Bend Before It Breaks

I’m quickly approaching the 9th anniversary of my mom’s death–a date which is book-ended by other significant dates over the span of about 6 weeks. I usually start feeling and/or anticipating the pain that inevitably comes around mid-March.

So here I am.

This year, it’s been a different experience. My grief is much closer to the surface sooner that I thought it would be. And in many ways, it’s just as raw as it was nine years ago. This time, though, I’m allowing it to surface and to come out–and providing space for it. Because I clearly have not finished the active grief process, and I know I still need to do that.

The tag line for this blog is an African proverb that spoke to me in the months following Mom’s death. It occurred to me today that I’ve been trying to outdistance the pain and grief still residing inside of me even after almost 9 years. I’ve succumbed to it on occasion, but usually on my terms–which meant short-bursts-because-I-had-to-but-not-really-sitting-with-the-pain-and-grief-and-allowing-it-to-come-out-so-I-can-fully-heal. Grief doesn’t really work on one’s own terms, and I cannot outdistance it anymore. Nor am I trying to.

This year, when it wells up, I am welcoming it to the surface, holding it, and then letting it go. I am finally–truly–walking wading through the muck because I know I need to and because I am finally okay with doing so. Mainly, I think, because I feel better equipped to wade…or because I’ve finally come to a place where I really am okay with letting go of the pain and keeping only the memories. Either way, I’m leaning into the process in a way I haven’t before.

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The Cat in the Hat Comes Back

Today is Dr. Seuss’ birthday. The first Friday in March is Read Across America day–a way to celebrate Dr. Seuss and reading. There usually are a variety of reading-related or Seussical events around this time of March. 

And so…

So…

     So…

          So…

I dressed up as The Cat in the Hat and read to all of the kindergarten and first grade students at school yesterday. I floated the idea past the first grade teachers a few weeks ago and the kindergarten teachers on Wednesday, and they were all about it. It wasn’t until about Wednesday this week that anyone even bothered to ask why I possessed a Cat in the Hat costume.

My mom was a reading specialist. Not only was she incredibly gifted at teaching children to read, she made them fall in love with it. And she would dress up as book characters from times to time and read to her students. Her longest standing character was Ms. Wishy Washy. I have no idea when she acquired the Cat in the Hat costume. I do know that after her death, I just couldn’t part with it. I wore it for Halloween a time or two. Mostly, though, that costume has stayed in the bag in a closet wherever I’ve lived since Mom’s death. 

By about October, when I realized I’d fallen in love with the elementary school at which I work currently, I decided the costume needed to come out again. I waited until a few weeks ago and offered to wear it while reading to the students–just like Mom used to do and likely would have done again this year. As this week progressed, I wasn’t sure how it would go or how I would feel. I did go on a search for the pictures of Mom dressed as the Cat–and Ms. Wishy Washy–and finally found them at Dad’s house. In the process, I came across some of the cards handmade by some of the students at Mom’s school when she died. They were still beautiful and still heart wrenching. By the time Friday rolled around, I was at once nervous and excited to read to all of these little friends. I donned the costume early in the day as I was scheduled to read to first grade as soon as announcements were finished and all of the students gathered into one classroom. They were so excited and seemed to enjoy hearing The Cat in the Hat read by…well…The Cat in the Hat.

I changed between reading to first grade and reading to kindergarten…mostly because I had legitimate work to do in between. Also, I had a different Seussical outfit to wear. There is also an administrative intern at my school and we’ve become self-proclaimed Team Intern. After some shenanigans with the Assistant Principal on Thursday, we dubbed ourselves Intern 1 and Intern 2 and made t-shirts for ourselves for Friday. I swear, the kiddos were just as excited about that. We had some serious celebrity status on Friday. 

At the end of the day, the principal thanked me for doing all of that. I told him it was my pleasure. And I meant it. That experience did more for me–I think–than it did for anyone else. Because it put me in touch with Mom in a very different way than I’d experienced previously–and in a way that would have surely made her smile. 

 

I’m headed into spring time–and one of those 6 week stretches in the year that can be very difficult. But Dostoevsky once said, “The soul is healed by being with children.”

And so it is.