At lunch, her face crumpled, or flattened out rather, chin pulled down, eyes wide and blinking. She was trying not to cry.
“Are you OK?” I asked.
Her mouth tightened from its frown, and she took a minute before she answered.
“I’m going to miss Mrs. Foley,” she said, the last word rising into a near wail. “I’m sad she isn’t going to be my teacher anymore.”
Then my big girl sighed and took another bite of her pizza.
Last Thursday night, as I put teacher gifts together and sat down to write notes, my mind flashed back to the first day of school:
Mrs. Foley read The Kissing Hand. When she asked a question, my big girl’s hand shot up and she answered in a loud clear voice. I wondered where my shy preschooler had gone.
Now I wonder where this year has gone. Weren’t we just chasing the bus up to school on that first day?
In the last few months, my big girl has started reading and writing. She’s riding a bike without training wheels “on the pavement!” and I let her go to the end of the street and back by herself. She lost her first tooth.
The images of her year ran through my mind as we wrap up this year, moving at fast-forward speed as they seemed to have done. Friday at the picnic, I smiled as my big girl took her certificate and squealed with her friends under the water in the spray park, and I felt the sadness of an ending too.
Yesterday I came downstairs after quiet time, and as I opened the fridge to get the iced coffee, I saw the note stuck up with a magnet:
I am sad.
As I set the coffee on the counter, another paper fluttered to the floor. I stooped to pick it up.
I am sad.
I saw her trying not to cry face again. I felt my own end of the year, my baby’s growing up so fast happy-sadness. I remembered the feeling of “this will never be again” even as a kid.
I found I am sad sprinkled all over the house. I gave my big girl a hug and looked her in the eye. “You really are sad, aren’t you?”
She nodded, eyes big with tears that didn’t fall again.
“It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to miss your teacher. I’m so glad you loved her and had such a good year in kindergarten.”
She nodded again and snuggled into my hug. We sat for a moment, paused in that ending place.
After she squirmed out of my arms and went off to play, I looked again at the note, amazed because it wasn’t so long ago that she couldn’t write. It wasn’t so long ago she didn’t know how to say I am sad. Those days of thrashing tantrums as she learnedon the floor seem so long ago and not.
I am not sad to have said good-bye to tantrums, but I feel the tug of what was, what is passing, even as I embrace what comes.
It’s the first day of summer vacation. Yesterday’s rain has passed. My big girl came down this morning smile wide and bright. The summer stretches before us. with beach and camping and picking blueberries to look forward to. At breakfast, her face clouded, “I’m still a little sad,” she said. And then she noticed the squash flowers in the garden and the log with a hole that would make a special fairy house. She’s holding what’s passing and what is and what’s coming in this ending-beginning time of year.
Write with Me Wednesday
Write about an ending today, either one you are experiencing or anticipating or one from your past.
Were you sad? happy? relieved?
Choose one moment from that time of end. Put yourself in that moment. Start writing there.
My garden is a mess. The kind of mess where you can hardly find the things you planted. I spent the better part of Sunday working out there.
I turned over new beds and planted chard and more carrots. I tied up peas and tomatoes. I weeded and weeded and weeded. Spending time in my garden was a perfect way to spend my birthday. My back would tell you I worked outside all day, but it’s not really work.
I love gardening for the fresh cilantro I pick, wet with dew, for my breakfast burrito and for the golden cherry tomatoes warm from the sun (it’ll be a while, but they’re coming).
I love when my big girls says, “Can I make a salad for dinner?” and then collects and spins and chops (and eats!) it.
I love my peonies, heavy headed and drooping after the rain, and the feathery cosmos that settled in on their own and are starting to announce themselves.
But it’s not just what comes out of my garden. There’s something about the the planting and weeding and tying and checking, something about the process, that soothes me and refreshes me.
I came in Sunday, feet and hands black, face smeared with dirt. My back was tight, but my shoulders were loose. My garden is still a mess, but I wasn’t.
That evening my friend threw me an impromptu party with ribs and margaritas and for dessert the simple version of this cake and this ice cream, both of which I made because I love the rhythm of the kitchen (when it isn’t grumbly get dinner on the table time) as much as I love the rhythm of the garden.
