Friday, May 29, 2015

Missing or wishing?

From Harriet the Spy
Today I finished reading to my homeroom class one of my all-time favorite children's novels, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. In Book 3 of the 1964 novel, Harriet receives a letter from her former nanny.

Included in the note: If you're missing me I want you to know I'm not missing you. Gone is gone. I never miss anything or anyone because it all becomes a lovely memory. I guard my memories and love them, but I don't get in them and lie down.

Whoa. I hadn't remembered those words from my many, many previous readings.

The timing was serendipitous. As I told my dear friend Jenny earlier this week, I've been in a "missing Steve valley." It's partly a side effect of being a single working mom at the end of the school year, when the calendar is relentless with cheerful, celebratory events on top of everyday life. (I don't want to complain, and I am thankful for our many blessings, but single mom life is often exhausting.)

Ever since I read that "I never miss anything or anyone" line, I've been asking myself: Am I missing or wishing?

So far I've decided it's a combo deal. I miss being married to Steve. I miss having Steve as a lifelong partner to share in work and worries, in celebrating and dreaming. I miss our children enjoying the love and devotion of two parents. I miss Steve's laugh, quirkiness, bravado, voice, sense of humor, intellect …

I also miss what might have been, a silly exercise with multiplying variables. It's actually more wishing than missing.

If Steve were still alive, would he be a chaperone tonight at Cooper's end-of-year band party? Would he have been a WatchDOGS volunteer at Katie's school this week? Would he have attended the Hosp Elementary staff "party on the patio" as my plus-one?

Actually, I probably wouldn't have been a Hosp staff member in an alternate world in which Steve never developed a brain tumor. I became a teacher because I was a single mom. If Steve were still alive, still working, who knows what my own work life would be.

If Steve were still alive, I probably wouldn't have been sitting in a rocking chair this afternoon, sharing a groundbreaking novel with 17 fourth-graders.

I would have never ever chosen this journey for our family. There's absolutely nothing fair about what Steve endured and his absence and its effect on all who love him.

Of course, we don't get to choose all the paths of our journey. We control our reaction.

I am thankful for my Steve memories. I love my Steve memories. As Ole Golly says, I know that missing Steve will never ever make him come back.

So, in a world without Steve, I am also thankful for the people who encouraged me while I was studying to become a teacher. I am thankful for Beverly Woodson, who took a chance in hiring me at Bledsoe, and for Aaron Else, who hired me the next year for Hosp when my position was eliminated at Bledsoe. I am thankful for a welcoming, friendly staff at Hosp -- a whole group of people who, except my friend Wendy, never had the opportunity to meet Steve. I am thankful for 18 fourth-graders who gather around the rocking chair every morning at 8, then another 17 students who gather every afternoon at 1 to listen to some of my favorite novels.

I want to be sure that I don't spend so much time missing Steve that I miss out on being the person I'm supposed to be.

Cake from today's staff party, hosted by the Fergusons

Monday, May 4, 2015


I usually work at school until 5 or 5:30 p.m.

Today I left "early," and Katie and I were home by 4:40 p.m. I had big plans to run necessary errands AND leisurely cook dinner.

About 4:47 p.m., we let Margie out in the backyard. Moments later, there was a tremendous racket from our somewhat-mild-mannered Scottie. (She's mellowed with age.)

I investigated. Margie had cornered what appeared to be a bunny. I forced Margie inside and then took the next sensible step. I asked Cooper, our trusty, brave Boy Scout, to make sure the bunny was OK.

He returned with the news that that was no rabbit -- it was a tiny kitten.

Katie -- who loves all living creatures, even those to which she is allergic -- burst into tears for fear that the baby was injured, either in the journey that led her to our yard or by Margie, whose ancestral line predisposes her to rooting out vermin.
Margie, fresh from locating and "welcoming" the cat
Then I took the next sensible step. I called Jackie, our neighbor, friend and affirmed cat whisperer. She is also a high school counselor and was still at school, prepping for AP exams tomorrow.

She suggested that we (1) get a cat carrier from her laundry room, (2) lure the kitten in with food and (3) hold on to the cat until she could get home.

Cooper obtained the carrier and cat treats. The "luring" part of the job was not so simple.

Now, this cat (who we are calling a girl, though we really don't know) is tiny. Cooper is 6-foot-1. So even though he is super kind and gentle, Coop must have seemed scary to the kitten, who had just been cornered by a fluffy, barking Scottish terrier. When Cooper approached the cat, she hissed and leaped across the backyard.

This caused Cooper, Katie and I to shriek and leap like marionettes with broken strings. I mean, this cat may be tiny, but she is fierce. (The three of us laughed until our sides hurt.)

We let her settle between the back fence and the tree. We stared at her for a long while. Katie volunteered to read on the back porch to keep an eye on her. Meanwhile, I really had to run those errands. (The minivan air-conditioner stopped working this weekend, and I needed to get moving on a solution.)

Sweet kitten is still frightened. 
So, I left Cooper and Katie and Margie and the cat at home. Cooper called and texted with updates, all the same. The cat hadn't moved.

By the time I returned home, Cooper had named the cat "Maka." She hadn't eaten a single cat treat or sipped the water he had placed under the tree.

"We have to get her in the carrier, Cooper," I said. "Whatever it takes."

Moments later, Cooper was ready. He had put on blue jeans, hiking boots, a thick jacket and thick socks in an exaggerated effort to protect himself from this wild animal.

We eased up on her, certain she would climb into the carrier.

HISSSS! Pounce! Leap!

Now she was in yet another corner. Cooper and I were determined. We cautiously approached. We braced ourselves. At last -- success! The tiny gray-and-white kitten was contained.

Maka's home while waiting for Jackie
Sweet Jackie was still at school. We weren't comfortable with Margie and Maka in the same house, so the kids took turns sitting on the front steps with crated Maka. They didn't want her to feel alone. When dogs would walk by, Katie would pick the crate up and move it close to the front door, just in case Maka felt frightened.

(Dinner, by the way, was a rushed affair. No time for chopping, sautéing, etc., when you're tending to a kitten you didn't expect.)

Around 8:30 p.m., Jackie arrived. We visited for a while, then Jackie walked Maka to her home, where she will keep her until we can find a forever home.

Thank you, Jackie, for your help!
I'm proud of this little family -- a genuine team. There are many days (most days?) when I feel like we're just getting by, just able to keep our head above water. Yet we each have our strengths, and we together we compensate for our challenges. We are fortunate to be able to call on experts to help. We laugh every day. We love each other, and we are genuinely grateful for one another.

Now, who wants to adopt Maka?