fireflies

A couple hours ago, I had that 8:30 pm moment I’ve watched on the horizon for the last month. I sat on the porch. I didn’t bring anything to write with or a book to read. At first, I just sat, and then I just listened. The birds in the tree to my right had a lot to say to each other tonight. One bird would call the loudest, 4 whistling curls, then pause, then 4 whistling curls. I thought it was his pattern at first, but then he stopped one short at 3 oscillating calls outward. A bird from the tree to my left seemed to respond to him with a few matching sounds. I wish I understood their conversation.

The ground in front of me was dirt not long ago. When we walked into the house just 5 months ago, we’d bring in dusty brown-red dirt that could only be swept with a broom and then wiped with a damp paper towel. Now the ground has grass on it from seeds we planted and tended from infancy. In our landscaping feats, we have raked up some of the baby grass in place for decorative mulch at the front of the house. While I was scraping the grass down and out, I felt like this action was a sacrilege to its recent birth. Although this section with new plants looks more polished now, underneath the fresh black mulch are sprigs of grass that grow up sharp. Each sprig has found its place in that dirt; therefore, there are sporadic, declarative intervals of grass popping up from underneath– disrupting the new look, yes, but ideating natural strength.

In front of me, the kids have escaped their beds and are running around with pajamas on and wet hair in the dark. They are chasing fireflies they saw from their bedroom window. In unison, they came out running with a blue plastic container from my cabinet and a sheet of white paper—kids inventive contraptions. I told them can chase the fireflies and hold them for a bit, but they have to be gentle and let them go and glow. Layla has made a bed of grass for them and is saying, “come here, little fly. Don’t be scared. I just want to see you and then let you go.” The flies are putting on a show for her, it looks from here. It doesn’t matter that these lightning bugs may light up as a signal to predators or that they may be looking for some bug romance; they light naturally, and we look at them with dazzle and wonder.

fireworks at graduation

At graduation this year, I had the good fortune of hugging my favorite graduates on stage. Something about this year satisfied me more than ever. Perhaps it was venturing into something new like the literary magazine class or getting recognized in a significant way, or maybe it was magnetizing to what my friend calls “the circle” of people at work. Maybe it’s where I’m at in life now, whatever that means.  Either way, when I walked off the stage at graduation and surprising fireworks erupted for excited families, I recognized how often I’ve been part of this ceremony, but I haven’t felt this way about it before. Something inside me has settled.

One friend at work reminded me of how we live so much of our life in increments, 4-year high school, 4-year university, 1-year engagement, 3-year grad school, 10-year marriage, 10-year career. The increments are getting naturally longer and no longer accompanied with a stage and certificate. Moving into my house felt like this long-awaited giant step, like I couldn’t act on any ideal more grandiose than that until it happened. Now, I’m here, and I’m able to look out at the next thing, but this next thing doesn’t come in the form of increments. It’s not a 9-month pregnancy, and it’s not a distinct goal. It’s a feeling that has some patience behind it, both looking out and wondering what the new stage is, and looking within and wondering what I’m capable of next. It’s both the recognition that this is a golden stage and that this is the forming of something new.

What it’s not is the foozling about of ten years ago when I looked straight to the inevitable stages that come after marriage. I’m in that place of it now. Figuratively and not, I’ve come inside and I’m sitting at the desk. When Tally and I walked into this bare-bones house; I told her to watch her step because there were nails poking out from the raw-wood walls ripped floors. There was no electricity, so we used our phone lights to look out into the dark and picture this very image I sit in right now. Right now, sitting at this desk, I feel I’m the pause between grateful and next.

I’ve never sat still, really. I’ve always “kept myself busy,” as my dad likes to call it. Even on a day where I’m sick and vow to rest and do nothing, I’ll manage to finish all the laundry and cook a warm dinner so that my day feels earned. More than that, I’m not the octopus who trails her arms behind her, mine tend to find somewhere to go. I used to feel guilty about it, especially when the means to the end were out of my control. But I think I’m recognizing this tendency is just a part of me like the way my grandfather always buys ten of everything (you could find enough butter in the freezer and paper towels in the closet to help a small village), or the way my mom will always err on the side of caution.

It’s recognizing our patterns that help us figure out who we are, and if we pause long enough and porch-listen inside of our own chatter, we may be able to catch it, that thing distinct and predictable in us, and we can claim it before it comfortably disappears back into the world, flickering on an invisible string swaying incautiously in a warm field.

