all the kids

all the kids

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Poe and the Nest

These day our house is full of kids. Big kids, the kind whose heads almost scrape the roof.

I was walking on the trail with the horses and crying because these big kids, they have places to go and things to see. And I've seen them every day since they came out of me.  It's probably good that they can feed themselves and they're fairly kind to others, and they're good looking and smart and it's a good nest here for them to fly out of.  Nests are mostly made of twigs and dirt and poop. It's a good nest.

We're lucky that our house has their voices in it, and that it's a peaceful, joyful, curious, messy place. It's an ocean of us all, washed up in the kitchen tonight playing Blokus after watching the neighbors rehearse Edgar Allen Poe in the driveway next door. Every turn has something different around it, all the paths are lit up, at the end of the day, we trudge back inside but it's never quite over. Warm bed, water, pajamas, family.

I didn't get here by myself. I've had a lot of poetry, and a lot of pizza. This makes it all possible.

Monday, October 2, 2017

I Am the Bee

I rescued a bee out of the pool today.

I was passing by the wide open blue water, in between doing one busy thing heading to another.  I saw the bee, a tiny dot, on her last breath. Not the heroic struggling of the first stranded bee. The slow struggling of the waterlogged, the bee about to go down.

There was a tiny leaf, like a fairy's landing pad, no bigger than my thumb, floating next to her.

I see you, bee, I said.

I won't let you die.

I stuck my toes in the water, reached out for the leaf, got the little tiny body onto the leaf. She fell off, but scooped again and she hung on. Then she fell off.

It's such a big pool. No other bees in sight. How did I even see her, in all that water.

I washed her out on a wave with my hand.

She was alive. She was so grateful.

I am the bee.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Magic Glasses

My brother was driving through town on his way to Connecticut (not anywhere on the way, by the way) but in his plan months ago was to be in Tennessee "for the eclipse," which I thought in my vague and foggy non-scientist way was too hippie and weird. We saw an eclipse in the 70's, it just got dark for awhile, who cares? It seemed crazy, too far away, to plan an entire trip around an hour of time where it just got a little dark.

A few days ago, Bruce, who is staying here with his hurt back, propped up on pillows and momentarily paused on his path to Oceanography PhD -- Bruce texts me "I ordered 5 pairs of eclipse glasses."

Hmm. So then the package came on Friday, and there are these flat solar glasses, like paper 3d glasses. And then Lilly's class is planning to do the eclipse viewing on Monday, and they have the glasses too. So now I'm thinking okay, I'm not gonna do the other things I had planned, I'm going to drag myself to her school for the first time this year to help the teacher wrangle the kids and see this eclipse.

We put the glasses on and there's a chip out of the sun.

It's amazing.

The kids are going in and out of the classroom every 15 minutes, to view and then record what they see by drawing the shape. They're also playing a video of a moon who is singing "Total solar eclipse" and the whole class is singing along. If you ever need to know how to celebrate something, stand with a group of 10 year olds. They will show you. Their enthusiasm just seeps into me.

So I have Bruce's glasses with me, and since they have extra at the school, I tell Lilly I'm going to take these back home so her dad and Bruce can see the eclipse.

I check out the sun as I'm going to my car, and it has a bigger bite out of it. I can't believe that there is a piece out of the sun. It looks like such a normal day.

I see a lady walking her dogs, probably the most annoying lady in the neighborhood. Tiny dogs, yappy lady. I pull over on the wrong side of the street because suddenly I have to say "Hey Louise you have to see this." Because this is not a normal day, because we are on a floating rock in the sky, and we are all in this together. She puts on the glasses and she's complaining about something and she's got that regular pinched look on her face and then suddenly she says hey WOW. You can really see it!

I'm almost home, and I see the guy walking his huge dogs that I always see, so I pass my street and try to catch up to him, but do a U turn and almost make the guy behind me crash. I feel bad about that driver who is just waiting in his white car, as I'm still turning, and the dog walker is passing by me oblivious, not knowing I'm trying to catch him, thinking I'm just a bad driver. Now I'm heading the wrong way from the dogwalker so I pull up to the white car expecting the other driver to be mad and he's not, and I say I'm sorry, I just wanted him to see the eclipse, but I missed him, did you see the eclipse??  The guy, a craggy looking Asian dude with a happy face takes the glasses I hand through my window and I tell him to look up. He's my first stranger, but I don't care. It's so exciting, we're earthlings.

