Home: Wanderlust On Hold

Like I hope everyone else — I hope — we’re holing up for the long haul in our house, figuring out our world day by day, in utter suspension of any “normalizing” of life. What’s normalcy again? Something we’ll never return to — or so I imagine at this point.

In the evenings — some balmy like last night, or others spring-raw and wet — we go for walks. The open-ended time reminds me of being a young mother again. Days and nights with young children had frustrations and challenges, sure, but also the deep pleasures of those endless walks and wanders I took with my daughters, learning the names of wildflowers, splashing through streams.

When I pick up beef for our freezer from a friend’s farm, he stands on his deck while I’m at a distance. In a wind so cold I begin shivering, we talk and talk. He asks about my daughters — he always does — and I tell him how my older daughter had considered moving out this summer, but she’s offered to stay home now, for whatever the long haul might be, pooling our resources.

She’s smart, he says. Now’s the time for unity.

When I leave, driving carefully around his flock of snow-white geese and slowly along the mud-rutted back road, I turn off VPR in my little Toyota. There’s never any returning full circle in this life, never getting back to where you once were. But we’re still here, our little family, sometimes irritable at each other, sometimes joyous and laughing. It’s different world, an American dream utterly broken that my daughters will redefine for themselves.

And for these days, I hope wherever each of you are, you’re settled into your own version of social isolation, with the sky’s beauty around you.

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Hardwick, Vermont

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Teen Talk

4 degrees this morning when my older daughter leaves for work. Rain is forecast for tomorrow. Freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw — classic New England weather. We’re now into the final descent into darkness. Evenings, we hang out — homework and reading — and often just talking. No one’s heading out for an evening run, a last long walk before nightfall, because these days nightfall is in the afternoon.

My older daughter reads aloud about what it’s like to live in the Arctic Circle.

My 14-year-old and I spend a day driving around in Burlington, doing errands and a little Christmas shopping and I buy her a toasted cheese and ham sandwich she loves. For the first time, I notice she’s watching the college students. Waiting in line for that sandwich, we’re surrounded by a very tall men’s athletic team. They’re buying enormous containers of juice and talking about what that night might turn into, and a friend of theirs who has taken a job as a horticulturist at a well-known college. What’s the difference, they muse, between horticulturist and agriculturist?

Only much later, talking with her older sister that night, do I realize how intently this quiet teen has taken in that talk, how she’s imagining the multiple possibilities for her young adult life, not so very far off.

At a stoplight, she asked me what it’s like to be a college student. I thought back to my six years in school — four as an undergraduate, two in graduate school. What’s six years in a life? A lot, or not so much. She waited for my answer. Finally, I said, It’s like nothing else.

Likewise, a year from now she’ll be driving me around, with her learner’s permit. About parenting? From toddler to teen? It’s like nothing else.

There are many times as a parent when you realize that your job is not to be the parent you always imagined you’d be, the parent you always wished you had. Your job is to be the parent your child needs, given the particulars of his or her own life and nature.

Ayelet Waldman

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Gold

The day’s few hours of sunlight seemed distinctly February-ish — gold wild apples are still frozen to the tree.

November narrows down to the holidays, to that time of Vermont dark. The daughters decide to bake corn muffins — perhaps because of the color.

On impulse, I buy a small jar of raw honey at the co-op. 4:30 now, and the light is that pale pink and blue that reminds me of the sea. We’re warm, we’re well, our house is well-lit with little lights. I’ve stocked up on library books. The daughters are busy with their own stories and studies. I remind myself, It has not always been this way.

Time to close the curtains and start dough for empanadas.

If it’s darkness we’re having, let it be extravagant.

— Jane Kenyon

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Female Talk

A friend and I both read Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women. We compare notes: where are you? Reading, I wonder what my friend will think of this section, or that; I wonder what we’ll say. Irritatingly, Taddeo divides these women’s three stories into mixed up pieces, so last night, I skipped through the book and simply read a story straight through.

My daughters return in the night and a rainstorm, bubbling with stories of kayaking and a friend. We talk and talk. Underneath, I sense how much more they’ve shared together, these three females, ages 14 to 20. I can’t help but wonder what I was talking about at that age. Not enough, I’m sure.

Three Women is about sex — sexual power and the inverse of that, sexual vulnerability. Good lord, I think, reading: finally.

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Teen Somersaults

The rain cleared in the early evening, and my daughter and I hung out on her trampoline while she waited for her friend. She’s a pro; I’m a novice. Eventually, I lay back and stared at the clouds breaking apart, and the enormous box elders behind  our house, leafing out.

She, at nearly 14, demonstrated all the moves that can be done on a trampoline. In her face, I could see the sweet impishness of her earliest years.

Rain, rain this May. There’s a kind of rightness to this, the earth and the ponds and the saplings and plants rushing headlong toward green and procreation. May is the season for this, and there’s a sweet satisfaction in the daily discoveries of what’s grown each day. May: bring it on!

Why speak of the use
of poetry? Poetry
is what uses us.

—Hayden Carruth