In flight

It's funny what --looking back-- seems like a carefree time. I remember 2010 was that summer of sangria. It seemed I was always carrying around that pitcher, sloshing over the top full of cut up oranges and apples and, once I discovered real sangria has brandy rum vodka tequila, then lots of that, too. That was the summer I just began to make friends around this neighborhood but nothing really was fully in place it all still had the Freshman Fall feel to it and there was the unveiling one year late and peeling back the layers of my grandmother's life here in this apartment and I think a big difference then was I had more time to think. Or at least I devoted more time to it. More time for internal dialogue. I was running a bit, out by the river and in the gym. I had started this blog. Wally didn't understand much and hardly talked really. There was one woman I'd become friends with and we had our Prosecco mornings listening to maybe it was Van Morrison but that fall she moved and there was nothing fully established here no real rituals yet I don't know there was more empty space and a floating kind of uncertainty and things felt like they were in transition. I was still getting used to parenthood trying to get back in shape still wrestling with demons of not having published and not being able to ask for a glass of water and suddenly being very public about it all and appreciating Wally's World but finding it very hard, too, a wordless place of pure motion and the days of therapies and jello shots and at that time I'd only been laid off for a year so I was sort of caught up in scheduling things with people from my pre-kid world, still running to meet friends before they caught the 6:15 to Valley Stream. 

There was a chaos to the days but also a quietness. (Looking back at that post I linked to above from the fall of 2010 I saw this: People often ask me why I didn't put Wally in preschool at least a few afternoons a week. But I can't imagine taking any more time away from Wally's World than I already do. It's this little cocoon we have and it won't last long.  Contrast that with current Kindergarten situation as described below.) 

I had work then but not as much as I do now. I had various projects for various people but things weren't tied together. For many hours during the day I didn't really talk much so I wrote more. We sat on our back porch more. I noticed it the other day. The abandoned back porch and thought how back when Wally was little we used to enjoy it more and why don't we now but I think the reason is a good one, mostly, that we're so grounded in the neighborhood now and know so many people here that we're not inside much if there's any chance of being outside with everyone else. On those introvert/extrovert personality tests I'm always split right down the middle. I've never heard of anybody who wants to be alone so much and yet is always always seeking out some kind of connection with other people. Even when alone. Like now.

And now I'm thinking about a carefree time a year and a half ago when I wrote the chick lit novel with a neighbor mom friend. That was the winter and by that time things were well-established here. The summer before we'd gotten into this neighborhood routine of Thursdays in the park and Friday picnics by the river and just generally hanging out probably way too late and impromptu dinners at each others houses. During the fall and winter that followed I wasn't worried yet about Kindergarten applications (still a year off) and didn't have too much work and Alex was more established in his job. The other mom and I would walk home from school together with the boys and gossip and started to wonder what would happen if one of the neighborhood parents had an affair that started in the playroom. And then we just wrote it. I felt like I still had time to wait before thinking about whether I wanted to have another child, like the decision wasn't bearing down on me, and still had time if I wanted to write, and things were in a kind of rhythm. Just an easiness to the days. I remember when we finished the novel we were so hopeful, so ridiculously hopeful that it would get published for sure. We said goodbye to each other on the street corner in front of the Post Office on the day a big agent asked to see the manuscript (based on the query letter) and we felt a kind of crazy anticipation of the book getting published like our tiny little lives were about to burst wide open.

Our novel hasn't been picked up. No champagne book signings. No public recognition "That's them! They wrote A Playdate to Remember!" No buzzing about us around the neighborhood playgrounds. No speculation about who each character was based on or which parts are real. But what is real is both of our older children are in Kindergarten now. And Kindergarten feels so serious. Between Common Core standards and "college readiness" curriculum and talk about getting into the right Middle School and everyone rushing off to ballet karate gymnastics Japanese it and the Kindergarteners tweeting it feels like a new phase. 

And it's not just other people. It's my niece playing Katy Perry's "Roar" on her father's iphone. It's the other niece showing me hip hop moves. These kids are growing up. Which is what they're supposed to do. They've broken out of the cocoon. They're less a part of our little world, vast in its littleness, full of space, the Cathedral Space of Childhood, and more a part of the world of other people and the people they'll become. It's also me schlepping my 5-year-old (and baby, along for the ride) on the rush hour subway downtown, to go to a great school, one that seemed suited for him, that we "got into" last minute, only by chance. I'm one of those mothers now, mothers doing crazy things for their child's education. Sacrificing time and sanity and quiet mornings drinking tea and watering the plants and listening to the sound of Wally playing trains. For a mother against high-stakes testing, this feels like a bit of a test. I think of the Katy Perry song my niece was playing for me and the tiger moms I've made fun of on this blog and in the chick lit book and wonder, on that rush hour subway, who it is that I can hear roar. We're re-writing our book. After 40 rejections. "It's just hard," Wally says, one of the littlest guys on a schoolyard full of strangers, "to be new". It's a new phase now. Some things are by choice --  my choice to take Wally so far away for school, out of our community, the one that took so long (it felt at the time) to create. Getting up earlier. Rushing. Some things feel beyond my control. Hardly any water tables or finger paints or dress-up now for five-year-olds in Kindergarten. A new setting, for an American Childhood. And a new fight. 


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