Posts Tagged ‘milestones’

Growing Independence

13 December 2011

Dear J-

I pound down the slick streets on my bike hoping to beat the rain knowing that every so often that’s the pattern of the storm: when these breaks come they rarely last for more than half an hour. The rain was a holdover from the storm that pounded us all day yesterday. Last night despite the rain we went to and ate at Costco where you can purchase a three-foot-tall chocolate Santa for a hundred dollars. Serial gluttony aside, lately figgy has taken to Costco trips as an excuse to goggle over the selection in the (seasonal) toy aisle and rather than help (“do you think your cousin would like this?”) she runs and picks out stuff for herself.

All this is fine in the absence of us actually stopping to buy presents but as soon as we picked one up last night she immediately went into full-on begging mode, hoping to convince us to write a letter to Santa campaigning on her behalf. It has been more than a few years since I last wrote a letter to Santa and so I struggled with the phrasing (“hey, gimme doesn’t sound right, what should I say? Oh, yeah, BRING.”) a little. Bit by bit, though, she’s showing a strong interest in spelling and has started to recognize letters on the page so that’s progressing even as we have our eyes set on an immersion magnet school for her come fall.

It’s hard to believe that we’re already at the point where we need to be considering schools and programs and it freaks me out a little when I see her stretched out asleep, impossibly big under the covers (wasn’t she just big enough to cradle in two arms?) and getting ready for school choices. She’s too little for letters to Santa already and the thousand other rituals of childhood. It’s not a question of holding her back now but pushing her forward and watching her walk on her own. We do a curious dance, pushing for independence yet regretting every distance she puts between us.

Mike

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Live Reckoning

21 October 2010

Dear J-

I am a landmark navigator; if you asked me for directions, I’d be able to tell you in relative terms (go through three stoplights, then left when you see McDonald’s) how to get there. I like the idea of navigation via sextant, chronometer, and compass, with the stars providing an ever-shifting map to guide us all slowly ashore. If anyone, I picked it up from my dad, who would draw maps littered with buildings marked with Xes, orderly grids of streets and alleys marching away across the back of an envelope or whatever was handy at the time. So if you asked me to describe my bike route, I’d tell you something about the two schools I pass, the corner with the gas stations, the hill and valley, and the open field that regularly sprouts a crop of campaign signs this time of year.

I suppose that I use similar tactics to tell time; if my belly is starting to growl then it must be 8:30 AM or so if I skipped breakfast and 9 if I didn’t. These landmarks tend to be more personal and less transferable. This morning I noticed that on the way in, one of the schools was holding a craft fair the Saturday after the test, November 6th; as I regularly ride by the school and see their biennial craft fairs, it suddenly struck me: that’s a date that’s after the test. Life after the test; what must that be like? It’s starting to pile up, the days upon days upon days, and here we are just eight days short of the exam finally. With any luck it’ll stay “the” exam and not “the first time I took it.”

We’re also that much closer to an actual birth day; fresh from the latest visit to the doctor (they say he’s five pounds, three ounces now) and with a recommendation in hand to “reserve” a day, we’re left pondering whether to do an elective C-section this time. theVet has it all mapped out: we take figgy to daycare, then have the baby sometime later that morning, finally letting me head home in time to pick figgy up and back to daycare the next day, and so on until theVet’s ready to head back home two days later. Put in those terms it seems like something to check off a to-do list, as quotidan as picking up bananas on the way home, all for the sake of convenience and not knowing how long a natural labor would take. So do we make this landmark or let it find us where we can?

Mike

Sow Reap

8 September 2009

Dear J-

There was a blurb in this morning’s paper about how remembering things — even reviewing old photographs — makes people feel more connected to the world.  There’s another article, perhaps unrelated, saying that you need to exercise your mind as well as body in order to stay fit.  If that’s the case, then all the dwelling on the past hat I’ve done should be keeping me like some kind of mental Bruce Jenner; I can’t say that it all comes back with crystal clarity, but I’m pretty sure I could whip myself into a froth just by remembering all the moments of sheer panic I’ve been through (waking up an hour late for a three-hour final exam is a particularly good one).

Right now figgy’s going through a couple more milestones, perhaps late (it’s another panicky part, this keeping up with typical development schedules) — toilet training and giving up the pacifier; the toilet, not so quickly (it’s hard to keep her occupied while she sits; she just wants to get up and run around the house, which is okay until the unexpected flood comes).  The pacifier, on the other hand, became an exercise in cold turkey, and a successful one at that, so far.  I wonder what memories she’s going to keep from this time, what she’ll dredge up in years to come.

