vendredi 17 décembre 2010


The miscanthus in morning sun

The sun has modestly left the sky, leaving place for wintry clouds. I am glad; I have a chest cold, and sun is unwelcome from here in my nest on the sofa, in front of the Super-G in Val Gardena and the wood stove. My chest cold, on the other hand, is welcome. It affords me the opportunity to nurture my psyche, preparing myself for the still unsettling fact of anticipating my stepdaughter coming through the door each evening of the week, coming home from school.

Home. Coming home.

I would rather it stayed dark with the lights on the Christmas tree and the fire in the hearth, my own little womb where I ply needle and thread, examining my conscience, looking for holes and rips, weak spots, and darning my soul.

It's private work, but I share it with you. I admire most of all those who do not need to share anything, who can sew in the privacy of their home and go on with their labors without asking anyone to notice. That is a confession. I think of the farmer in Babe. I tell myself, "That'll do, Pig. That'll do." I try to find the same quietness of principle and conviction, but I am more like his wife. I am both. Secretly, I am in love with Arthur Hoggett. James Cromwell would be fine, though.

I think my husband has something of him. Sometimes.

If the skies are really kind, they will send down more snowflakes. They did last night, but not enough, thankfully, to provide an excuse for the teachers not to show up at school, disappointing the children. I trod down the sidewalk this morning, past the dark windows of the house where one girl lives, to confirm that the other's were brightly lit, as I expected them to be. Behind them are parents who share our commitment to our children belonging in school and getting them there. Lit, it meant that if the bus did not appear, she or I would be driving at least our two children to school. The darkness of the other set of windows I took as a message. Not today. If my phone hadn't rung, it meant she had information to say the bus would come.

I walked back into the house with the dogs, Fia driving me nuts, twisting on her leash and tugging back to goad the lagging Rapide, who wanted one thing only: for Fia to leave her in peace at her own pace. My stepdaughter refused breakfast as usual and wished me a nice day, heading out for the bus.

"Ah! Il a neigé!" she exclaimed, stepping out the door into the morning darkness. Don't forget, we live very far north.

I waited for the protest. It didn't come. I did not need to say, "Oui, il a neigé, et toi, tu vas aller à l'école. Dépêche-toi," but I don't yet call that progress, as tempted as I am after our homework session of the evening before last. I don't dare yet. That would be premature. It will require several more homework sessions like that one, and the grades that confirm their significance. On the other hand, perhaps the cooperation and good humor are more important than the grades.

I rather suspect they are, at least from a parent's point of view. You see, I might be an idealist (I have been so accused), but I do not believe that conflict needs to define the teenage experience. It's more nuanced than that. They will be secretive, insolent, difficult and unpleasant, and possibly rude, and loudly so, at least once a day (so will I, I promise), but it does not have to define the entire experience of being a teenager and growing up.

I do believe that we ought to expect this from them as a sign that they are doing their job and pay the least attention necessary, choosing instead to get "caught" by the kind words, the
thoughtful gesture, the moment of enthusiasm, when they cannot prevent themselves from sharing with you and give that lavish attention. Do any of us want to be remembered for our worst moments and have them shape everyone else's expectations of us?

I didn't think so.

I find in the middle of all this, from my place in the center of my warm nest, that I might like it. Or, if "like" isn't the word, it could be that I feel attracted to the work for some reason that remains a mystery. I also believe that anything that appeals to us and is difficult to understand is worth doing. I believe that it is the next hill for us to climb (or up which to roll that stone) so that we can see from its top, a new perspective on the same landscape of our lives, or a new one altogether, or the very same one, changed by eyes that see differently for having done it again. It comes as close to a job as anything I have undertaken in my life. I wrote a contract not only to keep ma belle fille in line, but to give a form to my own responsibilities and objectives in doing it at all so that I can see not only if I am failing, but if I might possibly be succeeding in my work, and possibilities of success somehow seem to breed more.

At least I have always found it to work that way.

Maddeningly, maybe, since I pronounced the words "Let's take her", two more possibilities for which I have wished might be presenting themselves. They involve work, paid and charitable, that could lead to more doors.

It is so strange how when you walk through one door, any door, corridors of them appear, and suddenly you find yourself contemplating just how many you can possibly manage and afford to open, rather than "Where are the doors?"

The snow is falling.

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