I’ve been saying a lot of goodbyes lately. Not see-ya laters, really, but farewells--the probably won’t see you agains. To people I’ve known for more than three years now. That’s longer than I’ve known my current roommates, my boyfriend, some of my close friends; that’s also more than half of the people I’m saying my goodbyes to’s lives. Yes, I’m talking about kids. Yes, they’re going to kindergarten! And yes, it’s time.
Some of us have been over each other for a while. They’ve outgrown me and our school and the younger kids to follow. I’ve gotten to my wit’s end with their newly found love of sarcasm and know-it-all-ness. But these goodbyes are different than ones you would have with people you’ve had relationships with for three years. They’re going to forget me.
This year is the toughest of the three I’ve been teaching at this school, because these little nuggets were my first group, the only ones I’ve seen the whole way through school. In three years they’ve grown out of diapers, learned how to draw superheroes and ninjas versus scribbles, and finally understand the difference between a question and a statement. I’ve learned their habits and characteristics, their flaws and shining moments, just like they know me and my habits, and my likes and dislikes. They know my moods and the things that really tick me off as well as many of my family and friends. They know I don’t like peanut butter and that I like to sit in the blue chair at lunch. They remember when and how I broke my foot almost two years ago, and they harass me about having a boyfriend regularly. They know that singing “Party rockin’ in the house tonight...” is the fastest way to drive me insane. We have inside jokes and rituals together. All of those things they’ll forget.
I’m not saying I won’t forget, too. I will. And then I’ll hear a name I haven’t in a while, and I might think of one of them. I’ll think of Cars 2 and remember Graham’s frustration that someone had Cars-themed diapers and he did not (the injustice!). I’ll give someone the “I’m watching you” gaze and think of Caleb. A text message full of emotions will flash me back to naptime with Pirjo, and summer barbecues will remind me, always, about how Lorena called me Jayne Watermelon.
These little people spend more time with me than almost anyone else in my life. Forty hours a week, every week, for three years adds up to 6,240 hours. 6,240 hours of tantrums, hugs, and whys. 374,400 minutes of drawing, dancing, and singing. 22,464,000 seconds of love, frustration, and laughter that they have given.
Our goodbyes are for good. And I’m proud of them: they’re so old! They’ll visit, for a while, but you never have quite the same bond when they come back--catching up with six and seven year olds is a relatively one-sided conversation, and the familiarity of spending every day with each other fades quickly. They replace you with new friends and teachers and activities and knowing how to read, and you replace them with new kids in diapers. So it goes.
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.
Have any of you guys come to the inevitable mid-twenties decision that it’s finally, really, actually [going to do it this] time to get your shit together? I’m talking like you’ve spent the last eleven or so months laying around with your boyfriend smooching and binge-watching Breaking Bad and Scandal, smoking pack after pack of cigarettes and drinking bottle after bottle of tequila, putting off that whole finding a new job thing and then all of a sudden it’s the beginning of summer and you’ve got to find a new apartment, find a new job, arrange travel plans to go wish your grandfather a happy 90th birthday that requires renting a car and driving across the state, start getting back in shape AND quit smoking but also realizing that although you have to do all of this, you have NO CREDIT? Cause that’s what I’m going through.
Here’s the thing: some of it’s great. Forreal. I haven’t smoked in three days. I’ve gone on three runs and completed about three hours of yoga since Sunday. I feel great (minus the nicotine cravings that get really intense on that trolley ride home)! I’m getting healthy! I’ve also eaten an entire bag of gummy bears and gulped so much seltzer down that my body is approximately 90% sugar and bubbles right now. Baby steps. Oh, and that apartment thing: I’ve got a great one, one to share with the person I love, one to make into a home; if only the landlord would send over that lease. Again, baby steps.
Here are the downsides:
But that’s the thing. Summertime I want to drink and eat crappy hotdogs off the grill with my friends, and cigarettes go hand in hand with that. I want to spend my weekends hiking or swimming or visiting my family, and applying for jobs and credit cards is a drag.
You might be thinking, “Hey, Jayne, getting your shit together is never fun,” to which I would agree. But summer’s a whole different enchilada. I got spoiled as a kid. Three whole months off just to ride my bike around and go to the pool and eat french fries every day? Never having school on my birthday?! I mean, DREAM TOWN. So I know I’m complaining about nothing new, like usual, and most of the time I’m content enough with the maturation process. Today, I’m just craving a bit more youthfulness. Any of you got any hints at growing old with grace?
In the meantime, I’ll just be sitting in my floppy straw hat on the front porch, waiting for Peter Pan to show up with some elixir of youth. That’s how it works, right? Fifty bucks a vial, no wrinkles for awhile.
heavy heeled when walking; heavy handed when pouring a drink