He's gazing up and we chatter about how amazing it is and then I zoom off to catch the dog walker who weirdly is the only one who declines to look. Then I pass a guy next to a fixit phone pole truck holding some wires and say "Did you see it?" waving the glasses and he laughs and pats his shirt pocket and says "I have some!!"

Then I get home and look at the eclipse with Barry and Bruce, wandering out at 9:15 likes bugs from under rocks, and they look up and we see it changing, black over yellow, a bigger bite out of the sun. I tell them I'm running back to school, but now they have their glasses and I still have mine.

Back at Lilly's school, we go out again at 9:30 and see that the hole is getting bigger. We look at the Nasa cam in class, and see how it's looking in Oregon, and in Missouri. Where it's bigger and better. I point out where my brother is in Tennessee. It will get dark there, I say. For a little bit. Darn why didn't I think to travel there. Why?

At 10:19 when it's the peak, we go out with the class and it has gotten cooler, and shady from the eclipse, and the kids are curious, and stargazers, and artists who draw suns now, and most importantly they're looking up from where they are.

I tell Lilly I'm heading out, and on the way out of school there a group of moms on the steps and I make them look through the glasses. Even the one mom who is scared. I say it's okay. It's NASA, as I hand the glasses to her. Even the scared one looks. All of them can't believe what you can see.

I'm heading home but I can't head home. I call my friend Julia who I never see because of busy lives even though she's down the street. I say where are you. Want to see the eclipse? I have the glasses. She says she's kind of over it and I said yeah I thought that but you need to see these glasses. She's walking her dogs. I say I'll meet you at the feed store. Then I call Robert, our other dad neighborhood friend since preschool. I say you wanna see it? Do you have the glasses? Are you home?

I zoom over there, he comes out, he looks up. He is a scientist, and he is deeply happy. I zoom off to Julia and do a loop through the feed store, parking jaggedly. I see the guys who load up my hay each week. Three guys in feed store shirts by the enormous piles of hay and the forklift.

LOOK. I tell them. I make each of them look. I tell them I can't help it, look, quick! It's so cool. I go inside the feed store and make sure those girls in there have seen it. I come back out and there's a guy with a scraggly beard and leathery dark skin, a worker I haven't seen yet at the store. Have you seen the eclipse,  I show him the glasses. He says he hasn't. I make him take off his sunglasses and put on the glasses and he's standing by the baby chicks and he looks up at the sun and after he takes them off he is changed, and humble and says to his chest so quietly, "I never see this before in my life."

Then I know I only have a few more minutes really, for these glasses to be meaningful, where I can affect people, where afterwards, in about 15 minutes, they will just be paper and blackness.

I go back near Robert's because I saw guys putting tar down on the road in yellow vests, and I swing over there in my beat up mom van, and hang out the window "Hey did you guys see it?"

I hand the glasses to the first guy who stares up, and then the guy with the tar broom, and then the scrawny guy who turns off the tar machine and comes over to look. I am all their mother. Today.

I get three shining smiles.

I pass a gold chained dad and Armenian businessman son who look like they're on the cusp of an argument at the end of their driveway. There's a garbage truck heading toward me. I stop anyway, and I don't care if they're having an argument.  "You guys have to see this," I say. The dad looks perplexed, but the son comes over and soon they're passing the glasses to each other, both looking up and remarking at the extraordinary view.

Then I catch the same garbage truck I didn't have time to stop earlier, lumbering at me and I park weirdly and go up to his door after he unloads a container, and his door is like looking up at Pluto, it's so high up, but he has a big round face and I show him the glasses and say can you look?  He's so happy he gets out of the truck and sometimes you don't even know you're alive until you see the planets and the garbageman gets out of his truck to see it with you.

Then I pass a lady and her three year old. She puts the glasses on the kid first, and aims her chin up to look, because moms always show the little one before looking for themselves. It is nature. She says she tried to see it in the pool, but the water is wavy, she says. She looks up, her face open with wonder.

I pass the retired neighbor with the chocolate lab Charlie in his yard by the school. He says "I'm going in the tell the wife I saw the eclipse!" Happy like a kid.

There are two guys in reflective vests on opposite ends of another corner, measuring something the way they do with hardhats and that weird metal camera on a stick. I make the one guy look, and then he calls his corner buddy over to look. Everyone is so grateful, like when you get something unexpected in the mail. Because today can be different, because no matter what we're doing in the neighborhood, these four blocks I've managed to harass with the glasses, we're all floating on this rock in space, and we all, every one of us, are a bunch of kids, and we can't believe that we are that vulnerable.

