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I am on the bus this morning, and I get the following text from Kelsea:

“So they think our school is gonna blow up.”

The world stops for one split second.

I call her.

She doesn’t answer.

The bus is speeding away down Highway 36 and I am thinking how I have to get off and get to her, to her school. Totally impractical. What am I going to do, run there? I’m twenty miles away.

I call my ex to ask him what’s going on, and he looks online and finds that a suspicious device  – pipes, wires, and a battery – was discovered on a bus and brought into the school by the bus driver. The school staff took it back outside and called police. The students have been moved into the auditorium and the gymnasium.  I tell him to go to the school. He tells me not to worry and goes bowling.

I am sitting on the bus holding the top of my head to keep it from flying off. Moving the students into the auditorium and the gymnasium puts the entire school in two places, so that if someone truly is evil, they can just blow up those two places where they know students will be sent in the event of just such an emergency. My imagination is colliding with thoughts of Columbine and New Town.

Kelsea calls me from the auditorium. She is fine. She is seeing her friends. She is overjoyed that she won’t have to take her algebra final this morning, because she wasn’t ready for it. She too wonders why they’ve just put everyone in two places instead of evacuating them all. She says she will stay in touch. I tell her I love her.

I know my daughter. She will do anything to save others before she saves herself. She has always been this way. Her future career choices reflect his attitude. It is something that, as a mother, I just have to live with.

But I do not want to be one of those parents whose child does not come out.

I sit on the bus and try not to panic. I have never really felt this way before.  All these feels are swirling around inside of me: fear, panic, anger, anxiety, that feeling that I will do anything to get to her, and do anything to someone who hurts her. I feel a desperate helplessness as this bus takes me farther and farther away from my baby girl. Tears well up and I try to stifle them. Yes, helpless. I have always known how much I love my daughter, and how I am so blessed by having had her in my life for any time that the Great Spirit chooses to grace me with. But I never really had a glimpse of losing her. Not even a glimpse.

One of my friends at work calls this “catastrophic thinking.” I know I have this unfortunate tendency, inherited from my father. It’s a hard one to control, especially as a mother.

Half an hour later, I get a text from her.

“So it was a science fair project. Awkward.”

I spend the rest of the morning feeling like I am coming out from being underwater, trying to ease the tension in my neck, trying to return to a sense of normal.

I hope that kid who misplaced his science project gets an A. He certainly taught me something about myself today.

Her Love

I watch your heart break from a distance
And there is nothing I can do.

Not.

One.

Thing.

When you were small,
I could cuddle you
And make you giggle
And kiss your tears away
And you would be all better.

Now, my touch at the sight of your tears
Makes you angry,
And the choices you never made
Are making you hurt.

It’s a pain we all go through.
You’ve seen it near break me.
And when it happens to you,
You think no one can know how you feel.

But we do.
We all do.

That doesn’t make it any easier.
I wish it did.

I so wish
I could.

Wyncie Bouge was 3 years old and had a smile that could light up the world. I did not know her. She died yesterday.

Wyncie, her mother Megan, her grandmother Janice, and her two-week old brother Emmett, were in a head-0n collision on a road in Springfield, Tennessee last Monday night, on their way back from dinner. The driver of the other car, who died in the collision, crossed over three lanes of a four-lane highway to hit their car. Janice died that night as well. Emmett had a broken leg. Megan has many broken bones, but she will recover. Somehow. In some ways. But her life, and her husband Brandon’s, will never be the same. Megan has lost her mother.  I know that pain. And now Megan has lost her daughter. That is a pain I hope never to know.

Thousands of people from all over the world were praying for Wyncie’s recovery. I was stirred. I was moved. I was praying for a miracle. I felt the sense of spiritual connection with all these people in a shared prayer. I truly believed that Wyncie’s recovery was possible.

And she died.

I am, and always have been, a spiritual person. Non-traditional beliefs have been a part of my make-up for as long as I can recall. Reincarnation. God as a spirit of the universe, more than as a Divine Father. This is the first time that I had felt the pull of God as a divinity that can perform miracles. Now, I am disillusioned in that idea.

I know that people say that God has a plan, and that there was a purpose in this. Really? What? What is the purpose in a joyous, beautiful little child dying a senseless death? I can accept that she brought joy and light into the lives of the people she touched in her short time here. But that more confirms my faith in my own non-traditional beliefs than in the Christianity that I felt myself touched by during this past week.

The whole premise of faith is belief in things that cannot be seen and cannot be understood. Some will say that this kind of tragedy is sent to test our faith in God, and that this sort of miracle does not always happen because God in His wisdom is meant to remain a mystery to us. But that doesn’t feel like a loving spirit to me, and I believe the spirit of God is love. I believe that part of our purpose here on this earth is achieve an understanding of God, of that spirit of divinity, and to reflect it in our actions towards others.

I continue to pray to the Great Spirit, God, whatever name you chose, to bring peace and comfort and strength to Megan, Brandon, Emmett, Wyncie, and all their friends and family. Even if it doesn’t make sense. Because I know that Wyncie, in her little joyous soul, would want them to be happy.

But I will never understand.

wyncie-slider

When I was in junior high (or middle school, as we called it), “they” built a mall about three miles from my school.  At that time, school was at the very edge of any commercial development – I think the closest sizeable business, aside from home-based little photo studios and woodworkers, was a grocery store. I believe it was a Piggly Wiggly. 

And of course, there was the 7-11 that was just on the other side of the school property line – you could sneak down the hill through the woods to get an Icee or Pixie Stix or Nik-L-Nips if you were brave enough to risk getting caught.

But suddenly, almost within our grasp, was South Square Mall.   Almost heaven.

