Fly

Y’all.  

I am in deep. 

These past two months, I have felt like I am trudging through thick, relentless mud.  

I haven’t had a lot to write about lately, simply because I haven’t had a nanosecond of extra time, nor an ounce of inspiration.  

It’s been really hard and really ugly. 

But I am here, writing to celebrate a little crack, a sliver of light that crept through today.

This past March, my youngest, Elizabeth, and I returned to mommy-and-me classes at The Little Gym.  They allowed me to stay alongside with her, even though she was beyond the age three limit.  They understood the impact the pandemic has had on children everywhere and that separating was more difficult than ever.  This Fall, however, it was time for Elizabeth to join the independent three year-old’s class.  

Lord knows, I knew this would be an uphill battle.  With so many health issues, Elizabeth is more dependent on me than most mother-daughter relationships. 

To her, I represent survival. 

For her, I want her to experience the joy of independence.  

We began in September with us sitting outside of class, watching the others play.  Gradually, we made our way into the gym, with her sitting on my lap against the wall.  Later, she would do a forward roll a foot away from me and then with bribery, she would run to an obstacle, complete it and run back to me.  I attempted to leave the room a few times that first month to no avail; instead, biding my time, sitting inside the room, encouraging her to spend more time off my lap.  

Today, for the first time in seven weeks, she completed class with me sitting outside, cheering her on through the picture window.  Fifteen minutes in, I announced to the lobby of parents, “Can we just all take a minute here to celebrate this milestone?!”  And they clapped and cheered right alongside me.  

I have four children and every single one of them has needs, specific to them. 

There were so many days that I wanted to throw in the towel but I am a mother. 

And mothers walk alongside their children.

Nudging, encouraging, lifting.  

Until their children discover the confidence to fly on their own.

Camille Vaughan Photography

Little Things

We moved here seven years ago. 

And there she was with a smile and word of encouragement as she witnessed our family grow from two to three to four daughters, surpassing her own three. 

She reminded me to hold these babies because soon, they would be grown. 

She encouraged me, “You’re doing a great job.”

And when you are a stay-at-home-mom with limited outside exposure, those little words go a long way.  

Once a day, 5-6 days a week, Diane delivered our mail. 

Until today, when I received her handwritten note, announcing the end of an era. 

Her sobs told me she hadn’t expected me to call. 

And I realized maybe she wondered the same thing I did: 

Did I matter to you as much as you did to me?

It’s the little things. 

Human connection. 

That matter. 

Together

It was an innocent assignment; written in the curriculum years before the pandemic even began. 

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote a letter to children in 1947 and now it was my child’s turn:

“Write a letter to children in the future describing what life is like today for your family.”  

She began with the simple facts:  her age, family and hometown.

But by the second paragraph, my nine-year-old froze.  

Covid-19.  Living during a pandemic.  

And just like that- it was all too much to bear. 

It’s one thing to survive on a daily basis. 

It’s another to face it in words.

The fear, the masks, the social distancing.

“Mommy, I don’t want to do this.”  She cried.  

I held her, told her to take a break and later said, 

“We’ll do it together.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that we cannot do it alone.  

We do it together. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Moving Beyond The Page, Epiphany Curriculum

Change

I can feel it in the air. 

Can you?

Change is a-coming. 

Tonight, one of my daughters wondered aloud how it could be so dark when it was “only 7 o’clock.”  

It seems like yesterday that it was light at nine.  

And yet, here we are. 

The constant we can always rely on: 

Change. 

Just as we adjust. 

As soon as we settle in. 

Change comes in like a thief and reminds us that if there were ever a thing to depend on it was her all along. 

Change. 

I can feel it in the air. 

Can you?

Camille Vaughan Photography

Get Back Up

Ever feel like it’s too much?

Do you feel like you’re not enough

When you feel like it’s gonna take forever?

Yeah, I swear I know what it’s like

To feel alone at the end of the night

Maybe you don’t know it, but it gets better

It’s gonna be alright

I’m never gonna leave your side

It’s gonna be alright

Everybody falls down, all the way down

You just gotta hold on tight

You gotta get up, gotta get up

Gonna make it through this time

-“Falls” by Odesza

Recently, our family has faced some very trying challenges, leaving my husband and I to throw our hands up and wonder how we can possibly get back up and keep going. 

It’s been a minute since I’ve ridden my Peloton bike but today, motivated by a friend, I got back on.  When this song played, I burst into tears and rode through them, letting the music and lyrics wash over me and plant its wisdom deep within my soul. 

Feeling like an outsider? 

It’s gonna be alright.

Feeling overwhelmed?

You just gotta hold on tight. 

Feel like giving up?

You gotta get up because you’re going to make it through this time. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Mr. Adler

“It never occurred to me until writing this essay that “normal” father-daughter relationships do not develop over talking in a restaurant.”

And herein lies the value of Language Arts.

It makes me wonder- were others lucky enough to have a teacher challenge them with the hard questions?

What happened to you?

Where is important to you?

Why do you write?

I attended an all-girls boarding school, whereupon 70% of the faculty, including my Language Arts teacher and his wife, lived on campus.  

It was late, after dinner, when I witnessed him reading my very personal essay.  It was both terrifying and exhilarating to speak my truth.

My second chance lives with my future children,” I wrote “and their relationship with me and their father.  I can use the lessons that I have learned from my family situation as a guide to how I will choose to live mine.  For now, I will continue to meet my father on the corner of Shirley and Colley Ave. for some beef with broccoli and a two hour talk about how my life is going.”  

I was seventeen.  

And 21 years later, that’s exactly what I do. 

I use the lessons I learn, through writing, to choose how I live mine.  

Camille Vaughan Photography
Karl Adler

Lessons

I knew it was hopeless before the meeting even began. 

Ms. Larrimore briskly explained to my perplexed mother that there was no amount of extra credit I could complete in the last few weeks of school to help me achieve a passing grade.

I had failed ninth grade English so badly, she told us, that I didn’t even need to attend the 7:10 A.M. class for the remainder of the year.  

To her, I was hopeless. 

I remember feeling a mixture of anger and relief. 

Relief that I wouldn’t have to bother attending her class anymore and anger for the entire disaster that was my freshman year of high school. 

Where had I gone so wrong?

Aside from second grade, I had attended private school.  Ninth grade public exposed me to a world I was wholly unprepared for.  I figured it out by fitting in with whoever would accept me- smoking cigarettes, smoking weed, drinking alcohol before and after school and failing the honors classes I had been assigned.  

Ms. Larrimore, one of the first African- American students to graduate Maury High School in 1964, saw right through my privilege and wasn’t going to give an inch.  This was a woman that assigned a few hundred word paper, in which we weren’t allowed to use the verb “to be”- is, was, am, going, will- all forms.  She was all business and I was taking my education for granted.

I took a summer school class the following summer to make up that failed English class.

And ultimately, I became an English Major with a Masters in Education and later, a writer.  

But the lessons Ms. Larrimore taught me that year will last a lifetime:

Action verbs illustrate.  

Effort, not privilege, counts.