Sunday, June 28, 2015

The End of an Era

Our backyard playscape has sat empty and unused for a number of years now. The toddler for whom it was built is now a 16-year-old. The swings, ladder, tower, and sandbox call out for little ones to play with them. Fortunately, the rector of our church and his wife have two young and energetic children who would love to have their own backyard playground.

So on a rainy Sunday afternoon, volunteers arrived to disassemble it and move it to its new home. The move gives me pause to reflect on the passing of the years.
A lonely playscape

We were living in a condo in our Connecticut town 17 years ago when I found out I was pregnant. Our son arrived on a sunny June day in 1999. The condo was a perfect home - for a while. We knew we needed a yard for our little one. The real estate market was good to us, and we quickly sold the condo and purchased our current home.

Moving is hard on a little one. To make the transition a little easier, we promised that as soon as spring arrived, we would build him an awesome swing set.

The swing set in its heyday on my son's 4th birthday
I was an older mommy and there were to be no more babies, so I was fortunate to be able to stay home with my son for six years.I look back on  them as some of the happiest of my life. Not everyone can make that choice or wants to, but it was right for us.

The swing set was often swarming with children from the neighborhood. It hosted birthday parties and heart-to-heart talks. It was a launch pad for tiny plastic paratroopers, a pirate ship, and the Millennium Falcon. Those interests have given way to basketball, baseball, and now cars.

Moving Day
I am proud of the man my son has become. The pudgy toddler has been replaced by a tall, lanky, teen. He is kind and thoughtful to others. He has a sharp sense of humor and is a solid student in school. I have watched him bloom this year with an interest in theater production. He joined the high school's Unified Theater program, where he worked with students of varying abilities (check out the hashtag #katygaga on Twitter to see what his group did for one of their own).

So the empty space in the backyard represents growth, both for my son and me. I look back fondly on the warm, sunny days spent in our own backyard fantasy land. I look forward to the new adventures to come.I hope the swing set's new owners enjoy it as much as we did.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

June Transitions

June is a complicated month for me.

In my younger life, June meant the end of the school year, lazy warm days in the backyard, staying up late, and summer enrichment programs. Later, the month became an end to classes, the beginning of summer jobs and internships, graduations. Now June is the month of my wedding anniversary and my son's birthday (16 years old today!)

But for me June is also flavored with wistfulness, a feeling of letting go, of leaving something behind.

Since being hired in a public school system 10 years ago, I often mark my life by school year, rather than calendar year. September is the time for New Year's resolutions, when we start fresh. June is for good-byes - to high school seniors, to my fifth-grade students who start middle school next year, to retiring colleagues.

This June, I feel like I am also leaving behind the trials of this year.

 Last June I attended a friend's wedding, a beautiful affair held lakeside on a sparkling early summer day. It was a happy, joyous, carefree day, one of the last ones I would have that summer. Weeks later I was going through tests and biopsies that resulted in a diagnosis of breast cancer.

My school year was interrupted for six weeks while I recovered from a bilateral mastectomy. The winter and spring were filled with doctor appointments and eventually more surgery to reconstruct my breasts. Today, I'm looking forward to several months of no doctor appointments and no procedures.

This June, I can see how far I've come. I look back on the dark days of fall and winter and wonder how I made it through.  I feel better today - despite everything I've endured - than I have in years. It makes me wonder if I was sicker for longer than I thought. I know how strong I am - I came through a physical and emotional battering. Once you have breast cancer, other stuff looks pretty small.

I have left behind my old self, but it feels more like a butterfly leaving behind a cocoon. This June, I am healed.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

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