Out walking this afternoon, I received a message from my sister that made me cry. As an Early Childhood teacher, she’s been missing her wee students these past months, despairing over any meaningful education happening through technology:
So, I had to go close down my classroom the other day. I was so afraid that I’d just bawl, stepping into it and seeing how everything was frozen in time from March 13 and thinking of my kiddos… but I ended up bawling because my classroom has become infested with mice. With no one in the building, they’ve taken over. I found two nests (barf)…one in our stuffed animals basket (apparently some of the beanie babies are STUFFED WITH BEANS) and another in the cozy corner pillows. After a couple of shrieks as they scattered at me entering the room, i let the custodian know that I really just.could.not… and he said, ah, but you must. So, I’d planned on sanitizing all the toys the kids had touched and store them, I ended up sanitizing every-damn-thing. There was mouse poop on literally everything. In the doll house. In the musical instruments. On the train. In the seashells. On all of the puzzles. On the glue bottles. All over the dolls and their bed… Many things got dumped. The mice literally were running the perimeter of the room while I was spraying bleach and wiping down every damn shelf and hard item (anything soft, I just threw away, cuz pee potential)…In the middle of all this, as I’m crying, I almost called you because I think you, of any other person I know, at least at one time if not still, could understand all my revulsion and fear…I spent 7.5 hours cleaning that room..I wasn’t even all the way finished when I left. My aide went in two days later to finish the bits and pieces I left and her text to me was: O.M.G.
My fear is the stupid custodian is not gonna go in and get rid of the stuff that I told him I really could not touch (Like the pillows in the cozy corner I just cut it… I lifted one and saw the nest and just dropped the pillow and could not even go back to that center…) and what if he waits to vacuum up all the poop off the floor… It was so horrible I’m crying again. Just the memory…
I thought I would be all emotional about going back to my classroom …and not being able to finish the year in person with my students (It’s their first year of school ever). …but that all got sidelined by the mice…
They are throughout the school… But in my hallway apparently my room is the hub. The principal told me that she put her purse on the ground and when she went to pick it up a mouse jumped out…
After spending 7/2 hours in there cleaning and bleaching all the mouse poop covered stuff in my classroom maybe I won’t catch coronavirus but I’ll catch hanta virus.
11:35 p.m. Both kids come down to the kitchen at the same time, but I can’t hear what they’re talking about because I’m watching Married at First Sight, and that’s important work. After a bit of joshing in the next room, they head downstairs together. By this point, I’ve turned down the volume and torn my attention away from how inappropriately possessive the father of newly married Elizabeth is as he speaks to her new husband. I try to crack what is going on with the kids. It’s something about Leggy needing Paco to go into the basement with her. She has to put her laundry in the dryer. Has she coerced her brother into doing the task for her? But when they come up, he has his own laundry in hand.
Finally, I get some answers. She needed to move her laundry to dry, but up in her bedroom she had been reading a Reddit thread – some cockamamie childhood tale about a door knob falling out, a light bulb going dark, and the door knob moving, on its own, twenty feet…the stuff of adolescent slumber parties – and had gotten so creeped out that she couldn’t face going into our basement (ominous as wet, cementy Minnesota basements often are) by herself. So she convinced her brother to go deal with his laundry so that she could simultaneously deal with hers in our scary basement.
A few minutes later, when she sends us screenshots of the Reddit story that started the whole thing, Paco messages me: “My sister is very funny.” A minute later, as we shake our heads over how innocuous the Reddit story is, he adds, “Sis gonna sis.”
After the noon HIIT class, I read Ducks, Newburyport on the back porch, mostly waiting for Paco’s AP World History exam to be over. He’s definitely prepared for both AP tests, but yesterday’s first-run, the English, showed him how quickly 45 minutes can pass. So he had a good sense of what was coming today – except the prompt and source documents, of course. He has a strong affinity for history, so I was hoping and hoping it was going well for him upstairs.
When he came down, he was grinning and happy it was over. Even better, the prompt he’d gotten was one he felt well-equipped to discuss. When he let me read the essay he’d written in response, I had one of those glorious parental moments of seeing how much the little bubby who used to chase bubbles in the kitchen has ripened into Quite Something. From writing to content, he handled that prompt with sophistication and control.
Even more, these two test days have been, he noted, the only time in the past few months where he’s felt like he really did something. The motivation and satisfaction of mastering a challenge – that’s something our teens have been stripped of during this time of limbo. Just when they’re ready to go for it, whatever it is, they’ve been put in Park.
