When I woke up it was sunny. By the time I got breakfast on the table it was sprinkling and overcast. My son was apparently under the spell of the weather, transforming from happy and cooperative to feisty and unbearable within a 15 minute time frame. He exploded. I exploded. Words were exchanged. We muddled forward.
The walk to school was pensive and gray, filled with big, calmly presented questions designed for my son to analyze his outrageous behaviour. He tried a similar technique on me. I used my superior vocabulary, height and stature as parent to maintain the alpha order. He heard me. I listened to him, giving him room to express himself. Even though there were other people on the sidewalk, bike path, riding the tram or driving up the street, they were rendered background noise as we bobbed along in our own little bubble of recovery.
As we entered the school grounds, our bubble popped, and we were absorbed into a larger bubble–that churning chaos of child energy that crescendos moments before the bell rings. We pushed through the doors with the sea of children and parents around us. Even though the hallways in the school seem impossibly narrow and there is no order to speak of, we all worked our way through the maze, getting to the right classroom, hanging the jacket in the right section while little bodies maneuvered around us followed by their parents.
This press of bodies and jackets and lunch boxes and parents of all different colors and scents used to wear on me, making the morning drop-off seem like a major cultural undertaking. Now that sea of chaos has been tamed by familiarity; I have collected names to go with the faces and shared experiences with them–even if it is as simple as waiting for our children after school, or attending a school event. These daily acts have made some parents lose their exotic qualities. Others are not so easily tamed and remain illusive and foreign to me.
Walking home I became not a mother dropping off her naughty child, but a woman on her way to work. Each step took me further away from the 200 or so children filling the school of knowledge, wiggling in their seats, or passing notes to one another, and closer to the day of work ahead of me. I passed others in business attire on their way to their prospective positions in our shared society.
Once inside the church building, I was completely alone. The silence was both welcoming and startling. A few rays of sunlight shot through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the ground floor gathering hall before receding behind darkened clouds. I started the coffee, luxuriating in its powerful aroma. I walked through the building, checking that all was in order before unlocking the large wooden doors.
Shortly thereafter, students for the 9:30 course started wandering into the building. They slowly gathered around a table in the hall, chatting politely with one another. These are no ordinary students, but seniors between 70 and 80 daring enough to learn about the computer. Perhaps I’m imagining it, but these folks seem different from most senior citizens I meet. Maybe I’m making assumptions about their shared sense of adventure and a desire to learn, but it goes beyond assumption; they think differently about little things; I haven’t overheard a single complaint about the weather or ill-health; I have overheard people making jokes and talking about current issues. I wanted to figure out what the common thread was between these people-who-dare-to-learn so late in life and put it on a spool for my future.
Later, a friend dropped by with his toddler, who emitted another reality of energy into the church and my day. His laugh, his big eyes, the way buttons on machines, such as the dishwasher’s start button, intrigue him. I gave my friend the lowdown on the morning house explosion and he gave me some very wise parenting ideas.
I had a pause between clients and headed to the gym. The sun was out, but I kept my resolve to head indoors for a quick work out. I entered the modern gym. Music pumped through the overhead speakers. Fit people moved in rhythm to the beat. I changed into my work out clothes and before long I was powerwalking on the treadmill, my steps also in rhythm with the song blaring through the speakers: “I’m sexy and I know it.”
When I returned home from work, my husband and son were both in the living room.
“I’m sorry about this morning,” were the first words out of my son’s mouth when he saw me. I had given my husband the low down, and wondered who had been the first to bring up this morning’s emotional fireworks display. When little man tried out some tests (not coming to the table when asked, for example) to see if I was really the no-nonsense mom I seemed to have morphed into, I implemented tips given to me both by my friend who stopped by with his toddler, and my husband’s non violent communication tips. What does this translate to? No dessert as a consequence. Amazingly, the tips were effective, but met with a crying fit and lots of calming conversation.
Now as I sit in relative silence once again, the only sounds an occasional tram or the tapping of my fingers spilling my day into the computer, I realize that over the pond people are celebrating America’s Independence. Perhaps I should have claimed this day as a holiday on the grounds of being American. Oh well. It’s illegal to shoot off fireworks any other day but New Years over here. At least I got one fireworks show today, and a whole stream of multiple realities.
4 thoughts on “Multiple Realities”
Wow, I just love your posts. I am also an American in Amsterdam and found your Blog very strangely from your post about the dutch not using napkins. My dutch husband always forgets to put a napkin on the table when he sets it because he never had them where he grew up in Netherlands. It just “urked” the dickens out of me. Now I love all your bits and pieces about also being a Mom and living in Amsterdam.
I love that you found me through the napkin, or lack thereof! I really appreciate your feedback. It’s strange sending your thoughts out into the universe, but then comments like yours convince me its a good idea to share experiences. I actually live in The Hague, though I had a 6 month stint in Amsterdam when my husband were dating so many years ago. Love it there! Do you blog as well?
“The silence was both welcoming and startling.” I love that.
Thank you Kate.