It's May 1 and in addition to what that means (we're working on taking it a few days at a time around here) it's also the official online kick-off to launch Katherine's book, Any Day a Beautiful Change. To celebrate, Katherine, Marie and I have invited a whole slew of dear friends/talented writers/bloggers to share personal stories of our own beautiful changes to get you in the memoir-reading mood. I know there are a lot of readers in the world who have given up on memoir (thanks James Fey!) but it's a book like Katherine's—real and honest and heartrending and funny—that represents the best of what personal narrative can offer a reader: a bridge to another life.
If that's not enough, I'll add this: Matt stayed up until 2 am to read the entire thing in one fell swoop. Based on his current capacity to stay awake in the evening hours, that's saying something.
So then, I'll end this introduction by encouraging you to visit this post on Katherine's blog all month long to find stories from strangers and friends alike; all reminders that while we are so different out there in the world, we all share change—sometimes scary, sometimes tentative, sometimes welcome, and depending on our perspective, potentially beautiful.
Would you like to win a copy of her book? Just leave a comment about a beautiful change in your life—or better yet, write about it and let me know you linked your story in Katherine's post. I'll pick a winner on May 10. Already have a copy? Not to worry, I'll send one to a recipient of your choice!
I can name the date of the change on my horizon, though it has been difficult at times to name it a beautiful one. The date was there before it became mine by geography, by chance, by procedural vote via officials who couldn't have imagined the momentous effect it would have on my life. The date is August 28, 2012, and it is the date on which Bridget, dressed in a brand-new outfit and carrying a pristine new lunchbox inside her purple Lands' End backpack, will walk through the door of our neighborhood elementary school and begin kindergarten.
This baby. The last one. The one who completed our family with her sweetness and sense of humor, good will and general contentedness just to be with us. The one who now gleefully asks me "what will you do without me when I go to kindergarten?" It stops me in my tracks, that question. I simultaneously kind of know the answer and also have absolutely no idea.
When Maddie began kindergarten, I experienced a small amount of panic about my baby—my first born!—getting on the bus for the short ride to a place where I would no longer be privy to every minute of her goings-on. It is an unavoidable truth for us public school families that when school begins, large swaths of life become compartmentalized; where I could name what happened in Maddie's life at 9:42 am or 1:17 pm each and every day prior to that first year of school, now I only had a ballpark guess, supported by stories brought home and parent-teacher conferences—if I asked the right questions. We couldn't have asked for a better experience for Maddie, though, and then again for Gracie, too: kindergarten was truly a garden of wonders, with exciting new skills and stories and activities and experiences occurring every single day.
It's hard not to be excited about that kind of change. I get it, I do—I've been charged with the education of enough kids to know how education is, in and of itself, a beautiful change.
But oh, this one...
Bridget's entry to kindergarten will come with all the mama hand-wringing that the other two came with, even though I know she is ready and it will all turn out OK. She will learn. She will get to sing new songs. She will read. She will write. She will learn to function in a unit that isn't her own, until she makes it so. She is ready.
But here's the thing: Bridget's entry to kindergarten marks the end of an era for me. Obviously. I chose to leave teaching high school kids in 2002 when Maddie was born; it was the best choice for me, for us, and for her; while I fiercely cherish the lifelong ties I made to a whole slew of Montana teenagers and a teeny-tiny handful of ones in Cheyenne, I never looked back with regret. And now, this ten year era is coming to a close. The clock is ticking louder every day as August 28, 2012 approaches. Things will be so, so different.
Everyone wants to know what's next. I am unable to put together an answer, because there are no pat answers. I simulatenously know what my list of things-to-do will look like and have absolutely no idea how I will fill my days without Bee, my trusty assistant and companion. I have aspirations that fit into the "wildly improbable but still, what if" beautiful change category and practical concerns that squarely don't. I am not the same person I was in 2002, and I can't imagine trying to reconcile that person with a life that might not fit any more. Oh, and we're at least two PCS moves away from permanence. Any day a beautiful change.
And so I hold hands with Bee in parking lots and in the line at the post office. I wait to go to the commissary until after I pick her up at preschool. I squeeze every single last sweet moment out of our library Tuesdays. I watch her ride around the circle on her bike away from me, and then I watch her ride back toward me again. I shake my head at my ridiculous struggle with the same old story every mama experiences, and I choke back the feeling in my throat that threatens to shut down both me and my resolve to celebrate what's next for her. I consider what I must do to balance my family's well-being on ten different levels, and I try not to shy away from considering a path not yet blazed in that equation.