Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Wake

A three hour wait and a line around the block. That's exactly what I predicted for Matt's wake today, and exactly what it was.

There were beautiful pictures of him, and Frank Sinatra music playing, and so many flowers. His classmates were so loving and supportive of each other. While I was waiting in the picture room to get into the room where Matt and his family were, I saw a senior boy lead a younger boy in to see the pictures, arms around his shoulders, saying, "See? That's not Matt. THIS is Matt. He's right here. He's just how you knew him." It's kind of an amazing thing to be a witness to how teenagers grieve, especially these kids, who, I still maintain, are a cut above the average, all of them. They have their moment of breakdown, and then their arms are around the next one, comforting them. It's graceful. It's authentic.

I attended a workshop on Monday with this big-wig grief counselor who has helped teens through trauma and grief from 9/11 to Columbine and a million things in between. It was designed for parents and faculty to learn how we could best help support the kids. Here's what I learned:

1.) Never, ever say "I know how you feel, because such-and-such happened to me." Say, instead, "I wonder what this must feel like for you."

2.) Offer to talk or listen, but let them say no, I'd rather just bake a pie or watch a movie or chill online instead.

3.) Maintain habits and structure. Don't postpone all of life and let there be a "well of grief." Live - make sure they go to rehearsal, or practice, take their tests and text their friends as usual, and deal with the feelings as they come.

4.) Let them be with their friends, but be there when and if they call.

I watched that last one a number of times tonight. Kids would show up with their parents, and the parents would hang together, and send the kids to find their friends, because they knew that was what they needed.

I went alone to the wake, too late to join the faculty at their arrival. But that was okay. I waited patiently in the endless line, and the kids who needed me would come out, look for me, find me, cry, and then they leave to get ice cream and cheeseburgers. That was just as it should be.

Tomorrow we have rehearsal, and a bunch of these kids who were Matt's classmates and former alumni who knew him from the shows will come and hang out with us when the funeral is over and they are wondering what to do with themselves. They will have a place to go to hang out together, and I will be business as usual, staging scenes, with multitudes of hugs for anyone who needs them.

When I finally go to the front of the line, it was open casket, per Catholic tradition. I think it was strange for the kids, but important for the reality check to know that yes, he isn't there anymore. I reached his mom, and she remembered me right away. She wrapped her arms around me and said, "Matt considered Beauty and the Beast the highlight of his life."


I'm almost ready with my remarks for Matt's service on Friday. I'll publish them here after I speak. Meanwhile, I will teach about the Fertile Crescent and give quizzes on Latin roots and kiss my daughters goodnight and tuck them into bed with hugs and kisses and iloveyous.

Matt's Mom said on TV that there was the part of her that wasn't totally surprised that he was only here for such a short time, because as a person, "He was just too good to be true."

Oh, my god, my friends. Hug and kiss your children, and love them well. That is one of the many important lessons I will take from Matt.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I have been asked to speak at the service for Matt that they're holding at school on Friday. I really can't imagine how I can possibly do him, or the story that I know about him, justice. But I will try. I've been working on my remarks, trying to keep them short and sweet and Matt-centered. (Unlike my rambling middle-of-the-night-second-cocktail Kelly-centric blogs of this past week. Yeah. Reeeeally sorry about that, folks.)

Kids are continuing to have a difficult time, and I am just trying to be watchful and present. We had a full-cast rehearsal tonight, which was good, I think. I love the rehearsals that don't involve music. (Which is sad, considering that this is a musical.)

These kids are so amazing. Loving and supportive and kind and open-hearted. I feel so blessed to be able to get to know them. The wake will be tomorrow afternoon. I hope that everyone does okay, and I am prepared for the three hour wait and a line that snakes around the block. Matt had that sort effect on people. If I see media people, though, I might feel inclined to bitch-slap someone.

