It's funny how knowledge and acceptance can be so at odds. I'm certain that were I to go back through this blog's archives, unearthing and rereading posts from the two-three weeks prior to the start of each school year, I'd find evidence of a vast malaise, not remotely unlike the one I'm feeling now.
I know and expect this end-of-summer state of blue but never do I grow closer to feeling any sort of peace with it.
There are the voices from my family, waxing rhapsodic about blissful summers. There are the voices of friends who truly love weeks on end of downtime with their children. There are the perky voices in parenting blogs and magazines and glossy social media feeds giving thanks for one last weekend of togetherness.
I do not find myself in any of those voices. I find myself deep in struggle and overwhelm. I feel flat and dull and a touch pissed. I'm not sure I'll ever find acceptance in that.
I am grateful for the collegiate whispers of parents who feel as enervated as I do but I continue to wish that on occasion those whispers were roars.
I continue to wish modern parenting might tilt backward a bit (or very much?) to a more hands-off time. I continue to wish I could right my own wrongs in any dynamics I inadvertently established when my kids were small. Out of the most intense love I sat and played and adored and tended and did and did and did. Who and what wouldn't get used to such attention and devotion? If only I'd remembered to give myself some of that, for clawing it back is much harder than keeping it from the get-go.
I know there are those nodding their heads with kindly smiles and thinking "oh, but the years are short." I am aware that the years are short. (And yes, I am equally aware that my boys went to sleepaway camp this summer. Camp and the fatigue from more than a decade of parenting don't cancel each other, friends.)
But also, and with equal validity, the days and weeks can feel long. They are long. They are mind-numbing and thankless not infrequently, and pretty much all the time, the ledger draws down not from the children but from their primary caregivers. Even the most willing and wanting of us are not infinitely refilling vessels. At least not most of us. Not me. And my kids aren't quiet lumps. I'm exceedingly thankful for that, but parenting them is neither easy nor relaxing. Ever.
I could not stop crying this morning, and I feel zero sadness that tomorrow is, mercifully, the last day of another summer. I don't know what we'll eat tomorrow (every person in my family has asked me that) nor what we'll do (every member has asked me that too). I wish I could read quietly without interruption and exercise and simply feel my body seek to find some sort of stasis. I doubt any of that will come to pass. And I don't feel too much in the way of acceptance about that.
If you're whispering along with me, nodding your tired head in understanding, I send you a salute and a hug.
When Tom and I met, we quickly established that the daily need for excellent coffee was something we had in common. It was early in our tenure that we discussed the insult to coffee that is a commercial Bunn hot plate and pot.
I was living in a small studio apartment on the Upper East Side and to lessen the deleterious impact of daily Starbucks on my limited income mostly drank coffee that I made with my stovetop moka pot. He was a consultant in DC and could afford to buy his morning cappuccino but wished for the convenience and quality of a good home espresso machine. Also, Tom hates to overspend, and a daily Starbucks is really just that.
We met in May of 2004, and by December, Tom was pretty sure we were each other's one. So for Christmas, he gave me the present he'd sort of been wanting to give himself, figuring we'd both benefit from and love it: a Rancilio espresso maker and a Nuova Simonelli grinder (in a darling cherry red because the red one was on sale; see above point about overspending).
We set them up on an old breakfast table chair from my parents' early years in a corner of my tiny kitchen. The placement required us to squat while grinding the beans and brewing the espresso, but the coffee was delicious, and we both loved this promise of a future together.
In 2004, Kofi Annan was Secretary-General of the UN. Can you picture him? What a wonderful man with such a wonderful, kindly face. He and his UN team won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001; Annan was celebrated for "having revitalized the UN and for having given priority to human rights."
Tom and I both admired Annan and for some reason that now escapes me, other than that the word and name sound vaguely similar, took to calling our coffee, Kofi or Kofi Annan. "Would you make me a Kofi?" "Oh, I'd just love some Kofi Annan right now."
When Annan retired in 2006, we would address each other as Secretary Ban (Annan's successor) in requesting Kofi. I can't tell you how many times I've texted Tom from bed: "Secty Ban, may I request Kofi?" It's been harder to update to Secretary Guterres (who took over for Ban at the end of 2016) because his name is longer, but we try to keep current. Always, there is Kofi. The shorthand brings a smile to early mornings, a nod to all we've created and enjoyed together over the years. It also serves as connective tissue during the harder times, the dark spots of marriage that weave through the years too.
When Mr. Annan died yesterday, I felt deeply sad. Sad for the loss of a fine diplomat who spent his life trying to make the world better and more peaceful. Sad that he had to watch America pull out of the UN Human Rights Council and act in such ugly and bigoted fashion. I imagine Mr. Annan was disheartened by what he saw happening, that he thought back to being in New York on September 11 (as I was) and remembered how at first this country came together in unity and with kindness. Sad that a daily part of my life was in some way gone.
I saw the news yesterday morning as I struggled to wake up. One eye open, I tapped my phone to check the time and saw the alert that Kofi was gone. I texted Tom, "Kofi died. :("
"What? Oh, the real Kofi." Half asleep too, he'd thought I meant our espresso maker.
"But he will live on in our kitchen."
Yes he will. In peace, dear sir.