Home Sick & “I Believe the Writing is Someplace” & If So, Then Where?

© 2010 David Parker

Last night we spent some quality time reading Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride on the bathroom floor between the hours of 1:30 and 4:00 am. Ruthie had her head propped up on her little hands that were folded one-over-the-other on the edge of the toilet seat. “Waiting on the throw up,” she calls it.

The morning came too fast. In anguish, I scribbled out my lesson plans for today and made the mad dash up to the school to make ready for the sub. I returned home to find myself on the brink of a day that spread out before me like a glass lake. Ruthie spent most of the day sleeping and coloring. (She’s particularly keen on drawing “machines” that do things like “suck up all the bad people.”) This means that I had a great deal of time on my hands to read and to write and to do laundry and to scheme up schemes that make me excited about teaching. But especially to read. And, of all the things I read, this one has me coming back to it again and again. I don’t know how I landed there, but it’s Wendy S. Walters writing for About A Word about writing “In These Times. For me, her words are daunting, mesmerizing, captivating. Her message resonates with me even though I don’t exactly understand just what it is that she’s saying. (I think) she’s talking about how writing helps us make sense of things we can’t make sense of. And how (maybe) going out and looking for a poem is less about arriving at the poem and more about how you get there.

As I’m writing this, she’s sleeping in a chair next to me, her face flushed with a fever of 103. I just got finished Cloroxing the white-tiled bathroom floor, which left my finger tips feeling squeaky and dry. Since the fever has not yet broken, it looks like I’ll be another day at home. Here’s hoping a poem is hidden for me someplace in the geography of tomorrow.


I Stumble Through a Morning that Shimmers In Spite of Itself

© 2010 David Parker

“All we can be called upon to do is to take a start from where we are, at the time we are there…” ~Stephen Toulmin

Last night I slept the kind of sleep that makes you forget what the pit in your stomach grew from. I was awake two minutes before my alarm would go off. I laid in bed for a full half hour trying to make sense of the thick darkness I’m unaccustomed to at 6:00 am. Once I’d quieted the residual tension in my gut from the events of yesterday, I stumbled to Ruthie’s room where I found her wrapped in a fleeced cocoon with only her hair sticking out.

My stomach knotted itself against the coffee steaming from its cup perched on the lid of the toilet while I dried my hair. As I slowly began to coax my mind and my gut to release yesterday and focus on today, I couldn’t stop thinking that today sucks. Today sucks. But I moved through the mantra (and, really, what other choice do I have) despite the seeming futility of such movement. And eventually, it began to work itself out.

Of course, even a morning painted in a darkness as thick as this one has its brighter moments that shimmer anyways. For me, most of them generally have to do with Ruthie who proudly dressed herself today and who gave me a fierce hug and a bag of Fruit Loops “just because you’re my Mommy and I draw pictures of you all the time.” Also, I didn’t cry when I dropped her off as I usually do when she does something especially sweet on an especially bleak morning. Also, it was cold this morning, which made me relish my coffee. Also, there are tree-tops outside my window in my classroom with bright green leaves and I can see the Fall air that moves them even if I can’t feel it myself.

A Friday Folds Into Itself And Falls Away

© 2010 David Parker

Friday afternoons, I begin to breathe. I’m sitting outside with a beer that is quickly turning warm waiting on a friend whom I refer to as Aunt Bea and whose kindness always overwhelms me. She’s the type that still mails cards (you know, with stamps). And while she’s stuck in Game Day traffic, I have the opportunity to talk to another friend who is going through one of those times that makes me want to reach through the phone and press my hand into hers and just squeeze I’m here. But I’m not there, I’m here, drinking a beer and watching a young man who dines alone awkwardly make conversation with the older woman sitting near him waiting on her party. To his burger, he says, You never let me down. I’m thinking I can’t even live up to that hamburger with my friend on the phone so far away and me doing that thing I always do when I don’t know what to say, which is to say nothing except I love you because what else is there to say.

Around the time I get off the phone, Aunt Bea has arrived, ruddy-cheeked and grinning. We eat and drink and have one of those conversations that can only happen when you’re both on the same page moving at the same speed through your lives. By the time we leave, I’m sweating and a bit too full. And as I pull into the driveway, I’m overcome by that lonely, sinking feeling I get when I realize that Ruthie’s at her dad’s house for the weekend. It’s a feeling that always surprises me, because I expect to feel relief, but it’s a long time falling asleep the first night she’s gone.

Magic Mittens

© 2010 David Parker

Someone very close, very dear, and very lovely came up to me the other day and confessed to feeling totally defeated and I imagined myself reaching into this person’s heart with a glowing-ember mitten that could fix it. Whenever people I love feel uncomfortable or sad or lonely or left out or hurt or misunderstood or awkward (especially awkward) or if they’re just struggling in general, I have this overwhelming desire to slip inside their bodies and feel it instead. Because something about my temperament already feels it anyways.

Tonight, Ruthie and I took a walk before bedtime and on the way back to the house, we stopped to talk to one of my former students and her friend. Ruthie ran around behind me and began licking the back of my arm like a kitten. I guess we’ve entered that strange developmental stage where children both want attention and shy away from it, which causes them to resort to strange behaviors. I tried not to make a big thing about it, but, I mean, if it happens again, I need to have something ready for explaining why we can’t do this. She’s terribly precocious and it’s painful for me to watch her grow into becoming self-conscious because I know how uncomfortable that felt when I was a little kid and even now. I realize that discomfort is necessary for developing as a person, but even still, I think I’m going to ask for one of those mitten-thingys for my birthday. Or for Christmas–Santa Clause may have a bit more pull than my friends and family when it comes to producing magic things to heal hearts.

