Summertime madness

The theme was people making 180-degree turns in their lives and I was completely taken with this particular story about the author of “The Education of Little Tree.” I was vaguely aware that I was no longer in my car and that I was walking into the grocery store.

I’ve never left headphones on in public, but my time to listen is so limited that I decide to shop and indulge in “This American Life” at the same time. I pull out my grocery list and half shop, half listen. I shuffle around the store with my head down, not making eye contact, grabbing what I need.

At some point I look up to see a teenage boy doing the same thing.

Then I start looking around.

The store is really crowded. The aisles are jammed with carts and people. United in our efforts to get food, yet so separate and isolated.

Our own little islands.

There is a line at the registers. I pick the shortest and file in. A mom in front of me is loading her food onto the counter as her little boy, maybe 2, starts wailing and thrashing on the floor.

Taking off my headphones, I try to get his attention. His eyes are shut tight in the way little ones get when they are truly frustrated and upset.

“Moooommmmyyyy” he is wailing. “Mooommmmmmmm!”

She doesn’t look down. I recognize that look on her face. She is just trying to get through the day.

The boy finally looks my way and I smile as big as I can.

“Hi,” I whisper. “Are you OK?”

He blinks at me from behind his moms’ legs and stops crying. He clearly is not sure what to make of me.

“I’m so done with this store too,” I say.

He blinks again.

“It’s too loud in here, huh? Good thing you’re almost done.”

This time he smiles a little and then moves more behind his mom.

They finish paying and his mom lifts him into the cart. He gives me a little wave as they disappear out the door.

“Hi,” I say to the cashier.

She looks flustered. The lines are long and it has clearly been a tough morning.

“Crazy today, huh?” I say.

“Yep,” she replies without looking up.

I notice how beautiful her hair is and how a few little curls have escaped and circle around her face. A bright blue star tattoo with an outline of red is on her collarbone, just barely visible.

“Beautiful tattoo,” I say.

She stops moving and looks at me for the first time.

“Thanks, it’s in remembrance of my father who died of cancer last year,” she says with a big smile. “He had one just like it.”

She continues to scan my groceries and we chat a bit more. The barrier between us falls a little and it makes me happy.

“Have a great day,” she says as I walk away.

“You too. Thanks for helping me today.”

***

This is the third week of summer and the first chance I’ve had to sit and write.

Waves of emotions, memories and movement are sweeping me forward each day.

Unorganized and floundering, I’m often in survival mode.

I’m feeling so much responsibility and pressure to provide experiences and joy for my children.

I’m missing it.

I’m not taking the moments to reflect.

There is no space to breathe.

My girl is seven now and she is swimming underwater.

My boy is devouring books and experiencing the frustration of learning an instrument.

My summer daughter is here and she’s schooling me on all things teen girls love, including reading and seeing “A Fault in Our Stars.”

It’s all so much and it’s just beginning.

We have lots on the horizon; camping, hiking, day trips, rafting and fun with friends.

My tendency is to always be looking forward and planning or looking inward and analyzing.

Yet, the schedule and rhythm I planned is not working and I’m forgetting things. I’ve let people down and I’ve been feeding my kids crap.

“Live in the moment.”

I’ve always hated that phrase because it’s so elusive to me. Children can do this because they are not responsible. They don’t have to figure in things like nutrition, sleep and finances. They can simply move from one experience to another.

I can’t.

The madness of summer is here and it’s time I surrender if I plan to survive.

Summer will continue to move forward. I can either let go and enjoy the ride, or stay stuck in regret and chaos.

The power is in my hands.

Casting stones with third graders

rockAs they filed passed her, she grabbed a smooth stone from the basket and placed it into their waiting hands. In silence they accepted the stone and lined up outside the classroom.

For the next 20 minutes or so they walked in complete silence. Some clutched the stone toward their chest. Others tossed it in the air occasionally letting it fall to the ground. All were silent.

They followed their teacher as she led them off the school campus, across the street, through the neighborhood to a well-worn path that cut down to the river.

Forming a line along the river’s edge, the children watched their teacher and mimicked her movements. She held the stone out in front of her with both hands. She closed her eyes. When she opened them she threw the stone out into the river and watched the ripple cascade out from where it fell. Recognizing their cue, all the children started tossing in their stones. They stood quietly watching where they fell.

Stepping back from the river they formed a circle.

“Would anyone like to share what they were thinking about?”

Hands raised very quickly.

“I was thinking how I need to be nicer to my brother.”

“I want to do more things for my dog.”

“I want to work on my patience.”

“I think I can listen to my mom more.”

After sharing, the class sang several songs they had prepared for the day. The songs were filled with glee and hopefulness.

The walk back was anything but quiet. Lots of silliness, giggling and reflection.

“That was weird not talking, but cool.”

“I think we could have surprised a deer!”

“I’m proud of our class.”

Once in the classroom they had the traditional snack of apples and honey.

The teacher then presented the children with a new stone and said “Shanah Tovah,” which means “Good Year.”

The stones that were thrown in the river represented things to “cast off” from the previous year. The new stone represents the year to come.

This was my sons third grade class celebrating Rosh Hashanah. He attends a charter Waldorf school and it’s part of the third grade curriculum. They have been learning, through story and watercolor painting, the creation story. Rosh Hashanah is the “anniversary” of the creation of Adam and Eve.

These are 8- and 9-year-old children who walked in complete silence for almost 30 minutes AND participated in self-reflection.

Love this.

Next week the children will be building temporary structures called sukkah’s and the week will culminate in an evening feast for all the families.

Love this too.

I feel so lucky to have witnessed this beautiful example of reverence and reflection that is at the heart of Waldorf education.

I was even able to cast my own stone into the water. As I watched it sink to the bottom I tried to let all my pain, anger and sadness sink with it.

I’m doing work, my friends. I am starting to feel hope. Thanks for all the kind words and hugs. They have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated.

Shanah Tovah.