Hello! Guess what today is?
It’s 17 more days until school starts again! (And also 17 more days until I turn 40, but in our home the former is the bigger deal). This summer has been a … kind of weird one. Nothing particularly challenging has happened in our home, though we’ve had some struggles keeping Jackson entertained and occupied — he REALLY misses being in school and wishes it were year-round — but lots of people we know have had stressful summers. Even on a global-level, the energy this summer seems pretty harsh, if you believe in that kind of thing (and I do). My heart goes out to anyone suffering in the Louisiana floods, or anywhere, really, where extreme weather has or is causing severe damage and destruction.
As I said, our biggest issue this summer, besides battling the oppressive NYC heat, has been trying to keep Jackson entertained. I always knew he loved school, but I was still surprised at how lost he would seem without that daily structure in his life. Even camp doesn’t fill the void. And, in fact, he hated camp so much that I had to withdraw him after three weeks because he wouldn’t stop crying. And then I found a different camp for him to try and he liked that one, so I signed him up for two days a week through the summer, and, though he goes on exciting field trips all over the city that he seems to enjoy, he says he’d still much rather be in school. “What is it that you miss so much about school?” I asked him, thinking that, if he said it was his friends, I could point out how often he’s actually been able to see his neighborhood pals this summer — at play dates and block parties and get-togethers and the playground. But he said it was learning that he missed, and then he asked again: “Why doesn’t school go all year long?” I should field that question to my parents, the retired educators, who lived for June, July, and August!
Another issue we’ve had is dealing with the mass exodus of friends fleeing our gentrifying neighborhood. We’re part of a second-wave of gentrification, where much of the middle-class, many of whom started moving in about 15-20 years ago, is now being forced out to make way for people who can afford the 3-4 million dollar condos that are going up at every corner. I won’t pretend to know what it feels like to be priced out of a neighborhood you grew up in, and I realize it’s a very complicated issue around class and race and things that can be uncomfortable to talk about, but on a personal level, it’s been heart-breaking to watch the neighborhood where we thought we’d raise our family change so rapidly, and people we’d come to call our good friends and community whom we thought we’d raise our kids among, be forced out. And while we are ok for the time-being — we have a decent apartment that’s below market price and that lots of people would be happy to have — we were hoping to find our “forever home” soon, and, after almost a year of casual house-hunting, we don’t feel any closer to finding where or what we want than when we started. It’s not the end of the world by any means, and certainly, in comparison to real problems, we’ve got nothing to complain about… but, I don’t know, I thought by this point in my life I’d feel more settled than I do. I didn’t think I’d still be contemplating where I want to put down roots; I thought the roots would be already in place.
Last week, we had to say good-bye to Jackson’s best friend and that was especially sad. There are some people who are friends with everyone — who fit in with every group and seem to have magnetic personalities that attract a wide range of friends (I have a feeling this will be Joanie). And then there are people who are more introverted and content with a very select few people in their inner-most circle and that’s it. Well, Jackson — at least at this age — falls into the latter group. He has his person and then a few other people he is friendly with, but mostly that person is the one. And she left last weekend and, I swear, my heart broke for him probably worse than it ever broke for myself. He seems ok though; he’s hanging in there. The day after she left, he wanted to go see her apartment and get his picture taken on her stoop, which I thought seemed like a healthy way to process and accept the loss. And every night before he goes to bed, he looks at a photo he has of the two of them taken on a roller coaster at Coney Island last summer right before they started school, and we talk about her and about how he misses her (and, of course, we call her, too, which helps–what I would have given as a kid to have FaceTime to keep in touch with all the friends I always had to say good-bye to!).
Sometimes — a lot of times — I have to remind myself that he’s not even five years old yet. These first five years are so instrumental in a child’s emotional development, and, as parents, Drew and I have worked as hard as we can to give him — and now Joanie — the best experiences and tools that we are able to, to give them a great start in life. And it’s kind of crazy to think that years from now they *might* remember a few moments of these experiences but that most of it will be lost. Or, not lost exactly — they’ll be part of the kids’ make-up and their foundation and who they become. But the kids won’t remember the details and they won’t have pictures in their minds of … of any of this, this life we’ve shared for the last few years, and that’s kind of weird, and a little sad.
Oh, and now I’m getting away from myself and the point of this whole post, which was to say: Hey, how’s your summer been going? Mine? Ok. Kind of ready for it to be over. Kind of ready for a break in the heat and a break in the big life questions that have been hanging over my head, and hoping that turning 40 already and getting on with it and enjoying a change of season might help in that regard.
I was talking with a friend the other day who’s also turning 40 and has kids the same age as mine and is facing a lot of the same questions I am — when and where and whether to make a move, in what direction she wants to steer her life and profession and her family — and I told her, “I guess I just need someone to tell me it’s all going to be OK.” And she looked at me kind of surprised and said, “It already is. It’s more than OK.”
I took that photo above on the morning of the 30th birthday, almost ten years ago. I was facing some big life questions then, too, and wanting someone to tell me it would all be OK. I’d met Drew a few months earlier and didn’t know exactly where things were leading or how we’d navigate the long distance relationship. I’d just finished grad school and started teaching a couple college classes to see how I liked that and if I might want to pursue a PhD and become a professor (um, no). Everything was up in the air, and my hope for the decade ahead was that I might find my place in the world. And I think I have. It’s right here, with my family, with my friends who are scattered all around, with you.
Everything’s going to be OK. Everything already is.