Summer Is Nearly Here

The sun is shining and it is nearly summer.

No, really….it is.  The kids will be out of school next Wednesday, and each day in that direction will be less and less like school and more and more like a party.  The weather is warm and the air is ripe with the anticipation of what wonders will take place this summer.

For the first time in seven years, my youngest will not be attending summer school.  He is doing well enough at school and is at grade level in all subjects, so the academic summer school isn’t necessary for him.  He’s been going to school for a few hours each week day in July since he was three years old.  I’m not entirely sure how we’ll deal with the change.  He needs structure, and routine, and he can’t be allowed to backslide on his school work.   My current plan is that we’ll have a little academic time each weekday morning, work on the homework sheets that are supposed be sent home with him.  We’ll participate in the local library’s summer reading initiative for real this time (usually we start it but it falls by the wayside by week two or three….) since he’ll need to be reading a little bit each day.  We’ll have time to do lots of outdoor things together, because his sister is going to theater camp.

My daughter is spending four weeks in theater camp, for four weeks Monday through Friday, six hours a day.  At the end of the four weeks, there should be a full fledged production of Grease to witness.  Her girlfriend did this last summer and raved about it so much.  We went to their performance, “Bye Bye Birdie” and both my daughter and I were blown away by how good it was.  I am hopeful that this summer camp will introduce her to some new people and give her a place she feels comfortable.  For all of my relief earlier this year when she fell into a group of girlfriends, that has all changed (as it often does with middle school girls).   I’m not entirely sure what has happened, but it seems that the other three girls in the foursome she used to be a part of no longer want her to be involved….and it all came to a head the last two weekends, when she discovered she’d been excluded from two of the girls’ birthday parties.  So, so, awful.  She is so insecure, like me, and makes so many social mistakes to try and cover that insecurity up.  I hope that this program will give her both some confidence and a fresh start.

This is my favorite time of year; the days are long, the weather is warm and there are flowers everywhere.  I hope it doesn’t all pass by too quickly.

Registering

“Do you really think we need a waffle maker?”  I raised my eyebrow at R, who held the scanner clutched carefully in his grip as if he was afraid someone might take it from him at any moment.

We were registering for wedding gifts.  Having watched my sister and her friends all go through the wedding process years ago, and my friend B go through it again recently, I was familiar with the concept.   Couples getting married registered for all sorts of things to set up their new household together, and their well wishing friends and relatives used that list to purchase wedding gifts.  At the end of the day you had a bunch of new stuff that you needed for your house, and your friends felt good for helping out a poor couple just starting out.

Except.

R and I had both lived on our own prior to living together.  And we’d been living together now for a year, so our “household” was pretty firmly established.  We didn’t really need plates, or silverware, or glassware, or an iron.  We already had all of those things.  To me, it felt kind of silly to ask people to give us those things when we already had them.  I didn’t feel like our friends should be asked to pay for “upgrades”.

But in talking with my friends, and Rs expansive family, it was agreed that we could register for some things.  People wanted to give us gifts.  Most of my household goods were not of my own choosing; they were the things I’d inherited with the condo after my mother passed.  And R had even less choice about some of the items in our shared home; he had just moved in last year.

We agreed then that we would not register for some of the traditional items.  Formal china, for example, I had from my grandmother.  I’d inherited my mother’s beautiful set of floral, gold leaf china that she’d always used for holiday dinners; I’d always loved it.  My sister hadn’t needed it, having registered for formal china when she married, and my brother certainly had no occasions to use formal china.  We wouldn’t register for silly little things like measuring cups or flour canisters or wire whisks; we had all of that.

What we had done instead is inventoried what we did have that needed replacing or what we didn’t have at all.   Our dishes were chipped and mismatched; we’d register for a set of those.  We didn’t have a good set of glassware;  all of mine consisted of various pieces collected from fast food restaurants or plastic cups for children to use.  And so before long, we had a growing list of items to put on our list.

“Sure, a waffle maker would be nice to have.  It’d save us money from buying the frozen ones.  Batter is always cheaper than convenience foods.”

I shook my head as I heard the blip from the scanner putting in the waffle maker.

And so it went; a vacuum, a frame for our anticipated wedding photo, cookie sheets.  No muffiin tin, no mixer, no iron, no ironing board.  We slowly went through the houseware section of Hudson’s and filled our list.  Finally, we stopped in front of the dishes.

“I don’t want anything too fancy,” I said.  “This is supposed to be our every day dishware, so let’s keep it simple.  Maybe something all white.”

R nodded and we wandered between the displays, every so often putting one out for the other to look at.  We just couldn’t agree.  And then, all of a sudden, I stopped in my tracks.

“What is it?” R asked, following my glance.

In front of me was a set of all white dishware.  The only adornment was a simple calla lily embossed into the plate.  R had never met my mother, her having died before I’d met him.  But he knew well the significance of the calla lily, it having been the only flower my mother wanted at her memorial.

