So, the thing is…I’m looking for the crucial second rooster.
I waited until I had a really good dose of endorphins before writing this column because it’s about my youngest child, Jane, starting Kindergarten and about this terrible summer we’re having. So, I rode my bike with the new clipless pedals while watching The Road to the Tour, an ode to Lance Armstrong’s cycling. Then I mowed my lawn AND I touched up the paint all over my downstairs –I did all the things I love to do when I’m alone. I jumped into the pool. I feel great.
Except that my heart is kind of, sort of, sore.
Jane will be six in October and she was certainly ready to go to Kindergarten, even if neither one of us was certain of that during the weeks leading up to the start of school. She was seriously stressed, which is very unusual for my sunny little Ambassador to the World. I would have thought it would have been an easier transition, being as how she’s been up at the school for the past three years, saying the pledge and going to the lunch room with my older daughter, Ana. She rode the bus home on numerous occasions, leaving me to race the bus driver, pushing the stroller, so I could get home before the bus reached our house. But it was still a big change for her and the more she thought about it, the more she erupted into what the experts call “Episodes of Acting Out.” *I* call this Scratching Her Name Into the Paint on my Van but let’s not let semantics get in the way of watching Mommy lose what’s left of her mind.
So, it was tough on her. The night before school, she couldn’t sleep. I know this because, of course, neither could I. My angst was somewhat different –I felt like I’d wasted this last summer of Jane’s toddlerhood. (Okay, so she was never actually a toddler (she never toddled—went straight from crawling to running and leaping tall buildings in a single bound) and she certainly isn’t a toddler now that she’s five but I don’t know what else to call the period of time before kids turn into school kids and never crave their parents’ presence ever again.) I spent this summer dealing with some really grown up things like balancing my first summer as a working mom with my last summer as a hands-on mom because it turns out that those summers were one and the same. In addition to all of that, two close friends are getting divorced and another has had a catastrophic health issue.
The last thing has been devastating to everyone who knows and loves this family. Just last night, my husband and I were at one of those fundraising dinner events and I found myself unexpectedly crying as I was talking about it with a mutual friend. I just can’t seem to make any sense of it –can’t seem to wrap what I know about God and the world and good people and families with small children around this horrible, unexpected illness of this very good guy.
So, anyway, I was distracted and suddenly, summer ended (except for the truly unbearable heat) and my little one walked into her Kindergarten classroom in the morning and walked out a school kid at the end of the day. She has the same Kindergarten teacher that my older daughter had three years ago –Ms. Walks on Water, as we like to call her. Jane respects and likes this teacher and, even though the transition to full-time, five-days-a-week, seven hour school days continues, she seems to be adjusting. Each day, she likes it more. She’s in great hands.
It’s not easy.
All summer, my friend Kathy and I have been meeting before dawn to walk the three mile loop around the lake and then to swim in Barton Springs Pool (a toasty 68 degrees year ‘round.) We’ve been meeting so early because it’s been one of the worst summers ever for unrelenting heat –day after day of 100 degree plus weather. It’s beaten us down as surely as it’s beaten the plants and lawns and lakes down to unrecognizable levels. It’s hard to find the optimism that there will ever be a break in the heat. Kathy and I have started looking for signs as we walk. We always hear this rooster crowing along the trail and then we look for the ancient woman who wears the flower-tufted bathing cap at the pool. These two things seem fairly constant. But one day, there was an ancillary rooster –yes, two roosters crowing at us as we walked past. Surely that had to mean something, right? That very afternoon, we actually got about 30 seconds of hard rain! Bingo! We had the trifecta of signs that might herald relief.
Of course, we haven’t heard the second rooster lately and it continues to get hotter and dustier and deader all around us. But it occurred to me that the only way to endure this awful summer is to keep looking for that rooster –to keep hoping for a sign that things will get better, that the blessed rain will come, that Jane will make the leap to happy school kid, that I’ll learn how to balance work and play.
And that our friend will experience a miracle. With so many of us praying and thinking of him and his family, maybe it’s the equivalent of hearing that auxiliary rooster. Maybe all of our voices lifting him up and loving him will be the thing that weighs the clouds down and brings a merciful quenching of our parched souls. It seems like a tall order—to keep looking for hope in the face of the stark limitations of the body-- but that IS the very definition of faith, right? A belief that good things will happen through the power of a community united in prayer and well wishes…
It’s been my experience that just when I’m not sure I can possibly take another merciless day of summer that’s when that crucial second rooster suddenly appears. JB, if you see a rooster anywhere, send a note, okay? We’ll get out the umbrellas and dance in your name.
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(c) Barbara Cooper 2006
Barb Cooper is the mother of Ana (8) and Jane (5). She lives in
and she thinks a long gentle rain could heal a lot of trouble. Austin, Texas