My beloved maple still has a full verdant crown. Only a smattering of leaves have been tinged with a kiss of deep burgundy. Jewels in the crown. Those will fall early, it seems. Did the arborist tell me it was a Norway maple? I think so, but I can’t remember. It doesn’t really matter. I love this tree, deep into the heartwood. It’s a constant that I gaze upon often. Though I worry about the wet autumn winds when she is still heavy with leaves. Will she weather the storm another year? Is it better to have the three trunks instead of one? It seems as though she is stable, but I’m never entirely sure.
She turned seven this month. Her hair is barely blond anymore. Is that because she’s going to be a brunette or we didn’t spend enough time outside this summer? I need to be better about that next year. I can’t even remember most of August and here she is starting first grade. New teacher, new classmates, new expectations. Even our morning routine feels a little different, though I can’t place how just yet. She still likes to snuggle on the couch for the last ten minutes before we leave. I know the transitions are hard for her, but nothing like they used to be. I’m happy for this change, though more for her than for me.
The colors don’t seem as vibrant as last year. Or maybe they are the same. I really don’t remember. I always think I will recall year to year, but then I never do. Black spot has peppered the changing leaves this year, but it’s only noticeable on the few that have reached the ground. The crown is now dull and muted, like an army boot that has trudged through miles of terrain. She’s getting ready to let her leaves go. But not without a show first. She waits until the very end of the month to glide into a spectrum of golds. Did it happen overnight? It seems that way. I try to catch a few of the big ones to press between a heavy book so I can remember their vivid yellow, but my effort is futile. I leave empty handed, with only a memory lightly etched into my mind’s eye. Or so I tell myself.
I know what it is now: she doesn’t want me to read to her before school anymore. She’d rather look out the window or play in the last few minutes before I say, “it’s time to go” and hunt down shoes and keys. When she was three and four and five, clinging to me and crying, this is what I longed for, right? Then why do I feel like an awkward interloper? I’m no longer a necessary participant. When did that happen? She’s only seven. Yet she still wants to hold my hand on the walk to school. I clutch her small fingers as though they were gold coins. I don’t want to let go of my riches while I still have them. I’m holding on tight.
It only took two weeks. The branches danced vigorously some of those nights, dropping confetti on the lawn. When I look out my window in the morning, I see the party is almost over. Points of gold and brown flutter and glow in the low angled light, stuck between blades of grass. Are they waving goodbye? Only a few leaves remain on the tree. Maybe they are stubborn and don’t want to let go. I wonder what holds on tighter—the stem or the branch? If it’s the tree, I would understand completely. But, eventually, the leaves will drop. They always do. There are never any leaves left come December. Some drift into the yards of neighbors or clog the storm drains along our sandy streets. The rest get raked into a pile, only to end up in the city’s hands or in our compost bin. The cycle of life. I try to keep as much of them in my yard as I can. They will feed the soil and fuel the flowers come spring. They are mine and I don’t want to let go.
We sail through the mornings. No more “hurry up” or “did you remember?” is needed from me. Afternoons are spent in mutual space but individual thoughts, especially when I let her take the lead. That’s been true for a while now. I just wait idle in the living room while she goes about her routine. Though I want to feel needed and find myself offering a gentle reminder before she even needs one. I get heavy sighs and “I know” in return. She’s making it clear that she’s letting go in this small way that doesn’t feel at all small to me. She’s asking questions about things that I know she’s picking up from friends as she flutters with them through recess and snack time. Things that seem like they are on the other side of the cusp where she stands. They are “what’s next” and I’m not entirely ready. I take pictures of her, much like the way I’d press those leaves I never seem to catch. I’m afraid I’ll forget, that my memory won’t be strong enough to withstand the windy days and barer branches ahead. She is mine and I don’t want to let go.
Copyright (c) 2014 Kristen M. Ploetz
With Thanksgiving just over a week away, gratitude is naturally at the forefront of my mind right now. Having an appreciation for what I have in my life—as opposed to what I don’t have— is already my default setting. Maybe that’s also because I truly feel like I have everything I need. It is a comforting place to be. Yet this gratitude always feels deeper in November, a time when we start to turn inward and get out of the cold. We are reminded of what and whom keeps us warm inside.
