Closing time





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Pretty much every educator I know is a bit of a puddle by the time the last bell rings for the school year. Even those like me, who don’t have much direct contact with kids, are spent. That has never been more true for me than this year.

It occurred to me last week that the rhythm of the school year is all ass-backwards: We are ending as the natural world is blossoming and teeming with life. In the fall, when the rest of the world is turning inward and preparing for dormancy? That’s when those of us in schools are starting new, full of energy and life. Maybe that is why I so often feel discombobulated and out of synch.

I can’t speak for all of the other educators out there, but late spring is always a sort of sad, bittersweet time for me. It was especially so this year, with so many things ending. (I know, I know, I know:  All endings are beginnings. Spare me, please. If I know anything about grief it is that we have to feel all the feelings. I can hold both sorrow and joy in my hands at the same time.)

A few days ago I saw an idea I love and hopped on board with it, but the truth is that I’m too done in right now to do anything that looks like daily posting.  And I guess I’m not quite ready to turn outward yet.

I so appreciate those of you who are writing in your own spaces right now. Even if I don’t always comment, please know that I am reading. I just need some time to re-group. If I know anything else about grief, it is that we never stay in the same state forever.

27 thoughts on “Closing time

    • Rita says:

      Ah, thanks Katherine. I’m always glad to read your writing, too. It has been a season, man. That’s the best way to think of it. Seasons pass. (Of course, they always come back around, but they do pass for awhile!) 🙂

      • Skye Leslie says:

        I was just getting out of my car when I heard the announcer on the radio announce that Grace had been chosen the Queen of the Rose Festival. I actually started to cry. Started to cry, because I know what you’ve given out of heart, mind, car trips, encouragement, patience, compassion, understanding, loving kindness, nights up, a concerned mind and hours of selflessness in support of your children and I thought, truly, taking absolutely nothing away from the remarkableness of your daughter; that the crown was also for you. Much love, my dear; in fact, tons of it – with admiration for your quiet spirit which moves determinedly forward (and I know there are days when you don’t feel like it), all your talent, your words which have always moved me, the embrace I feel, even though we rarely see each other in person, in your presence, the way you intently observe – just oh so much!

        • Rita says:

          Oh gosh, Skye. This message made me cry. Thank you for seeing me this way, through your kind and compassionate eyes. (Not everyone does.) I know you see this because you’re a mother, too, and have done all the same things. I hope we get to see each other in person again soon!

  1. Shannon says:

    I totally get it, Rita. And I ditto the gist of your sentiment. I’ve been “regrouping” for like seven months. 😉 I’ve been working occasionally on a long-term creative project…but mostly only having the energy to work on it in my head, and otherwise working on just living. I like to think those of us who read and write blogs are all part of a giant blob of creativity and thought and words, kind of like a happiness lava lamp. Flowy blobs of color are floating around and breaking off and forming new shapes, some of us are writing and creating, some of us are reading and consuming, some of us are temporarily lost to the viscous background. But we are all always around here for each other, happy to absorb each other’s thoughts and ideas and creativity whenever and in whatever form they take. So, go regroup and enjoy your time with your family, my friend. PS. Please enjoy the knowledge that the words, “I know, I know, I know: All endings are beginnings. Spare me, please.”, made me snort laugh out loud on a weekend where not much else has. 🙂
    Shannon recently posted…The Bunny HourMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Knowing I was the source of a snort-laugh is probably the highlight of my weekend! And I love this happiness lava lamp metaphor. I really like that idea of blogging. I know there’s this whole other blogging world out there–one that’s all about page views and ad revenue and yada yada yada, but I love the lava lamp crowd. You guys are my people.

  2. Kate says:

    The picture where you are looking at your daughter? So much, so much – just pure love.

    “I can hold both joy and sorrow in my hands at the same time.” If there was ever a life truth…that’s the one.

    (And I LOVED LOVED LOVED Shannon’s comment about lava lamps. What a great visual!!)

    Thinking of you.
    Kate recently posted…Oh, Please Just Shut UpMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      I like that photo, too. 🙂
      And I also love Shannon’s metaphor. I think I will forever think of blogging that way. At least, my kind of blogging. (I’ve always loved the end of your intro–“I blog like it’s 2004”–because I think all the bloggers I like most blog in exactly that way.)

  3. Rachel H. says:

    I’m a long time reader of your blog and panicked a little when I saw the title of your post. I’m so glad you are taking time to regroup instead of closing down the blog. I’m just getting started launching my child into college and can only imagine how hard it is to do with a demanding job and other complications.
    Take a nice long rest if you can but please come back. It’s always a treat to read your insights.
    Enjoy the summer!

    • Rita says:

      Oh, gosh–sorry for any confusion. I think I’m past the days of thinking I’ll stop blogging permanently. But I’m also past the days of thinking I have to do it in any kind of super-consistent way. Honestly, I was just thinking of song lyrics: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” The title of the song that line comes from seemed like a fitting title for the post, as my kids and I are closing a chapter on our life together.

