Yesterday morning, Things Two and Three and I woke up early (Thing One was at a slumber party) and headed off to the Vegetarian Preschool. The Vegetarian Preschool is thus named because, you guessed it, they only serve vegetarian food. Also, it is a Co-op, run through the University here. It has a good program and some great teachers, and co-oping isn't mandatory, so I like it quite a bit. But every once in awhile I get creeped-out by the vegetarian thing. This is Hippyville, Oregon, though. I should be used to all this by now.
So, the Vegetarian Preschool is the place where Thing Three spends most of her waking weekday hours, and during one of those hours this week, the call went out for parent volunteers to lay sod on Sunday. I don't know exactly what I was thinking. It probably had something to do with the giant bill I receive at the end of the month, coupled with the knowledge that I can work some of that bill off via co-oping. Therefore, it makes some sense that I decided to sell my body to the vegetarians for a day.
And, truth be told, it was more than just the potential for (small) financial gain that made me volunteer. I like working outside, even though it sometimes hurts when I do it, and I like people, I enjoy gathering, doing something difficult in a group.
Sunday I woke up early, fixed Things Two and Three the typical Sunday breakfast (pancakes, apple-smoked bacon), and drove us all over to the preschool at 8:00. I left the two in the capable hands of the Adorable Boy Preschool Teacher, and went to work.
Another mother, Mina, and I started in on the shape garden--small slabs of concrete shapes laid in the ground. We were laying sod on this area, so the concrete pieces had to be dug up, and there were about thirty of them. Rooted weeds had grown over most of them, so we scraped with our shovels, dug around the edges, then pried them up. They were heavy, dense things, so we rolled them to the side each time we unearthed one. And we talked. Mina is an incoming master's student in the journalism program here, originally from Tanzania, and we talked for the entire hour as we dug, unburied worms and beetles.
When we finished, we joined the rest of the group--there were about ten of us--and begun the difficult job of digging out the old grass and making room for the new sod. We leveled and graded and dug, filling twenty wheelbarrows full of dirt and sand and rock and grass. We worked like this for four hours in the sun, sweating and laughing and flinging dirt at each other's feet.
Two years ago, I wouldn't have done this, or would have but with no real joy, because John* (previously known as "The Man") would have been there.
I used to think we didn't enjoy such things because he wasn't good at social play, the kind of interaction I've a gift for. But the more I think about it, the more I realize it really wasn't that at all. He was social enough at moments, funny and biting, but his humor carried no real joy. None. When we were younger, he could make anything humorous, had the ability to joke about anything, was bitterly wry and caustic in a way that attracted the 20-year old me.
This also meant that he had little to no ability to believe in anything for very long, if at all, including other people. Including me. The ability to claim something, to claim it, which is akin to loving it, if loving means understanding it and accepting all of its faults and weaknesses, was something he had no use for. We may have volunteered to lay sod, we did things like that occasionally, but it would have been me feeling his judgemental eye as I made friends, listened without a sly, ironic grin plastered on my face. It would have been me waiting for the edgy joke, the one that no one else would understand the context for. We spoke in a long-winded joke, always, a knitting of old stories comprised of this kind of caustic humor, so that even when sometimes he talked about the Things, it was there.
The nice thing about Jon** (formally "The Sweet Boy"), and one of the reasons I think we did well together for a few months, was that he was almost unable to wield irony. He believed things, believed them as much as he could, claimed them and declared them. He lavished me with attention, sent tulips to my class on Valentine's Day, bought me a book I love, held my hand everywhere. He was, I am certain, ultimately wrong for me; he had a wandering eye and commented on other women--my friends, for god's sakes--frequently, and his belief system was constructed absent complexity, or room for true critical thought.
And thinking of him as a partner, thinking of him working in a preschool yard one Sunday, brings up no better feelings of security or happiness than working with John would have. Certainly, Jon*** would have been social, social to a fault. But he would have likely told some woman "you look hot in that outfit," or would have made me cringe when he offered up his black and white world view.
So I find myself at this interesting place now, a place I'm happy with, despite my wedding dress woes. I'm single, and it isn't terrible.
*I've decided to just name him now. It seems better than giving him some pretend name, which seems a little too precious a device at this point.
**And, using the same reasoning, I've decided to name him as well. Perhaps it's a good way to remember that these are people now in my past. Not in my present, nor my future.
***To counteract confusion, the Things called the second Jon "Eight-Finger Jon," a nickname he loved.