Advertisements

out of the blue

d. zade jumpingEach day when Layla plays on my phone before we arrive at her school, she gets sneaky. She sets up a timer along with a few alarm notifications so that when I’m least expecting it, the alarm will go off. Sometimes I see the countdown timer on the lock screen once I get to work. I could easily disable her little alarms and dismantle her plans, but I don’t. When I’m submerged at work and Layla’s alarms go off, I think of her sitting in the back of the car, stealthily clicking on random times that she can scare her mom. She’s probably spiked with excitement anticipating my surprise and having a laugh to herself. The notifications make me think of her thinking of me, which in turn makes me think of her. I’m given something unexpected even though one could argue I should really expect it by now.

After ten years of teaching, I should expect the stress of the end of the school year, but it punches me hard in the shoulder every year. At work we are all really just trying to make it to the end of the semester. We’re trying to grip to the camaraderie and the horizon, yet we’re all a little more quick to get irritated than usual. A retiree at our school who transferred from a middle school to a high school said humorously in a speech to his fellow teachers that he has “no idea how you do it. I don’t know how you’re not all dead.”

In general, for all of us counting down to an end date usually means a stressful mixture of desire and tasks. All of a sudden, the tasks you’ll normally just do because you’re a productive human bloat into this burdensome stone that you want to throw through a window.  In my case, all good habits have been thrown out the window. Honestly, I’m eating a stale bag of cool ranch Doritos as I type this, not because I’m hungry, just because I’m rebelling. At Norah’s birthday party this morning, I ate a giant dressed-up waffle and then topped it off with a huge donut. The Whole 30 I finished in April and the running I’ve done to de-stress have been buried in the backyard until maybe after Memorial Day.

d. zade

I have done some recent digging though, another unexpected source of joy. Last week Kal and I went full force on the landscaping the front lawn. I thought I’d be able to just dig a hole in soft soil, but that fantasy swiped up fast.  Our ground here is filled with the previous owner’s memories. I dug up shells, garden fossils encased in cement, tarp, stones, brick edges, and clay pot chunks.

d. rocks

It was painful.  I took a few selfies in disbelief as I mixed manure and soil or repeatedly jumped on the shovel’s edge to get the plant’s new hole “twice the size of the pot.” I helped plant hydrangeas and salvias, and I whispered little prayers that I’d see them bloom again next year as I put them in the ground.

d. selfie

 

d. garden

I took in the view of our new plants surrounding the house just before I drove off to visit friends for dinner last night. I sat across the table from two ladies who heard about my receiving the TOTY award and wanted to celebrate. These are successful women who had no friend-obligation to celebrate me at all as our relationships are new, but they did something so kind for me anyway. Best of all, I had engaging conversation with a friend who asked me questions and made me remember stories that haven’t been relevant for some time, forcing me out of the grit of the heavy Friday. The unexpected energy of easy-moving conversation transformed a long day into a sweet one.

dino eraser.jpg

A surprise can be so beautiful.  We all have things to do and lives to manage. When something clears up on its own to dazzle me, I’m so grateful. Last week at the kids’ Haflatuna performance, I found Zade’s dinosaur eraser dug deep in my front pocket; I have no idea how it got there. I thought of this eraser, a symbol of his age, as I said bye to him yesterday at his school. My friends at work helped me steal away an hour from work so I could see Zade sing in a school event. When I had to leave early to get back, he didn’t cling on to my leg or cry for me to stay like he usually does. He hugged me maturely and got back to his friends.  My little man’s blooming in his own way.

d. zade smiling

The unexpected moments are a motif for the simple beauty that’s out there waiting for us to see it. Even my drive home from the birthday party today had a rural charm that has become such an interest to me. It’s what I needed as a pleasant backdrop my kids’ intense sibling bickering so I could have something to hold on to in the hard moment.

d. view

I’ve noticed that my plants look the happiest when the sun is going down; the marigolds’ heads stand taller, and the azaleas arch gracefully. If this crazy month can equate to a whole day, I’m looking forward to the 8:30-pm moment when there’s still just enough light to catch the view, but the rest of the day is behind me, leaving me unburdened and free to appreciate the night.

 

Happy Aunties’ Day

mothers day

This is a fast, quick-write post for all my chosen aunties out there.

I’d have to write an 11-page post about the influence of my mom’s sister on my life. She’s a kindred spirit. She’s the one who got me my first razor to shave my legs (Persian girls, you know!), first one to arch my eyebrows stealthily as my parents set up for dinner, made me feel like a teenager when I wasn’t there yet, told me about her little secrets, and then let me tell her mine. My mom is the nurturer, and for me, my aunt was the sly, naughty aunt who made me feel I was looking fabulous wearing a metaphorical mini-skirt every time we talked.

I’m a mother now, and I still cherish my aunt. In fact, she witnessed first-hand my first child be born into this world.  As a mother now, though, I am lucky to have friends in my life who make up my motherhood.  

To the friends in my life that are like aunts to my children, I wish you and everyone like you a Happy Aunties Day! So many of you don’t have your own children but loves ours just the same.

