Happiness? It is an illusion to think that more comfort means more happiness. Happiness comes of the capacity to feel deeply, to enjoy simply, to think freely, to risk life, to be needed. - Storm Jameson
I’ve finally started up again in earnest. The boxes in the cellar still look overwhelming but I’ve emptied two today. One box was the box that Cheshire and I found in David’s father’s house in Union. It was a box that I would have sworn was among our own. Here. It had my old journals and David’s high school and college papers, letters, notebooks, and clippings. Slowly I sort and file. I found a fiery school newspaper article that David must have written as a sophomore or junior. I know it was one of those years because the person that he wrote it about was not at school when David was a senior. And I found notes from what must have been dorm or floor mates. Some are from girls. All very young with the easy familiarity of college freshmen. And many of these notes were addressed to Oscar, as if David had introduced himself as that at the very beginning. I know nothing more. And I did not know this at all. Oh, not a secret really, not even that exciting, But something new of someone I knew so well. Nice to think that there was more to find out.
That was my morning and a noon I headed to church to do a tai chi form called the crane and a guided meditation. It is a small group, mostly older women, who meet every Wednesday for about an hour to do this. Another group meets one night a week, but I cannot commit to that. This was so convenient. I have been doing it for three weeks now and today, as I was doing it a new found peace settled over me. It was the right thing at the right time in the right place. I am not sure who to thank for this gift, but I am so grateful.
After tai chi, I did errands -- filling up the car with gas, faxing some papers to my realtor for the Bloomfield house, and stopping at the library. Julia is going through a fair number of easy readers each week. I had decided that I would get books that really didn’t challenge her because we read them at night before she sleeps. I wanted the reading to be easy for her. And it is. And she loves doing it. It is amazing to step back and remember that this was the child who not only did not seem to be able to learn her letters and sounds, but a child who had absolutely no curiosity to learn. We started to read to Cheshire when she was 6 months old. She was pointing to words, picking out letters and sounds, and recognizing words before she was three. We started reading to Julia when she was five and a half. She was nine when she began to find her passion for reading. I guess the timing was really not that different. My heart aches for the time that I was not Julia’s mother. Who would this child be if she had found a family when she was a baby?
Besides Julia’s books, I also went looking for another junky science fiction book. Not that I finished the first one I found last week. Oh, it was junky al right! The writing was awful! The story simplistic! No style, no decent form. I could not get beyond page 15. It took me that long to be sure that it was just not me. I hope my new choice fares better. I just want to find my own reading passion again. A few days ago, I picked up White Album, an old collection of essays by Joan Didion describing her view of the 60’s and mostly in Hollywood. Stunning, evocative. I can swallow that woman whole. I have not read anything but her last two books. Now I have to find more.
Just before school let out, I went to Randall. I am volunteering at the PTO Foreign Language program and enrolled Julia is a beginning Spanish class. She will take it with kids from Franklin, that is first and second grade kids. But before we could go to class, Julia was put on the bus to go home. Julia has never gotten off the bus with me or a therapist waiting at the corner for her. And it has been me all of this school year. The fear that shot through me was . . . I left the school to see if I could get home before the bus. At the same time the school secretary call the bus company to see if she could catch Julia’s bus driver before he let her off. I only got a few blocks in my car before the school called me to say that the bus would bring her back to school after it finished its run. The runs are pretty short and not that far from the school so it was not that much of a problem.
Oh, the emotion roller coaster of it all! My heart was in my throat until that child stepped off the bus. She was fine! She likes the bus driver and when he said that I was at school waiting for her, she seemed to take it all in stride. And I could breathe again.
The class went well. Very well. The teacher even told me that if I didn’t want to stay in class (I intended to act as Julia’s aid for this class), it was fine. I will stay for at least the next few weeks and see how the classes go. Julia was game to try to pronounce and remember the new Spanish words. She was not perfectly in tune with the games played but she was enthusiastic and wanted to please. She needed some cueing and some help following all the directions, but she handled herself in the class better than I have ever seen it done. Her classroom teacher stopped by when she heard Julia’s voice. She told Julia that she was excited to see her taking Spanish, and Julia beamed. Julia has learned that pleasing is fun and worth the effort.
I don’t expect that this class will give Julia much Spanish, but it is a beginning. If we can make it to Bolivia in another year, I want to see if Julia can get a bit of a foundation in Spanish. If only to teach her that there are more languages that she can learn, and places where they are spoken. Maybe a simple aim, but one that is essential for good traveling and living abroad.
We came home and I made a quick supper from the freezer. As I was heating up the tomato sauce and meat balls and boiling water for pasta, I had the feeling of some normalcy. Like settling into the present. I am not using my words very well here. I have made/bought/brought in supper every day for Julia and I since David died. Today was the first time in more than a year that it felt like regular family life. A switch was thrown and I could feel the comfort of the moment.
I took Julia to my after supper meeting at church. I am on the religious education committee this year. I wish the meetings were not the second wednesday of the month because PTO is the second Tuesday. The second week of every month becomes a scramble for a babysitter and the guilt that I am leaving Julia for a few hours. This week, there was not sitter and so Julia went to both meetings. She took coloring books and crayons, had a great time talking to the teachers who were at the PTO meeting, and showing her work to the other members of the RE committee. And each night after the meeting, we came home, walked the dog, gave Julia a shower, put medication on her body, put on pj’s, brushed and flossed, read a story, and went to sleep.
And so, today, not easy to begin with, but pretty close to good by the end.