We just can never know what's coming and for good reason. But as I reread my words from last year and I face this upcoming, I wonder how I can make it different. At the beginning of 2016 I claimed the word "concurrence" as my word for this year. Distinctly I remember thinking, "this year won't be one of great change. I will just put into motion the tools I've been given and plow ahead. I will just do well and keep going."
Less than five months later, I am starting a new job and Judah is starting at a new school and I'm panicking a little bit because I had not prepared for this.
Eight months ago, I didn't know I would be here. A couple of dates over the summer, a couple lessons learned, a couple warm nights in the ethereal glow of string lights, I remembered there could be magic and it didn't have to do with a person. This city has magic, as old as it is. I have magic, as buried as it is. There is magic in loud company and cold beer and a common interest. But the summer tried to end and things changed and doors opened and I have since spent six months recovering from just two. The majority of a whole damn year. On a million lessons disguised as one. And I look around and it resonates with me like the car accidents. With the water dripping and the music playing when it shouldn't and all fast motion coming to a stop. Pain, then we are shaken awake. And it's time to be done. A million lessons disguised as just one.
Hindsight has little to do with what I've learned here, except maybe when I was given the word "concurrence" it certainly didn't mean nothing would change. In fact, it just and only meant I was good enough and equipped enough to press ahead. What's coming, He may have been saying, I've already prepared you for.
So 28 came then, and the door was darkened with familiarity, and I woke up to Judah saying "happy birthday!", and my sisters showered me with so much love my heart burst. Repeatedly throughout the day I thought, "what did I do to deserve this? Who am I that they'd celebrate me like this?" Every simple gesture just warmed my heart and my eyes welled, and now my toes are painted red.
I came home after dinner with my family and Judah fell asleep and then I fell asleep and I woke up alone and it was storming. I laid there for a little while, counting Mississippis, and the words of the day scrolled through my head.
Someone's birthday wish for me. After so many years of hope deferred, perhaps this is a year of fulfillment. My mind rolls the word around, because there's so much promise there. Fulfillment doesn't just mean good things may come. Fulfillment insinuates there's been a promise made. An order placed. I've asked for something, we've asked for many somethings, and fulfillment is the act of meeting the request, of "filling an order". Hope fulfilled means there's an expectation and the answer is coming.
Monday morning Judah sobbed. The hurt in his eyes was deep and true and he clung to my leg when I tried to leave him in his new classroom. "Mommy, I want to go home," he cried, burying his face in my shoulder.
All these years I've been doing hard things for us. I've been showing up and making sacrifices and changing plans and shutting doors and doing lots of leaving in order to protect us and keep our heads above water. Only once before now had I asked Judah to do the hard thing, when he had to undergo surgery for his belly. But now it's different. I changed jobs, comparing pros and cons so we could continue a trajectory of progress, of "forward". And that meant Judah had to do a hard thing too. Leaving a nanny he had been with since he was six weeks old in order to start going to preschool.
Two days in a row he clung and he cried and I cried too. I would get reports halfway through the day, "both days he has stopped crying five minutes after you've left. He asks for you at nap. But he's having a great time." My strong, resilient boy.
But on Wednesday morning, after calling our family during the commute and letting each of them encourage and uplift Judah over the bluetooth, Judah and I walked through the parking lot together. Halfway to the door I heard a little girl say, "hi Judah!"
Judah's head whipped around and he grinned, the way only a boy grins when pretty girls use their name, And Judah skipped to school that morning, holding my hand and swinging my arm. At his classroom door he let go of my hand and looked over his shoulder and I blew him a kiss and he walked in alone, straight to a box of toy animals his teacher had set out just for him.
"I know you love animals so I had them ready for you this morning, Judah!"
And she winked at me and I tiptoed away.
All it takes sometimes, I realized then, was to know you belong. To know you've been seen. To know you matter to someone.
That's what makes us brave.
That's how we do the hard things.
Last night a sweet friend of mine told me she no longer wanted to find herself in the "bar scene". She wanted to still spend time with her friends, it wasn't about the alcohol, but she knows what's best for her and her family right now and a club just isn't it.
I wrestled with this for a second, feeling somewhat judged and uncomfortable. Not because of anything she said, but just because I hadn't felt the need to make this same decision. I don't have a problem with that scene. Never have. I don't drink much whether I'm home or out, and since Judah was born I can count on two hands the times I've been "out". My response to her was, "I wish we had a house where we could all spend time together" and we left the conversation there. But I wondered about what I was feeling, until this morning.
I woke up remembering camping trips and bonfires and kickball in the park and feeding each other and togetherness and Tuesday nights and a level of comfort I've found twice in my life but never again.
I did a quick evaluation of my heart and knew the local "club" scene has no direct appeal to me, even though I am not opposed to it. But as a single mom without a significant other, what I miss is company. Diverse, co-ed community. I miss my village. I miss having adults around who don't have anywhere better to be than with you. I miss being able to sink into their company, trust their presence. I miss laughter. I miss music. I miss having a reason to get dressed and get out and pay attention to each other.
Children change our lives. For the better. They are not a reason for community to end or for isolation to occur. Actually they are every reason for those communities to become stronger. And for some, this is how it happens. But sometimes when we shift our priorities we get lost in the shuffle. When you don't have a partner. When you don't have much help. When money is tight, space is tight, schedules are tight. Energy is low. And suddenly it becomes almost too hard to say, "can I come back?" or even harder to try to start again, brand new.
The two or three seasons of my life where I had this depth of community are so imprinted on my heart I am almost brought to tears when I remember them. I am so deeply grateful for those experiences and so passionate about creating similar experiences for my family and for others. I believe we need it. I believe as humans we require it. We need the good noise and the good lighting and the good food and the windows open and the new introductions and the laughter and to be in the presence of people you trust with your children and to walk in the door and have people call your name.
We just need to know we've been seen.
We just need to know we matter.
We just need to know we belong.
May this be the hope, which is fulfilled. May this be the story of 28.