Beeps and I are about to cross from Hoquiam to Aberdeen when we hear a strange beeping. We slow up on pedaling and coast; moments later a tall, silver-bearded white man slowly crosses a block ahead of us on a segway. Slowwllly he crosses as his siren sententiously announces his passage.
A beat, and then I say to my oldest: “Being on the bike, you are thrown into humanity a bit more,” and halfway through the sentence they are nodding already. We’ve come across a rude cashier, teens cutting eyes at us as they walk home from school, and two young men who pulled over and asked us to buy them beer. And then there’s the distraction of people just doing their thing: mowing lawns or taking out the glass bottles. These few days on the bikes have been incredible for my mood; the sunny days are ecstatic, and the rain and the cold – well, those days I’m glad to get home to the heat and my pantry and my kettle.
My grandmother would be proud of me. I made this lovely maxi dress on her old Singer 15-91 and I love to think of honoring her every time I sew in that machine. But I also like to think she’d be proud of the brass-bottomed bitch I am today! The fabric is from @stylemakerfabrics and I recommend them unreservedly. This frock is for my friend @abicree – a gift I will be mailing to her. And may she wear it well! Sinclair vegan boots by @nicorashoes; third generation female shoemaker. #sewing #vegantailor #dressmaking #bespoke #bespokehogaboom #customclothing #vegan
I finished two dresses today, and washed and dried a gorgeous two-tone linen for a pair of trousers. My stockpile of fabrics for upcoming projects is, incredibly, slowly dwindling. Another great thing about the bike is it forces me to stop working, and to an extent stop thinking about work. I’ll take what I can get!
I am holding my oldest child close in our bed while my husband sleeps just a foot away. Beeps smells like roses and their hair is damp; they are warm and soft and even let me put my arms around their little tummy. I hold them close and I tell them, we make a plan. On Friday I will take them to the new LGBTQ+ teen center in Hoquiam. Beeps is socially shy, at least IRL if not so much online (where they exhibit dry humor and a quick wit). I tell them they can tag along and I will make up a reason to be there. “Why?” my child asks. I say, truthfully, “to find out more about volunteering there.” And my kid sighs a little gladly and says, “oh,” and I can tell they are glad their mother is the type of mother to put time into such a venture.
My first project of the year in my studio was to craft a wheelchair cozy for a child who is very sick, who last I heard only has a few weeks to live. It’s not quite possible for me to wrap my mind around this, although I’ve been trying, but it is possible for me to make this cozy little bundle for this child, a hack that circulated online and involves sewing two cheerfully-lovely puffer coats together at the hem, and the installation of four locations for straps. And I find a little patch, the same as the child’s nickname, and I sew it on patiently today in the kitchen while I listen to my own children talk; Nels is learning coding from Ralph, working on Minecraft mod. My kids are like my cats – they want to be in the same room as me, so when I hand-sew anything I try to let them know and soon enough, there they are
It’s been incredibly cold but today we were blessed with sunshine and, in the evening, a stunningly large full moon on the rise. Last night just after midnight, while neighbors were still launching fireworks, the children and I wrapped up in blankets and spent a few moments on the back deck, marveling at the light from the moon and the passage of another year. My twentieth New Years’ Eve with Ralph; and sometimes time is spinning spinning spinning and my children aren’t yet grown but I can reach my hand out and touch this future, and I think to myself There is absolutely nothing to stop this time from spilling out, so I have to take that deep breath and feel the enormity of the moment.
The oldest child is upstairs drawing; my younger child joins me in bed for just a moment now, before rushing back to his coding work. He is cold as his computer is down in the very basement I toil in; cold AF so he’s cold and we have a standing agreement in the family that we can come to one another for warmth but no pranking anyone by laying ice-cold hands on the warm flesh of the other family member.
My son tells me, upon waking, he thinks he may have developed a case of mycelia. “It’s a state, often observed in ants or other insects, where a fungus uproots the function of the brain.” He is very serious, very sedate as he shares this horrific thought with me – before breakfast, even. Then, he adds thoughtfully: “It’s either that or a highly emotional fever.”
