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.

bacc_group

~~~~~~~~~~
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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Life

Thursday November To Do list with Seamus Heaney

Dear Mom

  • Wake up at 2.30 am. Again.
  • Flip the pillow to the cool side.
  • Fall asleep. Again.
  • Dream you’re in a long, dark room (a bar?) that’s crowded with people wearing grey overcoats.
  • Through the knot of grey,  see Seamus Heaney (not in grey).
  • Poke the shoulder of the person next to you and point out Seamus.
  • Get excited when your friend says she (? he?) knows Seamus and will bring him over to introduce you.
  • Dream there’s an explosion of some sort and the next thing everyone is in the street and Seamus is gone. No blood, no wreckage, no evidence of a bomb. Just no Seamus.
  • Wake up in the Thursday November darkness.
  • Blink in the bright bathroom light.
  • Brush teeth.
  • Feed the dog and cats and girl.
  • Wave goodbye to the man and the girl.
  • Think, “Now what? The bills?”
  • Spy the pan of brownies.
  • Shave a thin slice as if to even out the crooked cut line. This is a service. An act of straightening.  You should be thanked.
  • Strictly avoid the news.
  • Consider a nap.
  • Think about Seamus. Was he wearing a red coat like the little girl in “Shindler’s List”? Was he a sign? A warning?
  • Look at the brownie pan again.
  • Go outside to get logs.
  • Converse with the goats.
  • Start the fires.
  • Read reviews about smoke detectors.
  • Remember that no one can agree on internet reviews.
  • In an act of faith, order new versions of the same brand of smoke detectors you already have.
  • Check things off the list.
  • Add things you’ve already done to the list.
  • Check them off.
  • Consider a nap.
  • No really. Consider it. You didn’t sleep much last night.
  • Blame Seamus. Or the fact that you didn’t get to meet him.
  • Tell the dog to stop licking himself. Again.
  • Think about “The West Wing” as a political fairy tale.
  • Do bills.
  • Chuck more logs onto the fire.
  • Straighten the brownies out just a bit more.
  • Wonder where Seamus went when the explosion happened. Was he killed? Did he just leave through the back door? Did he set the explosion off?
  • Take a dreamless nap.
  • Avoid the radio.
  • See the note on the counter. The one the girl wrote before she could spell, that long ago.
  • Imagine time as a spiral, where you’re always in reach of the last loop, revisiting concentric circles of your moments, but each pass takes you just a little further from the last.
  • Admit you’re not fooling anyone about the brownies.
  • Apologize to the dog.
  • Wonder if time spirals intersect. When Seamus traveled his spiral, how close did his come to yours?
  • Make dinner.
  • Watch night come in.
  • Think about writing a poem.
  • Watch a movie.
  • Go to sleep.
  • Wake up at 2.30 am.
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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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Life

Haunting

Haunted

I (like many of you, I suspect) was raised as what is now called a “free-range child” (though that term would have made no sense at all to my parents… evoking some image of the wild west, children galloping like mustangs over the plains…). We had no curfews, no accountability, certainly no cell phones. As long as we managed to get our homework and chores done, we were welcome to be gone into the neighborhood until dinnertime (and sometimes, with pre-arrangement, until bedtime). Welcome, in fact encouraged, to be off doing our own thing while the adults in the home sipped wine in front of the television, talked “escrow” and “insurance” and schemed about child-free vacations.

This relative freedom didn’t rob Halloween of its essential charm. Against the unwritten rules, we trick-or-treated on our way home from school, in broad daylight, then, when darkness fell, made our major assault on the neighborhood, costumed and prepared with flashlights (rarely used) and pillowcases to be filled.

We went parent- and rule-free, except, of course, we were good kids and had internalized the basic rules: don’t damage property, don’t hurt anyone, stick together, don’t get lost, say “thank you.”

It was the highlight of my year. The candy was the tangible reward, but skulking around the dimly lit neighborhood, hustling through leaf-crunchy backyards, stopping under a street light to compare loot, running unfettered on feet that preferred running over walking, scaring each other witless, then collapsing in laughter, those were the things I still remember, 40 years on.

The candy was fun, too. And even the warnings of poisoned popcorn balls and razor-bladed apples didn’t stop the fun. Halloween was supposed to be dangerous, if it was to be any joy at all. That said, we dutifully took our earned loot home and examined it for suspiciously torn wrappers before eating anything. We were risk takers… to a point.

That was then.

Halloween feels so much more sedate and protected now. Parents march their children through brightly-lit neighborhoods, wait on the sidewalk while their little goblins brave the distance between them and the front door. It is sweet as sweet can be, and we loved every second of being those sidewalk parents for H, but I wonder sometimes what she lost, and what she will remember 40 years hence.

Well, I’ll tell you. Kids will be kids and they’ll make their own fun. As a wise friend once told me, all kids need drama in their lives and if they don’t have it they’ll manufacture it. The same goes for a little terror, I think.

Saturday night, H had her friends over to our safe living room and queued up a classic Halloween film fest. They began with Vincent Price’s 1953 “House of Wax”, continued through “Psycho”, ” Dial M for Murder”, “Gaslight”, “Wait Until Dark”, and wound up at the terrifying 1963 version of “The Haunting”.

And they screamed, those lovely, protected teenagers. They screamed and laughed and gobbled popcorn and traded gossip.

M and I shuttled through the scene, providing pizzas, cleaning up glasses, watching snippets. They ignored us, old ghosts.

Try as we might, we can’t leave them be, can we? We haunt them, helpful poltergeists, driving them to school, making pies for fundraisers, picking up the pizzas.

And then releasing them into their wide night.

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