Last day

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I decided to wait until the end of the school day to write this week’s slice because it’s the last day of classes and I wanted to write about the last day. I am kind of terrible at last days – Do we prep for exams? Do we play? Do we reminisce? – and I guess I hoped that if I paid attention I would find the perfect slice and suddenly I would be good at last days. It was all going to come clear as I wrote: this is what I do, and this is what we learn, and it looks simple, but it’s really amazing because, as it turns, out I have this “last day of school” thing down.

Instead I’m sitting in an Adirondack chair on my back porch. I’m barefoot, wearing my favourite blue sundress and, while the late afternoon sun still shines on the rhubarb and the mint in my garden, I am luxuriating in the shade. Birds are calling to one another and it’s that perfect temperature when you can’t quite decide if you should call it warm or cool. Sometimes a gentle breeze blows and sometimes one of the cats comes to rub against my legs. My children are playing together and I can hear them laughing.

It was a good day. I brought Timbits* and freezies for a bit of a celebration, and the students and I mostly laughed and talked. There was some drama in the hallways and such – last days can be stressful – but it mostly stayed out of my classrooms. It’s not the kind of day we will remember, I don’t think.

I was a little worried about that when I sat down to write, but now, with the breeze and the sun and the quiet and the cats, I’ve decided that it’s probably ok to let some things slip away without without a fancy farewell. Exams loom, then the flustery excitement of graduation, and then summer. Today was more of a pause than an end. That’s probably enough – and it’s going to have to be.

 

*For all the non-Canadians: Timbits are donut holes from Tim Hortons. Freezies are, apparently, called “Freeze pops” in the US – they’re just popsicles.

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Up again

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He’s up again. I tucked him in, sang him songs, kissed him. I hugged him one more time and promised to check on him later.

But here are the footsteps on the stairs, the pause in the next room, the little blond head peeking around the kitchen doorway. “Mama?”

Just one more kiss.
Just one more hug.
Just one more snuggle.

Up we go. I run through our relaxation routine. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in and make your body hard as ice. Breathe out and melt. Melt your toes, your feet. Your ankles, your calves. We move up his body, melting into the bed.

I melt, too. I move with him into a space of quiet. Our breathing is even. It’s time for sleep.

He’s down. And now I’m the one who has to get up again.

Looking at you looking at me

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We live in an urban area – our neighborhood is called “Centretown” for heaven’s sake – but that has not stopped wildlife from declaring us invaders and insisting on reclaiming their land. Specifically, in my backyard, the squirrels and raccoons are feeling pretty comfortable.

The squirrels have more or less become family pets. They laze on our porch railing, in full sight of our cats, who have decided that they might as well all be friends. Convinced that my garden is just a complex food delivery system planted for their pleasure, the squirrels pause, looking up at me happily, as they take bites of nearly-ripe tomatoes and then toss them aside. They’ve gotten fat enough on what I grow that they don’t even bother eating all of the scraps of food that my children leave behind on their daily rounds through various backyards.

The raccoons are significantly less tame. A few years ago, a BIG one lived in our neighbourhood. This thug was at least the size of a small dog and came out the victor in several scraps with neighborhood cats. I think he might have been a mafia don in a previous life. Evenings, by light of the moon, he nonchalantly climbed over the raccoon-proofing on our neighbor’s fire escape and wended his way upward to his favourite spot on the landing, where he would sit and survey his domain. Unsecured trash cans were regularly mauled at night: not just turned over, but nearly destroyed by scrabbly paws and sharp teeth. I looked both ways before I went out to clean up the detritus, afraid that I would catch the offender in the act and suffer the consequences.

All this to say that I was not surprised to hear a loud commotion in the trees as I read on the back porch on Sunday. Distracted from the page, I decided to look for the source – and there, smack in the middle of the tree hollow of the Manitoba maple, a little face was staring out at me. I looked at her, she looked at me, and we were both still for a minute. Then, motion in her home: a baby – and then another! The babies were eager for mama’s attention. There was a lot of squeaking and pawing. Mama gave up looking at me and turned to take care of her brood. I watched, entranced. She nursed her little ones and, later, gave them both a good clean (to their apparent dismay). Finished, and looking slightly harried, she gazed out of her hollow again.

Raccoons in the tree
The photo is a bit blurry, but there are mama and baby peeking out.

For my part, I made my mother-in-law take a break from cooking to come look. A few minutes later, my children arrived home from their activities and became part of the gazing back and forth. My husband found binoculars. The babies peeked out on occasion. My boys looked back. All the parents supervised.

Mama and babies are active just around the time we get home from school, so my boys and I have observed them for three days now. The raccoons have a clear routine; we do, too. Mama nurses and washes the children. I go in and out, getting dinner ready and settling my own children. Daily, Mama looks at me; I look at her. Then we both go attend to our chores.

I’m pretty sure her partner is the mafia don of raccoons, whereas mine is a civil servant, but for now, I’m enjoying this bond with another mother.

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I didn’t take this one, but look at the cuteness.