Still Looking

© 2010 David Parker

All day today, I feel like I’ve just been swallowing stress. And I really tried to focus on happier things, but it just wouldn’t stick. Like this morning, after I dropped Ruthie off five minutes late, I did have a chance to appreciate the middle-school boy and his father both walking towards the school with back-packs on or the cross guard who high-fived every little kid who passed him crossing the street to the elementary school. The kids at school today were neat-o as usual for this bunch. They laugh easily and often, but not at each other. They willingly engage in discussions of symbolism and figurative language (two of my favorite things). But every little happy seemed to be accompanied by a burp of stress: the classwork already piled on the edges of my desk, the forgotten lunch, the parent conference that ran until I had to sprint to my car to pick up Ruthie on time. Even right now, Ruthie is singing in her bed, which is so sweet, but I’m a little panicky because it’s 9:00 and she really should be asleep if I’m going to wake her up with any amount of success in the morning. It feels whiney, but I can’t get away from wondering if this is really it. I’m beginning to think it is. And then I start thinking about Julia Child. For some reason, it always comes back to her and the fact that she was in her late forties before she got the acceptance letter for the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a project that was borne of her own boredom in France. And I think, when does the part begin where I really, really love what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, and who I am? When I’m not working for what I’ll have tomorrow, because what I have right now is what I want? The troubling piece of all of this for me is that I’m pretty sure that part begins with me.

It would be remiss if I didn’t mention one bright spot that squelched a hiccup of stress: public poetry. So when I’m not whining about how boring it is to be an adult, I’ll be working toward doing a bit of THIS with myself and my students. Another yawp-errrific idea brought to you by one Emma Bolden, the presiding Queen of the Power of Whatever and Poetry whom I miss terribly and often.

Also, I’ll be writing earlier tomorrow because I think there’s not enough of me left over this late at night to piece together a post. See you in the morning.

Four is the Loneliest Number

© 2010 David Parker

It’s no surprise that today sucked. I mean, it’s August 4, the day I’ve been dreading since school got out in May. I’d like to say it was good to be back, but it wasn’t. I walked into my overturned classroom and I could feel the weight of papers to grade, after-school detention slips to hand out, seating charts to make, filing cabinets to purge. But, like everything else, the dread of the thing wasn’t as bad as the thing itself.

I spent the day emptying my room of everything that reminded me of last year. In my desk drawer, I found two pairs of shoes (heels and flats), an old lunchbox, half of a computer charger, and, near the very-very bottom, my teaching certificate. (I hate it when I find things I didn’t know were lost. I mean, unless it’s money.) During our faculty meeting I looked up quotes to hang around the room and a poem for students to read on the first day. I still can’t find a poem with the right flavor. Most teachers choose something kind of cheesy, but I like to go for more rock-your-world type stuff. Stuff that makes the kids second-guess everything they thought they knew about what school is. Like “The Toothfairy” by Dorianne Laux, which begins with the speaker’s memory of how her mother painted glittery footprints on her sheets “with a love so quiet I still can’t hear it,” and ends with the dissolution of her parent’s abusive relationship. I know. But it’s a great jumping-off place for talking about what literature is, what it does, and why we need it. Plus, the imagery is killer.

After I’d wasted away the day in my mess of a room, I took Ruthie to get her FOUR-shot checkup. What’s worse than holding your child down while someone jabs a needle into her tense little thigh muscle? I’ll tell you: nothing. Nothing’s worse than that. It’s worse than having it yourself because the whole time you’re holding her hands in her lap and her legs between yours, you’re thinking: Give me the shot. Mom-love is a strange, tortured, fierce, primitive thing. It hurts for the mother and the child. A few months ago, the doctors thought my mom might have cancer. Actually, they were pretty sure she had it.  When my mom came to visit a few weeks after all of the test results (miraculously) came back negative, she told me that when she first learned of the potential cancer, all she could think was, “Thank God it was me (and not you or your brothers).”

After Ruthie had her shots, she got to pick out a sticker. Spiderman. She was still shaky and sweaty from all the struggling and crying when we got in the car. The relief on her face when I told her she would have to have them again until she was two-whole-hands old was precious. It’s now 7:30 and she’s asleep and I’m relieved. Relieved that this day is over and that it wasn’t (quite) as bad as I thought it’d be.

These Fragments I’ve Shored Against My Ruin

© 2010 David Parker

Summer is over and I’m positively heartbroken. It’s ridiculous how devastated I am. We went for our last summertime walk and I couldn’t help tearing up. It feels like a little death. I’ve spent two months doing what I’ve always felt guilty for not being able to do: hanging out at home with Ruth. And now that I know how delicious it is to have days just wash over you, to feel so immersed in the present that nothing is of so much consequence that it can’t wait until tomorrow, I simply cannot bear to let it go. I can’t imagine my life without it. My love, my summer, is gone.

I want to scoop up all of the little pieces of summer and wear them like flair to work tomorrow: raindrops and dribble castles and butterfly wings and pebbles Ruthie picks up on our walks and strawberries and water from the sprinkler and Ruthie’s wide smile drinking water from the hose pipe and pictures of leaves with the sun shining through. I didn’t even write anything this summer to help arm myself against the rushed mornings and short evenings that begin tomorrow. This summer doesn’t pulse on the page like it should. And maybe that’s part of why I’m so sad: I’m a little afraid I’ll forget what it feels like to have things like time and fresh-picked blueberries for breakfast.