The first week of school prior to kids was a vicissitude of varying levels of tears, a herculean effort of will to focus my mind on curricula and on classroom set up and organization...it was a mental marathon that left me cognitively exhausted and wrung out like a dishrag.
And then came last week, with the kids. When I taught fifth grade, I carried a level of "strict" during that first week or so of school that I dropped almost immediately...they needed to know that if they tried to mess with me, it would NOT be pretty. And then, very quickly, they needed to know we would work hard, but they were still kids and we could play and be silly and goofy and just have fun. And I cared about them, deeply. But when I started last year in 2nd grade for the first time, and I had 7 year old babies in front of me, I wasn't sure how much of the Meanie I should wear, or for how long. And I had one super sensitive little sweetheart that had me taking if off and being tender and careful right away. This year, I find my barometer is still unbalanced. They have me laughing, smiling, playing, yelling, bursting into small bouts of moderately inappropriate hysterical laughter because I just can't BELIEVE what some of the 7 year old babies are doing, AND IT'S ONLY THE FIRST WEEK OF SCHOOL! Sigh. I think my planning will need a little hand holding for a while...not only is it my second year in this new grade, but my brain still gets muddled in grief fog now and then. But it is good to have little guys again. There are soooo many sweeties in my class!
So exhaustion of body, mind, emotion, intellect...and then the weekend as a single mom. I ROCKED that bitch! More or less. I wanted to take the kids to the swing park (a block and a half away) when I saw how nice it was Saturday. Which was met with a screaming melt down because I wanted to sit and have my coffee first. Well, I sent the kids to their rooms, sat and had my coffee and read in the sun while they cried themselves out. Then they opened the window and yelled down an apology. So after caffeinating myself more or less efficiently, we were off to the park- ON their bikes. Fun ensued. Then napping and laundry ensued. And when everyone (younger than 30) was rested, we suited up and went to the Appalachian Trail that runs through Gathland State park. John and I used to take Nikko, our lovely golden retreiver, there years ago...and we have done the hike with Aiden and again with Aiden and Cilly as a baby. This was Neil's first hike with me and on this path...it was, of course, my first one without John. We talked about how I used to go hiking when I lived in Maine, about how Daddy and I hiked with Nikko, and about how much we loved going on this particular trail. We met a father and son who were through hikers, all the way from Maine, we looked at mushrooms that were bright red and trees that were growing around rocks and spiky caterpillars. Neil screamed for me to pick him up and I told him when we hike, everyone walks. I said I would be happy to stop and rest, but everyone walks. And when he made it down the trail, we high fived and I told him he should be very proud of himself. He put his head on my shoulder (I picked him up once we hit the parking lot), and said "Dat make me, happy, Mom". Boston Market for dinner, and home to bed. I did it! We had some fun adventures!!
And today, when I was driving us to church, I had a moment where I felt John as much as if he was sitting on my lap while I was steering. I was thinking about Neil's birthday. He turns three in three days. I know that functionally it is going to be Aiden that suffers the loss of his dad the most, since he is the one that will remember him most clearly and long for the unique craziness that he encompassed, but it is Neil, who will never truly know him one on one, that has always ripped my heart to shreds. Not broken it- that is too easy. It is truly rent, as in torn, split, ripped, ruptured, fractured. Because one of the many reasons I wanted to marry John was that I knew that I wanted his blood, his unique way of processing the world, his humor, his heart, his experiences to be shared with another generation. I wanted that man to be the father of my children, to help them when they were hurt and hold them when they were lonely. Sigh....I digress....I meant to say how I felt him with me, with us...and I felt the push of the tears behind my eyes, and I took a deep breath and told myself that the sorrow that was sitting on my shoulder, holding my heart in its hand, did not have to make me cry. Not crying would not make the sorrow more or less. I could feel it, own it, and still keep going, singing along with the stereo, talking about Dunkin Donuts and regular everyday things. And my heart believed my mind...at least this time. I didn't cry. I felt the hollow, empty, loss...and I don't want to say I was okay, but I kind of was.
And then, at church, I got to be a song leader- my friend and I (and some others) got up on stage and lead the hymns! And I got to wink at my friend in the audience, and tap the mini tambourines against my leg, and smile at all the sweet, smart, amazing folks in our congregation who have sent so much love and support to me and my family this last couple years...and it was so nice. And Carl's sermon was amazing...it started well enough...and ended in a way the crushed me. Not in a bad way, but in a way full of thought and heart and growth...which is why I am linking it here. It is about 27 minutes, so make sure you have the time if you hit the link. It is worth the time...