Tuesday, February 18, 2020

February Week 3: I'm Good.

A list of ten things I like about myself. I am not modest and this was easy.

1. I'm game for whatever

Want to go to a bar where they open champagne with a sword? Ok. Can you help me move? Sure. Here try this squid. Mmm. Let's tile an entire retaining wall with student-made mosaics. Yeah! Come with me to Chicago/the cemetery/the high school football game/the bar/the storage locker/the Social Security office/the concert. I'm there. Try this craft. Yay.

2. I meet people where they are

I am really good at not assuming that someone comes from the same perspective as I do. I find this is something that other people do not do for me very often. This makes me good at negotiating and working with children and adults with all sorts of abilities and backgrounds.

3. I am a very, very good teacher

I am. Even in the midst of what I do now, which is essentially test, test, and retest children who have already plateaued at age 13 in the middle of a dumpster fire of a failing school, I try my best to bring in good teaching. I want to be good, and I feel bad when I know I've phoned it in. These days, just showing up is good teaching where I work (and larger than that, in a nation that values teachers for their cheapness, not their expertise).

4. I have central heterochromatic blue and yellow eyes

My eyes are my best feature and they're weird. Less as I get older--the yellow and blue have blended more in the middle, but I still like my yellow ringed pupils.

5. My house is very clean

I thought I was bad at this. I'm not. I was just fighting a losing battle against a hoarder in a house constantly in the cycle of disrepair - try to repair - fail to repair - hire to repair - complain. Now I have a clean tidy well-repaired house.

6. I know how to do a lot of things

I really do. I like learning things, but some things I know at a deep level. Like quilting--I asked a friend about her grandmother's quilts and she finally cut me off and told me I was too specific, that she didn't know the answers or even the terms I was referring to. I realized last year that I had become the husband I wished I'd had, but I'm also good at grandmother skills.

7. I can be your cut man

November 2013 Text Conversation:

Me: I'm in your corner. Talk anytime, good night 
John: Bridge you are not only in my corner, you're like a cut man
 Me: What's a cut man? 
John: In boxing your face swells. Your eyes blow up your nose gets broke. A cut man's job is to push out the swelling. Seal cuts with salve and open your nostrils with ammonia to keep you in the fight. 
Me: Gah! Too many details!
John: LOL There will come a time when I have beaten the tar out of life and you will know. Your effort, your time, your investment won't be for nothing.

8. I have never pushed my children to have the same activities, profession, hobbies, or interests as I do.

Maeve loves theater and dancing and singing and tried wrestling and lacrosse. Sophia is likely going to work for the Forest Service or some such as a wilderness first responder and a forester and plays piano and did Irish dance. Leo plays volleyball and video games . None of them knits, sews, quilts, or plans to teach. This is good.

9. I wear a size 10 or 10.5 (US) shoe 

This means I get a lot of fun shoes on clearance and men's running shoes and boots and whatnot are within my reach.

10. I'm a great friend to go out with because I will laugh and cry and drink and eat cheesecake with you all night and my hair will always look worse than yours and I've come to accept this.

Monday, February 10, 2020

February Week 2: Old Lovers

I want to write about five Johns I loved and lost. I have written about all of them separately but here they are wrapped up together.

1. My longest-lasting-never-coming-to-fruition high school crush was a John. He always had a girlfriend but I was in all his classes junior year. I thought I was over him but then we drove together across Texas at the beginning of senior year. I was still just crazy enough to take the seat in the middle between him and his new girlfriend. They broke up by the end of the weekend retreat but John never so much as asked me to go out dancing. I finally asked him, and that was the last time I ever asked anyone out anywhere. He was polite but declined. 

2. My last high school boyfriend was a Johnny, not a John. Typical ADHD gifted nightmare. Our socioeconomic differences were hard to overcome and his childhood trauma even harder. I was too young to handle someone so fun, so broken, so much not fully realized. We broke it off when I came home after freshman year. He was still a busboy, not in college. I couldn't wait for him to figure it out (he did).

3. This John was 11 and hurting and I was his teacher and I wanted to put him in my car and be his superhero. I lost touch with him for three years and he called out of the blue. More radio silence for a solid decade and I find him on Facebook. Two months later he's living in my house and everyone in my life is like WTF BRIDGETT. It was complicated and I doubt even my closest friends understood any of it. We had two good hard summers together, then fleeting contact here and there. I hugged him goodbye outside the emergency room and I knew it was our last goodbye, I knew it with my whole self. He wrote me from jail one time in pencil. I still have the letter. And then he died. 

