The temperature weirdly shoots up to 70 degrees. 70 degrees in Vermont in early April! For anyone who doesn’t live here, know that this warm, daffodil-growing weather makes our world a communally happy place.
While my daughter plays soccer, I take a walk, then spread out my work on a picnic table. Three geese fly overhead, making a honking racket. On the other side of a school building, I hear the kids laugh. Two dads roll up on bikes and stand in the parking lot, chatting.
Another parent I haven’t seen for a long time appears and stands at a distance. We talk and talk, about how our work has changed, and what’s happening with our kids, and even more, about each of us might want this summer — happiness, in some small way. Listening, I think, of all the many things we’ve learned this year, surely valuing the connection between us rises high. How little that might seem, and how infinitely valuable.
My daughter returns with a blister. At home, the carpenter has just finished repairing the porch railings broken by falling ice. We stand for a bit, talking and waving at early mosquitoes. He admires the view of the village below us and asks how I like living beside a cemetery. I like it just fine, I tell him.
Don’t talk to me about the stars, about how cold and indifferent they are, about the unimaginable distances. There are millions of stars within us that are just as far, and people like me sometimes burn up a whole life trying to reach them.
Via a Christmas card, my younger daughter learns someone has been watching her fall soccer games online. While baking cookies, she watches a game, wondering what they’ve seen. From the kitchen table, I look up from my laptop and see a game filmed at her high school, the fields brilliant green.
The scene is so utterly typical small town Vermont: the cheering parents, the sunshot gorgeous autumn afternoon, the game narrated by a dad who’s clearly taking pleasure in being there. I remember the rush to get to those games, how parents juggle work, rushing to the sidelines, asking how far along is the game? What’s the score? How many of your kids’ soccer games do you get to watch in a lifetime, anyway?
In this zero-degree day, we stand in the kitchen, eating warm gingerbread cookies, watching her team. The game and that sunlight looks too good to be true. What luck, I think.
Parenthood, like death, is an event for which it is nearly impossible to be prepared.
This blog has been jammed with soccer, soccer and even more soccer all fall — a little odd, from a woman who ducks every time the soccer ball heads even anywhere near me along the sidelines.
But the soccer field and the locker room and the school bus is the terrain of my teenage daughter this year. The night of the game under the lights I walked across the field afterward — in a coat and hat and scarf, the first snowflakes tiny glitters — and realized I was treading in her familiar space.
It’s such a cliché — the days crawl and the years fly — but there’s truth in all these clichés, too. When she was an infant, I realized — busy as I was then with another child and that relentless maple syrup business — that this was all I was going to get in this life. Just this second time around of being a new mother. That sentiment has carried all through her life, crazy and jumbled as it’s been, defined as a single parent household. And yet here she is, on a soccer field, laughing and happy with girls and their ponytails. I can’t help but wonder curiously, Where will all these running steps on those soccer fields around Vermont carry her in this life?
We create meanings from our unconscious interpretation of early events, and then we forge our present experiences from the meaning we’ve created. Unwittingly, we write the story of our future from narratives based on the past…
One of the sweet things about September is soccer practice. There’s a handful of nice kids, enthusiastic coaches, and as a mother it’s a defined moment of time in an otherwise crazy-busy life. It’s a chance to hang out with other parents or grandparents I never meet otherwise.
The field behind Woodbury Elementary backs up against forest and wetland. At this time of year, its wall of green is just giving over in patches to intimations of russet and gold, with ferns beginning to brown around the edges. The wildness there is so overgrown, that, lying on the grass and waiting for the practice to end, I thought of Mary and her secret garden, how that rose garden was hidden for ten years behind walls covered in wildness. My child’s little elementary school has a genuine domesticity to it, with flower beds and a vegetable garden and a 100-year-old schoolhouse so finely built and well-tended it welcomes you in, as opposed to the windowless cinderblock schools of my childhood.
Looking at these things – the wild wood framed around the playing children – I suddenly realized what I hadn’t seen in Burnett’s book: the secret garden is in our hearts. Both the woods – lovely and frightening – and the school’s field with its laughing, happy children, have equal terrain in our human lives. I closed my eyes and listened to the crickets, singing what must be nearly the end of this season’s song, in the mowed grass and among the wild cucumber along the field and along the path leading into the woods.
“The girl’s… begun to be downright pretty since she’s filled out and lost her ugly little sour look. Her hair’s grown thick and healthy looking and she’s got a bright color. The glummest, ill-natured little thing she used to be and now her and Master Colin laugh together like a pair of crazy young ones. Perhaps they’re growing fat on that.”
“Perhaps they are,” said Dr. Craven. “Let them laugh.”