People say bad things about teenagers, and they shake their heads at the state of "kids today." But these people don't know my kids, the Amazing Kids, in whose hands our future is not only safe, but inspirational.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Day After

So, I feel sort of silly for posting that after my second cocktail last night. Overall, I just want to say that this kid was an amazing kid, and he was loved by so many people. I just wrote all of that about Beauty and the Beast because that was how I knew him best. That was such a small piece of the whole. There was so much more to him than what I knew. I know that.

I didn't expect that he'd be the lead media story on every station tonight. I really hate that. I hate that the freaking news people hijacked my cast today and interviewed them after rehearsal while my back was turned. I am really pissed off about it, to tell the truth. Not that they said anything bad, but cameras should have been turned on my students, minors, without permission of the adult in charge, which was me. Goddammit.

I am trying very hard to be comforting to my students, to be there for them as they wade through all of this. And I feel very torn. Tomorrow will be a big meeting and they'll talk about him, and everything that happened, and I won't be able to help, because I'll be at my "other job." It's hard to have two separate jobs. I just want to be there.


This is a whole new kind of feeling for me.

I’m hesitant to write it here, because it’s a lot for me to share, but on the other hand, it’s a worthwhile story. My friend said today that Matt had the strength and courage to do something that was worth a good chapter in anyone’s biography. And I’m inclined to agree.

I’m also hesitant to share because my whole blogging conflict is that people are not going to want to know all of this about me. And they’re not going to want the sad stuff because it’s…just a bummer. You don't have to read if you don't want to. That being said, I am swirling with sadness about Matt, but I don’t feel like I have a right to be sadder than other people. So many people were so much closer to him than I, but he got right down in my heart in a way that not everyone does. I can't imagine how his parents feel, his brother and sisters, the friends who walked down the graduation aisle with him just a couple of months ago.

I have been a teacher for a long time. And long before I became a teacher, I had wanted to be one. As a kid, on the last day of school when the teacher was cleaning out the classroom, giving out the half-used workbooks and the soon-to-be-discarded out of date textbooks, I was first in line. And I went home for summer vacation with my arms full, knowing that everyone thought I was a dork for taking all that crap. But alone all summer, I finished each and every notebook page, and every single spelling lesson in a spiral notebook. I was the teacher and the student in that little game. Both.

And here’s what’s funny…that’s exactly what my career has been like. I’ve taught kids things, yes. I’ve gotten them excited about learning, some of them. And I’ve given them all a moment of feeling like the smartest kid in the room, because if they can do it there, in the sixth grade classroom, they can do it anywhere – in the college interview, in the boardroom, in classrooms of their own. Whatever they become. I’ve taught them some skills and some concepts to tuck away for worthy future use.

But, when I think of what they’ve given me, what I've learned from so many of them, I feel unworthy of this job, and so determined to keep on working, keep on striving to get kids to look inside and find the best of themselves, or even the first glimmers of it. That’s what happened with Matt. When he was my student. MY student. And yes, he belonged to many other people, and others worked harder than I did to get him ready for the challenge he undertook, but I know that he trusted me enough to let me convince him he could do it, that he could make us all proud, save the experience for everyone. Yes, we had that much faith in him. Yes, we believed and supported and cheered along with everyone in that brand new shiny auditorium. For that one week of his life, I was the Captain of Team Matt. I am so humbled by that now. And I was humbled then, actually, if you look back on what I wrote at the time. It was the whole "vessel" thing. Right place, right time, ready to listen.

It might seem like it was just a little school play. No big deal. We’re not trying to make O-rings for the Space Shuttle, as my mom would day. But in the grand scheme of the life of a high school student, it’s a Mountain. It’s a Milestone. I know it was for him. I understand this truth, because it’s exactly how I felt. I lived for my high school play. It is, more than any other single thing, the defining passion of my adolescence. The Chapter Titles of the Kelly Chronicles. I became who I became because of what I did there. In my old musty auditorium, where I fell in love and felt worthy and learned friendship and had a lifetime-worth of fire-cracking passions ignited. In the Guild Office. In the UMass SUB. And there is not a significant person in my life, not a single one, who isn’t somehow connected to my theatre experience.