My friends and I used to beg whatever parent was available to take us there after school and let us hang out.  And hang out we did.  We would shop idly – maybe buy a scarf, a record, an Orange Julius.  We would mill around the food court with its orange formica tables.  We would check out boys.  We would yell at each other from different levels of the mall.  We would play on the escalators.  We would shriek and whisper and laugh and wonder what schools other kids went to – other kids who were doing the exact same thing.

An abandoned adolescent memory - South Square Mall shortly before demolition in 2001.

Ah, the mall.  It provided a sense of adulthood and freedom.  Except for one instance, when I found myself trapped in the seatbelt of my best friend’s father’s pale blue Cadillac convertible.  It was one of those lap belts and it was completely jammed and I was completely trapped.  Fortunately, I was also completely skinny and after about 15 minutes of struggle, which included shedding my jeans, bruising my hiplets and sucking my stomach in so that it was flush with my spine, I was able to slide out from the top.  I amazed even myself.  I felt like a teenage female Houdini.

Fast forward 32 years.  Fly west 1700 miles west.  Turn my brown hair blonde and my green eyes blue.  And you have Kelsea, hanging out at Flatirons Crossing Mall with her friends.  Guess what they do?  They loaf around the food court, only this one has a fireplace.  They buy little things like smelly rubber balls.  They sample the goods at the Apple store.  They play on the escalators.  They shriek and whisper.  They follow people around.  They scope out cute guys.  They speculate on the identity of other students.  Hmmm….sounds so very, wistfully familiar.

Kelsea said, in the course of a conversation the other day, “Everyone gets thrown out of the mall once, right?”  It was a rhetorical question, and one she immediately regretted.  My response?  I looked at her.  And decided it was one of those follow-up questions best left unasked.  She needs to have some things to tell me later.

I do believe that one more torch has been passed.

To complement the Mom-Peeves, I am adding Mom-Moments to the mix.  You Moms know what I’m talking about…those moments when your kid is being so wonderful that you want to freeze the feeling in time.  They can be rare, especially as your kid gets into the teenage years, and especially depending on the character of your kid.

Kelsea and I have both been sick for the last while – she was worse on Thursday, I was worse yesterday.  This morning, she was well enough to go to school, but I sure didn’t feel like getting up and taking her there.  Still, you do what you have to do, right?  Due to her various social commitments, we hadn’t had a lot of time together this weekend.  I am always glad to let her go have a good time, but I know she misses me when she hasn’t seen much of me. 

So this morning, when she was curled in front of the heater on the bathroom floor, having hauled her little carcass out of bed, I came in to see her and she patted the floor next to her and offered to share her heater with me.  We sat for a few minutes, talking, and she asked if she could put her head in my lap.  And so she did.  We sat there, her head in my lap, me stroking her long blonde hair, just happy, just quiet, just being together.  We both wished we could just stay like that all day.

I remembered times when I was all grown-up and I rested my head in my Mother’s lap, and she stroked my hair.  I remember the last time I did that, about two months before she died.  I treasure that memory, just as I will treasure the memory of this morning.  I hope it’s something that will come back to Kelsea some day in the future when she has a little girl, and the cycle of love continues.

The reality of divorce takes a while to sink in.  It hits at odd times.  Like today.  Kelsea is sick and I am taking her to the doctor this afternoon for her annual appointment, which is kind of a happy (?) coincidence.  She was supposed to spend tonight with me, but since she’s sick, I thought I’d give her the option of where to stay.  She wants to be with me, but she said she’d rather stay “home”.  Yes, it is her home.  My cottage is not her home.  It’s where she stays with me.  And whenever you’re sick, you want to be home. She’s always been a Daddy’s Girl when she’s sick – I remember when she was little-little, she would snuggle with him for eight solid hours when she was sick – she just didn’t want me.

I regret more and more not making Pat move out.  At the time, since I wanted out of the marriage, it didn’t seem right to do so.  And it would not have been easy had I stayed and he left, because he would not have had a place set up nicely for Kelsea, nor would he have taken the dogs, and so I’d have to arrange for dog-sitting, etc.   He’d have had even less responsibility and he’d have been angrier and he’d have taken more things from the house than I did.  But I am resentful at him for letting my home go to seed.  And I am still paying half the mortgage.  I miss my garden, now that I might have time to have one again.

On the other hand, I needed a fresh start.  I am about to make another one, working for myself, but I get more freaked out daily about not being able to do so.  So freaked out that today, I was looking at jobs in New York and DC with a couple of companies that I’m pretty sure would hire me right away.  I might be able to telecommute with the DC job, so I’ll have to think about that. But working for someone else is not what I want to do!! Still, you do what you have to do, right?

I was talking to a friend last night about wanting to take a few weeks off, when I have my severance going, and just get things back together.  Strategize for my own work, spring clean and de-clutter the house, get myself into a comfortable routine of exercise and meditation and creative work.  The mere idea of doing so makes me feel guilty.  It’s me —  ME —  the one who ALWAYS works, and always has.  It sounds so terribly slack.  But it’s not like I’m saying I want to sit at home and eat bon-bons (not on the Atkins Diet) and watch TV for a few weeks (though a couple of days like that sounds appealing).  And I still have my half-time job, which I’ll be getting extra hours from in March.  This is where the work ethic of which I wrote a week ago starts looking more obsessive than positive.

My first unmarried Valentine’s Day in many years has come and gone.  I had a nice weekend and didn’t really think about it.  Pat said that it was now just another Hallmark day for him, and he was glad he got to spend it with Kelsea. 

Yes, life is feeling a little overwhelming these days.

January 2020
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