I think this has been the longest stretch without a blog post from me in more than 15 months. Overwhelmed is an appropriate description of my current status, the length of my traveling finally caught up with me, and flying directly from Missouri to South Carolina, via Newark last Wednesday, to attend my son’s graduation from Boot Camp, just about finished me. This past month has been an emotional roller coaster for me, difficult yet powerful, and the truth is, I just couldn’t sit down and even begin to make sense out of any of it until today.
For those who follow my blog, which is really about life and creativity and how they parallel, please bear with me while I share photos of a huge event in our lives, because this is one of those times as a mom, that emotionally I am all over the map. And it directly impacts how I see everything else right now.
On Thursday, my husband, my daughter and I attended what is called Family Day at Fort Jackson, SC. We met in the stands and watched as smoke bombs filled the air and the 1-61st battalion marched through the smoke, my son’s company came through first, and they proudly marched onto the field for the ceremonies. There were almost 1300 graduates, one of their largest classes in a long time. I have never been so proud.
After the ceremonies, we all met our soldiers on the field, and there probably wasn’t a dry eye in the place, and this was the best hug I’ve ever experienced in my life. I never wanted to let go.
We spent the day wandering around Fort Jackson with my son, ate in the mess hall, tried to understand speech that is peppered with acronyms (you don’t go on ‘a group run’, you do an AGR), saw my son’s quarters, where he actually made his bed and his locker was almost tidy. He took us to the area where he did his PT (physical training) and gave his sister fitness pointers. His shoulders are so broad from all those push ups, and he looks so well and focused and happy. After spending the day with him, I understood that this is the life now that my son has chosen, and he is in essence “married” if you will, to the military, and my work here is done. I knew I needed to let him go and follow his dream. And it is hard. He said to me at one point, “Mom, do you realize I spent the last 10 weeks learning how to kill people?” As hard as it is for me to understand and accept that, becoming a soldier and fighting for this country is his choice and I am so proud and happy for him. And he still sings, although his voice is hoarse from all the cadences, he still sings constantly, when he wakes up in the morning, much to the annoyance of everyone he bunks with, and he is still Eric, just grown up.
We got through graduation on Friday, and then we were allowed to take him off base. It was interesting to see how difficult it was for him to walk out of boot camp into civilian life and know how important the structure and discipline of the military is for him and how well he is trained. He flew to Oklahoma, Fort Sill, for his artillery training, he is training to be a fire support specialist, and he will be there until the beginning of May.
Meanwhile, we flew home Saturday and I began to play catch up, unpack, try to find my house, it was under there somewhere, and begin the reentry process.
I started by cleaning the lowest level of the house, which was my son’s room in the basement. Can I say that cleaning the room of a child who has left for the military is as difficult as it is cathartic? Each little piece of him I held and dusted, and occasionally rolled my eyes over, and then carefully replaced it . It was an emotional couple of hours, and I was completely ready for a big bottle of wine!
After no less then 10 loads of laundry, completely scrubbing the kitchen, downstairs bath and den, the rest of the rooms are on the list, and getting everything ready for my husband’s birthday, I felt like I had just come out of boot camp myself, armed with a fire extinguisher, and all I did for the last 48 hours was put out fires.
I knew when I agreed to teach an 8 week class at the Newark Museum starting today, I’d regret the timing, and of course I was right, but I agreed, and I did my best to go at it with a happy face. I was NOT, however, a happy camper when I was informed I had to come in three hours early, thus taking out my morning, to meet with the HR people to file all my paperwork to rehire me as an employee at the museum. It of course took all of 15 minutes to do, leaving me with almost 3 hours to kill before the class. I was NOT in a good mood. I was introduced to the instructor from Studio 3, Lorraine Niemela who was teaching a watercolor class, when she walked into the director’s office. When I left the office, still NOT in a good mood, she asked politely if I might want to join her watercolor class to kill some time. I was really sort of speechless, and about to kindly decline when I thought, stupid me, I am NOT in a good mood because I have three hours to kill and a gift was just dumped in my lap and why wouldn’t I go and join the class. It took her about three minutes to set me up with my own little table, and a tray of watercolors, and a brush, and there on the big table in the center of the workspace were some lovely primroses. I smiled. And I dove into the watercolors. I’m not very good with watercolors, I don’t get the idea that you need to work quickly and begin with the light, and then go darker. I keep wanting to add a touch of bright, or white, or pastel and you can’t do that once you have something dark on the paper.
Still, what an amazing hour, and it was just what I needed to clear my head, get me centered, and moving in the right direction.
I finished up, with still an hour to kill, and I left the museum, and headed over to Halsey street to a hole in the wall fabric store, that’s been in downtown Newark for years, and poked around to see what sorts of things they had, so I could tell my afternoon students about a good local resource. It is convenient to know that Halsey Fabrics is literally around the corner if they need thread, linings, zippers, or some lovely fabrics.
Then I stopped at the most adorable little cafe, called Art Kitchen, in the back of Newark Art Supply, where tables were set around walls of paints and brushes and art supplies, and you could order all kinds of panini’s and smoothies, and there was free WiFi, and I felt suddenly free, and happy, and back to center, and very very grateful for my 3 hours to kill. What a gift today was, and when it finally came time for the class, I was delighted to find three of the four students had taken a workshop with me last fall in the same location, and I loved all of them, and I was really really happy I did commit to teaching this eight week class. This is the kind of class where I’m challenged constantly, and I get to really test my skills and knowledge, each student has their own agenda, involving garment construction, and my role is there as mentor to make sure it happens.
So I’m back, and actually in NJ for the next two weeks or so, before heading out to California and a conference there, and slowly my house is getting cleaned, and slowly I’m getting control back over the things I care about, and now it is time for a well earned sleep. Stay tuned.