The Aremenian dude from earlier is passing in a van and sees me with the reflective vest guys, and he hangs out the window. Hey can my friend see?? He says, motioning to the van driver, who is already getting out to check out the glasses and the sun.

I've passed almost everyone I can see, and I've really only done the same streets I've done for years, trick or treating, or biking to preschool, or riding up to the park. I'm heading home, and I pass a guy in a hat pruning his hedge with electric clippers. I pass him, but then I only have him left, the street is empty, there's still time. The chunk isn't quite out of the sun yet. I put it in reverse and back up trying not to hit trashcans because I'm a pretty bad backer. It's like when I'm going in reverse I suddenly can't drive. I get out of the car, and the guy I thought was a gardener is an old guy with thick glasses and the kind of skin you usually only see on the armpits of gentle old giraffes. Have you seen the eclipse? I say. He glances at the sky a bit and says Oh I've seen a little bit. On tv.
You want to look? I have the glasses. He looks like 100 year old Poppa, with his eyes a little bit lopsided, and all the furry wrinkles by his elbows.  Younger than Poppa, but older than Lou, my 84 year old boss. A good mix of the two of them.
Look, I say, it's really cool.
He puts his head toward the sun and holds the paper glasses over his own glasses.
Ohhhhhhhhh, he says.
It's almost done, I say. But it's still amazing.
I look at him looking, since I can't look up too, without the glasses. I imagine what he sees.
He is studying it, miraculous.
It's leaving us, he says.
Watching contentedly.
He hands me back the glasses as I chatter about being at the school, and driving around like an idiot.
He's smiling at me from his garden.
Bless you, babe, he says sweetly.

I drive back home on the empty streets, with the almost full sun looking down on me.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Natural Habitat

The beauty of having no boundaries is that you think everything belongs to you. And I was reading that if you watch much Mr.Rogers, according to him, everything does belong to you.

I did Open House at my school where I'm a fake long term teacher, and stood amidst this swirling of parents and kids. The kids I had seen all day, and we had built the room to look nice and productive, and there they come popping in, one by one, the way kids do, in a rush, or laughing, or distracted, and every time I saw one of my 18 students, it was like Oscar night - look, another famous 3rd grader, famous from my class, the only one exactly like it on Earth.

It was funny to see the parents and family they dragged along with them, because as a parent I know these are the people doing the actual raising and loving and supporting these kids, but when they come in my class, it is like they are in MY arms now, and maybe because I have that no border thing as a mom but because they are with me all day, every weekday, they are mine. All sitting right there in front row seats in my mind.

At night after I put my own big babies to bed, I see them, I hear them, I think about tomorrow, and get myself organized for a productive day the next day. But it's not just the stuff we have to do and the teaching, it's the voices I hear and the faces I see, it's the art underneath the mechanics that of course I see. The whole person, growing people. All bubbling and distracting.

Then I read this thing about how Mr. Rogers thought we were all neighbors. Just right over there, and you might as well help your neighbor. Loving all people is natural.

And then my own family is at Open House, my dad and one of my moms, Barry, and my kids are running the cash registers at the book fair like we live in Ohio, in a small town. I'm at an age where I know having everything is temporary, and loving who is there with you, is the most alive and most fragile of all places. How many times in your life do you get your family and your work all mixed up and stacked together like a huge ice cream cone. My 18 kids. My 3 personal kids. My loaner kid friend of my son's who was there helping. My actual parents in adult bodies but who are still kids. It is pretty nice to have your dad take pictures of you and be proud of you when you are 50. Not much changes - from 5 to 50. Love is important. Ice cream is still good, too.

The Mr. Rogers thing was cool, because he said you never stop loving the people that die in your life. You don't get to keep them, but you get to keep the things they taught you that were important, and the times they made you feel important. You carry it with you.

I don't know how many more Open Houses I get. But I got this one.

Maybe all jobs are just a place to drape yourself and a background for where the love can come in and cover you like a gramma's lace shawl. I guess I can't believe how many layers there are to loving your life.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Testing, One Two Three

There's a girl in the class I'm subbing in. They had a test today, on the computer. Some kids wrote informational articles, opinion essays, and some had to write stories. She had to write a made up story about going to a cabin and what she saw outside the window when she woke up.

A made up story.

