Our family has been quarantined together for more than three months now thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been such a gift for my husband and I to spend this kind of concentrated quality time with our two adult daughters. I really think they have enjoyed the time too. After all of these months together, we have established some routines that have now become just “the way things are done around here.” One of the routines the girls and I have established is to tackle the Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle.
Each weekend, one person gets the copy in the magazine and I make two copies from my New York Times Weekend Briefing email for the other two. Mackensie usually gets going first. She is very good at the crossword and has incredible persistence. Morgan is next. Every morning she grabs her coffee and cereal, moves to the table in the living room and works on the puzzle for a while. I tend to start last and work on it in fits and starts. I don’t seem to have the patience and persistence for puzzles that my girls do.
We all start by filling in the clues we know. Then, as we begin to struggle, we start working as a team and reaching out to each other for help. We try not to just give the answer (if we even have it), but to give clues and suggestions that might help the other person move closer to solving the word on their own. This can be maddening at times, but in the end we all appreciate the feeling of accomplishment we get when we get the big “Ah Ha!” Across the week, there are usually events that happen or movies we watch or conversations that we have that connect to the week’s puzzle. We talk about the clues at meals, suddenly run off to grab our pencil and puzzle when we come up with an answer, and we take our puzzles with us everywhere we go (OK, we don’t go too far.).
The weekly crossword puzzle has become such a nice experience for the three of us. I hope that we can continue this routine even when the girls head back to their apartments, and our worlds start to look a bit more like they used to.
Two large boxes have been sitting in my guest room since January. They are filled with photographs, the last items from my mom and stepfather’s home in Florida. Yesterday was a hot summer day. Too hot in the middle of the day to go for a walk or garden or go to the beach or play badminton. I decided it was time to tackle the boxes.
At the top of the box were all of the little photo albums I had made for my parents as the girls were growing up. Albums of holidays, gatherings, and vacations. Albums of some of the small moments that grandparents want to be part of. Then there were the disks; CDs that must be filled with pictures. I put those aside for another summer day (maybe a rainy one would be best for this task). Then there were all the pictures my parents have taken of our girls. Some beautiful photos, and some that anyone else would have tossed in the garbage, but not my parents, and not me. How am I going to throw away a picture of my daughter sitting on her grandmother’s (who is no longer with us) lap, both of them laughing hysterically? Yes, the picture is a bit fuzzy, and yes, there are other pictures of the two of them that are much better, but this memory can’t be tossed in a garbage can! Into the “To Be Saved” pile it goes. Then there are pictures of my sister, my aunts and uncles, and my cousins. I sort those into piles labeled “Mail to ____” And finally there are the old black and whites. There are pictures of my grandparents when they were young, my parents as kids and young adults, my parents with their friends and families, my parents when they were young and in love, my parents getting married (They divorced later. There are no pictures of that!), my sister and I as babies and young children. These old pictures also had people in them that I didn’t know and were in places that weren’t familiar. I had to call my dad numerous times to get more information about who was in the pictures and what was happening.
The goal of today’s project was to sort through the photos and keep a few good ones. The goal was to get rid of these boxes that have been sitting around for months. That didn’t happen. Instead I spent the whole day enjoying old memories and making some new ones, calling my husband and daughter over each time I found a new discovery or a fun picture or wanted to share the story behind a photograph. I haven’t accomplished anything. There are still lots of photographs in a box, but I feel so satisfied. I feel like I spent a day with family. I feel connected. I feel grounded. I feel safe.
Today is my first official day of summer vacation. I imagine that most people get excited about the freedom summer brings, the lack of an alarm clock and schedule. The time to relax and just do nothing. Not me. What I want to do this morning is grab some paper and a pen and create a list; A list of projects to do, plans to make, items to purchase, books to read, posts to write, places to visit. You get the picture. A long list. A list that will make me feel productive all summer long. A list that will guide me through the weeks ahead. A list that will make me feel in control of my time. A list with items I can cross off as I go, and add to as I think of new things that need doing.
But….I’m not going to do it. Nope. Not this week. I’m going to try something new. I’m going to try (It won’t be easy.) to live in the moment, to go with the flow. I’m going to try to see where the days will take me. To be honest, I’m worried about trying this. It feels like I will be floating in space, and I like to be tethered to something. I like to get things done, and that might not happen if I don’t have a plan. But….I’m going to give it a try.
OK. I’ve finished my writing. I don’t have a list, so I can’t cross that off. Now I don’t know what to do. I guess I’ll just see where the day takes me.
If you don’t see a post from me next week, I guess you’ll know that I’m enjoying summer without a list!
The school year, that is. This is our last week of school in my district, and what a strange last week it’s going to be.
The truth is, I never really enjoy the last week of school. Yes, I love my summer vacation, but I really don’t like endings. I don’t like packing up, putting away, covering up, and shutting down. I don’t like saying goodbye (even if it is just for 8 weeks). I miss my school family, and I never like the idea of not hearing the voices of over 400 children every day for a full two months.
But this year is the strangest end to a school year ever. I’m sitting up in my little office I carved out of the corner of a small guest room. There are no children’s voices. I have to say goodbye to my friends and colleagues over Google Meet or email. There are no quick visits to classrooms to give hugs and say, “Have a great summer!” The fifth graders will not experience the annual “clap out” through the hallways of our school, but will have a drive-through graduation with staff lined up along a route wearing masks. No final concerts. No final Whole School Meeting. No final celebration. And no idea what the fall will look like.
This year is ending.