N: good luck in making unexpected and fortunate discoveries
In 1994, an employee in the toddler room at the Montessori school which my son attended put my son on a chair in the hallway outside of the director’s office. He had not yet turned three. She went into the office to call me. My secretary told her that I had gone to Chillicothe for a deposition, but that both she and her co-worker, my assistant (slash) best friend Alan, had authority to attend to my son. The school’s employee denied my secretary’s entreaty for information, even though my emergency contact list included her.
Five hours later, I arrived at the school to find my son asleep on the cold tile near the chair in which he had been left. He had been unattended for the entire afternoon. The reason for his ouster (at age two-and-a-half) from the classroom had long since been forgotten, at least by my son. He rubbed his tired eyes and said, “Hi Mommy. Is it time for lunch yet?” A plate of congealed macaroni sat on the floor beside him.
I took my son out of that school. Thus did we come to Purple Dragon Daycare, a magical place at which my son would learn to read and write before his fifth birthday and try unique and amazing foods, such as borscht and artichoke. Magda Hellmuth, the school’s owner and a truly grand human being, cared for her thirty-charges in loving, measured ways. As one parent remarked years later while we stood outside of classrooms at a local Catholic grade school, “Perhaps we made a strategic error, sending our sons to the best educator whom they’d ever encounter, before they even got to kindergarten.”
Through Purple Dragon, my son and I also found the Taggarts. Katrina, Ross, and their children Jennie, Caitlin, and Chris became the family-by-choice which Patrick and I desperately needed. Mona Chebaro and her son Maher rounded out the set for us. Every holiday, each birthday, the highs and lows of our household, became bearable, even enjoyable, because of the Taggarts and the Chebaros. We picked blueberries, went Trick-or-Treating, bought and buried pets, and enrolled in the activities of childhood that a single disabled mother could never have navigated alone.
When I went to the hospital, one of those families cared for Patrick. We took the boys on vacations, built a beach in the backyard, and created Halloween scenery on our front porch with the same crew at hand — Patrick, Chris, and Maher, weekend after weekend. You rarely saw one without the other two.
At Purple Dragon, we also met Abbey Vogt, and her parents, Paula Kenyon-Vogt and Sheldon Vogt. These amazing human beings have my heart, all these years later. They know why.
A few days ago, I drew a sweater over my shoulders which Caitlin Taggart Perkins gave me for Christmas at the Gathering of the Usual Suspects in December 2016. I pinned a brooch to its lapel. I stood in front of my little heart-shaped mirror. I can’t understand how a woman whom I met as an eight or nine year old girl. could evolve into someone with such keen instincts that she can still nail the perfect Corinne gift.
I don’t miss the cold, or the struggle of taking care of a house alone. I can live without the pressure of solo practice and the painful reminders of shattered dreams. I like California. I’m thrilled to be an hour from the ocean, living in an adorable tiny house, in a wide green meadow, beside a sweet little stream, just steps from the San Joaquin River.
But sometimes — just sometimes, when the Delta wind rattles my window, and I catch sight of my aging reflection, I remember the whispering children on the upper floor of my airplane bungalow. I hear Katrina’s brisk tread on the steps, and Mona’s lilting accent over the sound of running dish water. I hear the calm murmur of Paula K-V, and Sheldon’s clever jokes, which he’d intone with a twinkle in his eye and a carpenter’s pencil behind his ear. I’m not complaining. But sometimes — just sometimes — I miss my tribe.
It’s the seventh day of the sixty-third month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.