Matt was an amazing person. He had more friends than any other high school kid I ever met. He will forever be a reminder to me of the importance of encouragement and faith. I loved him. I care about all of my students, but I only actually let myself love a few. Everyone in my first class, Dillon and Nicholas and the Amys and Kyle and Stephanie and everyone, but that’s the only time that ever happened. A whole class, I mean..otherwise, it's maybe two or three in a year. The ones who's names you never forget. Sometimes you connect to people, and they leave echos behind, don't you think? In theatre, I think, you have space and sensitivity to allow for that to really enter in. It’s why everyone cries when the show is over. They lament the ending of the Space. The Space is where you feel totally accepted and welcome and understood. Where someone is always waiting to make sure you’re going to show up. Where you have someone to sit next to. Where you can raise your voice, and ring with the person standing next to you. Sometimes in my shows, moreso at this job than at any other, I feel that connection. The show ends and the kids go off and live their lives, and I shift my focus to the ones in front of me, but sometimes, when the curtain comes down and the set has been struck…they echo. Claire, Kenny, Shannon, Alex…but honestly, none more than Matt.

I am so sad today. So, so sad. Seeing what he did when we did Beauty and the Beast can only make me wonder what else he might have accomplished, given the time he should have had. But he was loved. He was loved by a lot of people, and that’s what counts, in the end. I never totally connected to that line in The Wizard of Oz, when the Wizard tells the Tinman: "Remember, my sentimental friend, that a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others." I always thought it should be the other way around.

I get it now.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Also Found... my front seat this morning:

=My radio, which I brought to rehearsal on Monday so I could play the songs during the read-through. Sadly, I couldn't find the CD, so it was a waste.
=The bag with the St. Joseph statue I bought to help us sell our house. It's out now, though, because we buried him upside down in the yard this morning, per instructions.
=Vivian, Andrea's Dad's GPS, which helped me get her to the bus station this weekend, in the most bass-ackwards way I ever saw.
=One black banana. I threw that in the woods.

When I am calm and secure, my car is neat. When my mind is peaceful, only my school bag is on the floor. Right now I am very stirred up.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tales out of School

Because it's fall, and my journaling time is limited, my blog has been more journalish than blog-like. If it's TMI, then don't keep reading.

I just posted that previous piece without a careful edit. And just like last night, when I was feeling all wound up until I wrote my pro and con list, I feel like I have marbles rattling around in my brain. My thoughts are granola wrappers crumpled on the backseat of the car. Oh! That is a metaphor that even Mr. Labonte would have appreciated.

Speaking of that, I will tell you the story of my high school English teacher. And not the whole story, even though it makes this part of the story more interesting. I'll just tell the parts that are mine to tell.

When I was a little girl, I was alone a lot, but I was very rarely lonely. I read constantly, I listened to my records, and I wrote little stories. About rich girls with servants and dollhouses. About animals solving mysteries in a zoo. Eventually, I started to try to write a diary. My father stole and read my diary when I was 12, and disasterous consequences followed. I stopped writing stories, until I got to tenth grade and took my first writing class with Mr. Labonte. I had heard about the class from a friend who was a sophomore and already taking it, how challenging it was on your spirit, how deeply it made you dig, and how much fun it was to figure out what you actually thought about things.

When we started, we wrote little stories and essays. I loved it, and I always got good grades, even though Lisa would stay up all night and get a C, and Chris would get his back with a comment that said, "So What?" until his tutor went to the principal about it.

This one time, I wrote a story about going to church on a Christmas morning and hearing a little girls say, "Happy Birthday, Jesus" to the manger. It was totally true, and for whatever reason, Mr. Labonte loved it and read it aloud to the class. I was so proud. I can't actually remember feeling prouder of anything up to that point in my life, which is kind of saying something, because I had had a cool life so far. Two lessons lingered from that. One, that the best writing is simply the truth. Two, that I had to be a writer. It was my passion.

