hope in the middle

I don’t know him, but he gives me hope. Everyday.

Middle school is not an easy time, to put things lightly. Even now as an adult when I drop my son off or pick him up, I see it. The invisible yet obvious undercurrent of the caste system there.

The power of some. The shame of others. The pain and insecurity of all. Kids. Going through an excruciating stage of life.

But when I see him, I am always inspired. He is tall with a strong build and an awkward looking run. His blonde hair with gentle waves seems to suit the sweet spirit I see in him. My sense is that he comes from a family where he is loved and valued. He holds his head high and smiles from the inside out, even though I never see him with friends.

He is my reminder that right now is not all there is.

Because let’s face it, when we’re in it, middle school might as well be an eternity. The pressure to be perceived well is crushing and ever-present, making us all acutely aware of everything we say or do and how it might look to the eyes of others.

But as I have told my son, this is the worst of it. After middle school, people get better and better and better at accepting others – and themselves – and not being as mean and cruel as they are in middle school.

Except for those who don’t, because there are a few who remain forever in middle school. And there is a tiny bit of middle school that remains forever in everyone. But for the most part, we grow out of it.

And this boy reminds me of that because every time I see him, I see who he is now. Probably not the highest one on the social totem pole. But of all the kids who walk by while I wait in my car for the bell to ring, in him I can also see who he is going to be.

His future self seems to leap out of him right before my eyes. Handsome, yes, but also compassionate. The guy all the girls will swoon over because he will not only have looks but also heart and soul.

He is and will be smart, hard working, and going somewhere. Where I don’t know, but somewhere far away from middle school. And not only going somewhere but also being someone, as he already is. Someone wonderful. Someone people want to be around.

Those middle school kids can’t see this now. But I can. And it makes me smile.

mac&cheese wednesdays

What is her top strength? I have a hard time choosing. Administration, organization, execution of a well-thought out plan, attention to detail, to name a few. But the one I think of on a weekly basis is creating traditions.

I am not particularly strong in this area, but I do appreciate the value they bring. Traditions give me pegs to hold on to through my life. This world is constantly shifting and sometimes that can be crazy-making.

Traditions are one of the things I hold to for comfort and security when the ground might be coming out from underneath me.

And every week, I think of these things because there is a tradition I am upholding. I think of it as my secret time with her. During this period when time and space and a few other things don’t allow for much.

She fills my mind as I follow the recipe with only five ingredients. Pure, unadulterated macaroni and cheese. Not messed up with all the funny business other recipes add to make things fancy. My kids love it. The one meal I get NO complaints over.

And lately on mac & cheese Wednesdays, I think of another tradition she created. I confess I did not embrace that one warmly. In fact, I think it could be argued that I fought it every step of the way. Independence. 

But now, since my healing, my putting-back-together, I appreciate the strength I had to ask for help, to take care of myself, to separate from what others might think and be me.

They all harken back to that tradition of independence. Blazing a trail. Being my own person. And I am deeply grateful. I am forever changed because of this tradition.

And all of that simmers inside of me and comforts me as my home fills with the familiar aroma. I open the oven door and hear the sound the bubbles make when the dish is cooked to just the right temperature and my heart expands. A meal can be so much more than food.

I will always have one of the best parts of her with me in the traditions.

What is your favorite meal and what does it connect you to?