Weekend Wanderer: Are We Going Back to School?

personal growth for all

I once had a boyfriend who borrowed $400. He broke up with me before it occurred to him I had more paychecks coming.

Months later, I saw him at a club. Jammed together in that mosh pit we – reluctantly – abandoned the mosh pit and a quite excellent cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

We grabbed a table. We chatted. Like we were friends. Like we were in each other’s lives. Like anything was more important than Nirvana.

Neither one of us wanted to be at that table. He didn’t like that he owed me $400. I didn’t like his persistent belief William Faulkner had piloted the starship Enterprise.

And as long as we’re talking here, pal – we both know who you are – I didn’t like your belly ring, either. It takes a certain kind of guy to pull off a belly ring. Dave Navarro maybe. Or Johnny Depp. Not you.

Anyway. Life with my kids has become that table – it’s awkward, no one wants to be there, and we’re waiting for last call so we can get on with our lives.

In this case, last call is the first day of school, less than three weeks away.

If it takes a certain kind of guy to pull off a belly ring, then it takes a certain kind of mom to be all things for her kids, daily, for two school years.

Kids, for their part, were not built to get lectures on the Treaty of Versailles from the same person who entreaties them to change their underwear.

But that’s exactly what’s been going on since last March. We have warped Teen Spirit – our little group may have always been, but then the world became contagious. So, oh well. Never mind. We’re at the end.

Well, really that should be “Nevermind.” But Grammarly and my editors don’t like it when Nirvana invents words, and they don’t care I think Nirvana should be allowed to write whole dictionaries.

Back-to-school information has begun to trickle into my e-mail.

But with the ever-dire Delta variant numbers and pieces like this in The Washington Post, I’m getting twitchy. Like my $400 was within my grasp the night I ran into that boyfriend, so is a regular school year.

Will that school year be as slimy as my boyfriend, slithering off without even buying me a drink?

It’s possible.

Everything back-to-school-related seems to have an asterisk next to it, like when a true-crime show tells you details have been changed. We’re going back to school, but we don’t know about masks. Things will be normal, but we’re not using lockers. Here’s your school supply list, but your computer is the most important thing you’ll need.

And speaking of school supply lists, I just shopped for my middle schooler. The grand total was $332.56. My old boyfriend could have picked up the tab with the $400 he owes me.

This all makes it sound as though I’m counting the days until school begins. I am. And I’m not. I will mourn my kids’ absence when they head off to classes. But I want to mourn their absence. This is, after all, as it should be. Going to school is normal.

I used to enjoy having my kids home.

But as the great Mr. Cobain said, I’m worse at what I do best. I love parenting, but no one was meant to parent this much for this long. It’s hard to be happy about something that’s not natural.

Like belly rings when you’re not Johnny Depp.

Another piece in The Washington Post details our renewed reluctance to make long-term plans. We just don’t know what will be. I filter through requests for my schedule by pleading for time. Let me get the kids into school. Then I’ll know what I can do.

I’m a planner, so this limbo is excruciating. If I had any ability to just let things be, you wouldn’t be hearing about a boyfriend who borrowed $400 before Johnny Depp ever played a pirate.

Writing for The New York Times, Tiffanie Graham talks about caring for herself as we grapple with the pandemic. She likes crossword puzzles – something to occupy her mind, to keep thoughts from spinning out of control.

I’m taking a page from her book. I have decided to brush up on my high school French. I downloaded an app. A few minutes each day apprendre le francais – learning French – to keep all the “what ifs” of another aberrant school year at bay.

A “lifetime plus” membership to the app is $299.99.

Hmm. I know who could pay for that.