4. John, Fr. John this time, I fell in love with this man completely and irresponsibly. He had eyes the color of my son's, was as gay as a priest could get away with, sung show tunes from the pulpit, and one Holy Thursday after a long Lent, I went up to have my feet washed and he did so, kneeling in front of me, and then kissed the top of my foot like it was the two of us alone in that church with no one around. But I wasn't shocked by the gesture, I reveled in it. I needed that kind of intimacy and we were great friends, outlasting his move to another parish and almost surviving my divorce, until the week my daughter was in the PICU and he didn't come through for me in any fashion. He broke my heart like no lover ever has. I don't even have his phone number anymore.

5. And John. As in, the john. As in, the bathroom at my old house. Most specifically, not the john, not the toilet, but the bathtub. Six foot soaking tub with nickel plated claw feet and pristine porcelain. Oh I miss it. I now live in a house built in a more sensible era with a sensible modern tub. But love isn't sensible. And I miss that tub.

Monday, February 3, 2020

February Week One: Misdemeanors

Small confessions are best. Little things we do that perhaps are sins, perhaps are just bad judgment, and perhaps are merely figuring out how to get by in a world that often doesn't help folks get by. Small things. Misdemeanors and omissions and slip ups and tiny little private revenges. Those are the best. Mistakes aren't so much fun but little ways to even the score warm my heart.

Like when I would forget my fork for my lunch a few years back and take a plastic fork out of the cup my co-teacher brought in "for her use only." As if I was going to use up all her forks. Instead I just used one. And wiped it on my jeans each time and put it back in the cup. For her use only.

In my high school it was against some ridiculous rule to step on the school shield that was unwisely placed right inside the front doors to the school. Large ficus trees and rotating plants cradled around the shield to remind us to walk around. Walk around! The fat priest would yell out at us, sweating on his neck as he pointed, his arm flab wobbling around. Then when I was first in class but not picked to be valedictorian, I told the priest what I thought of him, and seventeen year old me walked to the front doors of the school and jumped up and down on that damned shield, each flat footed landing like a gunshot down the hall.

I got bought out of my teaching contract. It was at the end of a very long month that started with my moving into my parents' house and navigating what it was like to only see my kids 50% of the time. I was bought out of my contract--ironically for things I DIDN'T do--and my parents were in Europe and I didn't tell them and I would cry myself to sleep. Then came the day when I was going to go clean out my classroom. The vice principal and my old partner teacher (not the one with the forks) met me there on a misting Saturday right near my birthday in October. I started packing up and Jenna would ask, "Are these yours?" and the answer was always yes. Yes. The books, the manipulatives, the fucking magnetic name tags on the kids' lockers, the compasses and pens and pencils and crayons and paper clips and yes it is all mine. I took it all home to my parents' house and sorted it all, mine and not mine, in the alley. I threw away almost everything, nearly filling a dumpster. And then I slapped some of those magnets on the dumpsters up and down the alley: Doug, Ava, Tim, Madison, all the little white brat names. They were trash, the school was trash, it was all fucking trash. Eventually the city spray painted over them like they were graffiti. Obliterating them.

Our favorite Irish (big on the -ish part of Ir-ish there) pub shut down and we tried another one--it was  local chain of a few locations that shut down its heart, its original place. I never trust an establishment that does that, forgets its roots. At some point in the dinner conversation I started to cry--but I cry a lot and it wasn't that big of a deal in the end, considering I don't even remember the reason--and asked the waitress to bring us two shots of an Irish (real Irish, not -ish) whiskey we liked. She pretended she didn't know the brand. She went to the bar and came back and said they were out and she could get us another appetizer or some bread? We realized she thought I'd been overserved, the teary blotchy faced girl, when in reality I was only one beer in and had finished a burger and fries. We paid the bill and left out the back door. I stole an umbrella and it wasn't even raining. It's still in my car.


Monday, December 31, 2018

December 31: Happy Things

I hate New Year's Eve.

I'm a teacher, so I don't even think in "years" the way normal people do. The year begins in late August and ends at Memorial Day. June, July, and early August are time to take stock, heal up, learn new things, experience life, sleep, hike, camp, and then it starts again. The idea that the year ends today and starts new tomorrow is ludicrious.

The year takes two and a half months to end and begin again. It must gestate. Cocoon. A countdown and a kiss at midnight is not enough to mark the end of one and the start of the new.

But here is the way I will end it:

Last year, last fall and winter, I was living at my parents' house and in the process of divorcing. I had recently been let go from one job, which, as a teacher, is a devastating thing, a career ender. My kids were angry and sad at alternating intervals.

This year, I have moved into my own place. The divorce is final. I got my master's degree and my job, although often crushingly hard, is well-paid and my boss likes me. My kids are less angry and less sad. I threw my first party. The squatters are gone, my neighbors see me, and I am standing on my own two feet.

That's not a bad year.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

December 30: Happy Things

My father was mean to me on Christmas Eve. He spent the evening sniping at me and I realized by the time we were opening gifts and he was graceless there too, that this is how he always is. Sometimes it is tempered with vague positive feelings towards me, but since the divorce, that hasn't really happened anymore. I have three siblings and he makes fun of them too, but Christmas Eve, it got harsh with me as his only target.