We had to do foolish things, like diagramming sentences and taking these foolish vocabulary tests that everyone cheated on. Someone had an old answer book and would pass around the answers the day before. Kids would make acronyms or something. I didn't bother with that because I read so much and vocabulary was very easy for me. I was never bothered that everyone else did that. It didn't even occur to me to care. We corrected each other's papers, though, and the other way you could cheat was to cheat for your friend. I'll correct your paper, you correct mine, just make sure I get a B or better. I don't think we every discussed it; it was just understood. I was correcting Lisa's paper, and she was correcting mine. I remember the exact shift in the air when I realized the teacher was watching me erase things on her paper. And I remember the next wave of horror as I realized that the whole class already knew, and he had probably been watching me for a while.

I probably should have been suspended. I probably should have lost my role in the school play. I probably should have been kicked off student council.

I wasn't, though. As I remember it, he lowered my grade a whole grade, and gave me a week's detention. That was kind, now that I really think about it.

Most importantly, though, I learned about integrity. I'm not perfect, but I do try to be good. Well...mostly good, I guess. I'm better at it now than I have ever been before, but that was a major step for me. Knowing I had disappointed someone who thought so highly of me, and knowing that I would have to battle through a swampful o' shame to feel safe to be a writer again, and knowing that I wanted to be better than what I had shown of myself...that sense memory has helped to align my moral compass, I think.

Character is who you are when no one is watching. That's kind of a lot to learn in one class.

And now I'm writing. I'm trying to be truthful, to show and not tell. (Still working on that, as you can see. If the above were an essay I'd be slapping you over the head with a frying pan of a moral.) I'm taking a risk and making connections. Trying to raise daughters who do that, and inspire sixth graders to do that.

The Kelly Chronicles continue to be a work in progress.


My Car: My Brain

So looketh my car, so liveth my brain.

The current contents of the front passenger seat:

=One pair of broken sunglasses
=My school bag, filled with script, journal, hairclips and 72 pens
=A plastic bag full of band-aids from when Abby wore uncomfortable flip flops to the Plaza on Sunday
=A skirt that I need to return to Old Navy
=A purse that I only use when I don’t feel like carrying my keys, cell phone and too-fat wallet in my hands
=A cup-holder size container of spearmint gum that spilled on the seat
The papers from today’s home inspection
=A folder of audition forms from TMM
=The half-drunk coke from when I desperately drove through Burger King after the house inspection, on my way back to school
=A bag containing two books that I owed to the public library, like…a year ago. I think I already paid for them but I really think I should bring them back anyhow. Found them when I was packing.
=The apple bath gel I bought yesterday because it smells like fall

The current contents of the back seat:
=One giant bag of kitty litter that I’ve been too tired to carry in.
=Amelia’s Irish Step Bag, minus the uniform that I forgot yesterday
=One dirty pair of Irish Step socks
=About eleven snack wrappers – granola bars, etc.
=A basket of books and markers and thing for the girls to use at rehearsal
=One pair of spy glasses (the kind you use to see behind you)
=Amelia’s Game Boy with the Supermario cartridge
=One pink sweatshirt
=A box containing two tiny glass unicorns
=A Jersey Boys Playbill

In my CD player:
(title of show) ‘Cause I can only listen to it when the girls are not in the car…too many f-bombs.

I am fascinated by that show Hoarders. Today I am afraid that I am a Hoarder in my car. I tell myself it’s because I’m so freaking busy, and I can’t take everything out of my car when I get home after a 12 hour work day. I clean it on the weekends, though. Doesn’t that count?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pros and Cons - Monday Blues

Cons first, because if I purge them out I’ll have more gratitude space.

Two senior girls told me about how very deeply I had disappointed the, crushed them, and I feel really, really bad about it. Really bad. Like…I should have been a plumber bad.

I forgot Amelia’s Irish Step class clothes. I feel like I’m always the mother who forgets important stuff, like uniforms and dinner. Abby had a bagel for dinner. Aren’t I supposed to be doing something with vegetables??

