Spirit Week at the K-8 school that my children attend:
Monday: Athlete or Mathlete? “Choose between your calculator or your favorite sports team!”
Tuesday: “Choose your favorite decade! 50s 60s 70s or 80s!” (During drop off on this day I saw a teacher’s aid wearing an NSync tshirt which led me to question decades, my youth and my future)
Wednesday: Crazy hair day…
You get the idea.
My favorite part about school spirit week is the chaos that ensues the night before each spirited day.
The evening before athletes/mathletes, I dug wrinkled jerseys out from drawers I hadn’t opened in months, threw them in the dryer with a wet washcloth and didn’t give my kids the option of being a smart math-lover. Which seems odd to say because wouldn’t we want our students to not choose sides? If my kids had the option of getting a scholarship for playing sports AND killing it at math, wouldn’t I want them to shoot for the stars? Meh, the school is trying, I guess.
The night before decades day my husband and I chopped up a tie-dyed t-shirt for our oldest, found an abandoned bandanna at the bottom of a dress-up clothes box and wahlah: had our very own pot smoking 12 year old hippy, (Without the pot)
For our kindergartner, I pulled jeans out of the dirty hamper, used a lint roller to remove the 13 pounds of dog and cat fur from a black t-shirt, gathered together his generic brand converse and reached into one of the many garbage sacks full of items to donate, lucky to find the 4T leather jacket my sister in law thought to send to us. I’d KonMari’d that jacket thinking it would be too small for our now 6 year old: Wrong. He made the cutest little cigarette smoking Kenickie from Grease you ever did see. (Without the cigarette)
We scrambled it together and it came out all right- except for our middle son, who asked to be Ferris Bueller but shunned the costume we attempted to put together. It was a cut up lady-cardigan from the thrift store. Parenthood= Fake it till you make it. They made it to school, two out of three showing their spirit, and that seemed like a win in my book.
I’m over-achiever early to the student pick-up line on Decades day, because the public library was uncomfortably crowded, I’m the first parent to arrive and I roll down my windows, shut off my van and resist the urge to grab my phone, looking toward the campus beside me.
From my driver’s seat I can see little decade-glimpses running around the playground. The astroturf is spattered with girls in poodle skirts, boys in tie-dye, and one student sporting an astronaut suit.
Many of them dribble a soccer ball forward and back, hollering amongst themselves as the ball gets kicked out of bounds. Girls chasing boys, boys chasing girls as squeals of excitement cut through the air.
I look further off into the yard where a table of girls sit in the shade, eating snacks left over from their lunch. They’re chatting, maybe worrying, about things that will come to be so trivial: Tonight’s math homework, tomorrows crazy hair day, if they’ll be allowed to have screen time after school.
Closer to the main building, walks a little boy dressed like my youngest, with rolled up jeans, a t-shirt and converse- a thrown together costume he sweats through, turning about in the glowing Tucson sun. He looks in my direction as he reaches his left hand behind him, arches his back, and pulls what I imagine to be one of the deepest wedgies he has ever experienced out from his jeans. He keeps moving in circles: Relieved and Unashamed.
A glance toward the basketball courts and I spot a girl, maybe 10, lying on the concrete looking up into the bright sky, oblivious to the swarm of children buzzing around her. A student or two walk by and look over her, I assume to make sure she’s breathing. She shrugs them away and continues to stare, allowing herself the space to make a snow angel, sans snow, in the middle of the warm-winter afternoon.
Her costume is a dress with multiple layers of fabric, pooling around her against the gray cement. She’s a young Stevie Nicks, a little gypsy, imagining the clouds are whatever she wants them to be.
And now, as I think of that girl, I take a deep breath and try to remember when life felt so free. When there weren’t any deadlines or distractions or have-tos. When I could shrug people away when I needed the silence, or squint toward the sun when I needed the light.
My sobriety, only 18 days in, has felt like a stripping away. Pulling off the layers of the decades that I’ve lived so far, making room to grow into the decades ahead. Tearing away the hurts from my childhood. Breaking down walls I built up to hide. Healing my body from years of abuse, self-inflicted to numb all my fears.
And it is an exhausting roller coaster I’m riding, trying to focus on taking away while adding so much. Etching out time to allow myself to cry with my husband, and own my mistakes, and mother my children, and honor myself enough to take on this new life. But that’s what it takes, I’m learning. Honoring God first, but then allowing myself some of that respect too.
It is a rebirth and a rising, but much more than that: it is a return to the girl that I was all along. That girl looking up toward the sky, watching those clouds without a doubt in her mind.