      And for what it’s worth, I think launching a child into college is a huge challenge no matter what your life circumstances! I work closely with another mom doing the same thing, and I’ve been so grateful that our offices are next door to each other this past school year. Helped me understand that I’m not crazy! This is just hard stuff. I hope you enjoy your summer, too!

  4. Ria from Oz says:

    Beautiful joyous photos! You and your daughter are so alike to look at!

    As for your going back to school in fall and ending in the summer, we here in the Land of Australia go back in the height of Summer and end in the rush of Christmas time. Now that is just crazy! Kids are so exhausted, Mums and Dads are frazzled, uniforms hang limply, and tempers flare. My brother is a teacher at a Secondary school (Same as your High Schools) and he loathes going back in January. Kids are just pains in the botty when they are overheated.

    The ending of somethings can make a person edgy. I know when I go to US for my holiday (almost yearly now!) I have such excitement and expectations. I arrive full of beans and keen to get to enjoy new experiences. Then when I know the weeks are ticking by, and the return date is looming over my head, I begin to feel sad. i live with my friend there for the 6 weeks or so, and we do road trips, camp or just hang out at home. It’s a life I do not have back here and my heart becomes heavy knowing how I will miss the routine, the friends there and that lovely rhythm of a new days adventures no matter what we are doing. I find I get to be at all sixs and sevens and become unsure of my feelings. I grieve. On the last night before I leave I always howl like a baby letting the tears flow unashamedly as I grieve for the things which brought me such a wonderful feeling of being alive.

    Just like today for me, I am trying to book my ticket (trying to obtain a cheap one at least) yet knowing I will again feel that misery of aliveness yet sadness is doing my brain and heart a distinct battle! Wanting both something joyous and yet feeling sadness is a very strange emotion indeed.

    • Rita says:

      I think I know just how you feel about your holiday–you’ve described perfectly how our summer breaks feel. Right now (when it’s just started) it feels like endless time. The easing of the school year pressures is such a relief. But at the same time, I miss our routines. I miss seeing the people I work with. It feels so feast-or-famine. I’d easily trade a little more balance in the school year with less time off!

      As for going back to school in the height of summer heat? That sounds pretty terrible! I had years of teaching in classrooms with really poor (or no) AC, and that was the worst! So hard for kids to learn when it’s like that.

      I hope you get your holiday squared away, and that it is a lovely one. Even if the loveliness makes you cry at the end. I think the things that bring us our greatest happiness are always the exact same things that make us cry.

  5. Marian says:

    Such lovely photos, Rita 🙂 . We have very similar ones, our 17 year-old son just having had his prom a few weeks ago, and his convocation just over a week ago. Now he just has to get through exams, a process through which I am having to work very hard to bite my tongue … which leads perfectly into your “I know, I know, I know: All endings are beginnings. Spare me, please” … This made me laugh, as well as nod in agreement — I’m not a fan of pithy platitudes either; in fact, even while acknowledging that I am sometimes guilty of delivering them to others, the only time I really ever appreciate receiving them is when I am delivering them to myself (as a means for me to try to work myself out of whatever I’ve gotten myself into). This has gotten me thinking about words that we speak and words that we hold in, and that — ideally — we would all learn to figure out the difference between the two, to learn to speak up in instances like Orlando (as per your last post) and to learn to get comfortable with silence when words are unnecessary.

    “I can hold both sorrow and joy in my hands at the same time.” Oh, Kate was SO right in her assessment of this one. This is parenthood in a nutshell.

    I too LOVED Shannon’s lava lamp analogy 🙂 . And I just have to add that I COMPLETELY get that you’re “not quite ready to turn outward yet.” If there had been a “yearbook election” category of Least Likely To Be A Blogger back in 1985, it would have been my picture there. So write when you’re able, Rita; we’ll all still be here 🙂 .
    Marian recently posted…What I’ve Been Sewing…My Profile

    • Rita says:

      It is so nice to know that someone else knows exactly what I’ve been going through. I hope the exams are now over, and that they went well! I have a well-bitten tongue myself. 🙂 I love the idea of Least Likely to Be a Blogger in 1985; back then, the internet would have been something that belonged in Back to the Future, right?

      I just woke up from an 8-hour sleep, something I haven’t gotten in months and months. (I think I’ve figured out how to get the dogs to let me sleep past 5 AM: I fed them right before bed.) That, after a full week of break, has me feeling like a new person. I think maybe I’ll even feel like writing again soon! It’s good to know you’ll be here when I do.

  6. Sarah says:

    Your “joy and sadness at the same time” comes through in your photos so clearly.

    I’d guess that your kids might be feeling the same mix.

    Your daughter seems like a very accomplished woman! Takes after her mother, at that. Best of luck to her in the fall.

