This morning I went out to get the paper and was struck by how plain our front porch looked - barren, even. But why? There was the porch swing, the horseshoe chair... and then I realized: my flowerpots were gone.
I peeked around the corner -- still two cars in the driveway. Hmm. I was hit by a moment of deja vu. Two years ago, also on a Sunday morning, I'd stepped out to find Will's car gone although he was most definitely at home, mummified by layers of sheets and blankets. I'd interrupted his sleep to ask him, casually, "Did you park somewhere different last night?"
He'd rolled over, instantly awake. "WHAT?"
Today, I wiped my feet on the mat, calmly walked down the hall, and located Will beneath tufts of the comforter. "Um, hey, Will... did you move anything off the porch last night? Maybe because of the rain?"
He rolled over and groaned. Not again.
He pulled on clothes and we stood together on the porch, which was decidedly bare at second glance, and I allowed myself a few minutes to morn the loss of my flower pots.
Not that they contained actual flowers (or any plants really; I lack the commitment and responsibility needed to keep either alive). But they had beautiful, filigreed metal stands and last spring, in a spurt of renovation fever, I painted the terra cotta pots a glossy shade of chocolate brown, then sponge-painted over them in black so they looked antigue and, well, cool. Martha Stewart, eat your heart out. Then I "planted" them with willow branches in a mixture of potting soil and landscape bark. They were beautiful; they made me happy every time I stepped onto my porch -- happier, I was suddenly convinced, than a car could ever make me.
Inside, Will and I studied Baxter gravely. How could a dog with a ferocious howl that alerts us to everything else in the neighborhood (passing cats, neighbors watering their lawns) and sleeps a mere five feet from the front porch have missed this entire occasion? Perhaps out of guilt, Baxter declined his morning scoop of food.
Later, I went online to fill out a police report. THESE REPORTS ARE NOT INVESTIGATED, a pop-up window reminded me.
No problem. I don't expect a manhunt or anything.
I just want it on record for when I spot the planters on someone else's porch, park my SUV down the street in modern Nancy Drew fashion, and insist to the police dispatcher that I've got the "perps" in my "sights".
Yesterday, I left school after two periods and made it home just in time to enjoy the stomach flu in the privacy of my own bathroom.
Monday, I taught six classes, stopped at Walmart after school to pick up supplies for a school event on Friday, attended a neighborhood association steering committee meeting, took B for a walk, shopped for a suit for Will, typed out committee minutes and fell into an exhausted sleep.
Sunday was Mom's birthday party.
Saturday was the wedding.
Friday was an all-day event with 400 first to fourth graders in blistering heat. I was home by 3:30 and asleep by 4.
The last few weeks have been spent planning for the event, guiding twenty-three seventh and eighth graders to make posters, bring materials and arrive at the assigned place at the assigned time.
Then there's teaching my Language Arts classes, including some literature I've never read before, much less taught. There's grading and grading and grading.
There are the weekends where I sit at Borders with my laptop and hate myself for not being able to write a word. There are queries sent out and library books returned because I didn't even have time to crack the cover.
Then two funerals, two weeks apart.
There was August 16, when I started teaching full-time for the first time since 2007.
There was August 9, putting on my new suit and telling myself I could do this, I could be bright and well-spoken and as impressive in person as the resume I'd turned in a week ago.
There was my graduation party - the last time I remember relaxing. And four days before that, three weeks of traveling in New York and Boston -- and Maine, where I workshopped part of my novel, gave a reading and presentation and walked across the stage.
From June 8 to July 8 I taught summer school/dodged bullets/graded crappy half-assed papers/tried to hold it all together. Then packing, delivering a disappointed B to my sister's house, driving to the airport, dozing fitfully on a red-eye flight to Maine.
On May 27, I finished my novel, sighed, breathed, felt happy and empty all at once.
STOP. Is it possible that this was the last time I was happy, the last time that life wasn't pushing in on me from all sides? Is it any wonder I've been exhausted, disconnected from my friends and colleagues, unable to read a book from start to finish (well, I did read The Corrections in a listless five-week span), barely able to construct a sentence? There must be a way to find balance -- to find equal parts down time and "on" time, to be goofy, word-loving private me as well as the busy, polite public me.
If only I could split myself into two people and do everything well. And then maybe the real me could just walk away from the other, imposter, Paula. Walk or run.
Paula Treick DeBoard