My knees have been feeling so good lately, and about my body I’ve been feeling so bad, that I decided to try running this afternoon on the flatness of London Road. It was slow, and I was ready to stop if anything started yapping, but hey-whoa-ho, it felt like just the right thing. So I shuffle-ran, thanking the hugest gifts of this time, yin yoga and full-body cardio and strength workouts, for helping my hips and connective tissues boost those cranky knees. When I reached Brighton Beach, a freighter was heading away from port, chugging peppily out to sea under the blessing of a blue, blue sky. “Hey, I’m a freighter!” I thought, turning around and chugging peppily home.
The best, best, best part of today was hanging out in the kitchen for a couple hours with Leggy after I messaged her a picture of the flourless chocolate cake batter bowl that needed licking. She came in with questions – “Do you have a dream in life? It seems like people have dreams they work toward, but I don’t know if I really have a dream” – that parlayed into more conversation, with B chiming in, and soon we were looking up the lyrics to “Blinded by the Light” and talking about her summer options and how to game out hours, since she’ll have an internship and has been offered a remote job with the Carleton Archives. I have missed my girl during this time we’ve been living together. Talking, just talking, sitting at the counter, hearing out hopes and thoughts, agh, it was the best.
Set an alarm today so as to be up and ready to hit London Road when Jen ran by. I’d told her yesterday, when she posted that she would be running her virtual Grandma’s Marathon today, that I could stand on London Road and ring a cowbell for her. It became a plan. When she hit 54th, Hank, who was biking behind her, texted me. I trotted down to London Road, ready to ring and snap photos. Then Byron got home from his morning hike and came down, too, just in time.
That sensation of seeing a small runner coming from blocks away blurring into the recognition of closer and closer, the smile, the work, the hi, the backside, the getting smaller while heading toward a distant finish line – well, it was all so familiar from our many Junes as fans on that course. Even though Jen was only one runner, seeing her scratched my Grandma’s spectator itch. We have so many memories associated with that race; Byron joked he should bring his wind-up transistor radio down, which is an annual tradition as he listens for reports on the frontrunners. When I told Leggy yesterday we were planning to go yell for Jen, she said, “Mmmm, scones. Can we make scones?” – because for a series of years, that was part of the tradition. One year, the kids took them down to sell to passers-by, but other years, we took a heap down to share with neighbors. Today, it was only Byron and me cheering for a lone runner and her support crew, but still. I got my Grandma’s on.
Read a chapter of a “fall right into it” book, Valentine, before falling into a delicious afternoon nap. After waking and tea time, I mowed while wearing one of my flying squirrel loungewear suits, imagining neighbors might not know what to do with the sight of a drop crotch.
My trusty gym magazine reading, PEOPLE Magazine, has been arriving all along, of course, and each time an issue slides through the mail slot and topples onto the porch, I’ve picked it up, barely looked at it, and tucked it into my gym bag, per longtime habit. This means, of course, that I now have a goodly stash of tabloid trash tucked away, aging ungracefully. When this week’s issue showed up, Queen Elizabeth was on the cover, and somehow her 94-year-old face, a steady beacon to millions through so many world events, made me leave it out on the dining room table. Hey, Liz, how you doin’? I’d say six times a day as I walked past her brightly lipsticked mug. Then, suddenly, today was the time to snatch her head and take it out to the back porch. There, in the new warmth of “summer’s only a month off,” I sat on the couch and read the mag cover to cover, learning that it was opioids that killed Melissa Etheridge’s son, Brian Austin Green and Megan Fox’s break-up might stick this time, and that new rom com with Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani on Netflix is one I might need to dive into.
I wasn’t on the elliptical at the Y as I read, but back porch sunshine set me up right. That reading of PEOPLE magazine satisfied more than I would have anticipated. All my imaginary friends are still out there, as it turns out, just trying to find an empty beach to surf on.
Folding laundry, I finished listening to an Esther Perel podcast episode, this one about an American couple in Lagos, Nigeria, who moved there with their kids to do good work – and then Covid happened. When the embassy semi-mandatorily evacuated expats, this couple decided to stay, partially because just getting to where they were had been such lengthy, hard work. So now the husband works from home in his office all day, often ‘til 4 a.m., because he wants to be there for his team, while his wife, alone and feeling abandoned, creates the concept of “family” for their kids and handles the minutiae of their lives. Daddy’s in the next room, indeed, girls, but he can’t see you today because he’s calling a colleague to see how they’re doing.
When sheltering at home and social distancing were first starting, a movement began – among Live, Laugh, Love types, I’d guess – to put stuffed teddy bears in windows or other visible spots. So, uh, that people out walking with their little kids would have a Thing they, um, could Do. At the end of a driveway in our part of town, there’s a cutesy non-functional dog house. In that dog house are a couple teddy bears. Byron says they are representatives of the next era our society will enter: the epoch of forgotten and decaying teddies.