The way I know I’m not a real writer (yet) is that I can’t create from nothing. I can’t sit down at a desk and tame my brain with a deadline or a word count or a page limit.
A colleague at work recently gifted me—or well, technically she gifted Hudson with a copy of the book Harold’s Purple Crayon. The story details a young boy with a large purple crayon that he uses to draw himself into a story. He’s a new protagonist on every page, but in the end, he draws himself a window and a pillow and a bed.
I’m not making some bold, feminist stance or anything.
It’s because of my broken uterus. Or fallopian tubes. Or ovaries. Or something. We don’t actually know, but something is misfiring and it’s not Jeremy. How boring. We’re never having kids, not as an active choice but just because kids won’t come. Maybe they’re afraid of what kind of mother I’ll be. I worry about that sometimes too. I take things real personal sometimes.
Technically, Zero Hour, according to Google (because I checked) is the time when an operation or a coup is supposed to begin. Instinctively, I knew that. But this morning as I ambled the streets with a tired Maeby in tow, I couldn’t help feeling the phrase “zero hour” was an appropriate description for the moment. Maybe it’s because there were zero (do we pluralize zero grammatically?) other people on the streets with me. Maybe it’s because it was gentle 7 o’clock sunny with a 6 AM attitude. In my version of Zero Hour, everything’s gentle. Everything’s null.
Most of us have seen enough to know the age-old rule: no matter what someone says about their own mother, you are not allowed to agree, and you are definitely not allowed to offer your own critique—at least not publically. There’s a sacred family bond with trashtalking someone dear to you. It’s a promise that what you say doesn’t mean that you’re divorcing them. It’s a promise to continue to love, despite whatever critique you may need to expel—however violently. Outsiders can’t comment, because they haven’t made the subconscious vow to love your mother no matter what. This is a fundamental law of nature.
Last Thursday, I walked home from classes and saw traffic backup piling into an intersection. It wasn’t Times Square Status by any means, but there was a bit of kerfluffle, since it’s not an intersection that is usually very busy. It was easy to peer ahead and see the source of the commotion was a row of ambulances (ambuli?) huddled around a storefront, pulling someone out on a stretcher and loading him or her into the vehicle.
It’s a snuggle with Hufflepuff sort of day… Ok every day is a snuggle with Hufflepuff sort of day, so it’s a cry into her quills sort of day. It’s not as comforting as I needed to be, but her quiet warmth in the presence of my inner turmoil is soothing at least.
Besides an above-average deluge of complaining from students, two students in particular said the meanest thing that has ever been said to be in the entire history of student saying mean things to teachers. One student was joking. The other was serious.
For several hours I was able to maintain the facade of hero teacher mode. Swift discipline, log notes, calls home, a mandatory apology note, even a profusion of love after the swift discipline to let them know that the offenders were forgivable. Teachers are impervious to meanness, after all.
But once the final bell rang, I caved and did something I’ve only done one other time in my teaching career–I meandered into my office, closed the door, and had myself a good cry with my back pressed up against the door. I let the tears spill from my eyes onto the gap of ankle between sock and shoe. I felt my warm tears turn cold on the lining of my sock and let sad wash over me. I leaned into the sad, and it leaned back. Me and the emotions, we propped each other up.
Lest I be accused of only publishing the good about my job and my life, let it be known some Momma somewhere said there’ll be days like this… and there ARE.
Today was a hang nail and a stubbed toe.
Today was a squished snail on the pavement or a beetle in your apple juice.
Today was burnt toast and soggy burritos.
But after a solid cry, a lot of Hufflepuff, a tiny nap, and The Shirelles on repeat, I’m ready to say a slightly puffy “Do your worst” to tomorrow. Maybe just sans one soggy burrito.
There are few things as unhappy as my hedgehog on her birthday. I’m trying very hard to establish a “birthday bow” tradition, wherein I force Hufflepuff into as many bows as she is years old.
It’s like the Oyster Stew tradition my mom has at Christmas Eve. Hufflepuff doesn’t hate it. She just doesn’t realize how much she loves it.
Here’s my photo essay of Hufflepuff’s Second birthday attempt.
One mild panic attack later, and I know I’m officially back in Provo. I’m home, but home feels a little different now. That word feels different. Maybe because the world feels different now.
Part of me wants to maintain the wild facade that Jeremy and I suddenly became multi-millionaires that could whisk across the country on a financial whim, but the truth is that this summer was partly financed by a lot of people’s kind and generous gifts.
- Florida was a gift from my parents.
- Hawaii was a gift from Jeremy’s parents.
- Seattle was our gift to one another.
- And, if I’m honest, New York was a gift to myself.
For me, High School was not this gaseous pit of endless misery. I liked it. By-and-large, I don’t think I would tolerate teaching in a high school if I didn’t appreciate most of my four years of deep teenagerism.
But there was that time. It was the first time that I ever really could ask myself, “Am I depressed? Is this what depression feels like?”
I was a sophomore in the height of my silliness. Peter was a senior, super cool, musical. I can picture the way his fingers pluck mildly, deliberately, smoothly at his upright bass that was taller than me. Even his fingers had soul.
I don’t know what Peter Spear saw in me as a person. I wasn’t funny or clever. I was my worst self.
Peter took me in anyway.
One day, Peter told me he wanted to show me a song. He led me down to his bedroom and I remember feeling instantly nervous. I’d been warned about upperclassmen boys and I’d been warned about their bedrooms. I’d been warned about basements with boys.
But Peter was genuine. He genuinely wanted to play me a song. He popped in a CD, and lit some incense (this is not a euphemism for marijuana), and he laid down on his nasty couch repurposed as a bed that he’d literally found. He wanted to listen to the song all the way through without talking. He called this a “Chill Session.” And for an hour or two every day, we’d go listen to music and obliterate our cares and annihilate our heartbreaks. It was better than yoga. It was better than a lot of things.
We’d spend a lot of time in his basement bedroom with a nasty couch instead of a bed. This probably would have HORRIFIED my parents if they knew, but nothing happened but healing.
I promise Peter fixed me.
Peter Spear was the only person in the world who had shorter fingernails than me. I keep thinking about them.
I don’t know how else to process what happened to Peter Spear. But I like to think that he’s still here, still the same boy, helping everyone else with their sad feelings.
|Peter played my big brother, George Gibbs, in Our Town. Here we are, looking at the moon.|