About Time

Two days ago it was high summer. Hot still air filled with the buzz of cicadas and the smothering, shimmering heat that brings mirages on the horizon. This morning, fall is here. In the middle of the night, I pulled my blanket over me, and found all of my children huddled under months-forgotten covers in the pre-dawn light. Cool air poured in the flung-open summer windows, so useless two days ago, now causing me to ponder pulling them closed.

Over my sundress I shrugged on a pink cardigan, and padded to the kitchen in barefeet. Fall is pouring in the windows, changing the sunlight, and heavy on the slow, breezy air. Crispness hangs on the outskirts of the vision- if you look too fast, it’s gone- but it’s there, like a dim star at night. Hello, fall… you’re a little late this year. It’s okay- all the seasons have been a little behind, and I don’t mind. But I’m glad to see you just the same.

A Shaggy Summer Story Ends

Back in the spring, I made a deal with my boys: after much complaining and wailing and gnashing of teeth, they could grow their hair all summer. It took all my self-control to keep from taking the clipper to them some nights in their sleep, but I did it- I honored my promise. Today, the bill came due. We started out like this:

And ended up like this:

And this:

Tenth Eve

Gravel crunches under her flip-flops as she navigates the edge of the driveway, looking both ways out of sheer habit down the empty street. It’s 87 degrees near midnight, but she clutches the light robe over her slip, lest any sleepless neighbors note her lack of proper clothing. It’s too hot for layers, and a sheen of sweat beads on her neck and lazily trails down between her shoulders and the straps of her slip.

Why is the mailbox across the street? she wonders again. These days she retrieves the mail maybe once a week- there is seldom good mail anymore- only bills and people wanting things she cannot deliver. Mail stops being fun when you live on the edge. Last week a postcard came from Pennsylvania. That was a happy trip- this time she is hoping and absently praying there will be something mixed in with the junk and bills that she can put on the table to surprise her son.

Boys don’t turn ten every day, and a boy should have something to surprise him when he bounds out of bed to celebrate his first decade. Fishing deep into the dark mailbox, she grits her teeth and hopes no spiders have made a home amid the crunched up letters and folded junkmail- perhaps more than once a week is necessary. It’s dark, and she’s not sure, but it feels like there might be a birthday card mixed in there. Clutching the pile of mail to her chest, watches the sky as she flip-flops back towards Little House.

Dry lightning sparks across the sky, matching the disquiet in her heart. Tipping her face skyward, she hopes for rain, but catches little hope on the hot night air. The kitchen light twinkles through the open window, and she pulls herself up the steps back into the cumulative contained heat of the day held inside her small kitchen.

There is not one card, but two, for her boy. She exhales relief, and adds the two cards to the pile of M&M cookies on the cake stand she decorated earlier. The banners she uses for each birthday are strung across the kitchen, and a small sign says “Happy Birthday” in pink and orange circles. It has to be enough for now. Tomorrow she will try harder.

Tomorrow she will make him macaroni and cheese from scratch, per his request, and whatever he wants for breakfast. She will bake a cake and add the oppressive heat of the oven to the un-air-conditioned Little House. She will run to the store and find him a small gift that won’t satisfy the cravings for X-Box, or iPods, or Wii games, but will hopefully please him nonetheless.

She hits the lights on the now happy-looking kitchen and makes her way down the small hallway to her boys’ room. Bare feet feel their way around the landmine of Lego pieces, and she bends down to kiss the rosy cheeks of her giant sleeping boy. How did a decade pass and her cherubic copper-headed baby turn into this giant man-child who shares clothing sizes with her? She brushes the haystack of red curls from his face and presses her lips to his freckled forehead. He doesn’t stir, deep in the arms of sleep.

Stepping back she lands on a Lego and smacks her head on the top bunk. She stifles a cry, but the boy stretches and rolls and cracks one eye at her. She smiles and rubs her head, and he mumbles, “Love you too, mom” as he rolls over and sprawls on his stomach in front of his whirring fan.

She stands in the darkness looking at her boy. Lightning flashes outside, and the hum of fans floats in from all rooms. She had never said a word… but he had seen her and assumed her love. Maybe she’s doing something right after all.

