Today is Elizabeth’s first day of high school, and for the first time in our family’s history, she doesn’t’ have to be driven there. I can’t count the number of times Leslie has drive up and down the El Camino since Kindergarten. In fact, it was only 10 years ago when I took a photo of our “baby” in her Hilldale uniform, oversize backpack at her feet and grinning like the Cheshire cat, on the morning of her first day in 2001.
It’s been six months since the commencement of my involuntary sabbatical. Six months! I feel that I’ve made good use of the time, but I can’t escape the sense that the clock is ticking. I really don’t want to return to Corporate, but I need to work. So, I hit the computer every morning looking for a job. Leslie and I do it together, as she has an uncanny ability to find opportunities I overlook. I’ve had a number of phone interviews, and a few face to face, but it’s challenging out there.
The ginormous collection of comic books and action figures I’ve dragged from one side of the United States to the other has been a boon. I’m glad to be an obsessive collector, and equally happy that I am willing to let these treasures go when it matters most. What if I was a hoarder?
Leslie has made a grand adjustment to my constant presence, as well as all my clutter, my artistic crap, and my gregarious opinions and commentary. We had a rough patch or two, but things have become harmonious again. I’m thankful for that.
Everything the media says about how economic difficulties affect our children is true. Elizabeth is quite concerned and asks difficult questions like “Will we be homeless?” We explain everything to her in understandable terms and without completely freaking her out. She’s been remarkably resilient and has worked very hard alongside us on various projects. But no, we don’t expect to be homeless … ever.
While this has been an intense summer for all us, the last week was really tough for Elizabeth. Her feelings got hurt as friends from Middle School seem to move on without her. They made plans to go to the mall, apparently oblivious to the fact that all their conversations on Facebook are completely transparent. She worries about where she’ll fit in at school. She’s been so preoccupied that she overshot a step coming down the stairs a few nights ago, fell down four stairs, landed awkwardly on one foot, and slammed her chin on the cabinet at the foot of the stairs on the way down. The cabinet was heaped with clothes purely by chance and so her chin hit ample padding instead of rock hard wood. I experienced a moment of sheer panic when I thought her jaw was broken, but we iced everything right away. When she woke up the next day, I was braced for the worse, but she only had a bit of knee pain and no swelling anywhere. I consider that a close call.
The summer has been difficult in a lot of ways, but as usual every dark cloud has a silver lining. We lost Jack our Golden Retriever in May, but got Teddy shortly thereafter. Jack was a painfully handsome, strong silent type, and Teddy is short, fuzzy and funny. Daizy has become a different dog since losing Jack, as if his absence has forced her maturity. I lost my grandmother not too long after that, and while I grieved for her, she was ancient, very sick, and ready to move on to her soul’s next adventure. Leslie has become closer with her niece Tami, as well.
Let’s see, what else has happened …
London had rioting. The stock market dipped lower than ever, and people lost portions of their 401K. I suppose it’s a good thing that many had already cashed out to pick up the slack in unemployment. The media has referred to this period as a recession, when in fact we’ve been in a depression since 2008. The president even went on national television threatening to withhold social security payments, as if we didn’t have enough to worry about. What was he thinking?
This feels like being in the movie “Goodfellas”, and Leslie and I are the wise guys in prison for a while. We’ve got plenty of time to cook spectacularly creative dishes, and we’re making the most out of sidebar opportunities, but we’re completely on our own. There are no relatives helping us financially, and no friends with extra cash to toss around. People have their own responsibilities and obligations; and in fact, many people we know are in the same precarious situation.
We remain here with our fragile pride and beat up egos, thrust unceremoniously through constant change of the most personal variety. It is our duty to grow and change for the better within the fabric of our lives no matter how challenging doing so becomes. Anything less, like wallowing in misery or raging at the injustice of it all, would not only be pointless, but would leave an indelibly negative mark on our daughter’s fragile growth at an important time in her life. And so we hang in there, even if it takes some pushing and pulling between us to establish the harmony we’re used to.
I wonder if this even compares to what our daughter Elizabeth is dealing with now on her first day of high school. How does this compare to her search for a bosom friend, her first real boyfriend, or even her first kiss.
I can handle unemployment. I can even handle the world going to hell in a hand basket.
But high school?
I don’t think I’m ready for high school.