Hyla, Life

Graduation 2017

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Five days later and I still can’t think about Friday without emotion.

It was a long day of ceremony, starting at 8 in the morning with a whole-school awards ceremony followed by Senior Class Day, where my resolve not to cry began to unstitch the moment I heard the first notes of music in the senior slideshow that H and Reshma put together.

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I’m quite sure I had tears in my eyes or on my cheeks from that moment until I sighed myself into bed that night.

Through the awards, the class will, the tributes to classmates and teachers.

Through the grey day that threatened rain in the morning but promised sun in the evening.

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Through the parade of gowned students.

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Through the birds flying overhead like some familiar metaphor.

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Through the flower ceremony, when Reshma surprised us.

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Through the special awards, when the school surprised us.

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Through a perfect song.

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Through the moment we had come for but still were somehow not prepared for.

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Though the view of the mountains and the sun bouncing off the ragged clouds. And the people who love H there to celebrate together. And the white tent on a hill in front of the school we all called home for the last six years. And the full moon steadying itself to rise.

It was a day that “marked the edge / of one of many circles.” Circles of H’s life, looping over each other, opening out to the next. Circles of our lives, once centered together and now beginning to drift, still overlapping, but no longer entirely concentric with hers.

It was a day of crows calling out and the gentlest raindrops and the hidden movement of stars overhead. The ending of one thing and the beginning of so much more, I can hardly catch my breath.

~~~~~

p.s. You can see all the photos I took during class day and graduation here.

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Hyla, Life

Baccalaureate 2017

Assembled

They assembled on the green on Thetford Hill for a group photo on Sunday evening in blue and white robes (according to their taste), then went into the church two by two.

The program of events had Hyla giving her speech right after the processional, so up she went and hushed the crowd with her words. As her parents, we can’t help but be a little biased, but we thought it was a beautiful speech.

I didn’t cry then, not much anyway. In fact, I almost felt a little numb: very still, very quiet inside, just absorbing the moment and the room, the dull grey light of the drizzly June evening somehow turning gold as it came through the large windows, the words of our daughter spinning out across the hall, from her brain to her lungs to her larynx to her mouth to our ears to our brains to our memories.

You know when I cried? It was when members of the school band got up and played The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun.” Not so much for the meaning of the song itself (isn’t it a wedding song?), but because, as songs do, it acted as a worm hole that sucked me back through time to my own childhood, to a moment when I put that very record on my record player.

How did we get from childhood me, alone in a house in the western suburbs of Chicago, to an old wooden church on a hill in Thetford, Vermont, watching our seventeen-year-old daughter confidently take the podium in front of her entire class, her teachers, her friends, her parents? How did all of this happen so slowly and so quickly? How do I have my childhood and hers in my memories all at once?

We were sitting in the church where her preschool still is, kitty corner from her elementary school, a short walk from her middle and high school. Time and geography and memory felt so tightly bound up in those moments last night. The past, the present, and the future. How it was. How it is.  How it will be.

Splendid is how it was. Splendid is how it is. Splendid is how it will be.

Waiting

Grape vines

Processional Speech

Recessional

Breathe. Hope. Love.

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~~~~~~~~~~
p.s. If you’re interested, you can hear a recording of Hyla’s speech, or read it. And, here also, is the Baccalaureate speech given by Kelly Welsh, one of H’s favorite teachers.

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Hyla, Life

One for the pocket

Junco wings

Snow day. Or ice day. The sky was raining frozen pellets at 6 this morning and school called to say stay home.

This is H’s last semester of high school. This time next year she’ll be watching snow fall outside her college dorm window and deciding for herself if it’s safe to hike across campus to her first class.

How many more school snow days will there be before spring? Maybe this will be our last? I shoved the bills and to-do list tasks aside. As M reminded me on his way out the door this morning, Save this day to put in my pocket for a rotten January day next year when she’s not here.

So I’m writing this down here for me next winter. Because I’ve missed a whole lot of lasts in my life without knowing it until it was too late, and I’ll be darned if I’ll miss this one.

So I’m putting this in my pocket….

The ice falling and collecting on the branches. The birds flocking to the feeder. The flutter of wings and the occasional muffled collision with the window. Her coming downstairs mid-morning, in a navy blue t-shirt and jeans, suggesting maybe we should try out some new facial masks she’d ordered.

Us sitting on the sofa, faces draped with cold therapeutic masks, watching “The Women,” laughing and repeating our favorite lines, heating up frozen chicken tenders for a mid-movie lunch.

Us sitting on the sofa with the TV on talking about the election and the march, about Aziz Ansari, about how sweet-neurotic the dog is, and how cute-weird the cats are and how we both wanted chocolate.

Us not talking, each in our own online worlds, but within arm’s reach of each other.

Us listening to The Weepies and Jake Bugg and deciding to make crepes for dinner.