I was very ineffective at school today. I did not pay the attention that I should, even though I read aloud the climax of Number the Stars and taught about the development of agriculture. Somehow they lost their luster today.

I ate pop tarts and a banana for lunch. I really should not have done that.

I had a very surprising and uncomfortably enlightening experience that reminded me of my age today. Usually, in my brain, I am still twenty-two. Sometimes, an ache in my hip or my knowledge of Barry Manilow lyrics or a moment like today’s come along and remind me that I’m thirty-eight. In When Harry Met Sally, she sobs, “And I’m going to be forty!” Harry: “When?” Sally, sobbing afresh: “Someday!” That’s where I am. I am no spring freaking chicken.

Pros now, and there are more of them, and they are better.

Even though I was too cross with the girls today, I did have a pleasant time with Abby looking at Christmas ornaments at the Hallmark Store and sniffing fragrances at Bath and Bodyworks while Amelia was at dance class. Abby still lets me hold her hand in the mall.

My house inspection is tomorrow and I’m so excited to get to see the new house again. I had to take half a personal day from my job, but it’s totally worth it. It’s really fun to be thinking about that, and I’m very glad to have something that Patrick and I can be enthusiastic about together.

Pam said that at Monday morning meeting last week, they showed a slide show of last year in retrospect. She said there were lots of pictures of all aspects of the school – athletics, academics, arts, everything. There were pictures of both of last year’s shows, and people clapped for them. Then she said they showed a picture of me with my Tree Grows in Brooklyn cast, and people cheered. That made me feel swell, after feeling guilty about hurting some people’s feelings today. I know that some kids are disappointed, but I honestly try to do the best I can, and some people do recognize it.

I got to watch Amelia dance her Irish Step dances, and marvel at how strong and confident she is. She hops through those steps like the music is in her veins, and the fact that she could ever have once been a part of me, yet so completely herself, is awe-inspiring to me.

I came home and Lisa had left this as her Facebook Status: LDL: Laid down tonight w/ each boy & had whispering talks, each so unique. What could be better than being trusted w/these beautiful people? So great when I actually slow down. I thought…damn. That’s my friend. My friends are good parents. I am very lucky. Which led me to the thought that I got the best dad for my kids. My kids are very lucky.

I had a pleasant talk with Patrick on the back porch tonight about various things. I love my back porch, but I am not sad to be leaving it. I hope we find buyers who will appreciate it as much as we do, and I hope that we will create a new Back Porch.

President Clinton is on the Daily Show, and President Obama is coming on Letterman. How I Met Your Mother and the Big Bang Theory both had premiers tonight. I enjoy my shows.

I got a really nice email from a friend today which reminded me that I am very supported in the world. Friends that will offer to help you move are precious and rare.

I’ve got pistachio and chocolate covered toffee from Trader Joe’s in my cabinet.

Yesterday I bought Olive Kittredge, which won the Pulizer Prize last year and is Elizabeth Berg’s new favorite book. I am very excited to read it, especially because suddenly finishing a book like Pillars of the Earth after 1000 pages is a bit like…well, let’s just say it feels somehow empty and anticlimactic somehow. I’m glad to have this new one ready to keep me company.

I am sitting on my couch in my holey UMass sweatshirt, flannel pajama pants, and comfy socks while my family sleeps quietly upstairs. My autumn leaves candle is burning, a kitty is curled up at my feet, and my pillows are waiting for me. I have every reason to feel thankful and blessed, and I do.

See? This is what journaling does. All better now.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More Ramblings. Tired Ones.

So our house is on the market. Someone else is going to come and live in our sweet little farmhouse and it makes me feel so blue. But then I realize that I'm growing into something new, and the sun comes out again. It's time. It's good to feel so sure in that, at least.

Auditions for my fall musical are definitely challenging. I feel the weight of a lot of kids' experiences in this one. I want everyone to have a really great time.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might remember the story of Matt, the boy who stepped up to play the Beast in our show last year. The whole experience was so full of drama and exaltation, and everyone who participated in it felt some kind of little personal epiphany, and none more than Matt. I was so incredibly proud of him, and humbled to have played a part in this boy's amazing growth experince.

