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Recreating a Life September 30, 2007

Posted by Amy in Uncategorized.
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It’s been kind of a hard semester so far, and now I’m scrambling to figure out how to make life go a little more smoothly. Summer was full of kids and travel and moments of sibling rivalry which left me wondering if we’d make it through to September, and I think I went into this fall needing a break already. (Next summer? The city-run daycamp at the local park is where H and J will be for a few hours each day. We all need some respite from each other sometimes.)

Anyway, coming into the academic year feeling frayed around the edges has meant I’m doing some refiguring. What can I drop? How can I make up for lost income if I drop something that pays? And so on. More than anything, how can I have the time and energy I need to supervise homework with three kids without losing patience and keep the house semi-together and food in the fridge when the amount of food eaten daily is kind of amazing now that H and V especially are clearly GROWING boys while still doing my paid work well? And then there are lunches and laundry and so on…

I think part of what’s got me down right now is 1) teaching freshmen for the first time in a year–hard to come back from teaching children’s lit and older, mature students and have to start thinking like a newbie. All kinds of basics, like cell phone etiquette and getting rid of the seat-time mindset are needed, and I’m doing my best, but it’s definitely a bit more of a drag than usual. Three of my four classes are freshmen, so I’m spending most of my work week in that world. Large class sizes–five more students per section than when I first started teaching–suck, too. 2) Watching baby nephew once a week is wonderful, but it makes me want to slow down to watch him more, as his dad did for us when our kids were babies. So I’m feeling torn.

However. My kids all have teachers they’re learning a lot from, teachers we’re thrilled to know are passionate about teaching, and school has been relatively smooth going for all three of them so far. The weather is beautifully cool and colorful right now; my hydrangea is producing all sorts of last-minute blooms, the pink roses are consistently colorful, and the magnolia tree is blooming like mad. And the mysterious shrub next door is perfuming the air as it does each fall–our neighbor says she came across one of these plants in China and knew she had to have one. So glad she does!

Getting Older Without a Role Model September 25, 2007

Posted by Amy in Uncategorized.
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I watched the movie Away From Me last night, and I realized, watching it, how rarely we see older people on screen just living their lives–without plastic surgery or major makeup or hair dye. Julie Christie stars in it, and she’s as beautiful now, with snowy hair and a deeply-lined face, as ever.

I’m 36. My body is the body of a woman who has carried two babies to full-term and spent a full year in the first trimester of back-to-back pregnancies (the first ended in a miscarriage). It’s the body of a woman who spent six years breastfeeding.

It’s the body of a reader, of someone who thinks exercise is a brisk walk. It’s also the body of a woman who reached my full height and current bra size at age 12.

I’ve been finding gray hairs lately, and the crow’s feet I had at 20, due to fair skin, sun exposure, and a dislike (which I’ve overcome) of sunglasses, are more and more apparent. I get “ma’am” from the grocery store clerks on a regular basis, and my eighteen-year-old students don’t need to be convinced, as they did when I started teaching at 23, that I’m an adult.

And mostly, I love this. For years, I’ve gazed at silver-haired women at Trader Joe’s, looking forward to the day when I would join their ranks. (Side note: Why is it only Trader Joe’s where I see older women I’d like to look like someday? Never at Savemart or Target.)

But I’m a little lost right now. I’ve had moments of feeling invisible. I’m not used to it–it happened without my noticing. I had to get used to visual attention in the sixth grade, when I was wearing a DD bra and had long blond hair. I was just a kid, but I suddenly received the attention of teens and adults. I hated it for a long time, and then I got used to it.

Then I had kids, and any attention paid to me in public tended to be aimed at my children. This was mostly wonderful, as I’m shy, and having children seemed to provide this bridge to conversation with all kinds of people.

But now my children are all in school, and the person I see in the mirror is plumper, with shorter, darker hair and a few more lines. It’s taking some getting used to, and it surprises me that this is so. I wonder if my lack of role models plays a part; after all, both my mother and grandmother have had multiple plastic surgeries, from breast augmentation after motherhood to facelifts and eye work. My mother is 22 years older than me, but right now, she and I look like we’re close to the same age. My grandmother is 80 and looks 60, maybe. Neither have gray hair. I love them, and I know some of the complex reasons why they have spent so much time and money on looking young. I don’t envy them the experiences and emotions behind those surgeries and hair appointment. But I just want someone to look up to, you know? Someone to show me how to grow older honestly and gracefully.