(Part 1 in an occasional series with no particular point or audience.)
Originally published: September 21, 2000
Transitions were never my strong point.
It is September of 2000, and I seem to have been plopped right into rush hour at Transition Central. The trains are speeding by on both sides, people dodging to and fro, whistles blowing, brief cases and oxfords streaking by in one direction while bobbing backpacks and pounding sneakers race down the other, and everyone has a destination. The cars move out, the elevators lift off, the last doors slam shut in the classrooms. Meetings start, lectures begin, coffee is poured, and a million phones get pressed to a million ears as the day begins.
The house is quiet. Far below, the washing machine is churning, soaping up the pee-soaked sheets of the twins; they both wet last night. Nothing new these days. It seems transitions aren't their strong points, either.
The house is quiet. The computer hums at me, daring me to sink into it and really get to work.. I guess I could, but the clock is ticking so loudly I can't concentrate. I'll write a note to myself to get a quieter clock. Where's a pencil when you need one?
The house is quiet. Except for the damn refrigerator. The ice maker sounds like a truck changing gears in our kitchen. And the water dispenser! Now that sounds like there's a minute, fitful waterfall periodically dribbling behind the dining room wall.
Not to mention the incessant, mindless whooshing of the furnace fan.
Churn churn churn. Hummmm. Tick tick tick tick. Grind Grind. dribble dribble dribble. Whooooshhhh.
I'll never get any work done. Hmm. Maybe I should touch up that spot on the ceiling where I accidentally dabbed some paint (is it too yellow after all?) the other day when I was doing the walls. The walls of my office. My office. Where I am going to work. Where I am going to write, now that the kids are all in school. Now that the Transition is transacted, that is. Not that we're out of the woods yet, but things are settling down and a certain sense of comforting routine is elbowing out the panic that was last week. And the week before.
Julian and Gabriel, five year old twins, are in Kindergarten. I braced myself as well as I thought possible, expecting a rude awakening from our benevolent, co-operative preschool to the regimen and sink-or-swim atmosphere that is public Elementary School. The boys followed the textbook pattern of most first-timers; excitement at the novelty of it all for two days, then the realization that life as they knew it was over. There were tears at school, but nothing out of the ordinary, I was told. The much-anticipated perk of getting to ride the school bus went a long way to smoothing their furrowed brows and enticing them back to kindergarten each day. The boys told me about art, music, lunch, PE, and spoke in scandalized tones about the bullies who pushed in line at the playground. As their school is a partial Spanish immersion program, they also came home with heartbreakingly adorable songs in Spanish (Mami, donde esta mi zapato? Debajo de la silla? No, no, no! Debajo de la cama? No, no, no! Ay! El perro se lo llevó! ), their small, expressive lips working to make the sounds just right. At the end of each day, they are very, very tired. I sometimes imagine I see smoke escaping from their ears, exhaust fumes from their over-worked brains.
Over-worked brains. Sebastian, now eight and in third grade, would agree that this is an issue. Third grade, it turns out, is like reform school. Not in the criminal sense, but in the character-building sense. Without any fanfare, or warning, I might add, the ball is dropped heavily and with great resonance, into their laps as their parents take the back seat. Responsibility becomes the most important new concept in their lives. They must copy down their now nightly homework assignments into their home work logs, they must bring it home, do it, bring it back and turn it in, all without being asked or reminded. And they get letter grades, now. And zeros. Sink or swim indeed. These are the big leagues now. Get up, get out, get over it, and get on with it.
Churn churn churn. Hummmm. Tick tick tick tick. Grind Grind dribble dribble dribble. Whooooshhhh.
Where was I? Oh. Transitions. Sebastian's face is about to transition. Maybe not much, but forever. Yesterday, he had a Palatal Expander cemented to his back molars. It is a dainty device, shining with medieval and torturous potential. It spans the palate, making eating, talking, and keeping one's saliva inside the mouth, difficult. I have the dubious honor of getting to ratchet the thing up by one hole, morning and evening. Two weeks, a total of 28 turns of the screw. I'm sure if Sebastian has the secret code, he will have told us by the time this is all over. Then it stays in place for 3-4 months. He will also have his baby lower canines ripped from his jaw next week, and then, in a few more weeks, a mandibular expander inserted in his jaw. Then braces, retainer, thumb-screws, iron maiden...
He also learned to ride a bike last weekend, and is feeling quite wonderful about himself. Transitions are interesting that way. I tend to forget that often they are good and beneficial things. In fact, more often than not, they move one in a positive direction. Why can't I seem to remember that? Especially at 2 in the morning?