And now that boy is very, very sick, and everyone is very scared for him. So in between all of this craziness that's going on right now with the house and the new school year and the auditions, there is this quiet little prayer in my heartbeats for this good kid who deserves a long and happy life.

Even if you don't know him, or don't know me, or don't know that story, could you just send some good wishes/prayers/whatever you call it out in the Universe? Thank you.

Dear Sixth Grade Boys AGAIN

Dear Sixth Grade Boys,

I am so, so sorry that our Nova video today on the discovery of Lucy, the Missing Link, featured a moment of humping gorillas. I totally should have previewed that and prepared you for those four seconds of lusty abandon, but even if I had, I still would have shown it, for the other fifty-nine minutes and fifty-six seconds of the video were actually worth viewing as well. It's part of nature and you could also have stumbled upon it at any zoo, as my daughters could tell you from our visit to the Southwick Zoo this summer.

Honestly, fellas, you're going to have to get a grip, or it's going to be a very squirmy, embarrassing year for you. Which, let's face's gonna be, anyhow. Let's just try to make it as painless as possible, okay?

Your Teacher

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dear Sixth Grade Boy

Dear Sixth Grade Boys,


Homo erectus.

Yeah. I said it. Now get your giggles out and let's get back to work.

Yours Truly,

Your Teacher

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Random Ramblings

Rattling around in my brain today...

1.) Auditions are very stressful for the auditioners, but totally for the casting board as well. It's a lot of pressure to know that you hold so many kids' experiences in your hands. You know that it's utterly inevitable that you'll be making a lot of people cry. I don't like to make kids cry, despite what you might hear from Abby.

2.) Saw Jersey Boys today. Loved it, but I really do wonder why it is that I know every word to every Frankie Valli song. No one needs to know as many song lyrics as I do. Really. It's ridiculous.

3.) Ohmygod I'm going to sell my house. This has all happened so fast, and while I know that a new place with a space of my own - with a space for everyone's "own" - is what this family needs, I still definitely feel caught in a whirlwind.

4.) Before the show tonight, my mom drank two shots and called the manager of the bar an asshole to the bartender...but loud enough for the manager to hear. My mom RULES. She gets more fun the older we get. Going to see shows is her favorite thing, and I need to work on doing that more.

5.) My class this year is off to a very good start. And it turns out that the class I had last year did incredibly well on their MCAS tests last spring and I'm feeling ridiculously proud. Andrea even gave me a cookie for it. :)

6.) I think the Jews had it right when they chose to celebrate their new year at the end of September. I seriously think I was Jewish in a former life. Yesterday I bought an Autumn Leaves candle and a pumpkin latte. Fall is here. Sharpen up those Dixon Ticonderogas and decorate with sunflowers.

7.) This is such a tiny thing, but I entered this essay contest in Real Simple magazine. It was never about the potential of was about setting a goal for myself and following through. Of course, the deadline was last Monday at midnight and I sent my submission at 9:30 p.m. It still counts, though! The question was, "When did you first realize that you were a grown-up?" I wrote about my first year teaching. I was just really happy that I sent something, 7 words under the 1,500 word limit. God, I talk too much.

8.) As I write this, I've got an old SNL from my DVR on in the background. Justin Timberlake and what's-his-name just sang "Mother Lovers." Justin Timberlake is absurdly talented. And pretty.

9.) The girls and I watched Scooby Doo Two - Monsters Unleashed last night. No one should be made to watch that film. Seriously.

10.) It's funny...just as I launch into my busiest time of life, things have suddenly clicked into place with me. All of a sudden, I'm feeling unexpectecly in the flow. I am feeling like everything in my life is exactly where it should be right now. I'm doing the work I'm meant to do, my life is moving determinedly forward in the proper directions, and I am happier, suddenly, than I have been in quite some time.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An Open Letter to My House

Dear Yellow House,

I’m not good at goodbye under the best of circumstances. As you well know, I’ve sat on both your front porch and back deck and engaged in complicated burning rituals merely to say goodbye to kids that I’ve known for 180 days each. How will I ever be able to release you, my darling Home, where I’ve lived and loved and learned for nine and a half years, thousands and thousands of days?