Sunday I found more strawberries hanging like jewels under green leaves. I ate one and shared the rest with my girls. There’s spinach almost ready to pick again and the first tomatoes forming. And, I noticed with surprise and glee my garlic is beginning to get scapes, so I’m dreaming of pesto and pizza and lazy summer dinners. The garden is a lot of work, but it feels more like rhythm and dreams and rewards and hope.
What do you love doing so much it doesn’t feel like work?
I ate my first strawberry of the season standing in my garden surrounded by weeds.
I spotted it, red, plump, and perfect under green leaves as I reached for a handful of grass trying to choke out my garlic. For a moment I thought about calling my girls, but there was only one ripe. I savored it myself.
Yesterday, four more ripened, and I called the girls up to find the little red treasures. We’ll only get a handful as I try to re-stablish a strawberry patch, but what we get is so good.
Most years we go to a pick-your-own place and bring home pounds and pounds (or quarts and quarts). I make jam and ice cream and core and freeze a lot of berries.
The past few years, June has come on fast and strong, and I find myself swamped when I should be picking strawberries. I’m in that place right now—getting through field trips and field day and music shows and end-of-year picnics while trying to wrap up work projects so I can really take the vacation I’m taking at the end of the month.
Strawberries remind me to make time. Blueberries and raspberries and peaches will do the same later in the season.
We need to make time to go pick before the season’s done. In the meantime, my neighbor dropped of a box of berries and I’ll be making strawberry ice cream later. It’s going to taste good with my chocolate birthday cake tomorrow.
Strawberry Ice Cream
1 pint strawberries, cored and sliced
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup + 2/3 cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream*
1 tsp vanilla extract
equipment: ice cream maker
Makes about 1 quart
- Combine strawberries, lemon juice, and 1/3 cup of sugar. Stir gently to combine. Let sit for about 2 hours so that the berries macerate . (A little longer fine, a little shorter and you’ll miss out on flavor.)
- In a medium bowl, mix together milk and sugar. Drain the juice from the strawberries and stir it into the milk-sugar mixture along with the cream.
- Put the mix into your ice cream maker and run until thickened (in my machine that’s about 30 minutes).
- Add the sliced strawberries and run the machine for 5 minutes.
- Eat it soft or let it set for a couple of hours.
* Light cream will work too. I’ve also used a little half and half instead of milk.
I’m done with you.
My fridge is full of squash mac and cheese and stock to make soup. My summer clothes are in the attic. And even if you entice me with beach-warm days, I’ve already packed up the bathing suits and dusted off sand for the last time.
Really, I’m ready for a change. But if you insist on coming back for a while, here’s what I’ll do:
I’ll wear my layering t-shirts with my hiking or running shorts since they’re always in my drawer.
I’ll work in the garden and pick some more green beans. I’ll notice that there are more pumpkins than I thought and that the vines have climbed up the bean teepee.
I’ll grill meat for dinner and eat at the picnic table.
I’ll let the kids stay up late (just on the weekends, they’re back to school, you know) running around outside with their friends. I’ll listen to their squeals and shrieks as they toss balls and play tag in the growing darkness. I’ll look up when they shout that they’ve seen a bat. And I’ll smile at their glee over being out so late, playing out after dark.
When we go back in, I’ll look at the clock and remember that you are just visiting. It’s dark, but not really so late after all.
So summer, you’re time’s about up. I knew you’d be back. You have trouble leaving each year. Do I ever really welcome you back enthusiastically—or is it a grudging embrace?
Really you can go now. We’re going to pick apples and drink cider. We’re piling up wood and waiting to wear new fall clothes. I’ve got that soup to make, but I need a cool day. I know you were only half-heartedly here this year, but still I’m ready to move on.
Come see me next June, okay? I’ll look forward to your growing light and the lettuce you coax from the garden. I’ll be ready for the sundresses and the swimming hole. I’ll toss out my routines for your unstructured days. But new we’re settling into those routines, getting ready for cozy. We’ll see you next year.
Write with Me:
It’s the start of a new month, one firmly footed in fall here. We just wrapped up some summery weather that I never quite expect, despite living here my whole life.
