Friday, October 29, 2010

Huge Small Gestures

It'd been a tough, long, long, tough day. It's been a crazy-busy, often long, occasionally tough month, to be honest. But today really took the cake. At the end of it, I'd spent six of my eight hours in the office in meetings.

(That is not an exaggeration. I wish it were an exaggeration, but it is not. They were good meetings, all, but there were six hours of them, which is--in and of itself--enough to make one call the day both long and tough. And there was other stuff, too--work stuff--that made it all feel even longer, and even tougher.)

At the end of this long, tough day, I was scheduled to head out to the synagogue, to help with some of the initial set-up for the bat-mitzvah luncheon of the daughter of one of my closest friends there. It was, to be honest, the last thing I wanted to do. And when I arrived home to pick up Em before heading right back out again, Baroy was in a totally stressed mood, having clashed with N over homework after the second day in a row in which major appliances have decided to try to die on us, and Em herself was near tears over Girl Drama at school.

Just another day in paradise.

But these are good friends; these are the friends who I know dragged themselves to the synagogue to set up for the luncheon after Em's bat mitzvah. (The family whose event it is is forbidden to come to these set-up events; it's the least we in the congregation can do to make the last few days just slightly less stressful.) What you make a commitment to help friends like these, you keep it. And so I did. I counseled Em on her problems through the ride over, parked the car, and put on my happy face as we entered the social hall to start wrapping 200 sets of utensils in napkins and tying them with ribbons. But, I'm telling was a strain. By then I was carrying around my problems, and Em's, and Baroy's, and N's. And I'm sure it showed.

And then, about 15 minutes after we'd arrived, the other two ladies in my little temple posse came bustling in--carrying three (count 'em, three) nonfat decaf vanilla lattes. Without a word, my friend J handed one of them to me and plonked herself down next to Em, while my friend D gave me a grin and plonked herself down next to me, and we set to work. We were done in under an hour.

On the way home, I said to Em, "Just in case you missed it...That cup of coffee? That meant everything to me tonight. Not the coffee itself so much as knowing that my friends were thinking of me, that they didn't have to ask, that they just knew what I'd need, even without knowing I needed it."

Em replied, "Sometimes it's just the little things, huh?"

And I said, "More often than not, they're more important than the big things."

But what I should have said was, they're bigger than the big things. They're huge. Even if they fit in a recyclable cardboard cup.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sudden Realization

N and I were driving home from Hebrew school when the lightning started. I'd told him we needed to stop at the supermarket on our way home, and he began to worry about being hit by lightning while we were in the store. (If you have a kid on the spectrum, you know that by "began to worry" what I really mean is "began to perseverate on and spiral into a full-on freakout over...")

I began to explain to him why we didn't need to worry about the store being hit by lightning, which only shifted the worryperseveration/freakout onto the possibility of being hit by lightning in the parking lot. I pointed out the tall light poles, and told him to just not hold onto one, and he'd be fine. I also began to tell him about how vanishingly rare it is for lightning to strike down right where a specific person is, and how he really didn't need to worry about it at all.

"Really," I said, "the only time you need to worry about lightning is when you're in a wide-open field with no trees, or on top of a mountain. And the WORST THING would be to be on a wide-open field on top of a mountain!"

At which point I stopped dead in my tracks, pulled out my phone, and texted Baroy.

ME: Ummmm... Top of mountain, open field, soccer practice, my daughter... Really? Still there?

BAROY: Yup. But under cover, talking.

ME: Oooookay. I guess.

Frickin' soccer. (According to Baroy, they'll be home--soaking wet, freezing cold, but apparently unfried--any minute now. But still.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

That Girl

We sat at the table, after dinner, me and my girl. Baroy and N were watching a movie in the other room; neither of us really wanted to see it.

That girl's goal kick is wicked.
Em was telling me about the meeting, that afternoon, of her middle school's environmental club. We were giggling, then straight-out laughing, then gasping for breath, tears streaming down our faces. (You had to be there.)

Later, Em talked about walking home afterward with her friend M. "Because it was so cold," she said, "we decided to stop at Starbucks on the way, get something warm to drink. It was so much nicer once we were walking with hot coffee* in our hands."

I smiled, seeing it, knowing that feeling. Then stopped. Everything stopped. Even my heart, for just a second.

"Oh my god," I said, more to myself than to her. "I can't believe you're there already. That you're that girl. That 'decided to stop for some coffee on the way home' girl. And I can't believe that it feels totally OK to me. If I don't think about it too much."

She grinned. "I was thinking almost the same thing," she said. "I sorta can't believe I'm that girl either."

And then she kissed me as she left to study for her history test, saying, "I really love having these talks with you."

That girl. Oh, that girl.

*Because my mother reads here, and because I can already hear her, let me say this: Decaf. On the same block as the school. Still light out. Let her father know she'd be a few minutes late. It's all good.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Break-Up Letter

Em's eighth-grade Advanced History teacher is young, innovative, and totally adorable. He lets me believe that there is still a way to be a good teacher, no matter how inhospitable the general environment is toward teaching in this NCLB era of insipidity.

Eighth grade is American History; the class is studying the Declaration of Independence. Their assignment? To write a break-up letter--following some very specific, Declaration-like guidelines--to anyone or any thing, living or dead, real or fictional.

Emily decided to write her break-up letter to Voldemort ... not as herself, but as Harry Potter.

She handed it in today, so I have no idea how it will go over, what her teacher will think of it. There's some awkwardness in the construction, and some typos (which I've left alone); it may not be the most insightful history essay ever written. (Actually, I know it's not, because my friend Ambre recently sent me an equally interesting assignment her daughter had been given, and THAT is the most insightful history essay ever written. I will brook no argument.)

But what I can say? I've never enjoyed reading a history paper more.

And with that, I give you...Em. As Harry.

Dear Voldemort,
            I regret very much what I am about to write.  Every word pains me, but I feel it is better for the both of us.  One of us had to make this decision; I guess it had to be me. I do not believe this “relationship” we are in is going to be good for us any longer.            
            Although our connection was accidental, it has helped me grow.  From this connection I have become famous.  I am the ‘Boy Who Lived,’ the ‘Chosen One’.  It has brought me enemies, but also very close friends.  The scar on my forehead reminds everyone just who I am.  We have also become dependent upon each other.  Because as you know, neither can live while the other survives.
             I could go on for…oh let’s say…7 books worth of stuff you’ve done wrong, but I think I’ll spare us all the details.  Here are just a couple of reasons why I think it is best we go our own ways.
1. You killed my parents.  So you didn’t like them; you could have just said so.
2. You’ve tried to kill ME several times.  It makes it pretty hard to trust you.
3. You’ve tortured my friends.  They’ve told me that this relationship we have is not healthy, but I tried to stay faithful.
4. You’ve put fake images in my head, putting me, and many others I love, in danger.
            Several times I found myself in a position where I could possibly have saved us, but you persisted in ignoring me. I tried to get you to realize that all you had to do was show some compassion or remorse.  It might have made things easier for you in the end. I also tried to stay out of your way.  I didn’t try to hunt you down; I just tried to keep a safe distance and hope we could get along better that way. But you just wouldn’t leave me alone.
            So, all this means one thing: it’s time for us to split.  I do not want you to hate me any more than you already do.  I want you to realize that this is better for both of us.  We have been mortal enemies my whole life, and I really think that if we just let go of all these negative feelings, it would be better not just for us, but for everyone.  So please just consider all this with an open mind, and I hope you have a good rest of your life.  
                                                                        Free From You,
                                                                        Harry Potter