Ten years ago Kirsten and I decided to stop celebrating Christmas with the girls. We didn’t like its symbolism, religious heritage, and most of the ways people celebrated. However, we did like the idea of spending time together with intentional focus on strengthening our relationships. We created our own traditions and called them, collectively, “Festibond.” Our Festibond celebration, in which we go on dates, write and read letters to each other, play games, put together puzzles, and eat way too many snacks, has always been my favorite day. Festibond 2016, our tenth, was Saturday. It was my favorite day of the whole year.
Kirsten died in May. Every day since has been, to some degree, more prosaic than if she were still here. I was concerned that Festibond this year would be somber instead of happy and joyful. Indeed, we missed her as we do always, but our celebration was wonderful, happy, heart-warming, and close, as I’d hoped. The girls have embraced the spirit of Festibond from its inception. Squabbles that would happen on other days don’t. Everybody pitches in to make it all happen. We smile, we laugh, there may be singing, and we give each other lots of hugs. It’s impossible to describe just how special and penetrating it is, but I am always moved and wish every day in our house could be more Festibond-like.
For nine years we lived in an apartment on the third story of a brick building in Maine. Before that we lived in a house in Kansas, but we moved shortly after I turned four, so I have no memories from it. This September we began to look for a new home. Our apartment was familiar to me after living there so long, but I was thrilled by the notion of moving, for not only a change, but because the apartment had many little cons. Things like doorknobs being loose and falling off, or doors not closing right.
Before this move I knew nothing about the process of moving, so was a bit disappointed that we wouldn’t be officially moving for at least over a month. There was also the problem of where the house would be. I defiantly wanted to stay in Saco, and I didn’t want to move too far away from The main area. There was also the problem of how many bedrooms it would have. At our apartment we each were able to have our own room, which was great, but it was unlikely we would find a good four-bedroom house that we liked at our price range. I agreed to share a room with my oldest sister, Skye, if needed, because I knew it would be worth it to be able to move to a nice place, and she would be leaving for college in about a year anyway. When it did come time to start viewing houses, though, I felt beyond excited and optimistic. The first house we viewed still had some furniture and everything in it, but as we walked through it, I gradually grew less and less excited. It seemed to be a bit of a fixer-upper and felt old. There was a huge garage (full of clutter) and a basement, but there were also windows on bedroom doors that had been painted over and many little things that would also need replacing. I didn’t like it, but I did do my best to stay positive. The next house we viewed was better, but it felt cramped in places and I did not like the kitchen at all. There had been a garage separate from the house, but the previous owner had connected them with a room. It also had a very large open basement. Both of the houses had been close to the high school and my best friends house, which I liked, but the houses were not as I had hoped. Again, I felt a bit discouraged.
This year Skye is playing softball with the Saco Girls Little League. It’s her first year playing and she’s having a great time. Last night was their first loss, but it was close. Today we have a double-header to make up two games that were cancelled due to rain.
The girls switch positions in the field nearly every inning, so they get to try it all, which is nice. It’s fast pitch, but most are balls and there are a lot of walks. The girls’ skills aren’t well developed, but the games are fun to watch and probably more fun to play. They all seem to have a great time and get along with each other well.
It’s fun to sit and talk to the other parents. I have really enjoyed cheering for Skye and her teammates.
Skye and I play catch in the yard nearly every day. She is very good at throwing and her catching has improved dramatically since the start of the season a few short weeks ago. It’s nice to see her progressing and refining her skills. It’s been a nice time for us to spend together doing something we both enjoy.
Yesterday was a brilliant Maine day. Temperatures were in the upper 50 °F with partly cloudy skies. Perfect. Kirsten had to work so the girls and I headed out to explore and enjoy the big outdoors.
First we went to nearby Saco Heath Preserve, which is a short 3.6 miles from our house. The hike through the woods and out into the heath were ideal. Skye and Hayley took copious notes on every sensation they experienced, including smell, touch, see and hear. They frequently stopped to sit on the boardwalk to search for frogs or to snack on the trail mix they had each prepared prior to our departure.
Yesterday Kirsten and I had the opportunity to visit Hayley’s kindergarten class for an end-of-the-year beach party. It was a lot of fun. Mrs. Arnold’s pupils went through their usual morning routine before reading to us a book they’d written and illustrated. Then Mrs. Arnold played for us a slide show that was absolutely wonderful (a tear jerker). She is an extremely talented photographer and was able to capture not only the activities of the students, but their personalities as well.
Kirsten and I feel very fortunate that Hayley had Mrs. Arnold this year. She has great command of her students and exudes compassion for them.
The girls’ artwork is current on exhibition at the Saco Museum. We visited yesterday morning. It was our first time at the museum.
Hayley made a stuffed fish in her art class. It’s isn’t a fish you could filet and eat for dinner. Nor could it swim in the ocean. It’s mostly made of paper. They drew with oil crayons over the paint. With the red crayon Hayley made lipstick. Then they cut out fish shapes, stapled the edges together and stuffed them with newspaper.
I’m very pleased with the schools here and with each of the girl’s teachers. We recently just met with them for parent-teacher conferences.
We first met with Jenna’s 2nd-grade teacher, Miss Holland. She just started teaching at Fairfield this year and seems to be a good match for Jenna. Jenna told us that she doesn’t like recess because there’s nothing to do. Apparently she just stands around watching the other kids. She likes to swing, but the swings are always being used by other children. We mentioned our concern about Jenna’s anxiety to Miss Holland, who ensured that she would observe Jenna during recess. She did mention to us that Jenna has been coming out of her shell since school started and has been speaking up more during class. She is interacting with the other kids at her table and seems to be adjusting well. She is doing very well academically, and particularly enjoys math, reading, and writing. Jenna loves to read. I enjoy listening to her while she reads aloud, with her various voice inflections, and I am often surprised by her subject matter choices. She’s very inquisitive and loves to learn. Miss Holland’s only suggestion for Jenna: to color the accompanying pictures to her stories more often. If that’s her main concern, I think we’re doing pretty well. She’s in Brownies again this year, which she absolutely loves. She gets to sell Girl Scout cookies, so now I have a great excuse to buy those Thin Mints…