What does the change of seasons look like where you are? How do you feel about the change? Write about it—journal, write a letter, describe a summer-fall day.
Share your writing—and this prompt—with a friend.
Am I crazy to usher out fall or a you ready for a change too?
I savor that fall-summer night I had out in the dark with my kids, even as I wait for fall to come in earnest. I noticed the gathering dusk and the way the reds and yellows glowed for a bit before the light went. I remember too how their faces glowed with excitement.
Are you ready to focus on these kinds of details in your life? Ready to slow down and capture them? Join me for Abundance a month-long, online writing retreat that begins October 15.
Click here to learn more.
Right now I’m loving tomato and peach season.
I love making salsa, more salsa, bbq sauce, jam.
I love the ping of a canning jar sealing and standing and stirring in the steamy kitchen.
I love the golden color of peaches cooking down and the tumble of red-yellow-green of tomato-peach-peppers in the salsa pot.
I love eating ice cream (or chips and salsa) at the end of the day and picturing hot toast slathered with golden jam on a cold morning.
And I love looking at all the jars—adding these orange-reds and yellow- golds to the greens and berry reds and purple-blues—filling my shelves, proof that I have done something with all these summer hours.
What are you loving right now?
Brian looked up, our little red head in his lap. My suddenly taller, more long-legged girl at the end of the bench. I was across the picnic table in the sudden quiet after his stove was turned off. It was one of those moments where everything froze for a second, and I was aware of the fullness of what is and what was.
We were camping, our second camping trip with the girls. Our first one with the dog. We were camping on hardpack dirt with a picnic table to sit at, our own personal bear box, and the car just feet away. It is the kind of camping Brian used to scoff at. It’s the kind of camping we can manage right now.
My children look feral after only two days here—hair unbrushed, faces smeared with dirt and chocolate, clothes rumpled and dirty. They look happy too, despite the squabbles over colored pencils while we cooked breakfast. They’ve made fairy houses and walked across fallen logs. They’ve hiked dirt roads and well worn trails with walking sticks they found trailside. The little one adopted the nickname Mountain Sally. Whatever it takes to get through a hike.
Brian and I used to hike a lot more. Our first date was lunch and a hike. He proposed on a backpacking trip, up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He was a backpacker long before I knew him, completing the AT a decade before we got married. On our first trip, I had a borrowed pack and boots, nothing fit quite right. By the second trip, I was breaking in my own boots and my own packs, learning its pockets and straps, fitting it to me.
We hiked at different paces. He’d outstrip me on the uphills. Downhills too, but give me flat ground—especially heading out of the woods toward a good meal, and I’d win hands down. I miss those days of long walks, hard work, hiking our own hike, catching up with each other throughout the day and then at night when we settled in to make camp. The stove would fill the evening with its loud static and the smell of gas at first. Then we’d sit in quiet, mugs of cocoa warming us, dinner right out of the pan. We’d start the morning the same way, oatmeal tasting slightly of chili or whatever we’d eaten the night before.
Brian had his own systems when he backpacked solo or with different friends. We had to figure out how to work together—who carried what, dividing up camp chores—but we got into a rhythm.
We’re still finding a rhythm with this car camping thing. Our neighbors had bacon sizzling. The people we met at the beach had kebabs with steak and chicken and bacon. We had oatmeal, hotdogs. The car is a tangle of overflowing bags. I packed too many clothes.
But we had s’mores. We visited the nature center, observed small yellow and red newts navigating the roots and leaves underfoot. We sat on a big rock on the edge of a field and watched bats swooping in the gathering dusk.
We are getting our kids used to the woods, to sleeping in a tent, to walking on rough terrain. Someday, we’ll go deeper into the woods, away from where our car can carry all our stuff. I think of it as a return to what we used to do, but really, I know, it will be different with four of us. We’ll need to learn new systems, figure out how to adapt to our different paces.
I love being in the woods and seeing my kids loving it too.
Write with Me:
Start with a moment that has stuck with you. Tap into your senses as you describe it. Do you know why it has stuck with you? Keep writing.
Share your writing in the comments, add a link to your blog, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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