Where’s The Pot Of Gold At The End Of This Rainbow?

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Artwork by Jed, age 5

The house is finally, blessedly, quiet. The sound of my fingers tapping these letters out on the keyboard is the only one I hear. And when I stop doing that, there’s a faint, grumbly snoring floating on the air next to me. That’s Pretzel the dachshund, curled tight in his old doggie dreams.

The house is so quiet, so still, so peaceful because the kids are in bed. I kissed them all before they fell asleep (not the teenager, he doesn’t like to be kissed… yet). Good night, sleep tight, love you. The TV is silent. The kitchen is closed. And my husband is out of town.

Again.

He travels a lot. Every week. Usually for two or three days, but lately it’s been for longer. Maybe five. Maybe all week. Usually to Texas or Florida, but lately it’s been further. The Philippines. Or Bangladesh.

Usually I’m fine with it. He’s always traveled, for as long as we’ve been married and even longer than that. I’m used to it, and so are the kids and Pretzel the dachshund. Some days the kids forget he’s gone. “Can Dad take us to school?” they chirp, wild hope in their bright morning eyes. He’s been gone two days.

We’re used to it. We’re fine with it. We get on with it. Usually. But lately, it’s too long. It’s too far. It doesn’t feel right.

We’re a seven-colored rainbow when we’re all together: mom, dad, four kids, one dog. The violet and the red don’t always get along, the green and the yellow hide the remote from each other, and the orange needs to be taken out every hour. It’s not a gentle arc of harmonious hue, when we’re all together, but the colors do blend more happily when all seven are present.

It feels long and too far away this time, it’s true, but there are a few shiny positives to one less color in the house:

Less discipline! This is not necessarily a positive for me, but I’m sure the kids appreciate one less parent hearing them argue, threaten and hurt each other. Which means a fifty percent reduced chance of being yelled at or banished. Favorable odds for them I’d say.

Breakfast for dinner, breakfast for dinner, breakfast for dinner! Cereal, toast, eggs any style, even bagels and cream cheese. My husband actually does like a bowl of cereal at night every once in a while… But the kids don’t notice that the breakfast they ate for breakfast is being served again for dinner, every night. As long as they’re eating something, they’re happy. And as long as they’re eating, and are one step closer to bed, I’m happy!

Schlepping multiple kids to different places all at the same time is hard enough when there are two licensed drivers around, and damn near impossible when it’s just me. But here’s where my heart warmed to see one big brother help one little brother at the baseball photos today, because I couldn’t do that and drive to the karate tournament. Sibling assistance is a terrific way to combat sibling rivalry!

The silence. It’s truly golden. Once those kids are in bed and it’s just the dog gently snoring next to me, I do appreciate the few hours of complete solitude. If only it didn’t drag on for days.

So the rainbow is a little short on color right now, and sometimes it even feels a little washed out with one shade missing. But there are moments in the day when it shines pretty bright… and of course the pot of gold at the end is that we’re almost halfway through that long week, and soon he’ll be home. With presents.

This post is a sequel to Please Switch to Airplane Mode, written last year around this time. It’s interesting to see how things change. And stay the same!

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, inspired by the prompt, “When it comes to St Patrick’s Day…” Hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, and co-hosted by Kelly from Just Typikel and Lisa from The Meaning of Me.

May Her Memory Be a Blessing

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Death can be a funny thing.

I don’t mean funny ha-ha. I mean funny strange. Peculiar. Complicated. Sad. Or not. Relief. Indifference.

When we lose someone significant from our lives the rainbow of feelings may span a sky as vast as a lifetime – dark and stormy, light and airy, angry red, bluest blues, nostalgia, memories, regret, peace. Everything at once or nothing at all.

All four of my grandparents passed away when I was old enough to remember them, and their passing. I was eight, then 13, 25, 36. I had a special relationship with each, but was closest to my Granny Mary who died six weeks after my youngest was born. Granny was a real baby whisperer – adored infants, loved to hold them, to feed them, change them, burp them, to rock and sing to them for hours – but she never got to whisper to my littlest guy. He has no tangible memories of her and no photographs with her to trigger any.

Losing all those grandparents was devastating. Some were expected – one grandfather had Parkinson’s and was 81 when he died, both grandmothers were clearly near the end of their lives – but my gruff Grampa Sonny was younger than my parents are now, and his heart attack was as sudden and swift as his legendary temper. He was quick to anger and loud to yell, but that weakened heart of his was as gentle and fuzzy as a puppy’s underbelly.

It’s hard, losing loved ones, no matter the relationship, the circumstances, the distance both geographic and emotional. Grandparents’ passing is sad, but usually expected given their age and their life experience in relation to our own. Sometimes more complicated to deal with is the loss of parents, children, friends, people we haven’t seen in a long time. And often, in that difficulty, are surprising feelings, unexpected reactions, blindsiding memories that bring tears and laughter.

I last saw her about 12 years ago. She hadn’t worked for my family for years, but my mother still kept in contact with her, checked on her wellbeing, knew her whereabouts. She had diabetes and her failing health was evident over the many years she was part of our family, but she was always laughing, always happy to help us kids find what we had misplaced right in front of our noses, always roasted a chicken for lunch every Saturday.

We each had our own relationship with her – she and my brother would joke and tease each other, and even before my boyfriend became my fiancé became my husband he joined in their fun, easy banter. She told my sister and I about her happinesses and disappointments, the pride and difficulties she felt with her children, her parents, the gossip and drama with her friends. My parents took care of her, and she took care of all of us.

