Monthly Archives: February 2012

Leap year day

It’s Leap year day.  I really don’t remember the last one–my daughter was 6 1/2 for that one, and here it is again.  I like this extra.  It’s the only commodity I really want these days.  More time.  The job I am doing is interesting, engaging, funny, fun.  But all I want is more time.  More time to write, more time to exercise, much,much, much more time to be with my daughter and her friends, at her school and with my partner and even, more time to sleep.  I think we should have the day off for Leap year day, and most businesses and all stores should be closed– but parks and gyms and bike paths and bakeries and sushi joints and delicious little sandwich shops and coffee shops and ice cream shops should be open.  But that will have to be an organizing effort for another day or time.  Happy Leap Year day.

I don’t know how long a blog lives.  And since this one has been going for two years now– just a little bit over, it will be six years old if it lives to see another leap year.  I hope this blog will live to be six years old and see another leap year, but it’s possible not.  So happy first leap year day of this blog and happy leap year day to you again, just in case.

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Happy Valentine’s Day.

Happy Valentine’s Day one day late.  Really.  I hope it was a hearts and flowers day for you—especially for you women and you women who are mothers, in the particular sense of putting your own heart, how good you are, how lucky the people around you are to have you—in the center of the frame all day yesterday.

My Valentine’s Day started with breakfast in bed from my daughter, valentines; one each bought and made—by me for my partner and daughter and a huge, mad rush to work.  I still don’t have this—get-my-daughter-to-school-and-have-myself-dressed-and-eaten thing quite down.  I’m supposed to be sitting at my desk at 9:00 a.m.  And not in my old tee-shirt and stretchy pants.  But I’m getting there and there hasn’t been much shouting at anyone.

So after the mad rush when it was too late to get down into and then up from the subway and still be on time—I got in a cab.  I take taxis more than many do, but certainly not all the time.  In my city (all U.S. cities now?) most of the taxi drivers are men who were born outside of the U.S.  I have a routine.  I talk to almost every taxi driver whose cab I get into and I learn a lot about them and some about their home countries and their families here and abroad and the circumstances under which they came to the U.S. 

Yesterday I got into the taxi and the driver was listening to the radio.  I thought NPR, he said, Pacifica.  We were listening to Story Corps.  It was interesting, so I delayed talking to him, other than to say hello and what a beautiful day it was and where I was going.  The stories were love stories—Valentines Day stories, I think—and we, taxi driver and I, were listening together.  I mean we weren’t just listening at the same time, but it had a particular quality of listening together. 

 I have the kind of memory where if the next thing that happened hadn’t happened, I could tell you the details of the first two stories we heard.  But after the first two stories ended, a third story began.  It was the story—short and simple—of a woman, now about 60, whose husband died in the World Trade Center on 9/11.  She said they had met when they were 16 and they married.  What she described was that on 9/11—he was up in one of the towers and it had been hit, and he tried to get out but when he knew he had no way of getting out, he went to a phone and he called her.  He knew and she knew, that he wasn’t going to make it out, so he called her and they talked until he couldn’t talk any longer.  As the woman talked about what it was like to be on the phone with her husband for the last time, and things he said to her, the cab driver—a big, booming, burly African guy, began to weep quite openly.  I couldn’t quite cry but I said things to him, the kinds of things you say to someone when you grieve together.

Then the story ended and I asked and he told me about coming from Ethiopia in 1992 because of the war there, and about his wife here and about his two children with his one wife—a daughter 18 years old and a son only 3 ½ , a blessing and a big surprise to him and his wife.  And the day was long and that was only the very beginning.  But for now, l’ll leave it like this.  I am well- loved at home and by others who have been mine and I theirs, a long time.  My partner sent beautiful roses to me at the office, creating a bit of a stir in only my second week.   But that man and our ride together—and his crying with me—he was my friend and my Valentine.

The report from day one

The report will be short.  Or short-ish.

Yesterday, I arrived like a school girl on her first day of school.  New sweater, old pants, old shoes, a small bag full of a few small things that make a desk feel like mine.  Y. who is my boss in one sense– greeted me, took me into her office, walked me around a little bit and gave me some instructions, some words of welcome and a sense of a start.  She is a black woman, younger than I am by a lot, a veteran by legislative staff standards (5 years) and someone about whom, after listening to her in my first interview I thought, ‘this is a smart woman, a principled woman.  I’d follow her leadership.  For real.’  The elected legislator who chairs the committee I was hired to staff is actually my boss– and I saw him later in the day.

One of the first things I learned yesterday is that the other lawyer in the office has resigned.  Don’t know when he is leaving.  I had all those feelings, interesting feelings of excitement–putting my mind to something new, trying something new, learning a whole universe (as legislatures of any kind are– even more so than your average workplace)– full of people and their layers of relationships, strengths, worries and compromises, rules, ways of doing things, of getting things done and of relating to one another.  The office is in a beautiful, old but refurbished, government building.  I love the building.

I’ve had a year and a half of being a stay-at-home mom.  I’ve juggled, driven, organized impossible schedules, gone, helped, observed and been present with my daughter in so many settings; I’ve changed plans on a dime, and made things work.  I’ve spent a lot of time healing about the many feelings about loss of my former job– and the many more feelings about what that job and workplace had been (not so good) for me.

