I am lost. It’s as if I am a sleepwalker woken up in another room. Even the face of my waker is a stranger to me. Nothing is where I left it; my books closed and unread, abandoned in piles at my bedside. This Autumn, a season of such unexpected warmth and sunshine, has left me in darkness. I am constantly cold. Some days I leave my coat on until my daughter comes home from school. I tear it off and shove it into the closet when I hear her footstep at the front door. I bake and I cook but I don’t eat. While my family swirls in and out of this little house I am left standing at a center that I cannot hold. But, I am trying, so very hard. For the first time I am so separate from my children that sometimes I don’t even say goodnight to my daughter, embarrassed that at 8:30 I can’t keep my head up anymore. She is in her room, chatting, working, singing Christmas carols in a high, sweet soprano, and I am in mine, a single lamp puddling light on a book that won’t be read. I am homesick and I can’t go home.
I am in a state of longing. Spring is such a near thing and yet, this morning, the little pot of ivy I left out is rimmed in frost. Frost! I rub salt into my homesick wound by checking the London weather on my computer dashboard: 75 all week. I squeeze lemon into my emotional paper cut by watching the Kings Road web cam obsessively. I can see the school children in their woolly jumpers and tidy lines serpentine along the footpath on their way between playing fields and classrooms. For a moment I am sure I see my own in that line. Perhaps it’s because my photographs of that time are so blurry?
The world (oh, fine, a whole bunch of moms in their own little world) has been aflutter the last week or so over Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, a law professor and generally terrifying individual. She begins by establishing what her daughters were never allowed to do in her pursuit of the perfect academic record for them both: sleepovers, school plays, help little old ladies across the street. She then goes on to explain, clearly, pleasantly why A+ grades, concert-worthy piano-playing and throwing little old ladies under a bus if they are between you and your piano are so much more important than macaroni picture frames.
Here is something you should know about me. I’m not a crier, not really. I do not cry about sad/bad things happening in my life. Ever. I didn’t cry when my mother died. I’m not a hard-hearted Hannah, I just don’t cry about the big things. I do, however, weep copiously when small children sing at school concerts. I cry when I see a little person lost in the supermarket. I cry when I see a balloon floating away in the sky. I have been known to cry at that 1970s ad for some do-good organization that features a kid in group home writing a letter to Santa asking for a puppy. Does anyone remember that ad? One kid says “Santa won’t bring you a puppy!” And then, the do-gooder volunteer/ Secret Santa/postal worker guy reads the letter. On Christmas morning, the kid finds a puppy waiting for him. Of course he does. The look on his face? Priceless. The look on the pooh-poohing kid’s face? Oh, the humanity!!