Monday, August 24, 2015



Ayla and I went to Target for school supplies. She is entering 5th grade, her last year of elementary school. How this happened, I do not know. How it has been 11 years since I awaited the entrance of this child into the world is one of the great mysteries. I couldn't bring myself to say no to anything she asked for. Shiny new lunchbox with geometrical print, okay. Matching new water bottle with matching geometric print, toss it in there. Ayla was determined to get a white backpack and white shoes, both of which she would decorate with sharpies. The backpack had to be ordered online, the shoes, after some setbacks, were found by Grammy at Kohl's. Ayla gets these grand ideas in her head and I know she will be despondent if they don't work out, and I go to great lengths to prevent this despondency. When we got out of the car at Target I started singing to Ayla "back to school, back to school, to prove to dad I'm not a fool," in an Adam Sandler voice, and that is how I learned that Adam Sandler does not resonate with Ayla's generation AT ALL.

On Thursday we learned Ayla had been placed in a class with none of her best friends but with the two children she has had the most conflict with over the years. I know some parents think that children need to learn to deal with this sort of difficulty in life, and those parents are right. But I am one of those that thinks, why not prevent what bumps I can, life has enough challenges as it is. And I'm right too, you know? Neither Noah nor I are good at rocking the boat. We didn't want to call the school and ask for special treatment. I got Ayla into the car. "How big of a deal is this situation with your friends?" I asked. "A big deal, a small deal, a medium deal?"

"It's fine, it's not a big deal," Ayla said. "I'll still see them at recess and before school and stuff."

But she was holding back tears.

"Okay," I said. "And are those your real feelings, or is this you not wanting to hurt someone's feelings by switching?"

"The feelings," she said.

So I screwed up my courage and called the new principal and told her the truth. That we moved here from Colorado and it's been hard enough to make friends. That it's Ayla's last year of elementary school and I want her to have a good year surrounded by her pals. I understand that some might say these issues are trivial, but they are not trivial to me. I don't understand why we expect children to put up with things that we ourselves would not put up with. Anyway. The principal agreed to switch Ayla to a different class and Ayla and I fist bumped. I felt like a hero.

By some miracle last night they were both asleep by 9:15. These two have been staying up til midnight and it was just Thursday that Ayla slept in until almost noon. We drove them through McDonald's for ice cream because there's no Dairy Queen here, that is just the town I live in. I hate this town. After milkshakes we sang to them and put them to bed. I had cleaned both their rooms for them because I wanted them to feel orderly and cozy for the start of the year. When everything is chaos it helps to have a clean house. I even cleaned out the bottom of the pantry where there were a million shoes and plastic bags and two spiders and a moth infestation. Harry Potter could be living there basically. I watched them sleep, of course. I remembered thinking, when Ayla started 3rd grade, that we still had three full years until middle school and surely I would feel that time. Those three years would pass with the measured pace we expect three years to pass with. Now here we are, time is unreal. Mothers get this in our bones and yet we rage against it. Ayla's last year at BES and Indy right behind her. God help me.

This morning we all had bags under our eyes but spirits were generally high. Ayla shrugged on her white back pack decorated with the sharpie-drawn youtube logo and ihascupquake and Nirvana symbols. Ayla is into Nirvana. She is indulging her quirks with a trueness to herself that I admire fiercely. Indy overnight turned into a sort of brightly clawed kitten with jeweled teeth. She has presence. She is in herself and aware of herself like a starlet in a fashion spread.

God help me.

Noah took them to Waffle House (HATE TOWN) and then we dropped them at school, where at the last minute Indy said "Do you guys HAVE to walk us in?" all fake-casual, and we said ". . . no!" Me also feigning casual and so off they went, into the wilds, on their own. Then I took a drive up through the forest, it was misty and it had presence, aware of itself and the feats it is about to preform, getting ready just any minute now to magic all that green to yellow and gold, but not yet, not yet, and I thought everything is always coming, but not yet. Not yet.

indy alone

forest sign two

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

August Rushes In

On the first day of August, we went camping. We have not camped as a family since we moved here. I don't know why. But sometime last autumn Ayla came to me crying and said she was upset because we never go camping anymore. She has a flair for the dramatic but also for telling truths. She is a Libra and a Hufflepuff. But of course I don't believe in any of all that.

August sometimes gets a bad rap, but its one of my favorite months. August is when the light changes. One warm day in August you will be sitting in your car, it will be late afternoon, the light will go peach-colored and a breeze will blow in. On the underside of this breeze there will be a chill, and you will know that fall is going to come. Your seven-year-old daughter will turn to you and say, "It feels like everything good is about to happen". August is the month of stone fruit and school supplies. It's the month Indy was born. One day in August I had barely slept all night and was driven from my bed at four in the morning with labor pains. I thought this labor would take all day, run into the night, like my first. A mere seven hours later, I would be holding my Indy in my arms for the first time, her short little nose, her funny long legs. Ayla's first act as a human was to gaze at us as if she had known us for millions and millions of years. Indy's was to have a good cry. How could I not love August?

Camping here is different than camping in Colorado. We didn't grow up here, we don't know the good spots. We drove ten minutes down the street before turning onto a long dirt road lined with corn fields and horses. At the end of this rough road was a bend in the river, and we set up our tent on its banks. No alpine air, too many bugs. But the upside is this ancient river. Colored like coffee or the gold of some hound's eye, the girls undulating their sleek bodies in the shimmering light, little seals, legged mermaids. They are growing strong. Dive low, sputter up. Skip stones. Splash your sister. Ayla propped Indy up on her straight shoulders and said "I won't be able to do this much longer, you'll get too big." Ayla's legs impossibly long, Indy's eyes the brightest thing in the whole world.

Some people feel compelled to rush through August, squeezing in last minute summer before school starts up again. For me August is when summer slows down. You just have to surrender what you didn't get to. Like a woman of advanced age who doesn't hurry from place to place. Like the river growing wide around its slowest bend. For just a little while in August the world opens up. The swell of July is behind us, the smoke of September is ahead. I sat beneath leaves that danced with the light of the sun off the river. I felt a depression lift away. The old French Broad eventually flows into Tennessee. But just there, in that bend, it would hold us. My daughters closed their eyes and jumped in.

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