    I know what you mean about not being ready to turn outward. I go through those periods myself. I love the lava lamp metaphor!

    Thinking of you and your family, Rita.
    Sarah recently posted…Eating lately: The transfiguration of leftoversMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Thank you, Sarah. Yes, I think we’re all having a mix of emotions these days. Transitions are such a mishmash of feelings! I hope your summer is off to a good start. I’m heading north tomorrow and can’t wait to smell some salt in the air!

    • Rita says:

      Oh, yeah on that wish! I don’t think it will. I was remembering just the other day the summer after my kids were born. I was off work that spring, taking care of them, but was going to return to work in the fall when school started. I felt like I just wanted to grab every single day and slow it all down. I wanted to live all the days joyfully and NOT feel as if a sword of future sadness was hanging over our heads. This feels like the same kind of summer. I can’t believe that first one was 18 years ago, and how swiftly all the days have gone.

  7. Laura says:

    This year Tom’s daughter graduated from law school, and his son graduated from high school. Even though they aren’t my bio-kids it seems like such a weird mixture of things between the celebrating and the departures, and suddenly you find yourself sobbing over the warming trays of grilled chicken at the open house. It’s just so….incongruous and horrible and funny and lovely all at the same time. There’s nothing to do, like you said, but to feel all the feelings. I’m so glad you’re giving yourself the space for that.
    Laura recently posted…Fear, Remorse, and Home Repair (is that all?)My Profile

    • Rita says:

      “It’s just so….incongruous and horrible and funny and lovely all at the same time.” That’s a perfect description of life, I think. Glad to have you in mine. Amazing how a series of 1s and 0s can make such a difference.

  8. Erin says:

    Just a bit of trivia, but the person who wrote the lyrics to Closing Time also wrote the lyrics to Adele’s Someone Like You. (Minneapolis represent. ;))

    Endings and new beginnings are always bittersweet. I hope you can savor this time. It goes too fast.

    • Rita says:

      Thanks, Erin. And I never knew that bit of trivia! For some reason, Minneapolis has a long history of cool, creative people. Maybe all the months of being cooped up in the cold?

  9. Skye Leslie says:

    Hey Rita,
    I also wanted to add that I’ve spent the last 6 months regrouping and trying to figure some things out regarding my path going forward (God knows, I have no interest in going backwards :0) ). If someone had told me that I was going to spend 6 months in a rather navel gazing posture; I would have told them that they were nuts! 6 months!? But the thing is that I retired and have had the amazing gift and pleasure of actually taking the time to give thoughtful and deep consideration of various aspects of my life. Because I’m definitely in the last chapters of this journey, those considerations and thoughts take on a slightly different, although in no way morbid, tinge – than in times before. I guess it’s been what they used to call a “reality check.” As a writer, I prefer fiction – which, of course, if done well, is about as close to reality as one can get – and so I’ve been planted (or digging) in the roots of my own realities regarding issues such as my kids, my sense of spirituality, whether there’s really any point, at this age, at sitting down for hours every day to get those 3 – 5 books of poetry and creative non fiction submitted. In my thinking, it often seems that I might find as much joy in raising a thriving garden or doing a lot of volunteer work I find meaningful as I might in trying to prove to myself that publishing would finally define me as a writer. I believe I am a writer. I write therefore I am – kind of.

    And, I don’t think that you should pressure yourself at all to “post.” Although there are surely numbers of us who would miss them – your creative outlets may, if you give yourself the space, time and consideration, also find other outlets which also float your boat.

    I just wanted you to know that I love and admire you – whatever you do and that you get to do exactly that – whatever you want.

    Much love,


    • Rita says:

      Skye, I am so glad you’ve had this kind of time. Although I’m not retired yet, I think I’ve been having much of the same kind of thoughts. There is definitely new space opening in my life, and I’ve been giving careful consideration to how I might fill it. I’ve purposely held off on making any new commitments, giving myself time to feel the space and see what I might want apart from all the “shoulds” I’ve been listening to all my life. (Maybe the space doesn’t even need to be filled? What might that even be like–space?)

      As for you and writing: Oh, yes–You are definitely a writer. I do not think publication has ever made me any more of a writer than I am. Publication makes us something, but it’s not what makes us writers. It’s something else. (I don’t know what, exactly.) I think being a writer (apart from the obvious, which is expressing yourself in the form of written words) is about going through the world in a particular sort of way. It’s about how we see and think and feel and experience things. I think publication is just about how we share it, and I’ve come to believe that a small, right audience is far more important than a large one.

      Much love to you, too.

  10. May says:

    Love the photos. Isn’t Sr year one tear jerking moment after another?
    Can’t remember if I have told you that my middle child–the French professor–is Grace as well. Named for her great-grandmother she is actually Olivia Grace, but we have always called her Grace.
    Best wishes to your Grace as she goes out into the world. I am sure you have prepared her well.
    May recently posted…Modern Day Mulberry BushMy Profile

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