Andrea is my best friend. My friends have heard me say her name a thousand times. For my baby shower, she got me a Coach bag to store kid’s stuff so that I could have some style through it all. For Layla’s first gift, she got her a build a bear and recorded her voice inside the paw. I’ve heard it so many times that I’ve honestly memorized it: “Hi baby Layla, it’s your auntie Andrea. I just want you to know how much I love you, and I wish I could be there with you right now.” I’d neglected to make a wedding album for myself and only did one for the set of parents, so she found my photographer and made me a 500-page wedding album as a surprise, over 5 years after the wedding! She listens to my mom-rants even though she’s had her own struggle with the idea of motherhood and doesn’t have children of her own.

I’m lucky to have a fortress of women around me who support and appreciate each other.

Chosen Aunties are the people who make mothers sane, listening to us and doing your best to navigate us back to the center. You remind us of old stories and make us laugh at some decisions we make. You say things like, “don’t buy the light fixture for the house; take that writing class you’ve longed for instead, or take that adventure you’ve been craving.” You get our kids ladybug rain coats with matching umbrellas. You open up your house to us on Thanksgiving and let our kids take over. You pick up our babies and throw them in the air, catch them, change their diaper, and hide your exhaustion from our eyes.

You’re the chicks who buy the impractical gifts for the kids that they love. You visit, play card games, buy MASH notes, read book after book, listen to your names be called ten thousand times, get stolen away, and become entertainers instead of guests. You offer to our kids the stuff we often can’t offer to our kids since we’re in the thick of it. We trust you, and we rely on you. Our kids will tell you about their first cigarette before they tell us. They’ll figure out their secret dreams because you’ve shared yours with them and made it possible. You’ll be their confessional, and we’re just happy to have you as our chosen sisters.

You guys keep us sane and help raise our kids. Happy Mother’s Day to all the aunts—blood and not–out there that care deeply and do things to show their solidarity selflessly.

I wish this was more eloquent and all-encompassing. But you chosen aunties understand how it is, and we thank you for it.

Rain Outside Myself

I’m sitting on the living room sofa, sinking beyond its 11-year lifetime with us. The kids are bathed but not in bed.

Less than an hour ago, the kids and I came home from a track by the house. It’s a simple track, not intimidating, enough trees and breeze to drift off some stress. I’ve enjoyed running there so much that each time I load the kids in the car to get there, I nearly forget the constant bickering that scratches at our experience. The kids bike, fall, argue, play, make up, roll, skin, laugh, stall, and bicker. There’s a lot of this lately–gratifying mixed with grating. I’ll breathe, then pause and appreciate, deal with some crisis, and then try again to get into the zone.None of this buoyancy is uncommon to any parents I know; I suppose it’s all relative.

I think I’ve noticed a pattern with me. When I’m overwhelmed in one area of my life, I work exceptionally hard and practically invent minutia to do (I did the paperwork to set up annual memberships not due until August instead of grading 70 research papers clumped on my desk), but my physical exhaustion does not shut down my wandering, amorous mind.

My mind amps up and gets dreamy, almost tortuously so. I try to find a match for the longing in a book, show, or good conversation. I’m trying to spill out the angst on other forms of writing late at night so I can do something productive with this feeling, a recognizable restlessness mixed with a surprising ennui given the time of year and a busy calendar.

I read an article today called “Its Raining All Over the Universe” where Adam Frank, an astrophysics professor and author, talks about waking up one morning to the sound of rain. He is “suddenly struck by the realization that Earth is not the only world that knows rain. There is rain falling in many other places in the cosmos…Venus, Titan, Saturn…And all these rains matter.”

Frank concludes that “across the galaxy, on countless worlds, there will be rain. It will fall across as many windswept plains as you can imagine.” Frank says the rains matter; they help show us that despite our notion of conflicts, we “don’t really understand what is happening to us at all…we are part of something much larger than ourselves, and our ideas about ourselves.”

Initially, I wanted to read this article because it was about the solar system, a system I feel belongs to my best friend Andrea since she’s been obsessed with the moon’s world as long as I can remember. I’m sharing it here because Frank sees something like rain and uses it as a unifying element, one that can flay our vision of ourselves and recognize something bigger.

I’ve been occupied in my own head space even if I’m physically moving and reacting and doing; I have been retreating above the neck as a cozy yet squirming defense.

I like being inspired to see beyond that.

I haven’t turned on any lights since we came home. The green outside has befriended the windows and given it less work to do, but there is a pale glow coming through, silencing the room in this moment. I’m going to go sit outside and look up, and then I’m going to release some of the build up of thoughts to the sky above and let its truth advise the rest of my evening.