I am amazed I can get up to a body of work – both professionally, artistically – with the kids in the house. Yesterday while I tried to sew I couldn’t get five minutes without an interruption; on days their friends visit it can be even worse. Feeding extra kids is Extra. I don’t mind, but I also have to give myself credit for how much I do get done.
“Do you work from home?” a child asked me today. I got to tell her. Maybe she will stay less ignorant than so many Grown-Ups.
But today, “working from home” took us on the road, as it often does. We spent the better part of the sunshine on a little highway and back again: delivering a child to a counseling session. It was hot out, and my car – clocking over 200,000 miles – has a busted A/C long since fallow. The windows down, and the air roaring through, it’s good enough. Tying my hair up into a couple buns and wrapping with a headscarf and still by the end of the day I feel wilted. Hot shower and into pajamas a little early, methinks.
The children and I enjoy a late-night walk with the dog, most nights. And every time we do at least one of our cats – and sometimes up to four of them! – follow us. Our little tuxedo Herbert Pocket races alongside, flashes of her white grabbers at the end of sleek black legs. She waits in a dusty lane for us, and I know coyotes or even a mountain lion could meet her there – it’s remote enough. Life is scary!
We’ve always had the highest quality air here, but this summer has had some wonderful, beachy breezes. I’m aware as we walk that we are approaching the end of our turn in this neighborhood: off to a new house, a new adventure soon. I make my preparations: sewing a quilt, selling bits of furniture, putting together a wishlist, going through our clothing:
Working From Home.
Today I spent some time in an in-depth mentoring session, then gave blood, then ran my mom over across town for errands, then got my ass to yoga, then went to a meeting. On top of the kidcare and housecare and petcare. I’m beat.
It’s been a very busy summer. But a beautiful one.
My son takes my hand; he kisses me. His freckles are surfacing, now, with the spring changes. His face lean like a young wolf; no more baby, even though I search his features for that memory. And as we walk the sun floods our path downtown, lighting up the fresh green grass and the old crumb-bum sidewalk. At my right hand, our dog Hutch pulls at his leash.
And now Nels says to me – by way of affectionate teasing:
“with a crooked beak.”
“… Nasty thoughts in its head.”
and he smiles slyly and I pull him close, kiss the top of his head. I don’t even have to stoop.
My car is busted, and sitting at the shop. I can hear the meter running, cha-ching!, more expense. And even after mine is fixed – I have some concerns about Ralph’s car – the power steering, for one. The busted driver’s side window. Our children’s choice to attend school is a difficult one when it comes to working cars, and gas expenditure. A new(er) car isn’t something we can pull off any time soon, either.
The bathtub faucet has a drip: my dog has some mysterious ailment causing him to scratch, and chew on his skin. The house needs an overhaul: a winter’s worth of home clutter is gradually being sorted, categorized, recycled or used. Today I handed a large paper bag full of hair dye and half-used shampoos and other toiletries to a gentleman in a big truck, a liaison arranged via the free Facebook community.
We’ve got an upstairs art studio that needs to be tidied; I’ve a resume and cover letter to send out in the morning. I’m behind on our budget. I’ve been ill – kidneys acting up.
Maybe that’s why it matters. Putting my arms around my daughter and feeling her belly. Holding my husband close, feeling the strength and warmth of his body against mine. The sound of my children’s laughter while they play basketball next door – bounce, bounce, bounce. My cheerful (but small) little sewing studio; ironing the selvedge of new denim. Hot coffee, hot water for an evening shower.
It’s good to be alive, even if I’m usually lost as to what to do with the blessings scattered about at my feet.
I’m standing in the classroom, stirring a fragrant broth loaded with vegetables, shredded chicken, garlic, spices, and pasta. The classroom I am borrowing is a somewhat-converted Home Ec facility: the stoves serving as counterspace, now, and counters cleared of kitchenware and hosting physics experiments and water testing equipment. Sinks and cupboards full of scientific equipment and rinsed Tupperware. A fridge housing God-knows-what. A dingy space but, as far as classrooms go, a fairly cheerful one. The teacher here loves his job and it shows in how he attends to the children in his care.
