Summertime

August 2007As the yellow warmth of summer fades to the chilly brown of autumn, Lil and I grasp at the few moments left of our favorite season. This morning we discovered my great-grandfather Wilson Davidson’s binoculars in the closet, and Lillia was dying to try them out. I was a little nervous about handing a family heirloom over to a three-year-old, but I let her play with them for a bit. She wanted to take them to school, but I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of exposing a priceless antique to a group of preschoolers. Thankfully, the binoculars are housed in a really neat peach-colored carrying case (a perfect recepticle for plastic animals). I convinced her to take just the case to school, into which she put a frog and was happy.

After dinner we set out through to woods to the meadow under the guise of acquiring caterpillar food, but we were going mostly to test binoculars. I couldn’t face another evening stuck in the house, knowing that summer was slipping by and would soon be gone. I feel like my childhood summers were more carefree than the ones I am able to offer to Lillia. Part of that is because my mother didn’t work, so our schedule was more loosely defined than Lil’s. Another reason is that Lillia doesn’t have anyone her own age to play with most of the time, so parents and grandparents have to be substitute playmates. And, we’re tired so we’re not much fun.

August 2007For a few moments in the meadow I remembered what it was like to have no worries beyond the stalk of grass in front of me; to have no anxiety about the future because I had no concept of anything beyond what was happening at that very moment. Why is it so hard to access that state of mind once we become adults? Is it simply a matter of exercising our ability to let go, or is there something that happens to us after we’ve lived in the world long enough? We analyze our world until it breaks apart, and we can never again render it as a whole space. It is sad that we must experience our world in pieces, for we are guaranteed to miss so much that way. It is like using a grain of sand to try and understand the immensity of a boulder. We are finite beings, and there are too many grains of sand.

From an essay that Damian sent me, “The Sacred and the Human” by Roger Scruton:

…the moments when time stands still, when we look on the world from a point at its edge, when we experience our dependence and contingency, and when we are apt to be filled with an entirely reasonable awe.

I watched Lil weave her way through the tall grass, struggling to keep her balance in the green, and I thought about all the ways we try to fill our children’s days, when the simplest things are sometimes all that they really need. I have always said I don’t want to be one of those parents who micro-manages her kid’s life, who has some activity or another planned for every day of the week. What kind of childhood is that? Lillia has enough structure in her day at school. I think what she really needs at the end of the day is the same thing that I need: a chance to do nothing; to chill; to get away from it all; to space out; to watch the sun set on a field of corn; to watch a bee gather pollen; to wander through the woods, enjoying the world into which we are all born.

August 2007

All Signs Point To Yes

August 2007

I just returned from the preschool damage control/crisis management meeting. I think it was really good for everyone. Most of my questions regarding the series of events that lead to Monday’s closing were answered, and I feel a lot better about where the the school, and my future career, is headed. It seems like money is an issue (isn’t that always the root of our problems?), but for the first time in the four years that the school has been in operation, they have a budget surplus. That doesn’t mean health insurance and pay raises are imminent, but they are at least a remote possibility now, rather than completely impossible. I was also intrigued to learn that the school spends $24,000 per year for their lease at the industrial park. That seems rather pricey, especially considering what they get from it. I think there are more child-friendly & curriculum-appropriate locations that could be considered.

On the flipside, as a parent, I felt reassured to know that the school is going to stay open, and that my kid will have not just “somewhere to go”, but a GREAT place to go during the day. Lillia has gained so much from being enrolled there, and I was horrified to think that not only Lil but other children would be missing out. But, things are back under control, and I think tonight’s forum was the start of something really positive.

Gainfully (Un)employed?

August 2007Today was bizarre! It started out relatively normal, with Lil and I running late for work/school. It’s my last week at the magazine.

Crisis struck around 10:45am, in the middle of our monthly sales meeting, when I got a phone call from my daughter’s preschool saying that the staff was “in an uproar”, and that the school was going to have to close for the day. I was annoyed that I would have to find a babysitter, or subject my child to a day at the office. However, it was more than simply mild inconvenience. I am supposed to start working at the preschool on Monday, so having the place shut down would mean two terrible things for me: 1) I would have no job as of Friday, and 2) I would have nowhere to send my child during the day, even if I keep the job I have.

August 2007I zoomed up there the second I hung up the phone, to see exactly how bad the situation really was. The director was visibly upset, but the kids seemed oblivious to any problems. I grabbed Lil and headed back to work, all the while worrying about my employment situation, trying to decide if I should grovel and try to keep my job at the magazine.

By mid-afternoon I couldn’t take the suspense any longer, so I called the director. She seemed relieved to talk to me, reassured me that the school wasn’t closing, and proclaimed that I was to be their “saving angel”. Talk about pressure! I spent two summers of my life working at summer preschool camps, and I have been a mother for almost four years – that is the extent of my child care experience. But, I’m up for the challenge, and the classes at NH Tech will certainly make me feel more qualified. The school has done amazing things for Lillia, and I am honored to have been offered a chance to be part of that process. As far as I know, I still have a job, and my daughter still has a preschool, but I probably won’t feel 100% good about everything until I actually start working.

August 2007Lillia thoroughly enjoyed “Involuntarily Take Your Daughter To Work Day”. She was a horse pretty much all day (she’s almost always an animal…her equine alter-ego is called “Brongo”, but she’s also been “Dallas” and “Cabattaca” – that’s a phonetic spelling). When she wasn’t being “Brongo”, she was volunteering various bits of information about horses, and making various claims about her own abilities as compared to those of horses. She, in no uncertain terms, believes she can run faster than any horse. Her conviction lends itself to a certain degree of authenticity. I think my co-workers were entertained by her shenanigans. She managed to avoid napping, even though I constructed a very inviting bed for her under my desk. Instead, she galloped around the office for a good part of the afternoon, and was relatively content and amiable for most of the day.

