Construction — both Familial and Structural

This winter we had a freeze-thaw cycle that was murder on the pavement, no more so than at the bit of cul de sac which abuts our front yard. Then we had a lot of precipitation. The result was a teensy sink hole at the foot of our driveway which hasn’t dried since last fall.

In July, it grew slick with algae, threatening the unwary. If we weren’t careful to sweep out the puddle, it hosted mosquito larvae.

Naturally, this offended the ToolMaster’s sensibilities.

He was considering a cement patch when a road crew arrived and began to resurface the main street one block away – tantalizingly close. But fear not! It’s amazing what can be accomplished by a savvy homeowner, particularly if they are a jovial person accompanied by a black lab and bearing two dozen donuts.

Yes, P talked them out of two wheelbarrow’s worth of hot mix. Yes, he packed that sink hole. Yes, I got hauled away from a productive writing session to play amateur steamroller.

I couldn’t feel resentful, since he’d worked so hard to make it happen. (He always works hard.) My tough job was to sit in the van in the sun, window open, while he both guided me and used the lawn roller between passes.

I drove round and round, making dark circles with the tires, thinking there had to be some kind of metaphor in the procedure, feeling too dizzy to figure it out. In the end, the ToolMaster was so pleased with the result, you’d think I’d given a different kind of performance.  😉

After, I took the van for errands, watching the tire marks follow me to the main road.

Peeps, I’ve had a bit of a circular-yet-unfamiliar route this summer. It’s the first year we took a family holiday without Molly, for she stayed home to earn money for her second year of college. Do you have any idea how much less bickering takes place in a car with one child? How much less happy chatter?

I know these rites of passage are normal and necessary, I know they are wonderful, but they’re also weird. You know?

Now begins the line out of this route into a new routine which seems to arrive without my consent, though I know it’s for the best. This fall, I’ll have a college-bound young woman in my home and a high schooler. Not sure how that happened.

If I sound sentimental, you’d be right, and that’s why I haven’t blogged as much this summer. I don’t want to make Tartitude my journal. I feel the abiding need to honor your time. It’s also frighteningly hard to pretend I’m all bouncy-bouncy when I’m really engaged in emotional processing. (These days it’s easier for me to slip into a character’s skin than into my own alter ego. I think that’s because it took me so many years to allow that authenticity.)

Lest I’m tipping into an angst-fest, here’s where I’ll remind you that last fall, Molly began college and prompted many of the same musings in one of my most popular posts on this blog. We had a marvellous year. Truly. May this post kick off another.

Now, I know I’m not the only person feeling a bittersweetness at fall’s approach and its child-related milestones. How are you doing? How are you coping?

And if you blog and are engaged in mental processing, how do you balance the desire to keep connected to your readers – your hard-won and wonderful community – yet not devolve into the overly personal?

24 thoughts on “Construction — both Familial and Structural

  1. I don’t mind sentimental posts. I feel like I know you, and am grateful for an opportunity to know you mo’ betta. For instance, did not know you guys were black lab peeps too. Glad to know it. I’ve been noticing this with many of the WU gang. I feel like y’all are my extended writing family, and haven’t actually met any of you (if Skype doesn’t count). And I’m certainly grateful to be a part of the Tartitude community. Speaking of coping, I don’t blog, haven’t worked for my own hard-won community, but I certainly feel I’m coping better with what can be a bittersweet writing journey with the help of writing buddies like you. Lately it’s not so bitter, and mostly sweet–if it just wasn’t so damn terrifying. 😉

    Enjoy every moment of these rites of passage, Jan! And thanks for sharing, buddy! 🙂

  2. Vaughn, yes, Maya is a black lab mix and a total sweetie. We don’t know her age — she was a rescue and at least 9 years old — but the gentlest dog you could ever find.

    As for community, the feeling is mutual! Glad to know you, and glad the bitter is more sweet. Don’t think the terror ever goes away. 😉

  3. Actually it’s nice to know what a person’s been up to when you’re reading their blog and wondering ‘what they’re really like.’ I tend to tell people a bit about myself whenever I do public speaking. It forms a little bit of a connection and tends to make them more receptive to whatever else I’m saying. They remember more of the message with less of the strangers-in-the-night feeling.

    My current companion was an SPCA rescue, completely neglected. Getting her anywhere near normal has been a long journey, from the fear of blondes to the spaz-out episodes. Now she’s calm, loves blondes and cats as much as everybody else and misbehaves once in a while like any kid. Her fear has been replaced by a humorous personality that will steal your food and coffee if you’re not watching. (Some things they come up with all on their own.)

    Hang in there. They’re worth it and often surprise you with extra fun things. (Both dogs and kids.)

  4. I think I need to E volve (as opposed to devolve) into the overly personal. I’m still a baby blog and mostly learning.
    As for Fall on the way? I’ll confess, I look forward to Fall. Every year. I try not to be too excited about it because it upsets hubby who loves his summer. And, these last few years, I have been enjoying summer more. However, even though it was long ago, I still associate summer with working in the fields – picking cucumbers and hoeing beans and driving tractors. And Fall always meant the work was done.

