One of the best gifts any parent can get is a sign that they’re raising a nice guy or gal. The boots drying by the woodstove yesterday morning were my signs.
Thing1 came home from college for the day Friday to schlep his brother home from school and to help out around the house while the Big Guy and I were at the hospital.￼￼ He had the wood bin loaded by the time we got back and, with the Big Guy, helped get me up the front stoop into the wheelchair.
He’ll go back to his glamorous life of studying (yeah, studying, all weekend 🤪) later this afternoon, and I’ll keep the picture of his boots drying by the woodstove as a reminder what a nice guy he’s become.￼
When my sister and I were kids my mom spent a lot of time studying for her masters and then her doctorate in History. I remember wishing she would play with us more, but I don’t remember resenting her time in her office.
Now, as I work on my master’s, I follow her footsteps into my office many nights, reading until late in the evening after my lessons are planned for the next day at school. Thing2 is pretty busy forging his identity these days, so I don’t feel as much guilt about time in the office or studio as I probably should.
As I work, I know that, even though she’s been retired from teaching for over a decade now, on any given night, she’s probably in her office reading and writing articles or preparing for a guest lecture. So tonight, as I organize the evening’s notes into my binder and nitpick over reference lists, it will feel like we are actually spending some quality time together.
The girl had received bad news for the umpteenth time in the last few months. Her sobs of despair reverberated down the hall as she asked the powers that be, “What’s the point?”
“You’re the point!“ The cosmos answered in the form of a lanky young man charged with keeping order the school. “People like you are the point, “ he repeated. “Don’t you know that you all make us better?“
I smiled as I leaned my head towards the doorway to listen from my classroom. I was on standby for hugs and comfort, but my young coworker was already working his magic. And, as he elaborated on the ways our students make us better, I thought about how Thing1 and Thing2 have done that for me every day over the last 19 years.
Just before Thing1 was born, I still didn’t have a handle on my bipolar disorder. My depressive episodes sporadically threatened jobs, and manic phases spurred spending sprees and other self-destructive behavior.
But then Thing1 happened, and I knew I had to be better.
“Every day I go home after work and think about how to be better,“ my coworker said to the girl who was now listening quietly. “You do that for all of us.“
I thought of all the ways I have tried to be better for Thing1 and Thing2 over the years. I thought of the therapy I’ve sought and the examples I’ve tried to set.
Then I thought of all the ways our students spur me to be more organized, to learn more, to be better for them. It made me smile as I thought of how no matter what we will ever do for our own kids or for the ones we take care of during the day, we will always owe them far more for every day making us a little bit better than we were the day before.
The nature of a residential school means that students are constantly being admitted and discharged. Some weeks, like this one, discharging students are leaving with diplomas and optimism. It’s much more sweet than bitter, but saying goodbye to three much loved kids made for a different kind of drama this week.
It’s Saturday, and I’m a vegetable. Thing1 is home from college with his significant other. They’re in the kitchen making dinner for all of us while the Big Guy and I baste in the heat from the wood stove as we binge-watch Portlandia. Thing2 pokes his head out of his room every few minutes to relay Princess Jane’s latest antics.
There are so many things I should be doing besides sitting on the couch right now, but some how, this little bit of nothing, this evening of being conscious of not working, of just being, feels like everything.
We were all reasonably crabby by the time we got the car packed and rolled up our icy driveway, hoping to get to my sister’s house in time for the Christmas Eve service. Thing2’s laundry hadn’t magically loaded, washed and folded itself over the weekend. The remaining presents on the Hoosier chest still needed to be wrapped, and we all had needed showers badly even before the packing chaos began.
Somehow, we managed to get out of the house only 30 minutes late (a road trip record for us) and (at the time of this telling) having forgotten only a few minor items. Thing1 was driving and, even though he’s skillful, his right foot, heavy with youth, makes me and the Big Guy happier to sit in the back seat.
We drove mostly in silence for the first 30 minutes. I did my makeup. Thing2 slept, and the Big Guy fidgeted with his wedding ring which he still wears on his right hand, as we both did when we lived in Europe.
“I’m thinking about switching it back,” he said innocently. In the front row, the kids had started chatting about something inappropriate. “I can’t get it off, though.”
The boys paused their conversation and then erupted.
Better parents would have reprimanded them for the quick trip to the gutter, but we both started laughing too. The humor on our ‘Group W’ bench got even more middle school for a little bit, and I didn’t even cringe inwardly.
We’re heading to see grandparents where the boys will need to be on their best behavior for several days, so I knew they needed to get it out of their system. But, after a hectic, crabby morning, the Big Guy and I also needed to get things out of our system and get in the mood to celebrate with family.