Montanans don’t usually talk much about cold weather. It is cold here sometimes, every year. Most people I know love winter. My family loves winter. We bundle up and get out there. This last week was different. I mean, it was SO SO cold. We talked about it. Our frozen nostrils, our frozen doors, our frozen cars and other frozen stuff. We were cooped up, on lockdown, unable to play outside. We were stir crazy, our pets were stir crazy. We needed fresh air and exercise.
Thursday morning was the coldest and a young guy robbed a few Missoula businesses at gunpoint. There was a flurry of reporting. He might have been running with a gun toward the University. He didn’t have a coat on. The coat thing really saddened me. I couldn’t stop thinking about this desperate man running in
-35 degree weather without a coat.
The University went into lockdown. And then a handful of schools, including Margot’s elementary school and Ruby’s preschool. I felt a gut punch of fear when I first heard of the lockdown, which I later learned was a lockin. I felt trust and thanks. I so appreciated our schools making the easy, smart choice to lock the doors. Mostly, I felt sad. Sad that my kids will grow up knowing about lockdowns and lockins. Sad that this shit happens. Sad for the stories – you know the ones – etched into my heart. Sad for that cold, running man. Sad for his mom.
Margot, Ruby and their classmates never knew the day was any different than usual because the cold weather had relegated them to the indoors anyway. I picked them up, all bundled up smiles.
This is a huge year of emotional growth for me, with my oldest daughter in kindergarten and lots of conversation about how we want our children to grow, what we hope for them. Among many realizations and affirmations, there is this: we are part of something bigger than just us, our nuclear family. I teach in Margot’s classroom two days a week and it is important work. I have important relationships with these kids, fostered in just 2-3 hours a week. I love them and they love me.
I have cracked open into a whole different kind of mothering — a more whole mothering. I am her mom, his mom, your mom. I am a mom. Without prejudice, without holding back, without rules. I believe that kind of indiscriminate love changes the world. I am learning from it right now in a kindergarten classroom.
Margot is about to lose one of her top teeth. It wobbles around when she talks like a rogue corn kernel. Thursday, when I arrived at her school, she was sitting on a bench with her friend looking at a book about mermaids. Hip-to-hip, puffy coats, ear-flap hats and backpacks. I sent a loving exhale out to anyone out there, cold without a coat. They were born. They were kindergartners with loose teeth, into mermaid books and full of hope.
I turned 36 yesterday. Spent the day with friends and family skiing, returned to our home where it filled with our tribe over soup, an army of small children parading around with tambourines and harmonicas. We made food for more people than we thought could fit into our home. They fit. I cracked a window in the kitchen. A thick, cold wisp of air cut into the smiling warmth.
We had a week of shutting everything in, piling sheepskins around door frames, draping windows with wool, layering up, locking down. It felt claustrophobic and oppressive at times, but we knew it would lift. We knew the days were passing and we’d again feel warm to the core, that we’d experience a brilliant inhale when opening a window.