We drove home, my kids and I, Christmas Eve, only an 8 minute drive, and opened gifts around our own tree in my own house. And then I went to the kitchen and cried, just a bit. My children went to bed, they were leaving in the morning to go to their dad's house and down to Cairo to my inlaws for a few days, it was late, there was no time to spend together that late at night, try to linger and make my heart feel better.

It wasn't their job anyway.

I am not going to be that parent. I am not going to lean on my own children to try to make up for something I'm missing in my heart. I am going to take every criticism of my parenting that Sophia gives me (freely, her hand open, so many suggestions!) and work to be better. I am going to have fun with my kids because I don't want Sophia to be sitting in my house on Christmas Eve in her 40s and taking her family home to cry because of who I am. And never coming back.

I will not be like them.

My youngest sister brushed it away, saying this is how he always is, it's terrible but that's the way it is, that's the way they were raised and so they don't know any better, even now. Even when we are all adults trying our best. Even if I'm mysteriously divorced and Ian is a recovering alcoholic who woke up one morning and became a teacher, even if Bevin works at a grocery store and Colleen never learned how to drive. We are a mess, and yet we are adults and we deserve better.

So my resolution this coming year is to unhook my life from theirs as much as I can and to continue to throw off the bowlines tying me to their harbor. It isn't safe and it isn't what ships were made for.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

December 29: Happy Things

Christmas is over. My brother is back in Texas, my kids are back from visiting Mike's family. For most adults, life goes back to normal.

Not me.

My school district doesn't return until January 7. How I wish we went back on the 2nd or 3rd and instead got a full week off BEFORE Christmas, but I will take the days either way. My kids go back the 3rd and I get just a few spare days of my own.

I already know I will squander them on naps and Netflix.

Friday, December 28, 2018

December 28: Happy Things

I am so grateful this year has brought me back to blogging with Linda, Dona, Kate, Susan, and Helen most of all since she isn't on facebook and I'd lost touch with her. Getting to meet Maureen and Kim this way and read about their lives as well has enriched my own.

I don't want to stop.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

December 27: Happy Things

That wonderful little party I had last weekend?

My priest friend, the one I used to be so close to, the one who didn't visit Maeve or even text me while she was in the ICU, he and I had talked about this party the last time we'd gone to coffee in October.

I sent him an invite. He's a party kind of guy. Loves to make people fun drinks and laugh and talk and sing. A no brainer way to interact with him and try to rebuild our friendship. He wrote back asking if this was my parents' party or was this at my new place? (My parents used to throw one every year and I took their spot for this year). I confirmed it was mine, at my new house.

He didn't write back.

He didn't come.

Maybe he was visiting a friend in the hospital.

He just gave me the freedom to move on.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

December 26: Happy Things

I think the squatters have moved out. The blankets have been taken down from the windows and yesterday afternoon I saw Andryia Ciaccio (I know her name now, and names have power, ask any sci-fi fantasy reader) walk out the front door with her arms full of crap, yelling at the young man in the car waiting for her.

They drove away.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

December 25: Happy Things

I threw a party on the 22nd and lots of people came from different parts of my life and Leo had three of the friends spend the night and it was my party on my turf with my people and even though its just a start, it's a start. The next day a couple of them, parents of Leo's friends, told me what a great time they'd had.

It was exhausting to throw a holiday/graduation party three days before Christmas. I've never thrown a party in the evening before. The only gatherings I've had have been post-baptism cake and punch affairs.

This one was alcohol and appetizers and people brought wine and homemade egg nog and people stayed and talked to each other and laughed and drank and shared the time together.

My old house I shared with Mike, I was always so ashamed of it, how dirty it felt, how things never felt right in it. I was too embarrassed to have a party. And that realization makes me sad to think of it.

But Trisha, who was once my very best friend, but who has kept her distance for the past several years for many hard reasons, hugged me goodbye after staying longer than she'd planned and said, "this place works, you work in this place."

Monday, December 24, 2018

December 24: Happy Things

My cute little Tudor Revival has a huge stone hearth. A non-functioning fireplace but it has a gas hookup....maybe one day when I have extra money lying around. But this stone hearth demands attention in a way that my delicate Victorian mantels did not--the ones in my "World's Fair" (1904) foursquare house were fancy and beautifully carved (or in two cases, likely pressed--they were always meant to be painted).

My current mantel isn't delicate. It stands on its own two feet and does things for its damned self.

The former owners hung a flat screen TV above it; my TV is in a cozy basement ratskellar (as old St. Louisans refer to those little dens or rec rooms). I could hang one above this mantel but it would detract from it like vinyl siding covering up the red brick on the outside would.

So I hung my bows above it. And decorated the fuck out of it for Christmas.