Two and a half weeks remain until we say goodbye to the elementary school that has been a huge part of our lives for 15 years. Fifteen years of the same teachers, staff and classmates. Fifteen years of clubs and activities. Fifteen years of homework and tests and projects. All of these things exist in middle and high school, but not in the same form that they take in elementary school. Elementary school is leprechaun traps and play dates. You don’t get calls from the school nurse for skinned knees after you leave elementary school.
I need to do something significant to recognize 15 years in this school. Not a goodbye. We’ve had too much goodbye this year. This needs to be a happy moment of transition awareness. What’s the elementary graduation version of a major award?
She: “What station are you playing now?”
He: “One of the Amazon Prime country stations.”
She: “The Outlaws are not country. They’re Southern Rock.”
He: “It’s a country station.”
She: “They are wrong.”
She: “I think we had a raccoon or skunk in the yard last night.”
He: “Definitely not dog or cat.”
She: “Or deer or rabbit.”
Child: “What’s everyone staring at?”
He: “What’s wrong?”
She: “We just saw something on this tv show that is really important in a book and I can’t discuss it with you.”
He: “What book?”
She: “I can’t tell you. You’ll be expecting it if I do that. You have to come across it naturally.”
He: “Ummm, yes dear.”
She: “Read books faster!”
Nothing but high brow philosophy and world problem solving discussions over here.
The youngest child is wavering on the precipice between childhood and adolescence. If you stare at him long enough, you can see him growing and changing. I don’t want want to hold him back or push him forward. I want to memorize every single detail of this moment in time. So, when he is operating in full childhood mode, I try to hold my breath and let it be what it is.
Short showers are starting to replace his lengthy baths with a tub full of plastic toys. Every so often, he spends an hour in the bath, mixing all of the soaps and shampoos in toy chemistry tubes. The entire bathroom floor becomes a wading pool from the splashing and splattering of his test tube creations. It’s all fuel for the dangerously oversentimental phase that I have accidentally fallen into recently.
“Wait! Don’t use Mommy’s hair conditioner for your science experiments.”
“It’s expensive old lady stuff.”
Maybe I’m not too far gone yet.
“Why isn’t ensemble participating in competitions this year?”
“Why aren’t Fifth and Eighth grades visiting their new schools this year?”
“Why did Dr. Seuss Week get rescheduled?”
“He doesn’t qualify for reading intervention, but he needs extra help that I can’t give because of teaching time lost to testing.”
Testing != Teaching
If the upstairs water dish is empty, then…
elderly dog will use her nose to repeatedly slam the toilet seat until we fill the water dish,
birdbrain dog will lick the empty water dish until we fill the water dish,
Gimli the cat will lick the walls of the bathtub until we fill the water dish
and the two orange cats will go downstairs to drink from one of the other two water bowls.
Doug’s parents drove across several states to help out with funeral preparations. Upon arrival, they claimed the most difficult task. They took the youngest child shopping for appropriate funeral attire AND convinced him to wear the clothing that wasn’t shorts and a t-shirt. After using their magical grandparent powers to shop with him, Nanny asked for supplies to hem the new suit pants for Evan. “I need a needle, black thread, scotch tape and paper clips.”
I stumbled around the house collecting the requested items. Why do I own pink paper clips? Have I really not used tape since Christmas? My sewing skills are limited to buttons and blanket stitching, so when a real seamstress works, I don’t question her mysterious MacGyver abilities. I piled the notions on the kitchen table and Nanny tilted her head so that she was looking at me thru her eyebrows. A slooow smile stretched across her face.
“All I need is the needle and thread.”
I’m not admitting that I have been in a disconnected fog since everything happened. I am only now realizing that Nanny’s famous dry humor, that she usually keeps locked away, made a rare appearance when we needed it the most.
Of course, I also failed to sign the youngest child’s Friday folder for the second time since I came unglued and he is going to be livid with me when he arrives home complaining about the lowered behavior grade that my failure caused him.
I need to get the jokes faster.
While the rest of the world was posting spring break Saturday night pictures from the beach, amusement parks and clubs, we spent our evening making up the lyrics to “I love my dollar toy” while the cat played fetch. I like to think of our work of art as the B side to Smelly Cat.
I still can’t make it a day without reaching for the phone to send Dad a picture or tell him something. On his coffee at Hardees days, I still time my shower so that I will be dressed before he drops by the house. I still cry every time I catch myself doing those things.
In an attempt to gain control of the chaos of memories and feelings, I have started having conversations with Dad in my head. Not actual conversations, but I mentally list all the different opinions Dad would have on something in the local news or politics. The thoughts play out until I settle on the most likely one. Then, I feel like I have a better understanding of how people who don’t think like me are interpreting the situation. Sure, it would make more sense to go talk to people. I don’t think perspective is the real reason I’m doing this. I know it isn’t. Maybe I’m prolonging my grief by trying to actualize the ghost in my memories. This is where I am though.
“E refuses to let me check his homework.”
“I think he’s afraid I’ll cry or puke on it.”
< - extended silence ->
“Maybe his older siblings should check his homework for a while.”