of wine. Nothing makes me happier than curling up in bed with the remote control, a list of shows on the DVR, and a large glass of water.

I am joyful. I am in despair. I am sleepy. I am caffeinated. The rhythm of my days drags, or it races by so quick I am breathless and struggling to catch up.

I love my children, and I wish they’d stop calling for my help.

I really don’t want them to grow up.

It is January and I’m suffering a case of betwixt and between. I suppose I got off easy, it’s not the flu, and it’s not cancer.