I have just settled into my seat at Starbucks with the plan of a 2.5 hour grading session while Lizzie is at practice. This image of the kids popped up on my screen. I scrolled to a similar one of them from years ago:
Not that I needed a reason to procrastinate grading on a Friday night, but I found myself scrolling through two decades of photos of my life, and then back even further, to when I was Quinn’s age:
And then, for about the ninth time today, I cried. Cried right here in the corner of Starbucks, right in front of the teenager mopping bleach around my feet.
It’s been a really bad start to 2016. Stress and worry and a bout of pneumonia, followed by the guilt that Luke moves back to Seattle in 2 days and I haven’t even had the chance to hold his face and dig into what his first semester really was like, followed by Wednesday when Quinn got food poisoning from a hotdog that Luke treated him to after school. Quinn was violently ill, vomiting at least once, sometimes twice an hour all through the night. Early on in the process, but far enough along for Quinn’s color to disappear, he sat on his bedroom floor, shivering, with Sean rubbing his back. Q eyed his bucket. He frowned, teary, and said, “I am sorry, guys,” which melted our hearts. Sean replied, “You don’t need to say sorry to us. It’s okay.” Quinn shook his head and said, “Not you. Them.” He tilted his chin in the direction of his stuffed animals that were waiting for him on his bed.
How long has it been since I had imaginary friends? How long has it been since I have been lost inside a world of possibility and play? Luke picked me up at school today and texted me ahead of time to let him in through the art door. When I pushed it open, I noticed that a student had added to my sign on the door:
I smiled, but sadly, because up until I noticed it I had already had two stress meltdowns. By 8:15AM, I texted my husband, “I am having a panic attack. Can’t breathe,” all because I could not find the spray-mount I ordered, and all the artwork was due matted to the art museum, and I had already missed days due to the plague, and grades are due, and my students are slacking, and holy shit today is the fifteenth and the damn mortgage is due and I don’t have the money, and the bathroom sink is clogged, and I need brake fluid and new wipers and a headlight and Jesus volleyball season hasn’t even really started yet and HOW AM I GOING TO AFFORD THAT?!”
Yet someone in my class was bored enough and creative enough and light hearted enough to remind me that Narnia is just outside. I just am noticing the wrong things.
I spent my only prep hour today calling parents who were all super nice, but also clearly don’t understand how many minutes are in my one and only prep hour. I spent my lunch hiding from the world next to a soda machine and I tried to just breathe. I felt better when I saw another teacher crying too. Apparently, we both forgot about Narnia.
I spent my only hour at home eating a cold flauta and opening my Birchbox. I spent another hour in traffic. If John Lennon was right, that life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans, then I need to make better plans. I need to remember that each deep breath comes with a blink of the eye and in that lapse, there is poetry.
In that blink, kids grow up, a given, but I grew up and I missed it. My parents looked like this just two days ago, I swear:
Where did that blanket go? I want that blanket, dammit. In my Narnia, there is a blanket like that. It’s waiting for me. I just need to believe it will catch me and lead me to a place where I recognize my spirit, where I see myself before I see my role as mom, where my imaginary friends are so real that I am compelled to apologize to them,