Sometimes lately, I've had to seriously pinch myself about how much I really, really like my life. It's not always like that. I'm a bit of an Eeyore at times, I admit it, and I've been known to nest in the ruts of life for longer than is probably recommended by the surgeon general for my health.
These days though? Even the rough ones seem to be just hiccups in what is generally a pretty good streak we've got going here. Yesterday was one of those days that can really throw a wrench in it. I woke up late, having worked a concert late into the night before. I had warned my boss that I'd be late getting to work, and really, I have a really flexible job. Many times I've left early and worked at home or taken a couple half days instead of full days off...it's great. So, yesterday morning, in the quiet hours of sleep...the dog slept in, the boys slept in...and it was 10 am before any of us even heard the phone ring. Knowing it was the school looking for Easton, it went to voicemail and we slowly roused ourselves out of nice warm beds. I'm not kidding you, there is something to be said for getting up at 10 am when it's actually light out instead of 7 am in the pitch black. I'm not even sure I credit the extra few hours sleep but there is much to be enjoyed about getting out of bed and not thinking your clock has played tricks on you and it's really 2 am and the moon is the only light.
We got ready and out the door and just as we were pulling out of the driveway, youngest son just broke down. It was one of those real, heart wrenching cries that sets off the Mom radar and so as we drove, I just listened to his lament of how he hates school. Now, to be fair, this is a familiar monologue from this guy but this version was different. He articulated, without dramatic embellishment of words and descriptors of players, some of the things he feels when he's in the classroom...and it really hit me. Similar things over the past years have prompted long conversations about school and education that, while not completely winning him over, at least placated him long enough to get through the next stretch of days till a break. This time, not so. We sat in front of the school for a long while and as he got himself together and out of the car at last, he started towards the school and I could see his whole posture sink and his shoulders start to shake again. I called him back, got him calmed down again, and told him we were having a "mental health" day. I knew I'd made the right decision when he leaned back and though still crying, just curled into the seat and said, "Thanks Mom."
We headed over to Indigo, one of our favourite haunts and wandered for over an hour through the stacks of books, everything from Adventure Time to travel books, cookbooks to magazines. We grabbed drinks at the coffee shop and discovered that if you take a sip of a soy vanilla latte and then followed it with a giant peach ice tea, it tastes like peach pie and ice cream. When we were ready to leave, we weren't ready to go home so we decided since it was a warm day that we would head to the Forestry Farm. In the winter, entry to the small zoo is by donation, so Easton and I headed in and found ourselves the only humans to be seen. Just at the entry to the zoo is the grizzly enclosure and to our surprise, the bears were up and playfully batting one another. One of the grizzles was moving a log around and rooting in a hollow for snacks while the other spotted us and then laid down, head on a mound of snow, and just stared at us until his eyes grew heavy and he dozed off. We continued on and in the quiet of the day, watched a snowy owl groom himself on the ground not 5 feet from where we stood, his mate perched up in a tree watching us with those owl-y eyes blinking, blinking, blinking.
We approached the lynx exhibit and there, a lynx was sitting against the chain link fence, close enough to touch. We didn't but as I leaned over to take a photo of the big footed kitty, he hissed and threw his paw up to warn me off. Easton and I both jumped! Grouchy kitty! We wandered on through the park, past sleeping wolves, curled up foxes, active bald eagles and splashing geese. We watched a huge white goose do barrel rolls in his indoor pond, his wing span so expansive that he cleared the ducks and geese in a four foot radius around him as he played. We searched for coloured poison dart frogs in the amphibian exhibit, freaked ourselves out in the nocturnal bat exhibit, and held hands through the glass with the capuchin monkeys who seemed starved for attention. We watched sturgeon suction and then regurgitate rocks through their creepy mouths and we searched until we found the porcupine camouflaged in a bed of pine needles. We walked through the entire park and saw no other humans until we were heading to the exit to leave. It was a beautiful day for fresh air and a walk, after long weeks of extremely cold weather.
In the car, on the way home, my boy was suddenly back to his own self, marvelling at the sturgeon's neck regurgitation and astounded that he had only just discovered that sanguivorous bats and the word "sang" meaning blood connected because sanguivorous bats actually suck blood! I listened to him and realized how very lucky I am to be able to have this boy in my life. He hates school but not education. He hates homework but is happy to learn. I could have just made him go to school and he probably would have turned the day around like he often does, making a shift and enjoying his friends and some aspects of what he's learning, but I would have missed this connection. The one between him and I, where I took the time to listen and be empathetic and yet, one where he discovered new things and learned something that sparked his interest. I'm grateful that this is my life, one with some space in the margins to write in stories of days like these. With space to respond to things that come up and not feel that I'm too busy or to important to deal with them. I don't always have the time or space to respond like this. This week I did and I think I learned more than he did.