I come out every Monday to lead my son’s class through either a bit of arts-and-crafts – or, as in today’s case, cooking. I’d set forth volunteering to cook during Phoenix’s inaugural year, in the sixth grade. Parents who actually spend time in the classroom are as rare as ever. I think it’s because, although schools serve at our behest, they still feel like foreign territory.
This week’s Monday, however, the hot plate I’d purchased for my son’s class proves inept at getting a good boil of soup on; thus my return on a Thursday to finish the job – borrowing another classroom. A lot of driving back and forth to this rural little school but it is worth the effort, time and expense to support my children. The drive is a pleasant one, too. Often on the trip I come across a herd of about thirty Roosevelt elk – I’m so used to it I give them only a cursory glance. Until I think it through and realize many people in the world would be in awe at such a sight.
Finished now, I tidy the kitchen space, thank the resident teacher, and carry the large tureen through the hallways – carefully, arms out ahead so I don’t slosh on myself or the floor. I’ve the soup – which the kids have been looking forward to since Monday – and two loves of day old bread donated by a local deli. The class is happy to eat what they helped prepare – children will dine in a much more democratic fashion when included in the cooking work.
It is a cold and soggy day outside; as a few other classes filter out for a wet recess, I talk with my son’s teacher about her pregnancy – her first. I’m tired, but content to have a job to do, a simple one at that.
Tonight, finally – the last work of the evening, making a pan of homemade double-chocolate brownies at my husband’s suggestion. My son stands on a stool, putting clean and dry dishes away. “Mama, I love you. Who wouldn’t love you?”
“Oh… lots of people don’t love me. Don’t even like me.” The moment I say it, I know he will be shocked.
Sure enough: “What? Who? Who doesn’t like you? Mama?” Nels is amazed.
“Oh…” I tell him. Thinking of a few names. Then I say, “I can’t tell you. Because actually – I don’t know for sure.”
“Who wouldn’t love you?” He is less distressed than confused.
Then, when he sees I am still not forthcoming:
“Can you tell me a little bit, maybe just someone you guess might not like you?”
“No, Nels.” I am firm. “It’s not my business anyway.”
“Oh. … then can I have some cake batter?”
We finish up in the kitchen – I place the batter in a pan in the oven. Nels finishes the dishes.
Today was a good day.
Sunday night after yoga class I noticed the rain was fantastic – even for an area known for its rain. Deep in that evening while we slept the county – especially Aberdeen, and to a lesser extent Hoquiam – absolutely went awash.
By nine in the morning my entire family and I had (carefully) made our way to a grocery shop to get enough supplies for a day or two – as many roads were impassable. I passed someone in the aisle I’d known since I was eight – I was to find out later, they’d lost a house only hours before.
Both the kitties’ trip to the vet (offered by a friend helping us out) and my daughter’s doctor’s appointment were cancelled. School was cancelled. Ralph’s workday: cancelled. Almost all the roads in and out and everywhere: closed!
My social media stream began trickling in photographs of basements and homes flooded – cars submerged, streets absolutely awash. I comforted my friends and neighbors, I updated my own feed with our day’s events. I thought a bit about those working hard to help – especially the road crews, police, aid workers, and all who had to brave the elements.
Our house stayed warm, and dry. Our animals and human family members stayed safe. Nels even made a little newscast last night.
Life goes on even during catastrophe. Last night at 1:30 AM, and quite improbably, the neighbors across the street – who yesterday had a lengthy, out-of-doors, screaming, I’m calling the cops! fight – suddenly blast a soulful, sexy R&B tune.
My son: kept up into the wee hours by night terrors. This morning, my heart is sad.
The doctors don’t seem to be in just yet. My attempts to reschedule Phee’s doctor’s appointment – I am concerned with her cough – go in vain. A glass of water, a couple ibuprofen for my own sore throat – and then falling into bed with an anxious little boy, who is home from school.
We’re in a group of about thirteen people all watching a film – and next to me my son sits in his white fur cap, content as possible. I watch him as he eats popcorn and tidily drinks from a small can of Sprite soda. His elven profile tears at my heart. I am rendered entirely helpless at how much I love him, and his sister, how they are my everything life and limb and body.