What do you plant in the emotional minefield that is memory?  Better yet, what do you reap?  Being the master manipulator of my own feelings, I’m pretty much that kid who you can’t keep from poking at some sore spot, revisiting slights and accidents over and over until that amplification/magnification spiral has reached its peak, and the smallest thing becomes overwhelmingly impassable.  Knowing this the solution is easy:  if I can magnify the past beyond significance, then remembering the simple joys is far more constructive.

Mike

Milestone Goals

23 June 2009

Dear J-

Do you ever have one of those days, J-, when as soon as you get up it feels like the world is in slow motion?  I have certain milestones I shoot for in the morning — alarm at 3:30, out of bed by 3:45 (darn this ridiculously easy snooze button — a touch-sensitive rim of metal surrounding the radio face), walked & fed the dogs by 4:00, breakfast by 4:15, and out the door by 4:30.  It makes for a bit of panic when you start to see those deadlines slip by twenty minutes and sets a sour tone in my mouth for the rest of the day.

For what it’s worth, I seem to live in a superstitious life — I know that rationally I have the opportunites and abilities to effect changes in my attitude and actions, but sometimes I feel as though what I do either has too much (watching sports, here) or too little (nothing can lift my bad mood) effect on the remainder of my life.  Right now, I know I didn’t do a great job stowing the bike in the back of the van — something’s loose back there so it’s rattling AND squeaking at the same time; I worry about the unrest it’ll cause for the rest of the trip even though it’s impossible to tell how well it’s packed — or what’s loose — until the van’s in motion and I can do nothing about it, strapped into the front seat.

It’s about goals, then.  Do the things you can (I can change the way I react, I can bring or lend earplugs), don’t worry about the things you can’t (TV is not so magic that I can will a team to score or not at my insistence, and I’ll fix the bike when I get a chance), and figure out the right prioritizations.  Thus the goals inevitably seem to revolve around short-term fixes without much thought to the future; it’s part of the abundant immaturity and insecurity that keeps me from delaying the question of what I want to be when I grow up.  The man who persuaded me into working for the company asked me, those not-so-many years ago, whether I wanted a job or a career; lately there’s been a lot of job filling without much career fulfillment.

Mike

Daytime Nighttime

16 November 2006

What does it pay to play the leading lady
When, like the damsel in distress
Daytime nighttime suffering is all she gets– Paul McCartney, Daytime Nighttime Suffering

Dear J-,

They should have had the first reunion at fifteen years. Ten isn’t quite enough time to forget faces, and twenty, well, no one wants to be facing forty without making some kind of an effort. Fifteen is enough to have had some perspective, not just on high school, but on your life to date. Plus you’re at the point that those folks being born when you got your driver’s license are now menacing the elderly you on the roads.

Nothing quite like seeing all the significant milestones of your life fall to kids you remember baby-sitting to force you to grow up, right? I met someone today who confided his excitement in his first grandkid at one turn and the dismay of “finally having to grow up” in the next. Time moves ever forward; if I’m already afraid of tomorrow, how can I enjoy today? What is it, exactly? When do you give in and say that you’re getting old? The first white hair? Done. Music gotten too loud? Years ago, now. I’ve always thought that the baby boomers (and here I go tarring all with the same brush, just as I get slotted somewhere between Gen X and Y) were self-absorbed image-conscious youth-seeking idiots, but the older I get, the more I understand the truth behind “Age is just a number.”

We cling to the idealized memories of youth, not remembering living someone else’s life, those first fumbling attempts at love, waiting always waiting for changes pointing the way forward. I remember the delicious anticipation, the night before handing out the new trimester’s schedules and hoping that I’d have the right mix of folks — someone to crush on, someone to talk to, someone to keep the lonely away. How can you possibly know at eighteen who you are, let alone who you need? I’m in awe of childhood sweethearts who make it work; they remember the wonder of the new, the bloom of youth, the steady pace of life, the joy of every wakening.

Everyone dreams of being out on their own without thinking twice about what it might mean. I had roommates in college up until my last semester of senior year, and even that wasn’t so bad because I was semi-officially living with theVet by then (maintaining separate rooms for the public’s sake). Loneliness is coming home two thousand miles from everything you remember to the unheated house you rent from the landlady upstairs. Loneliness is the last bus of the night, riding past Fenway Park on game night and hearing the distant cheers. Loneliness is reading the “personalized” messages left when you asked for more signatures in your yearbook to reduce the desperation inside. Loneliness is realizing why you wrote and saved so many letters knowing you never followed up on them, all the while listening to something suitably nostalgic — let’s say the first album you bought alone. Alone.

Even though the overwhelming memory of Jamaica Plain is of that isolated loneliness, I still want to go back and wander through the Arboretum by myself; I want to wander, and then return and remember how lucky I am to have known so many people to call, so many people to write letters to. Nights I’m alone make it so much easier to be grateful.

Mike