A New School Year

A New School Year

The boys now leave the house and clamber onto the bus heading for school at 6:52 in the morning. Both boys. This morning found all four of us in the kitchen at the same time as my husband tried to get out the door for work while I served two very sleepy boys their breakfast and the dogs danced in between our feet and around our legs, hair everywhere.

This particular scenario only happens every third day. Tomorrow I will rise and send them off to school before my husband even arrives back from his 24 hour shift at the fire department. I’m hopeful that come Friday, I might get to sleep past six o’clock in the morning, but I doubt it.

This is our new normal.

Today is the first school day of quiet as well. Quiet being relative as the dogs keep finding things to bark at: a neighbor walking by, the township department working on mowing near the road, the newspaper delivery man, the breeze, nothing. For the past two days, I’ve talked to my husband. Today, it’s just me talking to the dogs.

“Stop barking. Who’s a good dog? You don’t pet me; I pet you.”

I went to yoga today, in part because I’m working hard to keep my body moving right now and because, well, I don’t much like being all alone right now. Except for that part when I got to shower after yoga and lunch and no one bothered me, meaning I shaved my legs—slowly. And by no one, I mean that the dogs only barked eight times at who knows what but not one single person or dog came in the bathroom.

It’s the small things.

Our yoga instructor talked about pausing during the hectic day-in-and-day-out minutae to listen for the little things, to take note of the beauty. I’m so frequently in go-go-go mode that I do forget to pause, to breathe. I get lost in thoughts and don’t take note of what’a really happening all around me.

Last night during our walk, I heard a sound. A whooshing, if you will; steady and somehow passing me by. I looked around. Nothing. I looked up.

A New School Year

The birds are moving, flying in larger and larger flocks. Soon they’ll be gone. The air felt crisp against my cheeks during my walk this morning; I wore a soft new sweatshirt which I needed to remove on my way back up the hill. When do the crickets stop chirping? Maybe I’ll notice this year. The leaves are still green except for those few, those ones who have already given up, turned yellow and brown and let go of their branches. More will follow.

I wish away the seasons with complaints of “it’s too hot” and “it’s too cold.” I don’t take enough time to pause in the current and witness the transition of time, that in-between of summer and fall. When did my daughter get taller than me? When did my oldest son’s feet surpass mine? Where did my baby go and who is this near ten-year-old?

Fourth and sixth grade for my boys this school year. One is now a full-blown tween in middle school and the other will get glasses the same year I got glasses. I don’t know what this school year holds for them, but I hope I can help them pause every now and then; pause and look around and feel the air changing, see the birds leaving, witness the moment for what it is.

At the very least, I hope they learn something this year. I hope I do, too.

A New School Year

I Wish for All the World I Could Say, Hey Elizabeth, You Know, I’m Doing All Right These Days*

She’s been gone one whole year. I wrote this poem on the plane home from California on Monday. Last year, I flew home from California a few days after this date, with the knowledge her light was gone.

I still can’t believe it.

Un-Cloud Spirit

I don’t necessarily believe
you float above the clouds,
don’t think you watch me
from between the sun’s
rays, between falling
raindrops on my sons’ heads.

But looking down from this
particular vantage point, I
can’t help but feel your
arms wrapped ’round my
slumped, tired shoulders;
hear your voice in my ear.

Do you know when I struggle
most? When the thoughts
come fast and quick? Do you
recognize the pulse, the fear,
the downward spiral into
full-on self-hate?

You don’t need to answer
with words; I know how close
I dance with the demons—the
same who snatched you from
our hands, but not our hearts,
all too soon.

But you do answer me. I see you
in the way the light falls upon
my boys at sunset. I hear you
in song, in laughter, in a passionate
voice, and in the soft, gentle way
you said, “I understand.”

You act as a guide, flawed and
imperfect, like me. You see me
step to the edge, consider your
final fate, and step back, time
and time again; sometimes
I feel you push me away, back.

I don’t know why you’ve chosen
me, why you visit in dreams, at
lunch, in the sky on a flight home
almost one year after I cry-slept
through the sky, hurtling toward
a world in which you no longer existed.

When I close my eyes, memories flash
so quickly. Most crushing are the ones
I missed, wasn’t there for, that
pass through my mind as if I were.
I see you standing there; I cannot
reach you in time. Never. Still,

An onion on a coffee mug. Your laugh.
The two of us walking home through
the Square the night I knew I wouldn’t
and couldn’t marry my high school
sweetheart; cigarettes in the snow,
a conversation which lives with me now.

We talk even now, though I know
mostly no one would believe me or
even know you’re here, still, with us.
As you’ve walked with me this past
year, I’ve worked hard to be strong
enough for us both.

I do not know if I have succeeded
on behalf of you, but I know one thing:
I am here. I have new scars, some
too fresh, still itchy. But I am here.
You are in every piece I write now,
and I choose each breath.

For you. For me. For those who didn’t
know you, but should have; should have
read your words, held your hand.
For all of us who have wanted to give up,
nearly followed you into the dark, but
live on with and without you. Forever.

-JLH 7.31.17

Un-cloud Spirit

Further reading:

Title from Counting Crows’ song “I Wish I Was a Girl” from their This Desert Life album. Again. She lives on in these songs.