Tonight we are both in chill mode. We spent some time in the backyard practicing our soccer skills, ate breakfast for supper, and now she’s watching 101 Dalmations. I am uploading photos and writing this post, and then I’ll probably join her on the couch. There’s nothing like doing nothing.

August 2007

Homedays

August 2007There is nothing more glorious than two days off from work, in the middle of the summer, with no real responsibilities or plans. But, sometimes these days at home can be rough. Sometimes you just want to be Miss Cranky Pants. You might think I’m talking about myself (I have my moments), but the Crank-O-Matic of which I speak is my daughter. I think she got up on the wrong side of the bed both Saturday and Sunday (perhaps I need to move the bed?). The problem we always face is that, for me, weekends are meant to be a time of relaxation, whereas my daughter wants to go, go, go until she can’t go anymore. She gets bored and lonely stuck at home all day with a bunch of adults who are trying to unwind from the preceeding busy week. I never had that problem because my brothers and I are only four years apart, total. So, that means I had built-in playmates for any and every occasion. Lillia isn’t so lucky. And, that’s probably not going to change in the near future. Children are taxing – both on the mind and on the wallet. I can’t see the justice in bringing another kid into my already chaotic world. I’m not saying it will never happen, it’s just not going to happen right now.

August 2007I worry so much about Lillia. I wonder if she’s truly happy, or if her life is as miserable as her tantrums would have me believe. She’s such a complex person, even at age three. I mean, just look at her eyes in these photos. There’s so much going on in that little mind of hers, I worry that I’m somehow letting her down. I want to be the best mother possible, but it’s a struggle to live up to the expectations I set for myself, and the ones I perceive to be set by others. Interesting…this is my second post in less than a week on the topic of my parenting skills. But, the truth is that I do agonize over the decisions I make, and the minutes I waste. I am constantly reminded about the fleeting nature of childhood, and I feel like I’m always a step behind where I should be when it comes to taking good care of Lillia. I don’t just want to see her survive to eighteen – I want her to have a great life, a fulfilling life, and I don’t want to be the cause of boredom and misery. At the same time, though, I need down-time. Everyone needs it. But, it’s hard to justify putting on a movie so I can have an hour of reading time, or chill time, or just…time. I’m probably my own harshest critic, but it’s hard not to analyze everything I do when I know that everything I do matters…at least to a small life that has just begun.

August 2007Sure, parenting isn’t all sweetness and light, but there are moments when you are so in love with your child that you are pretty sure you’re going to cry or your heart is going to explode. For example, Damian and I took Lillia to see Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at The Colonial Theatre today, and Lil fell asleep on me about a 1/2 hour into the film. As I held her there in my arms, I thought of how incredibly lucky I was to have this little person in my life, how wonderfully unexpected she was, how I wouldn’t change one thing. I’ll take the tantrums and the crankiness any day of the week in exchange for those few moments I get to hold her while she sleeps. And, people constantly tell me to “cherish these moments” because kids grow up so fast. I want to slap them and say, “Don’t you think I know that? Don’t you think I feel the pain of that everyday?” It’s almost cruel that the amount of time we are given to be mothers (or fathers) is so short. There’s no doubt that children will always need their parents (hell, I still live at home at twenty-six!), but it’s not the same after they get to be a certain age. Eventually, they no longer crawl into your lap just to snuggle, or ask you to read “one more story” at bedtime. I don’t need anyone to tell me that I will miss those moments when they’re gone.

Madame Sherri’s Forest

Madame Sherri's Forest
It was a beautiful, absolutely temperate, day so I took Lil to Madame Sherri’s Forest in Chesterfield, NH. I’ve been in love with this place ever since my friend Nick took me there back in high school. It’s a burned out shell of a building, overgrown with all the flora that New England has to offer, and embellished with beer bottles and empty packs of cigarettes. But, there is something inherently romantic there. Perhaps it is the legend of the Madame herself which lends the air of mystery to the ruins. A costume designer for the Zigfield Follies, she brought class and glamour to the back woods of New Hampshire, a feat worth mentioning.

Madame Sherri's ForestAlthough Madame Sherri is a fascinating character, it is not her presence that brings me back again and again. It is as if I’m eight years old, and the wonder with which I saw “castles” as a child comes back to me instantly the second I see the first stone of the tower peeking through the trees. Having spent time living in England and having seen REAL castles, I assure you that Madame Sherri’s construction, although impressive, is certainly no royal abode. Still, when I sit on the steps there, I feel like one of Rossetti’s Pre-Raphaelite beauties, entering a world of mysticism and magic. I know all of this sounds sappy, but if we can’t escape from reality now and again, what good is our imagination? I’ve always been a daydreamer, and it’s not at all difficult for me to lose myself in any given situation – to tune out the world. Oddly enough, I’m no good at meditation, but that’s because it requires an empty mind, and mine is always full, though not necessarily with the things it should be.

Madame Sherri's ForestI can’t tell if Lillia enjoyed our walk or not. I think she was a bit frightened of the castle, not so much because of its state of disrepair, but because the entrances and exits were not clearly defined. I think she felt trapped, despite the lack of walls or ceilings to hold her. However, unlike myself, she seemed perfectly content to climb the side staircase, and would have gone to the top had I not stopped her. There was no way I was going to the top, and I couldn’t let her go that high by herself. I don’t remember being afraid of heights as a child but, then again, I was hardly aware of my own mortality at that age (now the knowledge is acute). Perhaps life is the same no matter what your age: a mixture of wonder and fear at every turn.

See more photos from Madame Sherri’s here.