I have been teaching middle school all week. Tomorrow will be day five of 6th, 7th and 8th graders. If you don't know or possess any middle schoolers, I strongly encourage you to run out right now and acquire some because there is nothing quite like a middle schooler. Tottering on the brink of teenage horror, they have just the very first taste of grown-up on their lips. They see the shiny, sequined dazzle of high school and all of it's drama, and they are practicing hard. Too hard. It's an amazing thing. And even more amazing are the people that teach them. Every day. All day. For hours on end. If you don't know or possess middle schoolers, there is nothing I can say that will make you understand the heroism of these teachers, or the wonder that is a middle school child.
After The Holidays, it happened that we ran out of food. Like, all the way out. No milk. No cheese. No cream for coffee. Therefore, out of food. Since this last 12-29 months has been the Epic Season of Wasting All of The Food In The World, I have adopted a new policy: not buying any more. Ok. That's an exaggeration. I bought more cream. Which is foolish, since when we ran out of milk two weeks ago, my coffee cream disappeared at an alarming rate in close conjunction with the remaining holiday Corn Chex. I also bought yogurt, because my stomach has been upset for a few days and well, yogurt, right? Feeling compelled to buy something for the children to eat, but still bitter at the utter waste of food we have been enjoying lately, I bought 6 boxes of cold cereal and a case of top ramen. I am taking a break from trying to be a Good Mom Who Cooks. I came home from a trip to town tonight (after teaching middle school) to an untouched crock pot of soup I had made for them. Untouched. Cold. Not even finished cooking. I started it this morning, I checked it and reset it before I left for town. Now it will go in the garbage. Because it's been out all night. Along with dirty cereal bowls that no one is responsible for washing since I haven't finished revamping the chore chart. I am sure they ate Corn Chex with heavy cream for dinner. I wasn't here, so that's what they do.
Driving home, I realized that it isn't the lack of yogurt that was messing with my gut. It's stress. I want to throw up if I eat the food that we don't have, or the food that should be thrown out because no one ate it before it was Too Late, not neccessarily because of the translucent color of the meat, or the unidentifiable growths, but because it is all so frail. Life. Groceries. It comes, and it goes, so fast. In one night, when the entire high school shows up. And then it's gone, all of it. Never to be replaced. Or at least not until I muster up the courage to go to town and decide between cheese and gas. Luckily gas is cheap right now so I was able to get both on the last trip.
I keep thinking, if only I could just fast forward through this part, the frustrating part. The stress part, when my stomach hurts because I have NO IDEA if I can actually do all of the things I have to do, in the amount of time I am allowed, with the resources I have. Like pay the rent. Write the stories. Feed the Children. Somehow it always works out, but in the Moments, it's terrifying.
And the problem with fast forwarding is that you might miss something. In avoiding the bad, the stressful, you might accidentally skip that One Thing that makes it all worth while: The smile from your daughter that has been pretending to hate you, the unexpected touch on your neck that lasts for days, the laugh with a friend that has been far too long in coming. The little things in the days that would be lost with the big stresses and the problems - it's not worth it. To skip so much of the emotion just to be able to get to the climax. It's like walking away from a movie to scoop up some ice cream and you come back to find the hero kissing someone you don't even know. You missed all of the getting there for a bowl of ice cream. And who's to say that the climax isn't right now anyway, this very instant. Do we ever know for sure when we are right in the middle of The Best Day Ever, or Happily Ever After? Or is is later, in the remembering, and the chilling surge of joy up our spine that memories bring that tell us when our "good parts" are. And who knows if in time, my days in Middle School might be some of the most remarkable ones I live.
So thank god that there's no fast forward button, and no mute, to miss the whispers, or the screams of the Right Now that we need to successfully transport us to the Tomorrow. And thank god that we have today to make the best one ever, in spite of the stomach aches and the middle schoolers and the yogurt and the stress.