Today I dug into rent money to take my children – and two others – to the movie, and then for pizza dinner. I popped popcorn and hit the drugstore candy aisle and all that stuff because I will work for it, to give them a decent memory on their Winter vacations from school. All that work to try to get us to the theater on time and watching the film I am almost entirely disinterested; I check my phone as discretely as I can. I have a special exhaustion that seems fruitless and yet serene. I just have to move my body from here to there, to wash dishes, to cook pizzas, to direct children to wash hands or get ready for bed – et cetera, et cetera.
Last night was the second night in a row my son falls asleep right next to me, where I sit – crumpled up against me, his body turns heavy and his breathing even. As much as his interests have turned to school, for now (well – kickball and P.E., really), he is still a little boy who finds comfort in his mother. Why he seems so young and his sister – so much more sedate, darkling, older than her years – seems so grown, I do not know. It’s a rather dreadful juxtaposition as I’m torn between being too-important and not-important-enough, depending on which child I behold. Both children seek out my arms often and when I hold them I’m just wrecked in so many ways.
A Christmas package in the mail: a project knit in secret. Homemade Christmas cards. Yoga, and some time to myself on the mat. Breathing out a deep “cleansing breath” and feeling my face against synthetic plastic and knowing my husband is now at home, caring for the children. Dinner will be ready when I arrive and another day will come to a close.
Day in and day out, caring for younglings, one can learn quite a bit about the Right Stuff for the Right Reasons.
It’s cold. Cold and windy some days; merely cold others. I dress as best I can for the morning walks with my dog and frankly I’d rather end up over-bundled than the opposite.
My dog is a fit and hardy soul; he traipses across large puddles encrusted with thick ice; these frozen lakes groan under his pressure and he takes a quick drink, then he’s trotting ahead again. I find myself enjoying the fresh air and some contemplation; small brown birds abruptly blossom into colorful flowers – slam into the tenacious blackberry shrubs at trailside. I see a fellow dogwalker now and then, but mostly it’s just the sound of the water in my ears, and my dog’s companionable tread.
They’re pulling the paper mill down, across the river. There’s a part of me that can’t believe it’s gone. I stop and really get a look – as long a look as I’m willing to take given the cold – and I think about my past, my future. I’ve lasted longer than the mill. Huh. See, I started my engineering life at that mill as an intern, after my sophomore year at college. I remember all the other engineering students and how all they’d talk was money and job prospects and the cars they’d buy.
It depressed me long before I earned the degree so maybe I was fated to let that life fall aside.
I think about when I quit engineering and the few who told me I was wasting my “good brain” by leaving a technical field.
But I’m still standing; the mill isn’t. It seems like each attempt, each vocation, each series of struggles and failures, and I’m left humble, less-than, and in a satisfied smallness.
Today I line my eyes in black eyeliner; powder, line them again. I tuck my blonde curls away up in my watch cap. I adorn myself with the one necklace I own – a cheap little affair with a black cross. And hoop earrings. I make the bed, stopping to kiss the small kitty who asks for my attention. He reclines on his back, his paws up, lazily paddling the air in his ecstasies.
I wash the dishes, and care for the animals, and sew two simple garments. I meet with a friend, and attend to my duties: picking up the children, chairing a meeting, attending pickup rehearsal.
My children are old enough to have a life of their own; this happened very swiftly, and it is taking me quite some time to get used to this. I find myself teetering on the balance beam; realizing that they have formed of themselves most of the persons they will be, and that my job is no longer so much to help them manifest, but to support them in their ever-blooming self. So when my children are well, I feel well; when they suffer, I suffer more than seems possible, and certainly more than is logical.
My daughter’s manicure, deathly deep blue – chipping. The blonde tendrils of my son’s hair, clinging to his perfect skin as he emerges from the bath, wrapped in a threadbare towel. The cozy clink here and there from the kitchen: Ralph washing the dishes. My own anticipation of a hot shower, and a hot lemon and honey to drink. And hanging the last of the clothes to dry and wiping down the counters.
And last night, when my son had so much trouble sleeping, and couldn’t settle, and cried out. And I brought him a warm milk with honey and after he drank it