But this year in particular I have an added dimension to my gratitude for all that has come my way. It flows in abundance from the graciousness of people whom I have never met in person, and maybe never will. I’m talking about the online writing community. In this group are bloggers, writers, editors, and readers. This has been a great year for me on this journey of writing that I seem to now be fully and wholeheartedly stumbling along in earnest. I owe so much of that to the countless “strangers” out there who’ve helped me along the way. You’ve motivated me, challenged me, and humbled me.
Some of these folks just merely took a chance on me and featured my writing. And while I am eternally grateful for those opportunities, I am also profoundly (and perhaps more) appreciative of the things taking place behind the scenes before that even happens. I’m talking about those several individuals who privately answered my questions about “what next?” and “how do I?” after I emailed them when I was stuck, or allowed me to privately share something deeply personal. I am thankful for those fine individuals who’ve reached out to me offline to mutually bounce ideas or suggestions, or propose ways that we can share our writing beyond our existing spheres (I’m also thankful that you haven’t been miffed when I’ve flaked out on participating in something…ahem). I have been touched when certain folks have shared my writing even though they have nothing to gain from it personally. I have been humbled by the many meaningful comments that have been left on my blog or with pieces that have been published elsewhere. Maybe it was one connection, briefly, or maybe it’s been a few emails back and forth over the course of the year. Some of you may not even remember or know how much your words meant to me. No matter. I know it happened, and I am thankful.
There are many that I could name, but I want to say “thank you” one more time to the following folks and sites who have made a real difference in my life this past year. These are good people with big hearts, and if you don’t know about them already, I think you should. There is a certain kind of selflessness, camaraderie, and trust that takes place among writers, and I feel like that often goes unnoticed or taken for granted. I can unequivocally say that this is not lip service or a gimmick to get any kind of back scratching in return. Not at all. My good fortune could end right now, and it wouldn’t matter because it is what these people already said or did that has already made a difference in my life this year.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.
Copyright (c) 2014 Kristen M. Ploetz
Yesterday was a GSD day. A “getting sh!t done” day, that is. You have them too, I suppose. I needed to buy 14 binders, go to the copy center, replace our broken coffee machine, and buy a much needed entryway rug to stop the bits of wet leaves and mud from making their way to our living room.
While I generally don’t like rushing around in the car on GSD days, the one benefit is getting time to listen to the radio for a dose of pop culture. I was cruising through the parking lot to stop #2, and in between songs, the DJs were joking and laughing about that woman whose naked rear is on the cover of a magazine right now (I’m sure you’ve heard). And that’s when I heard one of the DJs—the female one—make an off the cuff comment about this woman’s choice to bare it all so publicly:
Well, I don’t really know what to say about it. She’s a mother now. You can’t do those kinds of things anymore.
And now I’m wondering about that. I’ve been pondering it for the past day, thinking about what to make of that sentiment. Not so much about the bum in the buff (I offer no commentary about that here at all), but the fact that there are obviously people who think that certain things—like some behaviors, hobbies, and/or pursuits—should or must change solely because a woman has become a mother.
I’m not sure how I feel about that, to be honest with you.
Part of me wants to agree with that on some level, but then I have to answer, why? That’s where I get tripped up and don’t like where I’m going with it. Does it have to do with how we explain things to our children? Is it because we are role models to a new subset of people now? But then what about our past—not only can that not be erased from memory and our children’s ability to discover our “before” (especially in the digital age), but how do we just delete a part of who we are and who we might like to be or do despite having children now? Does it have to do with a certain threshold of behavior that mothers are expected to follow (and if so, is that fair)?
Another part of me wants to disagree. Why can’t she do that if she so chooses? Even though I might not want to bare all on the cover of a magazine (and you should be thankful for that!) or do any other number of “inappropriate” things that we are not “supposed” to do, who’s to say that another mother can’t or shouldn’t? You can take any number of examples and replace them into the cover shoot example, and then that’s when it seems a little unfair. Smoking (I don’t), swearing (I do), being a nude model for an art class, wearing revealing clothing, running a Forbes 100 company that requires many hours away from her child, engaging in inherently dangerous professions like firefighters? Where would those lines be drawn? Seems like a slippery slope to me.
No answers to this really, at least not right now. But it got me thinking that’s for sure.
What do you think? Are there certain things that are off the table solely because someone becomes a mother? Why or why not?
Copyright (c) 2014 Kristen M. Ploetz
I often wonder what it is that my daughter will remember about me when I am long gone or when she raises her own children (if she so chooses).
