Dear reader, I'll be taking a break from Tollipop for the next several weeks. I do think it's a little unnecessary to make such a formal announcement, but I also worry people might check in and wonder about the next update, and by people I mean my little brother.
I recently purchased a pair of reading glasses which bore out the adage: you get what you pay for. As they were not terribly expensive, I suppose I shouldn't have felt swindled by the fact one lens very quickly established itself as a non conformist and refused to fit in the frame.
Luckily, I got over my grievance in record time with the discovery that by popping out the other lens, I was now in possession of an accessory which makes me look as I've always aspired to look: like a stern and forbidding librarian.
Roger is a bit incredulous I would humor myself in this way and while I do see his logic, I'm more taken with my own--that if one small, granted silly whim can afford such secret happiness, then perhaps it's worth the slip in decorum. Perhaps I got more than I paid for, after all.
I've been cleaning out the studio lately, making room for a piece of furniture which came to me recently through my mother's estate. Its presence is bittersweet, bringing an association of sad memories which I'm trying to amend. Combined with the general upheaval in the house brought on by putting Christmas decorations away, going through Sophie's things, and changing bedroom arrangements upstairs, I'm left feeling more disoriented than usual.
This is a time of transition for me...and by transition, I think I mean confusion. I'm still needed at home, or at least to be available at any given moment, but with the greater stretches of free time which are also coming along, I find myself wondering if I should do something more with my time.
Should I go back to teaching? Could I ever consider myself a writer...as in, an employable one? I read over the current draft of my novel and feel increasingly out to sea. Though I haven't yet charged a battering ram at the fortress of the publishing industry's door, the few times I've knocked have been politely refused.
It all looks like shadows at the moment, with no clear vision revealing itself before my eyes.
I came across this photo while organizing the studio. The weird thing about it is I can almost remember the exact moment it was taken, how Caroline wriggled in my arms, how Izzy was wearing sunglasses in the dark. I was on my way to a wedding reception and felt anxious about leaving the girls with a sitter.
I can't quite account for the stretch of time between then and now. It all feels like one fluid whole.
People ask how I'm doing with Sophie being gone and I don't think I've quite managed to realize that, either.
What am I trying to say here? My head feels a bit crowded today.
The good news is Sophie has gotten off to a great start at BYU. She loves her roommate, loves her classes, loves her teammates...her schedule is rigorous and she seems to be managing well. I spoke with her the other night and she seemed so happy, happier than I've heard her in quite some time.
When I think of that, my head feels more clear. Sometimes, when I'm feeling unsettled and can't determine why, it helps to focus on one good thought.
I won't say it helps to wear a pair of fake glasses, but I can't discount how it makes me smile when I do.
Over the weekend, Higgins passed away. I could kind of see it coming, though it was hard to discern whether he was truly on the wane or proceeding through life in his usual, delicate manner.
With Higgins, I never had to worry about calls home from school: Come get your mantis, Ms. Tollipop. He pushed his way in line.
Or: Come get your mantis, Ms. Tollipop. He just said a bad word.
No, with Higgins, it was all calm seas and smooth sailing. Not a cloud on the horizon.
Except for the fact he didn't particularly care for my company...but that is a trifling concern! Hardly worth the mention! I was never one to foist myself upon his presence, mind you, unless you count my penchant for dropping in unannounced whenever I found myself in the vicinity of his pied-à-terre, even though he expressly stated his wish for me to make other arrangements.
When I asked what he meant by "other arrangements", he made a face as if I'd squeezed too much lemon in his tea and muttered something beneath his breath which I could not distinctly verify, though it sounded very much along the lines of: Go away. I don't like you.
But these are not the moments to dwell upon when recalling one's rich association with a dearly departed friend! Nor should we summon the memories wherein he flinched from my touch or raised his forearms in that classic mantis threat pose which is typically interpreted to mean: get lost, but I determined to take in good humor.
He was, after all, a sophisticate in the most extreme sense of the word. So I could never be sure whether he genuinely loathed me or if he was merely being sarcastic, wherein telling someone you can't stand her is actually a very complicated way of expressing hidden admiration.
Deeply hidden admiration.
Never let it be said I failed to give Higgins every benefit of the doubt!
That sentence stares at me from the screen, leaving me blank in terms of what to add. I can say I'm deeply grateful, excited for her, and filled with the peace which comes from knowing God is near and over all. But I can also say these past few weeks have been shaky in unexpected ways...feeling fine one moment and then, without warning, plunged into an awareness of impending change, of something so dear and elemental not quite leaving, yet still dislodging from its usual place in my heart.
As we drove to Utah, however, I felt calm in much the same way I felt while driving to Canada to visit my dad in the hospital...it wasn't an innate calm but rather one which came to me through the kindness of others, through friends who remembered me in texts and emails, thoughts and prayers.
That awareness made all the difference. It was like an ocean wave propelling me forward, lending strength, grounding me in the goodness of the moment, assuring me this could be done.
If you are someone who happened to wish me well during that time, I'm telling you: it worked.
It helped that I got to spend time with my sister while we were there.
It also helped that Sophie's excitement to begin this new chapter of life was nearly palpable.
Throughout the weekend as we set up her dorm room and walked around campus, purchasing textbooks and locating classrooms, I was reminded of Sophie's very first day of school when she jumped out of the car and started running down the sidewalk, her enormous backpack dangling from her shoulders. I was struggling with my emotions, struggling to get Caroline out of her carseat, and felt aghast my little girl would take off like that without me. Didn't she need to hold my hand? Didn't she need me to walk her into the school? Didn't she need me to be her shield and protector??
I called out, my voice catching, feeling both ridiculous and panicked at once. Sophie turned around, her eyes wide and face bright, exclaiming, "Oh, Mum, I just can't wait to see what's ahead!"
I've reflected many times on that moment, as it has been a template for Sophie's life. She is independent, forward facing, and engaged. I've spent the last seventeen years trying to catch up.
And so we are all moving forward, as there seems to be no alternative. I don't think Izzy and Caroline anticipated the reality of the situation until it was upon them; it didn't quite click until the last actual hug. It was a tough moment, but I see their relationships will grow in new ways, with added appreciation. The house feels different now, the dinner table is set with one less place. Winnie is more loved than ever, especially, I think, by my husband.
Yesterday I went for a run in the desert. With all my acknowledgements of faring well, it felt uncommonly good to face the sun, breathe the air, and fling myself into the middle of nowhere, to feel the old, ancient magic which has always beckoned me out of doors, into my secret places to be alone, wild, and free.