Returning and Reporting: Ohio Edition

Yes, I am still alive. I know. I’ve been off galavanting around the country this summer, made possible by grants from people who love me despite my many faults and my empty pockets. My best cousin Heather got married in Ohio last week, and thanks to some generously proffered airline miles, I was able to hop a flight at visit as close to the Eastern seaboard as I’ve ever stepped.

Ohio is a lovely, lovely place. My family lives in the tiny but historically packed town of Oberlin, and I thoroughly loved the little place. It’s beyond charming, and Oberlin college, the heart of the town, is beautiful. My aunt Crazy Chicken Annie (anyone who’s been reading Dandelion for any amount of time known CCA) relocated from California to Oberlin earlier this summer, and I was able to stay with her in her fabulous farmhouse with all her creatures. There was even a bat, but I’ll have to tell that story another time…

The first morning I woke up, this was the view out the window. Ohio is lovely…

We spent the next days getting ready for the wedding, making airport runs and reuniting with people I love but had not seen in eons. I also spent a great deal of time trying to get my hair to not take up all the vacant space in the known universe- the humidity was UNREAL. I finally resorted to just putting it up and trying to forget that I looked like a sharpei whose tail had wound up in a 220v socket.

Auntie Heather was radiant and very calm for a woman about to get married. We spent the day before the wedding hanging out in the little resort town of Huron with friends and family on Lake Erie.

As a western girl, familiar only with the Northern Pacific for my body of water, this lake was curious, in both its fresh-water-ness and in it’s odd warmth. I’m not used to a body of water large enough for tides and waves to not be cold enough to freeze my patootie off despite the late summer sun. I walked along the shores and talked with friends while I collected shells and stones for my kids. I really wished they could have been there this day- they would have loved the warm, calm, incredibly blue-green water.

Heather was stunning and the wedding was a blast- held at an artist’s retreat, complete with a giant tent, costumed photo booth, smores down by the river, torches and fireflies lighting the paths, woodfired pizza, and dancing late into the balmy night, it was one of the most beautiful wedding and parties I’ve ever been to. It was a joy to be there for her amazing day, and the family she has married into might be some of the coolest most wonderful people ever- she did well- and they are so blessed to have her.

That’s what I’ve been up to…

Perseverance Pays Off

For weeks now I’ve been battling with Financial Aid at the University- and I know everyone has their own horror stories of the special level of unhelpful hell that is college fin/aid- so I’ll spare you mine. But finally this morning, children in tow, yet another trip out there, I emerged victorious, holds lifted, and funds set to clear for fall. I felt like Will Smith in Independence Day when he was dragging the parachute behind him in the desert.

The kids and I ran over to Senior Hall, where I was meeting with a new advisor, after placing a hex on my previous inept nincompoop. My new advisor provided me more concrete information in thirty minutes with three kids dancing around the desk than my old one did in five full quarters of college. We went over everything, and I have a written plan of exactly what I need to do EACH quarter between now and Spring in order to graduate in June. Before this week, I wasn’t even sure how many credits I had, and what applied to my major. Like I said, he was a nincompoop.

When I left my New and Improved Advisor’s office this morning, I had all my classes registered, winter and spring quarters laid out, my senior capstone reserved, and graduation slated. It was freaking amazing! Unreal what a little competence can do.

I can take the GRE in the spring, and while my course-load is going to be heavy between now and then (but I’m a college Senior so that’s kinda expected, right?) in June I should be walking in robes, a mortarboard, and hopefully with a tassel or three.

It’s the most hopeful I’ve felt in a long time. Now I need to start looking at Grad Schools. 3.92 is good, right? Anyone want to write me some letters of recommendation? ;)

Lethargy

For the last three days, with only a pocket of exceptions, I seem to have fallen prey to the unstoppable need to sleep. If I’m busy, I’m okay- floppy and without sparkle, but at least awake. But if I sit down? or flop on the bed? Forget it. I’m out. Zonked.

How long of a hangover can you have from a RockStar and a Five Hour Energy? Because this is ridiculous. I’d be umbraged, but I’m going to take a nap instead.