Without a word, he put the scanner in front of the bar code on the plate and scanned it.  I felt an arm reach around my shoulder and give me a squeeze as a single tear slid down my face.   Maybe she was here, somehow, after all.

 

How Did This Happen?

I was looking at the flower arrangement that had been delivered earlier that day.  It was waiting for me on the porch, when I got home from teaching that afternoon.  I knew immediately it had to be from Tom.

We’d been dating two weeks now, and had seen each other every single day.   The idea of something casual flew out the window right away for both of us.  Within a few days, we knew that something much more serious than either of us had planned on was happening between us, and we decided just to go for it.  Tom came over my house in the evenings if my mother wasn’t around, or I went over to his house if she was home and could stay with Zach.  He visited me at work if I had late conferences, bringing me dinner.  On a day off of work when teachers had professional development, he asked me to drive to his office so he could introduce me around and we could have lunch together.

This was different than my previous two serious relationships.  We were both already living more adult roles; both of us were working (albeit unpaid jobs) and we could clearly see our paths as they stretched out into the future.   I knew he had to go back to school in June for the summer term, but for now I wasn’t thinking about it.

The house was quiet now; my mother and Zach were both in bed.  I pulled out the card and reread it:

“Thought you might need these today, but I hope you don’t.  I wish I was there with you.  Everytime you look at these remember that I am thinking of you.”

Tom was out of town, the first day we hadn’t seen each other since we’d started dating.  He was in Ohio crash testing cars for a few days for the auto company he was working for.  He was going to be an engineer, and this trip was an exciting moment for him.  I was excited for him and the opportunity the trip represented for him.

But my excitement and happiness with my newfound boyfriend was tinged with something else today.  The reason for the flowers wasn’t just because Tom was away.  He knew that my mother was supposed to go to the doctor today to get the results of her three month follow up scans.  They took them weeks ago but between her work schedule and the doctors’ schedules, it had taken a while for her to go in for the results.  After her bronchoscopy last November, the doctors had insisted on follow up scans to see if the abnormality they had detected in her lungs was changing.  If it didn’t change, that meant it was likely congenital and no big deal.  But if it had changed in any way, that meant that they were going to have to do more extensive surgery to see exactly what it was they were dealing with in her chest.  They had sent her for CT scans and MRI scans as well as the shadowy x rays.

And the news was not good.  Indeed, the area of concern was scanning larger and more prominently than it had a few months ago.  Today, my mother had been referred to another doctor at one of the larger hospitals in the area; a surgeon.   I would have to take her there in a few days so that he could go through all of the ins and outs of the surgery and get it scheduled.   This time, everything seemed much more serious.

The phone rang; I knew it would be Tom to ask me how the doctor’s visit went with my mom.  No one else would call this late.  I answered the phone, sitting on the kitchen floor with its long cord in a pile next to me..  I thanked him for the beautiful flowers, and we talked a little about his day at the crash test facility.  Finally, he asked about the doctor, although he could tell by my flat responses that the news had likely been bad.  I fidgeted with curly phone cord as I told him that the news was pretty much the worst case scenario.  I started to cry as I worried out loud as to what the possible outcome of the surgery might be.  He was quiet but sure in his reassurance, and told me he’d be there every step with me as I navigated the next few weeks.

I wondered what those few weeks might bring.

How Does Your Garden Grow

My mother came a few weeks later to pick me up and take me back home. We’d just gotten the news that my great aunt’s house had sold. How horrifying, I thought. I’d spent the last six weeks becoming incredibly close to my aunt, and now she would live so far away in Virginia with her daughter that I’d hardly ever see her. Also, that would only leave my Aunt Maurine and Uncle Dick left in Grand Rapids; suddenly we went from our huge extended family up there to just two people left. I sensed as I packed up my things that this was a game changing event in the direction all of our lives would take.

Before we left Grand Rapids, my mother and I went to work trying to preserve something of all of the great times we’d had there. My aunt told us to take anything we wanted out of her garden. Her garden had always fascinated me as a child. It was a perennial garden, and like magic every spring, the same plants would rise up after the cold Michigan winter to come alive again. The symbolism was unmistakable. And so one hot July day, my mother assembled old pickle buckets and plastic garden pots and dug up delicate Japanese irises; big, bodacious peonies; sunny, summery primroses; and the most poignant of all, forget-me-nots.

When we returned home to our tiny townhouse with the small plot out back and the small area out front that we could plant in, my mother and I quickly acclimated my aunt’s plants to their new home. It was a bittersweet sense of accomplishment that we felt as we placed the last bit of earth back into the ground.

I looked up at the house that the therapist said it wasn’t safe for me to be in and sighed. I wanted to feel at home. These delicate plants gave me hope that wherever I was, I could find it.

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