This is a kid who does everything perfectly in class. So perfect that she's serious about it, I'm not sure there's any joy in her perfection, this is her job and she is going to be first in line. She has a slight suspicion of me, that I'm a buffoon (she is right), and she's always managing her ship so tightly that I barely have to do anything for her, she's orbiting herself, on autopilot.

Then today I saw her not able to write very much on that test. Her brain was like on that icy lake in Frozen. She couldn't figure out how to write an imaginative thing. She sat for a long time, I guess consulting her arrested, clinical heart, and came up with a sort of scratching sound that didn't translate into the keyboard.

We all have these holes. Here is this high achiever, and she can't surprise herself with imagination. Okay, she's only 8, but come on, you're at a cabin and you wake up and look out the window and what do you see?

For me there is a giant snowdrift. There is a scary old man selling stale crackers. There is the Hindenburg in mid-explosion. Hot gas spewing directly at us. There is Jane Austen with a rhinoceros head and a beer. There is a tornado. There is the road to nowhere.

She did end up writing something that involved the words "first, next and finally," the way they're all trained to write. Of course, the template gave her security. I felt relief seeing the screeching halted edges of higher intelligence. Knowing that when she's running the hospital she will own someday, that there are things people are born able to do, and things that baffle us.

Even though in the emergency, she would be the one who knew all the procedures, I would still rather wake up in a cabin with a buffoon.
Have a tornado for tea.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The One Percent

I'm teaching my horse to trot, do you know how exciting it is when you give a cue and the big meaty animal says "well....okay then," and does what you ask with minimal fuss?

I was watching a trainer on tv and he said "you ask for 1 percent improvement each day, and then after 100 days you have a trained horse."

I like this. Not 100% today, and every freaking day. 1 percent, people. The happiness and perfection of that one simple step.

ps it also helps to read poetry. Your heart swells from beauty, and then the 1 percent you can do, in a day. Riding and writing.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Secret Garden

So it's weird when you get this little running theme in your life and everything springs from it and weaves together like it was meant to be. You have this ever? I think some people call it coincidence, but in "The Secret Garden" we're reading, they call it Magic.

I'm subbing in 3rd grade, long term, it's ending Friday or they keep saying every Friday that it's ending but I think this Friday it's for reals (ies), and at first I couldn't WAIT to break up with my class because whoa who wants the responsibility of 18 people's education on their hands and nowhere to wipe the blame? But since it's been almost four weeks, something started happening, and I don't think it was just me. There's a lot of chaos in a classroom, you're mostly just standing in the middle with your mom voice and your suddenly huge tribe of children busting out around you like the ones that come scuttling out of the fat lady's skirts in the Nutcracker ballet. You think you're pretty much yelling into the pirate ship wind, and your ship is going down and not even Jim Cameron can save you.

And then a little boy who is only 8 writes an amazing story out of Native American symbols on his buffalo skin (fake)(no actual buffalo we're in L.A.) paper and this boy is a smart boy but he's not much on behaving, being only 8 and mostly interested in laughing and he has one sort of winking eye all the time but anyway, we're doing this art with Indians for fun and social studies and his story in symbols was:

"many days. great sadness. War. many people. hurt. many people. make peace."

I don't know if it was the  simplicity of the crumpled brown paper and the broken arrow for peace, the simple lines drawn that he chose, that stood for suffering, and then hope, and the talking without words, the pictures drawn on paper he had softened with his own hands -- or maybe it was the way he was just looking up at me after he read it, and when I said to him, meaning it "that story is beautiful. It's my favorite," and he looked stunned like I had granted him knighthood, and land in England, rolling green hills. Then later he said to me, sort of sideways, when no one else was there, by the board - "was anyone else's your favorite?" And I got to say honestly, in our quiet little space, "Nope." It is filling to watch and actually see your good words fill another person. And it's not that whatever I think is the greatest thing, it's that if you saw the careful and sweet work he did, and the epic way it sounded, like today's world - this tenuous, volatile world we live in - and he chose to find peace. I don't know, his voice mattered.

Anyway, the springtime is growing up and around us, like the secret garden, and the crippled character Colin says, "I AM ALIVE," as he stands up and is made strong just by the beauty of a garden. As the old teacher will be coming back in from her extended stay in drug rehab or wherever she was and who cares, because I got to leap into myself as the fake teacher, leap in and bathe in it all. I like creating. We made Starry Night Van Gogh's, and block letter names for area and perimeter, and tomorrow we're going to watch a chemical change when we bake bread in the breadmaker. Science. We're attacking every subject, like we're getting somewhere/rocketing them forward I hope, with art and creative projects. And the room will smell so good.

