Saturday, January 20, 2007

Time marches on

Tonight friend of ours came over, bringing their two sons. How amazing two watch their oldest and Gavie share the oversized sketch book and make blue circles on their respective pages. How fun to hold their youngest, who will be one on Gavie's fourth birthday. The seven of us sat around the kitchen table and shared pizza. Us adults talked about the excitingly mundane: insurance, taxes, work. We joked, too, of course, she and I playing "I knew you when."

She knew me just as the big guy and I were buying our first house and just starting a three-year road to conceiving. I knew her when she and her big guy were just starting to date, just taking those first steps into committment. Naturally, I teased the hell out of her.

We both started at VADU the same year. I left the following June, fleeing to higher education. I've had three jobs since. She'd still there. (Believe me, I'm saying that with admiration!)

Time marches on. Eight... or is it nine?... years now and our little boys are making friends.

When they left, we happily picked up the chaos that a three and two-year-old leave in their wake. We love washable crayons and berber carpets, for they let boys be boys. Plastic bins let us toss trucks and Fisher-Price Little People in haphazardly and with ease. In all, it was a whopping five minutes. I've never been a particularly fussy woman when it comes to Gavie. True, I have issues with letting him out in public in mismatched outfits or his favorite but well-worn sweats (never!!), but I've yet to flinch when it comes to messes made in the pursuit of fun.

Growing up, dreaming about families and kids, I never really knew how much I'd love these nights. They aren't exactly the most exciting -- no dancing, no crowds, no late nights. Stumbling in at 3 a.m. was never my way, I don't think I've ever done that. The last time my friends and I went dancing, in fact, I left at midnight and didn't drink a thing beyond a Pepsi. Living the wild life, which according to the media is the way to go for someone of my youth, was never quite my thing. Still, sitting around talking about insurance was not something I ever gave much thought to.

I'm looking forward to doing it again.

We're watching Cars right now. I'm sitting on the couch, and Gavie is bundled under an afghan. He's falling asleep, slowly. Louch that he is, he's fighting it. Like his father, he doesn't seem to require much sleep. In about a half hour, after he's completely out, I'll carry him upstairs and relish holding my baby. He's getting so tall, too soon I won't be able to carry him. Even now it's getting tricky. When I read to him, he's too lanky to hold on my lap. Balancing him and a book no longer happens. Actually, just cuddling on my lap is becoming a challenge because he's all arms and legs.

In pictures he looks older then almost-four. My baby boy now tells me he can do things all by himself. He wants to do everything by himself. "By myself, mom! All by myself!"

We finally got our family portrait taken. It's hanging over the fireplace to the left of the wedding portrait. To the right is Gavie's third birthday portrait. He's standing there with a smile on his face, unguarded. I can see his dad's features in his small face. He's his dad all over again -- though he inherited my nose.

"All by myself," he announces daily. By the minute, it sometimes seems. When he tries to prove that he can do things by himself we often have to run interference between him and a number of everyday household items that almost-four-year-olds aren't quite capable of handling alone. You know, like emptying the Dustbuster. Operating a screwdriver. Putting hand lotion on the cat. (Well, trying to anyway!)

"All by myself." My baby's growing up. It's going to be a heck of a ride, I suspect, whatwith his tendency to have an answer for everything. He may look like his dad, but he sounds like his mom.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Welcome, daughter, home returning

Welcome, daughter.

As I wound my way up the hill, taking that familiar turns with ease, I couldn't help but smile. Little Michelle, who used to be scared of her own shadow, was driving to orientation so that come Saturday, January 6, she could stand before a room of countless strangers and talk about long-dead cultures and political bodies.

One resolution realized: return to Seton Hill to teach.

The phrase that I titled this blog with was the welcoming phrase for alum weekend over a decade ago, when SHU was SHC and the population was "predominantly female." The welcome stuck with me all these years, then came to mind as I made that final turn and Admin came into view.

I felt as if I truly were coming home. The Hill where I spent my post-secondary years was indeed my home, where I came into my own.

I thought of my room Brownlee Hall -- one of the "infamous" triples, where three women were crammed into a space meant for two. I had the loft. That year I was a typist on the Setonian, and I had a won a role in a one-act play. I met boys and men and played an awful lot of pool.

Life on Fourth Admin, short as it was, a learning experience. I'll say no more on those two months save that I learned how to get up, shower, grab some toast and juice, then roll into class in under a half-hour. I became the Setonian's Production Editor and ate too many Eat-n-Park Smiley Cookies.

My one-and-a-half years in Havey Hall, the one with a woman exactly like me but completely different. I drove her crazy with my procrastination, being the antithesis of her organized and proactive self. We had a sink in the room and thought it the lap of luxury. The Setonian became my life as I was named Editor -- so much so that the big guy bet me that I couldn't go a week without talking about it. I think I nearly bit my tongue in half to do it, but I somehow won the bet. The pool table was still a looming figure in my social life, which was easy to understand being that it was in the Havey lounge.

My final year in my then-boyfriend-now-husband's old room: 526 Canevin Hall. My own room, nary a single roommate, but neighbors who made life quite pleasant. Another year as Editor. Peace was made with the former perfectionist roommate, which was easy once we weren't living together. During Senior Week, a number of us women sharked at the bars we went to. Not too many men thought that a bunch of giggly college girls knew which end of the cue to use, let alone how to sink those solids and stripes just so. We got a lot of free food and drinks that week.

I student taught that year, taking over a ninth grade history class where a young girl threw her books out the window, brought in her pet newts in her purse, and set her desk on fire. (No wonder I'm so calm in the classroom when someone tells me she just got out of jail for trying to murder her stepmother. I don't panic. I just ask if she's planning to do that to me.)

Four too-short years for this Setonian girl.

Welcome, daughter. Welcome back to your window seat in third Maura solarium, where you would sit and wait for the big guy to get out of Spanish class. Welcome back to Lowe Dining Hall where your mother-in-law works and where your son is known by everyone there. Welcome to where you learned to define yourself by yourself -- rather then by others' ideals.

Come Saturday I'd be the teacher, standing before the class... not sitting in the ancient wooden paddle desks where Lori carved her love for Blaine. Those desks, by the way, are just about gone. Replaced by tables and cushioned chairs. The few podiums we had are now sleek black ones that house an amazing amount of technology.

Western Cultural Traditions, WCT for short, is no longer a survey course taught to the entire sophmore class at once. The auditorium-style lecture that I remembered has been replaced by small groups. There are no longer different lecturers each week -- just the teacher. That, incidentally, would be me.

Did I ever mention that my first degree was history?

It's a testament to my education at SHC that I am able to walk into a room and teach history for nearly four hours, despite being out of the history classroom for eight years. As I prepared for the class, it all came back to me. Dead kings and ancient maps were as fresh in my memory as they were fourteen years ago when I was sitting in those blasted paddle desks and reading the graffiti'd history of generations of Hill girls. Somehow I retained much more then I thought I had.

It's a testament, too, to that same education that I've been able to make the transition from high school to business college, and now to the university, classroom with little difficulty. You see, Saturday went swimmingly. Over-prepared and quite confident, I managed to hide my nerves and come across (I think!) as if I'd been standing before a room of undergrads for years.

Standing in 228 Maura, in a room that was once tiered and now not, in a room where I watched student government elections and dogged the student reps with questions on accuracy and ethics, I did it. I stood and lectured and oversaw groupwork. I fielded questions without blinking or breaking a sweat. I made them think.


Me, doing that. Wow.