Will it be the way my hair smells or the texture of my sweaters (cotton, always)? Will it be the sight of me with my nose in a book (or, too often perhaps, my phone), legs tucked up under me on the couch? Will it be the very basic but very reliable dinners that I serve? Will it be the way I gather her hair into a ponytail most mornings? Will it be the triple nose tap that we have for each other when we say “I love you” from afar? Will it be the weight of my body in her bed as we read books each night?
Or maybe it will simply be the invitation to always be the one to lick the honey spoon after I’m done with it.
Is there a distinct memory about your parent(s) that you have from childhood? If you have children, what do you think they will remember about you?
Copyright (c) 2014 Kristen M. Ploetz
Relevance has been on my mind a lot lately. I’ll tell you why, in a minute, but what I find myself mulling over is this:
How does our desire to be seen and heard tie into relevance?
Is relevance one way we value ourselves and determine our self-worth?
Is there an inherent impermanence to the kind of relevance we need and seek?
How does the barometer measuring our relevance rise and fall when we talk about love, friendship, and living on this lovely blue ball?
Do we need to feel relevant? And if so, to whom, exactly, and why?
I was headed into Boston. I was on my way to my first mammogram. The reflection of full swaths of grey hair staring me down each morning usually does it, but I was feeling particularly forty that morning.
I dislike driving in heavy traffic so I took the T. As I waited on the subway platform, I noticed the slant of light that early October morning. It filtered through the almost leafless sumacs across the tracks onto the concrete platform and yellow warning strip. It reflected in irregular glints along the third rail, a subtle spotlight on the danger that lurked six feet below. I thought the light was lovely, calming even, as I waited with the commuter crowd on my way to an appointment which would render me half naked in less than an hour. I dug my iPhone out of my pocket and shared the scene on Instagram. At forty years old, I felt progressive, if not relevant, in this technophile society.
Even though I really don’t like driving, I prefer taking crowded public transportation only a hair more. I’m claustrophobic in a dentist’s chair or in a windowless room, so bodies pressed upon bodies in a hurtling tube of metal is not exactly relaxing for me. So the other thing I do to talk myself down from my anxious tree is watch people.
The pistons inside my brain started firing immediately when I saw him. He was hipster cool with his glasses and standard issue beard. The black denim jacket added an extra layer of New England badass. He was easily fifteen years my junior. But it was his Anthrax baseball hat and the way he sailed right by me like I was invisible that ultimately pierced the thin skin of my “I don’t need to impress anyone anymore” attitude.
The thing is, I was invisible in that moment, standing there in my grey cardigan and practical black pants. A nameless face in the crowd, just like everyone else. I wasn’t relevant, at least not to him.
I wanted to walk down the platform and tap him on the shoulder and tell him that when I was in middle school—and he didn’t even yet exist—that I had the biggest crush on Scott Ian. That I had two Anthrax posters on my bedroom wall. That I knew all the lyrics to “I Am The Law” and was keen on what efilnikufesin meant. That I would go home later to look up a few of the videos for old time’s sake. That I used to be relevant, man, at least when it came to heavy metal music. That this bland vision of a downtrodden wife and mother on her way to a nondescript hospital exam room, hoping to return in time for after school pickup is not who I really am.
Or is it? Is this who I am now?
Am I still relevant?
I think we all want to leave our mark somehow. We want to know that we mattered, and that people noticed. We want to feel relevant in this world. For me, as I get older, I see that the people that I need to feel relevant to has shifted and the circle has gotten smaller. Though as my brief encounter with Mr. Anthrax shows, not always. That self-conscious girl from high school still lurks in the shadows of my mind and memories. When these blips happen, I wonder why.
Perhaps my looser grip on relevance in and to the wider world now has more to do with my growing sense of mortality rather than a base need to feel admired or respected by others like I used to. Maybe I’ve realized that the currency has changed. At some point, it had to. Instead of my tastes in music or fashion trends, I want to know that my love and presence matter more to others and will be what leaves a lasting impression. Yes, I think I’m coming to see that this is what makes a nisefukinlife.
How does your relevance to others play into your life, if at all? Has its importance diminished over time in certain circles?
In case you missed it, I was at Literary Mama earlier this week. Come see!
Copyright (c) 2014 Kristen M. Ploetz
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