I am alive, beauty weaving through me, and spreading out to all those little kids. Or maybe it's them doing it all, and I'm just the loud one shouting nonsense into the wind. I think I'm sailing the ship, but they're the ocean. Just a guest in their garden.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

All Cared Up and No Place to Go

When someone dies, you don't stop wanting to do stuff for them.

I think this is an amazing thing to discover.

I keep thinking about Poppa teaching me how to be an old person. Saying "okay" and "Thank you" all the time.

He was our big, very old baby. I miss making his fruit salad and watching him age. It isn't fair that he just left. Did he want to leave? I don't think he did.

He was just there, and less and less there, but still there. I miss his baseball, and his nearness. I miss him being in our lives.

I just want him to know, I'm still here, if he wants to come back. He was no trouble.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Lucky Charms

Lilly is setting a trap for a leprechaun. She macguyvered it all out, there's a box hanging from a piece of hay rope, from a tree branch, with a rock, and a circle of bricks below, covered with a towel and some leaves and some cookies for bait. When the (unlucky) leprechaun steps on the towel and falls in, the box top comes falling down and blocks him into the brick cage.

She was working on it with her friend Luke yesterday, and I helped them rig up the box on the rope. I was passing by to go take the horses next door to ride for a minute after subbing all day. I saw them negotiating, hauling, planning, digging, and engineering, and when you see that kind of beauty while you're just doing what you have to do to keep from veering into oncoming traffic each day, well that youth just makes everything else fall away. Building a leprechaun trap is maybe the only  productive thing to do on a Wednesday in March.

Last year the leprechaun left her a note that mostly said "HA HA" and some little green tricks and treats.

This year we're catching that sucker.

Today Luke's gramma saw me at school and said that Luke could not sleep, he was obsessed with catching the leprechaun. He can't wait for Friday.

That's gold, right there.

Monday, March 13, 2017

All or Nothing

Subbing takes some of the fun out of momming. Because being in a room with 30 kids who need policing is way harder than just hanging out with my regular 3.

There was a student teacher in the class I was "teaching" today, and apparently she was taking a lot of mental notes because she did not do one thing on the outside. I admired and was slightly jealous of her ability to do nothing while I was wrestling kids to the ground and force feeding them plural nouns. She lounged on the edge of my pool. She wore sandals and did not even dip her toes in. She kept looking around, I think, for the waiter. Here's the reality - she gets the credit whether she does all or nothing. Miracle.

So do more nothing, people. It counts the same.

I have to sub tomorrow, and I'm going to take on her philosophy. Maybe the kids and I will just sit around with our feet up on the desks and smoke cigars and talk about Vegas. We'll talk about the old days, back in 2008, when they were born. We'll shed a few tears.

The kids will go home from third grade going "Oh my god, Mom, I LOVE school."

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Soul Patch

So I don't grow anything on our little farm, but the farm sustains me.

I could plant some things, but I'm having a hard enough time just keeping the children and animals alive, well fed, happy, strong, learning and entertained. Plants aren't as good because they're silent, and when you eat them you never see them again. Plus then you have to replant.

I think I will learn the joy of gardens eventually, I'm seeing that would be nice to have a little patch of things I can grow. Right now my little garden patch is the three two-leggeds in my house, and the furry and feathery amblers outside. A soul patch.

Our old caretaker, the coughing loud old Poppa next door, decided to take his stuff and get out, and do it quickly like here's something for you, try this new weird quiet. There is suddenly so much space and way too much time that we used to spend thinking, tending and caring about the shuffling man in the baseball corner, eating fruit salad and sleeping in the chair. We had that down.

I read somewhere that somebody said "I wish things would stop changing so I could get used to the change."

My dad said not to worry, that there were plenty of old people heading my way. All my parents, and various friends and husbands. Maybe I'm just having a tiny lull, a small lovely holiday, from the aging business. When it comes raging back at me (or maybe wheezing), I will again roll up my sleeves, put on some gloves, and get down to the business of shuttling people to bathrooms and breakfasts, like the hearty Irish nanny that is in my blood.

I will fortify myself with Nutella on toast, make some tea, and look forward to the future. Hopefully having an entertaining and long time with my old buddies.

And in the meantime, the everyday smaller version of loving and tending these sprouts in my farm mom life. Grows me a good heart.