erin f. wasinger

stories of discernment, community, & other hard things

Consequences of a commute to school (that’s not carsickness, I promise)

The sounds of the neighbor’s air conditioner, a cardinal’s cry, and a big yellow bus’s “pfssht” all congeal in my last-minute dreams during those minutes just before I have to get out of bed. Those sounds are native to Alpha Street at 7 o’clock on any weekday.  

Our windows are open, the blinds are up. From our bed under the window sill, I prop my chin on the pillow to watch the world awaken. The bus turn on its flashing lights to stop. Neighbors start cars, dogs bark. A minute later, I abandon my post to brush my teeth in our attic bedroom’s half-bath.

Usually, I think about my kids sleeping downstairs. How they were supposed to be on that particular bus; how the Lansing school district assigned them to that route as late as last month. How I put that letter in the recycling bin.

That letter was our latest “Instead.”

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Coming a little closer to the fire

We were grilling when our friends called: their daughter had a 104 fever and they needed help. I set my six-month-old in her bouncy chair, kissed Dave, and drove to their apartment about five minutes away. Taking the stairs two at a time, I arrived at their door ready to save the world. Or, um, to help my friends.

I remember feeling so proud of myself for no longer breathing shallowly when the smells from a half-dozen nationalities’ cuisines filled the hallway. (Tumeric? Coriander? Ginger? Curry? All?) So proud of myself that this refugee family, these newcomers, had called my family. I know people from Burma: I thought that a lot back then.

In their tiny apartment, the mother held her lethargic daughter while the dad showed me the tiny bottle of infant painkiller he’d brought from Thailand. “Hot,” her mom said. “Hot.” Very.

They knew what I knew: she needed a doctor.

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Checking in on a neighbor …

I hadn’t seen the neighbor behind our house for a few days, which is rare because she’s got this garden she’s been tending for 40 years now and she’s always pruning, weeding, transplanting. When the humidity is 107 percent and it’s 107 degrees, the 80-some year-old woman is still out there, picking up leaf by leaf, placing each into the yard-waste bag.

Louisa and I took a walk today with the dog, loping past our neighbor’s house — no sign of life. I was a bit nervous about ringing the bell (“Hi, are you trapped under something heavy?”), so I noted which curtains were open and that her recycling can wasn’t out, and we walked home.

In our driveway a few minutes later, dread held me from going inside. “We’ve got to go back,” I told Louisa. We locked the dog in the house and traced our steps around the block her house. The same curtains were open; the house still was quiet.

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Bonus post: ‘The Year of Small Things’ cover

Of my four children (stay with me), two are at school. One is eating Froot Loops. The other …

Is on Amazon.

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The kids are always all right

“I don’t think I can make it,” my four-year-old said, perched aside a steep sand dune. The sand was soft and our feet dug into the mini-mountain in an effort to cleave, lest we fall to our deaths.

“Lou, we’re literally at the top.”

It was true. I stood not three feet above where she sat, red-faced and in her bathing suit. Two more steps and she’d be there with me, looking at what I saw: blue sky, such blue sky, and hills, mountains of sand. Miles and miles of dunes. I turned around and caught a view for the first time.

All I could muster was a breathy “Wow.”

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On becoming — namely, their becomings

 

My kryptonite: anything to do with the last days of school. The pictures in front of the school. The teachers getting teary; kids doing the silent cry in the parking lot, their used-up workbooks clutched to their chests. Teachers and kids doing a spirit tunnel-clap-out thing for the classes to the song “Celebrate (Good Times),” which I hate 364 3/4 days of the year. Graduation parties for kindergartners, a group of 25 children at an age generally best left to the professionals.

kindergarten graduation

Kindergarten graduation: toxic levels of cuteness.

The looming reality of spending weeks upon weeks with siblings who scream at each other that “I’m ignoring you until YOU DIE.” At 7:30 a.m.

Gets me every time.

How the kids have grown and what they’ve learned is evident. Evidence of my own change is only obvious in that vaguely older countenance and all the miles put on the car shuttling them to their out-of-district school.

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St. Paul and his old stories

My four-year-old asked me to spell “Oshkosh” for her the other day. We moved from there a few years ago; it’s a common enough word in our house, I suppose. Weird, but so are kids. I went with it.

“O-S,” I said, waiting for her. “S is like a snake, like this.” I drew one with my finger in the air. She copied it. “Then H.” You get it.

“Look! I spelled ‘Oshkosh’!” she said. She held it out to me: “I miss Oshkosh.”   

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I keep no fewer than 754 items on my coffee table at one time.

Bull-oh-knee, sister.

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