Amelia saw her first Christmas here. We brought her over this threshold at less than five months old. She ate her first cereal sitting in her high chair right in this kitchen with Auntie Lisa having tea beside us. Abby was conceived and born while we lived here, and this is the only home she’s ever known. I nursed both of my babies in the quiet dark in this living room, and I’ve watched many a sunrise through the woods outside this window.

We’ve had thousands of family dinners in this dining room. Patrick and I have laughed, fought, and loved for the biggest part of our marriage in every single room of this house. And both porches, come to think of it. That’s a lot of energy to share. Patrick wrote two books here. I’ve returned to the comfort of this living room after maybe a hundred stressful dress rehearsals, kicking up my feet on the furniture and not at all regretting the rings of my martini glass on the placemats.

I got the news of my brother’s death in this kitchen, while making meatballs on a perfect summer’s morning. My bunny died here, along with three cats. They’re all buried in the back yard under Amelia’s Christening bench. Their energy is here as well.

I’ve cried myself to sleep in this bedroom over matters great and small. I’ve painted words of inspiration and encouragement on the girls’ bedroom wall. We’ve gone from cribs to toddler beds to big girl beds, and now the two are squished in this tiny room. They learned how to be sisters here, though, my girls. They’ve learned how to negotiate with each other during countless nights of bedtime squabbling and secret-telling. I’m afraid it’s been more of the former than latter, but my hope is that when they have a little space from each other, there will be more patience to go with it.

Oh, and the parties! We have the most amazing group of friends, as you well know. Faux Christmases and naughty Tramptoberfests and crazy amounts of champagne and flowing chocolate fountains and chances for all of us to break free of our roles of Upstanding Contributing Members of Society and raise a little hell on the back porch and vicinities. That kind of joy and effusive celebratory laughter will echo here long after we’ve gone, I know. Is there a more powerful or pervasive force to be found?

So, Twelve Westwood Road, there’s been a whole lot of living here. We are so incredibly grateful for the shelter, comfort, and light that you have provided for our growing family. We became a family here, and we will leave you with the vibrations from that journey within your walls.

Because yes, it’s time for us to leave now. We love you, and we appreciate all of these gifts, but it’s time for us to move on. It’s time for all of us to have a tiny bit of elbow room, to have our own spaces under our shared roof to create ourselves in this next phase we’re all entering, each in his or her own way. We thought about adding an addition to you, but after much reflection, we’ve decided not to. Patrick for financial reasons, and me because…well, I know you don’t want us to. I know you want to be just what you are – humble, small, cozy, sturdy. You don’t need any alterations.

There is nothing I wish more for you, Sweet House, than that you find another family who will cherish and appreciate you as much as we have. I hope that you will always know laughter and turkey dinners and tickle-fights and candlelight and jazz music and Spring Cleanings. I hope that children will scamper down your stairs on many a Christmas morning to come, and winds will howl against you as you keep your families warm and dry inside. I hope many delicious leisurely summer afternoons will be passed on your front porch swing and I really hope your new families keep growing roses and lavender and daisies and hydrangeas. You deserve all of those things.

Know that scrapbooks full of you will continue to be a part of our family, and that no matter where else we go, you’ll always be Our First Home. And yes, when I’m feeling particularly blue, or nostalgic, or just when it’s the Day Before Thanksgiving and I’m thinking about baking pies, I might have to drive up to you, and pretend that I just arrived there by accident. I’ll make a very, very slow turn-around on the dead end street, looking way into the back yard to see if there’s still a garden or a swingset. I’ll try to peek through the windows, and I will whisper another little thank-you for just being you, our little tiny first home, and a part of all of us for always.