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.ย  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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Life

Stasis

Stasis

Sometimes the only way to start is just to start.

*

The cats and I are playing a game today. The game goes like this: they sit on the windowsill to my left, close enough to my ear that I can hear their ears twitch. I get out of my chair and they dash for their food dishes in anticipation of a meal that is at least an hour away by my clock. I sit back down. They spread themselves like speed bumps on the rug behind my chair. I get up; they scatter. I sit down; they start knocking things off of tables. I get up; they race for the bowls. I sit down.

I can do this for hours.

*

Darcy the goat is pregnant, so we believe. She’s round and her udder is full and by our calendar’s reckoning she was due to kid last Friday. She has not kidded. She remains round and calm, lying sedately in the stall we’ve prepared for her, chewing her cud like a bored receptionist chewing her gum. We check on her at all hours. Early morning, late at night, sometimes the middle of the night. We get up in the shivery wet, pull on our jeans, slip into our boots, flick on the flashlight. She rests, and chews, and chews.

She can do this for days.

*

Spring is notionally here. No, I’m exaggerating. Spring is definitely here, but so reluctant it’s nuts. The last few days have been cold, the last 24 hours full of (welcome) rain. If I weren’t so lazy I’d build a fire, but I’ve had it with splinters and now I’m not even sure where I put the matches on that innocent April day when I thought spring was a bird in the hand. Every few days, spring puts on a bit of a show, peek-a-booing a few new buds, pushing up something vibrantly green from the brown earth, sprinkling the evening air with peeper song. Then we swing back to sweaters. This morning I was shivering in a little cafe, waiting for my car to be repaired, winter coat around my shoulders, hot mug of tea in my hands. On my walk back to the garage, spring scattered daffodils along my path.

She can do this for weeks.

*

What we are doing here right now is waiting. This is a good place to be, even when it feels frustrating sometimes. We are waiting for things to begin without having used up any of the things we are waiting for. I’m greedy and want it all: the warmth, the rain, the flowers, the warm tea, the moment before everything begins, before the curtain lifts for the next act.

The cats just want their dang dinner.

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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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Life

This little light of ours

Brave Little State Says No to Hate

We held an election on November fourth. We held an inauguration on January 20. We held a march on January 21.

I’ve had months, weeks, and days to get my little duckling thoughts in a row and I find myself still bewildered. But here’s a try.

Eight years ago this week, we took the week off work and school and drove the familiar 750 miles to Michigan to be with family when Barack Obama took the Presidential Oath of Office.

It felt important to observe this in a way that we’d never before observed such an event, important enough to drive through two days of winter, to take nine-year-old H out of school to make sure she would have this memory to hold on to, a memory of the moment when politics seemed somehow even momentarily washed clean of cynicism. We were told we could hope, and we did. Yes we did.

I have a scattering of water colored memories from those few days, faded color slides: a nearly shut down hotel with no heat or toilet paper; an unheated swimming pool where a pack of little birthday party girls had released a tiny school of goldfish (rescued by M); the warm, inviting living room in M’s parents’ home, with the glowing television in the corner; the upright, earnest young president at the podium; H coming down with a fever that day and sleeping on the sofa through the entire inauguration ceremony; the sense in our hearts that there was much more work to do, but that a door had at last been unlocked and opened just a crack.

I remember another day, many years earlier, when I said to friends that I thought that it didn’t even matter who the president was. That a single person couldn’t have that much power and effect, considering our government’s systems of checks and balances. I’m cringing now at what I said.

I’m certainly older now, and less innocent, and maybe a smidgen wiser.

On Saturday we went to Montpelier to be part of the Women’s March. It was an electric, moving experience to be there, we three smalls bird joining a flock of starlings, a murmuration of feet, hearts, voices. The march itself was short, a mere half mile from the high school to the state house, but there were 15,000 of us (or more) and we lit up the grey day with smiles and songs and purpose. And we were small beans compared with what was going on in DC, New York, London, the world.

My older, less innocent self knows that this was an important first step, but a first step only. And it’s meaningless unless we continue to metaphorically march, every day, together, all of us. I know that we have a lot of hard work to do to make sure that everyone is included, to make sure that everyone is heard, to listen, learn, and let go of prejudices we don’t even know we have. I know that one march, regardless of size, isn’t a solution in and of itself. But I still feel a blossoming hope that was gone only last Friday.

Maybe this weekend was a small movement in the face of the big obstacles ahead of us, the tiniest sway that can build, the way little legs pumping at the air on a playground swing take the swing into the sky. The way single voices make a chorus. The way one candle lights another and another and another.

We Are Each Other's Harvest

Climate Change Does Not STOP by Deleting a Website

99.9% Sure I'm a Miyazaki Heroine

Wow Guys

Black Lives Matter in Vermont, too!

Perfect

Girls and Women Are Good

Arriving at the State House

The crowd

No to Hate. Yes to Pancakes

Bernie

Hope

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Life, music

What’s Going On

Missus

So I’m sitting here on a snowy afternoon at the end of December and I have to say I’m not sure what day it is. I think it’s Thursday?

Between holidays, storms, and school vacation days, it’s all become a blur of candlelight, chocolate gelt, wrapping paper, cellophane bags of sweet things I shouldn’t be eating, new books, classic movies, sparkling lights, eggnog, and a scattering of appointments here and there.

I’ve lost my fragile hold on my internal calendar.

Okay, I’ve verified my hunch with the computer’s calendar and don’t feel like a complete dope. December the 29th. We’re within arm’s reach of the end of 2016, which I think many of us can agree has been a bit of a disaster.

As if we weren’t on our knees already, the universe sees fit to take Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds just as we thought we might sneak under the wire and leave this year quietly behind.

Well.

I don’t know a soul who hasn’t lost someone dear to them this year. I feel foolish in my sadness at the loss of two women I’ve never met. I know I should feel this grief for the thousands of Syrians who lost their lives this year. For the children who met their fate with a bullet. For the families who never made it from one shore to the other. But it’s too large for me to feel it all, and instead I’m vacuuming the house while singing “Good Morning” with tears in my eyes.

So maybe this is how we compartmentalize a larger grief, and how we share with a world of other hearts a general outcry at the unfairness of time and mortality.

But that’s not what I want to think about here on the brink of the year. I want to think about the snow falling down, quiet as a candle, erasing the sky and pulling a discreet white sheet over the earth.

I want to think about this goofy, faithful dog, with just a little bit of grey on his chin, curled into an “O” in front of the fire.

I want to think about a tall daughter, sitting at this same table, listening to music as she draws, still here under our roof.

I want to think about a tender husband about to get into his car to drive home to us through this storm, on tires that are fast friends with snow and ice.

I want to imagine Al Green crooning to the mated pair of cardinals who are visiting our feeder today, to the chickadees, to the nuthatches, to the woodpeckers, to the blue jays, to the juncos, to the tufted titmice, to the woman with the camera: Let’s all stay together.

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