  5. Aw, man. I can’t imagine. Owen is starting kindergarten and that alone is a HUGE step for me (and very emotional). I can’t imagine college and high school. Good luck in the coming weeks. You (and your kids!) will do great!

    1. Jenn, I was an emotional wreck before my kids started kindergarten. I found that stage harder to manage, because their youth makes them seem more vulnerable. By the time they get to be 15, you have some idea of their resilience.

      Will be thinking about you this coming week. We will survive!

  6. Oh, yes. Fall is bittersweet in my corner of the world as well, for a host of reasons. Mostly, there is a change in the air that’s physical, and metaphysical, and change steals my breath some days. So, I love when writer friends publish posts like this that say “you are not alone.”

    As for my coping, I have found myself blogging about sentiment here and there. I can’t help it; writing carries me through. Plus, I do think readers appreciate that connection in our nonfiction musings, as well as the fictional stories we tell.

    PS. I love the image of you driving the van around and around, making your mark.

  7. Oh, the emotional processing! Sometime back it finally hit me that even as I watch my kids go through stages, I’m going through stages myself. Duh! I’ve also been caught off guard at how hard having the kids leave for school was; even though I was excited for them, I spent much longer than I’d expected kicking myself out of the mopes.

    And then, of course, everything changes. I got used to DD living 100 miles away for college, then 300 away for a job…but I just drove her 2,000 miles away to start law school. Still processing that one. Meanwhile, DS is back in the nest and plotting his escape.

    I guess we just keep sweeping out the algae and watching for that crew with the hot mix to help us smooth out the bumps. Then it’s time to get behind that wheel and go!

    Make tracks, Jan–quick, before I drive this metaphor into the ground.

  8. Fall makes me notice the passage of time more than other seasons. No one ever says, oh no, spring is here again! But as much as I love fall, it’s summer’s end, and I notice other endings too. When your kids grow up, you grow up again too with them, and this time you know you won’t really get another chance to relive childhood.

    1. Kelly, I’m not sure I ever left adolescence, but I understand what you mean. My kids aren’t even close to getting married, but I’ll admit to occasionally having yearned for grandkinds, just for the free pass.

  9. The beauty of watching them grow up is the shifting and merging of your relationship with them and with the ToolMaster. I’m happy for you, sad for you, but mostly happy for all of you. You’re all on a wonderful new journey; you’re going forward, not in circles. 😉

    And don’t worry about angst-posts; we all need them occasionally.

  10. Fall is my favorite time of year. The back-to-school sales always make me think of the start of school. I remember the excitement and hope bubbling inside me as I walked two blocks to the local grade school and checked the class lists posted against the window of the school’s office. Would my favorite friends be in my class? What about the mean boy who’d bullied me every day? He was in every class K-6th.

    The smell of the wax on the linoleum floors in the classroom and the scent of the manilla paper and chalk comes back to me each fall. It makes me kind of wistful.

    But the season always ushers in sense of my own mortality, which makes me ask, where am I in my life? Another year is over and what have I accomplished? Those are the hard questions!

    1. jennifer, I loved fall for the same reason. I actually love to accompany my kids to the stationery store, and the items landing in the cart aren’t always theirs. 🙂

      But I hear you on the mortality thing. That’s the metaphysical part Christi was referencing.

  11. Jan,
    I always love your posts — with or without angst. I’m a pretty new blogger, so I’m still trying to figure a lot of things out and I don’t think I’ve won many readers, other than my husband. He’s sort of a captive audience!
    This fall will be challenging for me too. I haven’t quite managed to strike a clear balance between writing and homeschooling, and now we have a new puppy to boot. He’s a lab mix too, lab and shepherd. He’s cute, but very feisty! I’m sure the fall will be an adventure and I’m trying to cut myself some slack and not expect too much. We’ll see. We’ll both get through it somehow!

    1. Oh gosh, Lisa, if you have your husband on board, you’re doing better than me! Mine helps with technical things and occasionally provides me with ideas, but he’s on the computer all day. The thought of doing it for play makes him insane.

      Insaner. 😉

      Thank you for the props, lady. And I bet you’ll grow into your blog and your pup. Exciting times!

  12. We are experiencing that very same bittersweet in our family. Eldest just got dropped off for his freshman year at college and hubby & I are on holiday with the younger son, alone for the first time. It’s strangely quiet; easier in some ways, emotionally harder in all other ways.

    But from the time our kids are born, it’s all about learning to let go. Sigh.

    1. That’s so true. I can’t recall the phrasing or where I first encountered it, but I suspect you’d like a quote that spoke to me. It said that to give birth was to feel as if your heart had vacated your chest, so it might walk in the world.

      Good luck with the strange quiet of yours.

Leave a Reply