I’ve built a couple of rock solid relationships– one with my mom-friend with whom I’ve shared a weekly meeting to listen to one another, laugh and cry together, strategize and keep ourselves on track– one of the most satisfying, effective and efficient relationships ever.  I built a small community of others who are free during the daytime and I tried a number of things.  I’ve worked hard on the many hopes and worries and struggles I have as a parent– on strengthening my relationship with my daughter, other mothers, fathers, teachers, administrators and many others.

I am a different woman in certain ways.  It is interesting to feel.  I’ve felt at times, increasingly fragile but I think I may have been developing secret strengths.  Secret, first and foremost to me.

What I hated about the first day was the dispiriting feeling that went with  9:00 6:30– which is how long I worked yesterday.  It is simply too long to be away from home, my daughter and the goings on at which I belong and want to be.  This week I will miss a school play in Spanish, where my daughter has her teacher blown away by how she aced her lines.  And I will miss the first (and possibly the only) basketball tournament game in which my daughter will play.  And she missed me too which is another story.

Here is what I loved.  After years of having and worrying about having my own office in various workplaces, we work in a space that is configured like this;  Two inner offices at the back.  The resigning lawyer and Y., the committee staff director, have those offices.   Then there is a big gangly L-shaped room with four other desks/ cubicles and a large table for meetings and assembling documents, a sofa-waiting-area and files and two closets, one of which serves as a small kitchen.  And in the midst of all this, in a big modular work station, is where I work.  As a woman who knows that the all-over-each-other-never-alone— is one of the biggest gifts of mothering, I loved working in a big room where people call out to each other, see each other come and go, bustle around each other and have a sense– if only because of the design of the workspace, that we are in this together.

More soon.

 

Last day as…

This is my last day as a stay-at-home mom.  For awhile.  I say goodbye to this sweet mothering life and goodbye to this one version of a self-contained writing life.  Goodbye.  And I am sad to say goodbye.  I may well love what I do next, and it’s a great opportunity and I am in agreement with friends who say I am brave to try something new like this– at this time of my life.  All true, but alongside those facts is the fact that I am sad to say goodbye to this life.  I do not yet have all the vocabulary to write for real about what I have learned and understood about the lives of women and the brilliance and struggle of women who devote themselves full time to caregiving.  I don’t think it is exactly all we want for ourselves but the undervaluing of the brains, stamina, planning, strategy and brilliance it takes to do this work– is one  enormous lie of sexism.

I lament the end of this time.  Truly. Truly. Truly. Truly.

A longstanding vulnerability has become a major sideline these past weeks. I’ve been mostly sleepless.  I’ve turned into part very old woman whose sleep is so fragile, she wanders the empty quiet apartment throughout the night.  And part toddler– buffeted by excitement, changes in routine and all the rest.  In short, in the past two weeks, I’ve had too many nights of three, four hours of sleep.  And I am tired.

I offer a small list of things I will especially miss.  Though you should know that there have been a number of distinct periods of time, distinct undertakings and different routines during this year and a half of unemployment.

1.  Getting my daughter to school in the morning.  Trying, despite lateness, grumpiness (much but not all of it mine) to make it a good send off in the morning.  I succeeded sometimes and not others.

2.  Doing nearly all the family’s grocery shopping.  Much of it during the middle of the day.  Doing my chores with other mothers of the world (and those women’s little babies and toddlers), old women, surgical residents finishing a double shift, and others who are not in offices during the middle of the day.

3.  The fact that my daughter has figured out a way to call me during the middle of the day.  I will miss being consistently available to answer her calls, talk to her and listen to her.

4.  After school.  The walk home, the ride home, the laughs, the complaints, the tears– her friends, her teachers.  All that goes on — on the front steps of the school at 3:20 and beyond.

5.  Making a huge plates of nachos for seemingly small girls and their enormous appetites.   And then another huge plate.  Listening to them talk while they eat.

6.  Studying many things including Hebrew and my Torah portion, reading stories, magazines, poetry.  I watched a movie about four times in the daytime, during the course of this time at home.  I got Prince of Broadway in a rare daytime showing.

7.  Wearing the same clothes two days in a row.  Well really three.  Sometimes four.

8. Driving, driving, driving, driving.  The interesting thoughts I’ve thought, the mundane worldliness of it, the beauty of fall days, summer days, winter and rainy days– late evening, early morning.

8.  My beloved partner’s unfailing, unwavering love and hope for me.  Her loyalty  and her good, good face and voice over the phone.

9.  Writing.  This blog and other things.  And revising and revising.  This post– the beginning of a new era, where at times if you want to finish something you must give up revising, and reworking.

10.  Being available to be with my nephew in his first semester of university here– occasionally during the daytime.

11. My own time at the gym.  I’ve not gone for weeks and need to return.  I know it will be harder now that I’ll be working, but I must.  I liked taking seriously the body’s need for good care and exercise.

So off I go, like your child going off to school for the first time.  I take a step away from a life I’ve been building and toward something new and unknown.