It’s National Teacher Appreciation Week, and today when I came to school, I was greeted with a bag filled with marshmallows, Hershey chocolate bars, graham crackers, and two special forks for roasting marshmallows.
Basically, I was given a smores kit.
I love smores. Love the taste of roasted marshmallows and the complexity of chocolate with the subtleties of the graham cracker.
I’m weary, though, as I continue to write about in my blog posts. I feel impelled to write a letter of apology, but I’m too tired to do that.
But I will write about what it was like to get home and come into my kitchen and find a large brown envelope waiting for me on the counter. Within the envelope were pictures from my last vacation in Florida with my parents.
Pictures of my family. Pat, the kids, me. I only have one other real family portrait, from eight years ago, maybe more. And now, today, I was standing in my kitchen, starting down at a picture of me that has captured some of the joy and mirth within my family.
We aren’t exactly high on the normal-scale. If anything, we are the purpose for bell curves and extenuating circumstances. And, no, I’m not apologizing. If anything, I guess I’m explaining the reality of my family.
But as I shuffled past the initial portrait of my own family, I found a picture of the men: my father, my brother, my nephew, my husband, my son.
And then a picture of the women: my mother, my sister-in-law, my niece, my niece-in-law, my daughter, me.
A picture of my brother’s family.
A picture of my nephew and his wife.
A picture of all of us.
This is the only picture of my entire family together. Usually, my husband is working at all of the family outings which encourage picture taking. But this time, this one time, my parents are sitting front and center and there he is in the back of the group.
As the day wheedled forward, the Girl and I went outside, dug up the soil in the garden, turned over the winter weed clumps and sowed out the roots. And as we dug deep past the sediment of last year and pulled up the galaxies of roots, the Girl and I argued, talked, kept a tense and angry silence while, in the western part of the sky, another batch of thunder storms built.
When we had finally dug enough (we have half a garden to go), we left, took care of an errand, picked up food because, today, local Chipotles and Chik-Fil-A’s are giving free meals to teachers. And though I didn’t completely get to have free food, I got food at a severely reduced cost, nullifying any guilt I could have felt.
The thunder storm came through and I sat on the front porch swing and watched the storm move by while I scrolled through Facebook, read messages from my mother, and drank a hard apple cider. While thunder broke, I alternated between starting at my computer’s screen and the neighbor’s house on the other side of the cul-de-sac, at the pine trees swaying from the weight of the wind, at the nothingness that captured my attention and pulled me away from myself.
After the storm had exorcised its fury, after the family had eaten, after nothing had happened, Pat pulled out his new, small stove that he made today, crafting it from a metal and a grate. The Boy found some wood, and the Girl brought out the smores kit. And for the next thirty minutes or so, we huddled around a fire the size of a small shoebox, taking turns roasting marshmallows or squishing them between chocolate and graham crackers. After a bit, the Boy was satiated and brought out his new volleyball and, together, he and I hit it back and forth, always trying to get past four consecutive hits.
The rain on the grass collected on the ball and when I hit it back to my son, water splashed my face, momentarily blinding me. And as I scurried from side to side, always missing the ball despite my best attempts, the Boy and I alternated between laughing and apologizing.
I have grading to do. I could be planning out my lesson for tomorrow. I could be doing a lot of things.
But for the last thirty minutes, Pat and I have been introducing our children to Simon and Garfunkel. And the hour before that? I watched my children dart around the cul-de-sac playing Tag.
While I was gardening, I was thinking about this post, wondering what I was going to write about. I have to admit, I’ve been experiencing some rather frustrating and discouraging events recently, most being a five-minute piece of really? This is how you want to behave?
And I think about the unrealistic expectations I am currently experiencing, this sense of how I can drop everything to meet the next set of needs, the next set of demands. I am going to travel to my mountain this weekend (depending on the rain); this will be the first time I have done this in eighteen months. I keep on wanting to make plans and I keep on pushing them aside because of commitments. Grading. Work. Senior class. The play.
I have grading to do. I have planning to do. I have senior class functions in about three weeks. I need to start blocking the next year’s play.
I need to stop. Go to my mountain. Re-orient myself. Because no matter how much I sleep and no matter how much time I take for myself, I still feel like I’m floundering, drowning, not even treading water.
Until evenings like today. Choosing to garden. Choosing to make smores with my family. Choosing to listen to music or stare at the television with my family. Choosing my family.
Choosing my family.
Choosing my family.