Walking Thoughts

Last night cooled quickly, enough to use the oven, and I texted my mother, “I have the stupidest question imaginable. Can you talk?” She was on a plane getting ready to taxi. “No stupid questions,” she said, “I can text.” Imagine now, the time that ellipsed while awaiting her answer to my “How do I . . . roast chicken pieces?”

I didn’t follow her directions, of course, because what is the experience of an adult child but knowing the right way to do things and doing them your own way instead.

It is the first week of the semester which tends to mark the end of my being fully available to everyone else. If I’m toast, they’re charred. No one wanted to join me for my night walk so I set out on my own. There’s a path around the backyard and if I take 4ish trips it makes a mile. It was bright still, and breezy, and I wasn’t sad to be by myself. Behind the barn, past the trampoline, circle the field of drying goldenrod and Queen Anne’s lace. Under a maple canopy, through the apple trees, past the garden – leggy zinnias and still blooming poppies and surprise green beans poking through the fence. Repeat. I laughed passing the trampoline, remembering those first return-to-school weeks of 2020 and how I would drop my daughter off at daycare, return home for Zoom school, and jump, jump, jump on that trampoline until I felt like I could manage the day. After pick up the two of us would return to the trampoline and lay there until dinner.

Every back-to-school headline this year seemed to proclaim a return to a normal that no longer exists, without any awareness that maybe articulating precaution as restriction was a significant contribution to the problem itself. This is a different place now. I’m grabbing stacks of masks for my students to wear in the classroom. They are polite, it seems they get it, and the “out sick with covid” emails are coming in already. It’s taking me longer to bounce back after an August round of covid, and every time I want to go for a run I remember that I’m still napping if I walk more than a couple of miles. And I don’t nap.

I’d forgotten about the jumping until I saw the trampoline yesterday. Without P beside me I remembered myself, and in context of myself the trampoline was an artifact of a time of such confusion and fear and overwhelm I could barely believe I, we, made it here – not to the other end but certainly to another normal, one in which I have a little more confidence in my ability to negotiate interruptions and illness and New! Improved! Anxiety! I take a shower every morning now. I go to work. I make dinner. I sometimes (rarely) do the dishes.

A lone, light, container of sanitizing wipes sits on a table of my classroom. Some chairs have remnants of “leave empty for social distancing” tape across the back, and I wonder how we’ll talk about this chapter in our shared history. I wonder what their trampoline is, what it is these students will remember.

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