Us breathing and being and often not even talking, just living in the same square footage.

Us waiting for M to come home and join us, to make and eat dinner, to do whatever we do as a family, the way we’ve come to be a family these last 17 years.

Me, folding this into a crane, or maybe a cardinal, and slipping it into a safe place in my heart.

There

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Hyla, Life, Poetry

What’s that you say?

Pause

<parental crowing begins>

H is Thetford Academy’s Student of the Month for February 2016?

You bet she is!

And oh! Her teachers wrote the kindest, most spot-on things about her. But I don’t mean to gloat. That’s H’s responsibility (though she never ever would, which is another amazing thing about her). I’ll just sit here and glow on her behalf.

But wait, that’s not all you get…

If you act now, you can also read her new poem, “Simple Anonymity,” published yesterday at GirlSense & NonSense.

Dang, she’s cool. (Am I allowed to say/write that? Oh yeah, it’s MY blog.)

</parental crowing ends>

Simple Anonymity

There are a hundred thousand things I don’t experience every day
   and there are a hundred thousand things that I do.
There are a hundred thousand things my mother and my father think about every day
   and there are a hundred thousand things that my mother and my father don’t.
My mother says her mind is scattering, scattering like light
   and she has a hundred thousand lists and calendars to keep the scatter contained.
My father’s brain is an encyclopedia of facts and notes that sometimes all come spilling out at once
   and sometimes don’t come out at all.
My mind is a video camera, one of the old ones, with crackling film and focusless images
   and it records a hundred thousand things a day.
If I could, I would plant her a tree to hang her hundred thousand thoughts on
   and I would give him an infinite page to record his hundred thousand facts on.
But I am no gardener
   and I am no paper-maker

I am a camera
   and I can watch
      and I can listen
         and I can appreciate the hundred thousand things a day that they think of
            and the hundred thousand things a day that they don’t.
The connection between a movie we watched together ten years before
   and the book he was reading this afternoon.
The rapidity of the weekend
   and the slow drag of the week.
The friendly anonymity of people whose dogs meet on the trail between here
   and there.

–Hyla Maddalena

 

 

 

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Hyla, Life

Sweet as honeydew

The Decemberists stage

Not entirely by plan, but this summer became our summer of concerts: The Weepies, Idina Menzel, Neil Young, and The Decemberists, the last of which found us at the end of July on a lush green lawn on the grounds of Shelburne Museum.

There’s something thrilling about hearing live music outdoors on a summer evening. The acoustics of open air. The sad whine of the harmonica. The reverberating beat of the drum. The rhythmic jangle of the guitars. And the heat of the day and glare of the sun, at first nearly unbearable and then, as the evening draws on, imperceptibly dissolved into the atmosphere.

There’s something about it that can fix the moment so fiercely in your memory that you can nearly feel the heat of the summer evening and the sway of the songs years later in the remembering.

All the attached memories are there, too. Or will be. The funny guys waiting in line in front of the gate, talking about shows they’ve been to, and how to pronounce “biro” and “gyro”. The friendly couple behind us who, it turns out, had been to many of the same shows we had. Watching the crew prepare the stage. The opening act’s sound check. The gate opening and the crowd fanning out to claim the best spots on the lawn.

And then there’s the daughter, nearly 16, who finds her place to stand right at the foot of the stage, next to that friendly couple, while her old parents set up the chairs, beach towels, and a picnic.

During the opening act, the crowd by the stage is manageable. We can still see that 16-year-old’s head of gorgeous hair. By the time The Decemberists have appeared, the standing crowd has reached our blanket like the incoming tide arriving at our sand castle. I join the crowd while M stands his ground, preserving our tiny acreage.

The band is playing. They have a catalog of soft, sad, folkish tunes, but tonight is for rock’n’roll and it’s loud and we’re all dancing and singing La de da de da, de di de da de da until our voices are cracking with exhaustion.

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I can’t see H. I can’t see M. But I know we’re all singing, nodding our heads, reaching arms into the air. I can feel the rumble of the bass and the driving beat of the drums through the ground, through my feet, up into my chest. We’re out of eyesight, but I feel bound to them by the music.

In just a couple years, that girl will be on her way, further from us than that July summer stage. That girl who would cling to us in tears at daycare drop-off, who wouldn’t willingly go to a birthday party or “play date” on her own. That girl is in the front row, making friends with people we don’t know, and having the best night.

At the end of the show, the audience scattered, but she hung out by the stage, hoping for a souvenir. She lucked into a used Colin Meloy guitar pick, but then felt compassion for the woman next to her who desperately wanted it, and gave it to her, and then immediately felt sad for giving away such a prize. To the rescue, her father, who convinced a stage hand to give her Colin’s set list, and then spotted one more pick lying on the stage. He’s tall and with a determined jump-reach he snagged it and put it in her hands. Parents are sometimes still needed.

Colin's set list

I think we would have happily listened for hours, but it was over and with so many songs we still wanted to hear. How greedy we are.

We have everything, absolutely everything, and still we want more.

Did I mention her smile? Did I mention how I danced in a crowd of strangers? Did I mention how, even now, I’m feeling a catch in my throat, thinking about the distance between that night two weeks ago and today and whatever comes next? Did I mention the moon? The huge moon, nearly full and rising behind us after the sun set behind the stage?

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