A weekend away from Philadelphia is kind of a necessity after dealing with the so- called charm of the city for any significant amount of time, but a weekend in the suburbs is way different than a visit to NYC or a trek "down the shore" (which don't even get me started about that saying). A weekend in the suburbs makes me simultaneously feel two ways:
A weekend in the suburbs is staying at a B&B where you make your own breakfast and don't make the bed. It's nostalgia wrapped up in Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. Poke my belly and tell me it's real. It's the cheesy filling of a Tostito's Pizza Roll. It's the whipped coolness of a Starbucks Mocha Frappucino. It's the ethnic diversity you find at Trader Joe's/Giotto's/Jose's. Have I given you enough commercial metaphors yet to get where I'm going with this? I’m not really going anywhere.
It's the kind of good you feel bad about, or the kind of safe that makes you restless. It's what I'm always writing about and can't get away from.
But mostly, it's two things again: it's me and it's not me. It's where I come from, what I grew up with, and what I ran away from. There's strip after strip filled with tanning salons, Smoothie Kings, and Pizza Huts, betwixt big open yards with clean non-city grass and roads without potholes! I made tacos with a seasoning packet rather than trying to get the right mix of spices on my own and I ate prepackaged guacamole rather than mashing up fresh avocados and it felt just fine. Because, really, I ate tacos which is the same thing I would have been doing in Philadelphia, or in New York, or pretty much anywhere I could have gone.
The point is I love tacos? Absolutely! And maybe that regardless of the location, or the ingredients, the company (and the air conditioning) makes all the difference. And I guess also that vacations are always about food. That’s not it.
There's a characteristic of suburban sprawl that can make every town seem just like every town you've been to before. It's the boring version of Invisible Cities, lacking the mystery and charm of ancient cities and landscapes that most people only see on each month's calendar image. And I think that's what strikes me the most when I step away from my city footprints and revisit any town similar to the ones I grew up in: the wanderlust, the dichotomy of needing to feel safe yet wanting to explore beyond myself and the places I know so well. Going "home" only makes me want to see more.
All my pillows are in a garbage bag in my attic. My blankets are up there too, along with all my dry-cleanable only sweaters and my winter coats, because March fooled me again. I’m sleeping directly on my mattress, with a sheet and comforter, or I guess trying to sleep. Because it was. It happened again. It was lice.
Did you have lice as a kid? I never did. My first experience with this plague was at 24, not even two whole years ago. I jinxed myself writing that last post, I suppose. Never again will I call an “urge” an “itch.”
My body is a petri dish, where germs and bugs and anxiety come to thrive. Growing up, my family affectionately (or at least, I hope affectionately) referred to me as “Sick Girl.” I was sick on every holiday, birthday, or major event you could imagine. I had strep throat so often, I’m pretty sure amoxicillin should have just been on permanent hold for me at the pharmacy. But guess what: I’m still Sick Girl. Or Sick Lady, maybe? One of the things people tend to say when you start teaching preschool is that your immune system is going to be out of this world. What they don’t tell you is that in order to obtain that out of this world immunity, you will be sick. All. The. Time. Yeah, sure, I probably won’t get the flu virus that was going around last year, but this year’s is almost surely going to hit me. Because I am at the forefront of germs. Kids don’t stop getting sick. Germs and viruses and bacteria don’t go away, they just change as we become immune to them. As we adapt, the germs do too. So every time something new is going around, one of the kids is going to get it. I’m usually the next in line.
I’m not sure how much more I can take. Five days ago I had bugs crawling in my head. I’m the girlfriend that probably gave her boyfriend lice. I’m the reason he shaved off his beautiful hair. (R.I.P. beautiful hair.) Last week I learned about something called rectal strep. Have you ever thought about how similar your butthole is to your throat? It’s an image I wish had never entered my head. My anxiety is building, to the point where I constantly feel like I’m walking across a tiny thread stretched out between my bed and my place of work, and the only place I really feel safe is tucked away under the covers, or at least three beers in.
All I’m really trying to say is: be nice to teachers. Because the kids often aren’t, and the sicknesses never are. They just keep coming and coming and coming, like the Energizer Bunny of runny noses and violent coughs. And if you’re a hypochondriac like me, it’s hard to feel safe around those bacteria soaked monsters (I mean children, of course). Soon I will escape the germs. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
I’ve got an itch.
It’s for some sort of change. Well, really, it’s for drastic change. It’s to grow up, to figure myself out, to treat myself better. It’s an itch for immediate change: to feel happier, more energetic, more satisfied, more self-disciplined, stronger instantly. But then, in the back of my head, I’ve got another very simple, very stupid itch.
I’m looking at my unfolded laundry, shuffling through old notebooks, and sipping on my third cup of coffee. The clock reads 9:16, and I just have an itch. I’m not going to scratch.
Being an adult is hard though, right? I’m terrible at it, and yet my job is to take care of little people who are okay with yogurt and snot dripping down their faces, of little people who will ignore you until you lie and say, “I’ve got cookies!” At work I get to build with legos, color, and dance. My job is mostly to play, and when it’s not, my way of handling drama may not be as “teacherly” as some might prefer. I’ve told a little girl to push someone back after being shoved a few too many times. I told a child in the midst of a breakdown over his toppled lego tower that “things fall apart, and you have to rebuild them.” Sometimes I tell kids not to touch me or talk to me... at all... for the rest of the day. But! All that aside, the kids call me a “grownup” so that must mean I am. Do other grownups still call their mom every time they get sick, too?
I spend my days caring for a gaggle of other little people. When I come home, the last person I want to take care of is myself. Where’s the person that’s going to do my taxes and take my garbage out and bring me seltzer when I’m sick and buy me new shoes when my old ones fall apart? Why do I have to remind myself that a box of Cheez-Its and a bottle of wine for dinner is not a good idea? There should be someone to do that for me!
Strangers tell me that there’s “a special place in heaven” for me, that I’m a “saint,” that I must be “so patient” when they find out that I work with preschoolers. There’s not. I’m not. I’m definitely not. Teaching young children is not a saint-worthy occupation--we all lose our tempers, we all yell and say things that we shouldn’t, we ignore fights between kids and let them fend for themselves. There are mornings where I throw temper tantrums about getting out of bed: real life tantrums, kicking and hitting the entire time I’m getting myself dressed. Don’t reserve some special spot up there in the sky for me, I just want a vacation. Because I’ve got another itch.
It’s to smoke a cigarette and it’s to shave the hair off my head. It’s to pick up and move far away, or maybe to buy a house. It’s deciding whether I want to wake up and go for a run in the morning, or just to sleep until my five minute warning. It’s to start applying to schools and to give up eating meat. It’s deciding between a childhood dream, a new hobby, or health and dental insurance. I can’t sort out any of my own thoughts clearly enough because I want the same things that I do not want. I’ve got an itch that I can’t quite place. Because people have stopped saying things like good job and when you grow up and take your time; because people ask a lot of questions. I want to scratch, to gnaw away in my head until I get down to the very bottom of it, the most basic of basic, the essentials. What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you do for a living? What’s your career path? When are you getting married? Have you thought about kids? I’ve got an itch. Someone hold onto my hands.
heavy heeled when walking; heavy handed when pouring a drink