She was at my brother’s bar mitzvah, saw the three of us graduate high school and college, knew all our friends and their parents, and all my parents’ friends. She knew how both grandmothers took their tea and that my aunt always had black coffee after a meal. She prepared the candles to light every Friday night, and kept the kitchen more kosher than any of us. She joyously danced with Ryan and me at our wedding, and I couldn’t wait to introduce her to my own not-yet-one-year-old twelve years ago.

Pretoria, 2002 - My sister, Sina, me and baby Daniel...  and Granny Mary in the background

Pretoria, 2002 – My sister, Sina, me and baby Daniel… and Granny Mary in the background

That was the last time I saw her. Life happens, and we lost touch.

But all my children know all about her. And Ryan and I often share a “Sina memory.” My sister and I talk about her now and again, and smile thinking about things she said and the way she said them.

And in this strange, very connected world we live in, an email found its way to my father this week, with the news that she passed away a month ago. Her funeral was on my late grandmother’s birthday, which feels significant and I don’t know why.

More emails followed between my mother and her daughter, the last 12 years of her life filled in like a picture quickly and brightly drawn on a blank poster board: a grandmother of five grandchildren, great-grandmother to two. What was clear from that drawing was that she loved us as much as we loved her.

An emotional rainbow of sadness, regret, tenderness, laughter and memories.

Zichrona levracha – may her memory be a blessing,” we say in the Jewish religion, when talking or writing about someone who has passed.

Sina z”l: truly a blessing.

I’ve Been in Preschool for Eleven Years

My littlest one is graduating preschool tomorrow. Big day! He is the baby of our family but definitely not a baby anymore. He is monkey bar strong, too cheeky for my own good, kind and not so kind, teases his friends and begs for sleepovers, busy all the time with his Legos, water balloons, and “fairy dust” (ground up chalk that finds its way into everything). He is five-year-old little and five-year-old big all at once – squirms his small body into our bed most nights and can’t understand why he’s not allowed to stay home by himself like his brothers when he uses words like “hideous” and “actually”, eats teenage bowls of cereal all afternoon, shoots baskets better than they do.

He loves his preschool, the sandbox and slide, his teachers and friends – but he is bursting out of himself, like an uncontainable jack-in-the-box just waiting to spring into kindergarten with his arms up high: I’m here!

Yep. Big Graduation Day tomorrow. For him. And for me.

I’ve been dropping off at, picking up from, volunteering and shopping for, complaining about and loving this preschool for 11 years. In a row. No breaks. Sometimes I had one kid there, sometimes two. Sometimes as one was graduating, another was starting. It’s the only school all four of my children will attend from start to finish. And the divine Morah (Hebrew for teacher) K with the squeeziest hugs and most patient heart is probably the only teacher in their academic history that will teach them all. How lucky they are!

Since 2003, every week day, for ten months of every year, I have driven the route from my house to the preschool and back, at least twice a day if not more. I think that’s about 15,000 miles. We have no less than 12 homemade menorahs to choose from at Chanukah – who knew that bolts stuck on wood made the best Chanukah candle holders? – and almost the same number of Passover seder plates. I have devoured about 400 kid-made challahs (the yummiest challah in the world), and have helped raise thousands of dollars for the scholarship fund, facilitated the construction and dedication of a new classroom, and cooked countless meals for families and teachers with new babies and new homes.

I have watched my children’s two-year-old tears of separation and toddler anxiety transform into confidence, laughter, knowledge, friendship and pure delight in being at their home away from home. I have felt their teachers’ love, warmth and nurturing spirit – not only for each of mine, but also for me, my husband, even for Pretzel the dachshund.

Tomorrow we say goodbye to this haven of creativity and expression that has quietly brought constant calm to the chaos and confusion of daily life. For all of us. For 11 years.

I thought I would be sadder. I thought I would be sad. That it’s over. To say goodbye.

But I’m not.

I’m excited for my bursting jack-in-the-box to be in kindergarten in the fall, at the same school as his siblings. He can count, and form squiggly letters, and say the blessings on Shabbat. He knows about bridges and butterflies and how the world was created and he’s been in a fire truck. He knows how to share and have compassion and to empty the sand from his shoes before he comes into the house.

I’m not sad. My children – all four of them – are the still-growing people I am so proud of today because of that preschool. Those teachers. I am joyful.

And also nostalgic.

Longing – a little bit painfully – for those days when we would collect our three-year-olds and head to the park after school. An intense, necessary, sympathetic, close group of mamas, we would gather at the park with snacks and babies and picnic blankets and a gaggle of kids, and spend every afternoon chatting, gossiping, comforting, helping, friending. There was nowhere else to be but right where we were, with each other.

I miss that.

We are all still friends, but some have moved away, and all have moved on. Those three-year-olds are in middle school. The babies now have younger siblings. There are too many places we have to be after school, and it’s rare to run into each other anywhere.

That’s what I’m sad about.

I know life carries on, we move forward, sometimes slowly and reluctantly and sometimes with all the enthusiasm of an uncontainable jack-in-the-box. But as the sun sets on my years as a preschool mom, I am longing for those simple days of little kids, and bags of Pirates Booty (never thought I’d ever say that!), and long afternoons of more-than-friendship in the park.

JedRainbowTomorrow he will walk through the rainbow, like all the graduates at our preschool do, and like his brothers and sister did before him. My eyes will well with tears of pride and joy – and a little bit of pain and longing.

Want to go to the park after school? I’ll bring snacks.