Coronacoaster

In the suburban neighborhood I grew up in, each house had two parents, a handful or more of children, a cleaning gal who lived-in a few days a week, and an assortment of pets. Every household ran on the same schedule, with Dads out working, kids in school, while moms did everything they did until we returned to sit around the dinner table in our respective seats. Two houses down our lane was a family just like ours, until it wasn’t, and they moved across to the other hill in town, where properties were larger, houses grander, and then the husband left to make his bed with a younger woman in her city apartment. This mother, the one left with 5 teenagers still living in the grander home, she’s been on my mind, a lot, her image rolling around all this week. I picture her at her dressing table, drawing cat eyes with a black liner, a smoldering cigarette in a crystal tray, and a half-filled martini at her elbow. She was alone gazing into her mirror on those nights when we middle-schoolers were experimenting with beer and kisses downstairs in the oak-paneled den. I have no recollection about why I went upstairs to speak to her or what she even said to me, but I always did go. She’d flit about in a gold patterned caftan like Cleopatra, mesmerizing my imagination as she moved mythically from dresser to mirror, completing her toilet with care, as if her styling mattered, as if she was expected somewhere regal. Once properly primed she’d descend the wide staircase with care, imparting a question or a word, not a caution or warning, just a thought for our evening. Although I couldn’t capture her bleached-blond up-do or recreate that Valley of the Dolls barbiturate disposition, she has filled my imagination endlessly of late. I know nothing certain about her isolation or despair, but right now, those emotions lay torn open in me.

 

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#abandonedbeauty

This week the weather shifted to perfection in pure irony against a deep deep blue sky and warm breeze swirling around our home. We wait and watch sheltering within. But, as I have been doing almost daily for these nine weeks, I did venture out on a late afternoon walk to see what the heron was up to. This route to the lake takes me past forest and field with pockets of houses clustered here and there. Inspired by an assignment my colleague and favorite art teacher is doing with students, I looked for the abandoned places, for their #abandonedbeauty. It does not take long to find such treasures in a rural area, where time alters material indiscriminately. The weathered, rusted or worn is found everywhere, and as I spy it, metaphor shuttered into my soul and heart: I too break down on the daily.

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their voices

Two months ago we started a national effort to school students from home. Each state, perhaps even each district, dealt with this transition differently. I could not be prouder of my colleagues or my students for rising to meet this challenge head on with the full intention to keep our school community together. Twice a week I meet with all my students, through google meets, additional emails and individual meetings and phone calls. They have learned, I have learned, and swiftly we adapted to a digital forum. As a teacher of reading and writing, I have been privy to the inner thoughts and reflections of many students during this unprecedented time. They are experiencing a topsy-turvy new day to day of sheltering with all its crazy chaotic difficult challenges, yet still continue to show up digitally and wow me. Tonight, I thought I’d share some of their voices, their hopes and dreams, and everyday afternoons.

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