In spite of the cold, there were many reasons for leaving Raven Street this winter, mental health being chief among them. Because who can stay home with only the company of three small children all day every day? So I go out with children when it’s not too cold, and sometimes when it is. And I leave by myself sometimes even when I think I should stay and put said children to bed, or read to them, or play cards. Sanity is important.
But there are other reasons, good reasons for leaving.
I’m reviewing a book for Fore Word now that is an elegy of sorts to a woman’s therapist. In it, she paints a compassionate and wise man who saved her life, sort of, as well as the lives of many other patients. I’ve had therapists, counselors, social workers in my life who have saved it, sort of, along my way. And once in a while still, I go see A., a woman who talked me down from many ledges many years ago when there were parts of my life that were much more broken than they are now. She has become a confidante, a pseudo-mother/girlfriend who happens to have a degree in psychology and whose armchair assessments of people and dynamics in my life are dead-on, breathtakingly so. I leave Raven Street for A.
And then, there’s this coffee shop downtown Iowa City that I show up at Tuesday mornings, below zero temps or no, and meet these three guys I’ve been meeting with the past three years, more or less. Capanna is where we order drinks at 8 a.m. or 8:15 if we’re late, and then we sit down and we talk about everything happening in this church we are trying to grow well and honorably and creatively. I show up with agenda items written into an app on my phone; I show up with notebook and pens and scribble away and draw arrows and make asterisks, and look at the time on my phone a bit compulsively. I ask questions and make commentary and sometimes dry, ironic and/or sacreligious quips that make them laugh. And they do the same. But underneath it, we’re serious, very serious, about wanting our church to grow well. And of course, there are Sundays, were I leave for LIFEchurch, arriving before the first service and leaving after the second--unless I have meetings afterward—and offer what I have to give, which usually has an administrative/organizational ring to it, and a prayerful, worshipful ring as well, I hope.
Since Tiny arrived, it seems I've hardly spent a spare moment with my dad. But at the urging of his girlfriend, we have now instituted Family Dinners at Grandpa’s house. It’s a great deal for us: Dad and Diana insist on doing all the cooking, and they take requests from family members in turn. The only dinner that didn’t float my boat was Middle’s pick, the Mostly-White Dinner: chicken, rice, potatoes, (and bread, too? I can’t recall). Initially, I was not allowed to eat salad with the meal, but Middle relented at the last moment.
Groceries. Middle cannot live without milk. I cannot live without vegetables and cheese. Oldest, will pale without garbanzo beans. And the Husband longs for seltzer water to make his own natural juice-based sodas.
As winter turns to spring, it seems there may be more, daily reasons, for leaving Raven Street, though not because of any faraway destination. After weeks-long bouts of illness in the family and after nine months of trying to home school and home-run all within Tiny’s tiny naps, I am waving the white flag of surrender. My home-school ship is going down. At least, I hope it is. Today, we left Raven Street, taking Middle and Oldest to a trial day at Lemme Elementary. Middle takes it all in stride. She’s been begging for this since preschool. She arrived in the kindergarten class this mornign and helped the teacher ready the room for the school day, unmounting the turned-over chairs that were perched atop the students’ work tables. Oldest has less confidence, but hopefulness that she will make friends and enjoy herself. She’s a smart cookie, that Oldest. She knows more than she lets on, and she sees things in the world that might pass most grown-ups by. Sometimes seeing like that is a blessing as well as a trouble. If you think of it, say a prayer for Oldest today as she explores her new surroundings. She’s looking for a gift.