Commutes

Apr 18

Image by epSos.de

My mother held me in the passenger seat of a green Chevy Citation as my dad drove from the hospital to the yellow Connecticut colonial where I would roller skate in the basement and dress as Strawberry Shortcake for Halloween, my breath hot under the plastic mask. Where I would wear a brown plaid Catholic school jumper and L.L. Bean backpack and fight for a seat in the last row of the bus.

I took many trips from that house – to basketball practice three times a week, up the hill on my Big Wheel, over the handlebars of my bike into a forsythia bush. To Cleveland every Thanksgiving, my brothers and I kicking for legroom in the back of the Buick. Crisscrossing the country by train, waiting for cattle to be cleared from the track in Montana, wondering if Texas would ever end. Modern-day Mark Twains, we steamed down the Mississippi aboard a paddlewheeler.

I carpooled to high school, studying my algebra notes in the back of a white Jeep Cherokee as it sped up 91. I rode shotgun in my friends’ hand-me-down sedans, laughter and invincibility harmonizing with R.E.M. and Ace of Bass. I piled my clothes and my Radio Shack computer into the back of the Jeep – now dented after I spun out coming home from my boyfriend’s – and headed south on 91. I sat on a wooden fence in front of my dorm and watched my parents pull away.

I walked to art history with a boy. We walked to Wawa’s for midnight subs. We flew to Paris. He stayed in Connecticut while I moved to the city, taking the 1/9 uptown to teach third grade, then traded in Metro North for the Mass Pike, driving my own green Chevy away from him to teach high school near Boston. We got married and packed our Ikea bookcases into an orange Allied Van and headed for the Midwest where he’d teach and I’d write.

We raced to the hospital in the dark past tired cornfields, me puffing through contractions, a carseat rattling around the trunk. We had a baby boy. And another one two springs later. Then we drove to the hospital again, the low January sun reflecting off the snow. The doctors told me to lie still, to wait for our baby girl to arrive. She came a few weeks later.

I haven’t stopped moving since.

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsey April 18, 2012 at 6:31 am

Love this. I have a similar feeling of having been in motion my entire life, and wonder if that is part of what fuels my intense craving to sit still (though I’m not very good at it, still). Do you think we’ll ever slow down?

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Kristen April 18, 2012 at 10:09 am

I hope so. I really do.

Your comment made me think again of that Anne Lamott essay that we both love, “Time Lost and Found” and this passage in particular:

“I know how addictive busyness and mania are. But I ask them whether, if their children grow up to become adults who spend this one precious life in a spin of multitasking, stress, and achievement, and they work out four times a week, will they be pleased that their kids also pursued this kind of whirlwind life? If not, if they want much more for their kids, lives well spent in hard work and savoring all that is lovely, why are they living this manic way?”

Thanks for being a woman and mom who reminds me often that there is another way to go. xo

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Amber April 18, 2012 at 8:20 am

I, too, have felt this constant motion especially since having kids. My inability to sit down and enjoy myself often irks my husband. I see it as a personality trait – maybe flawed maybe not- that I have no desire to change.

(My first cars had similar dents by the way. One from backing into a car…a story all of its own.)

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Kristen April 18, 2012 at 10:10 am

So interesting, Amber, the different ways we can feel about constant motion. I say, keep moving if you’re enjoying yourself standing up.

And I want to hear that car story some time… :)

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Sarah-fortheloveofnaps April 18, 2012 at 10:33 am

Oooo! Loved this post and love that little quote you commented back with up above.

Happy Wednesday!

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Kristen April 18, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Here’s a link to that Anne Lamott essay I quoted above. I think you’d really enjoy it: http://www.sunset.com/travel/anne-lamott-how-to-find-time-00418000067331/

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Sarah April 18, 2012 at 10:42 am

I feel uncomfortable with myself when I sit down. Oftentimes I just end up falling asleep. And then I feel guilty for doing something that my body apparently needs. I’ve been working on this for the past yea,r trying to overcome the guilt, trying to overcome the need to always have something to do.

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Kristen April 18, 2012 at 1:14 pm

What if we could get some sort of quickie surgery to excise the guilt gene? (Would we then just feel guilty for not feeling guilty anymore?) :)

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TheKitchenWitch April 18, 2012 at 11:19 am

This is gorgeous. I love the tiny flashes of your life that you let go by–as I read this, I feel like *I* am the one on the bicycle, whizzing past and watching you.

The the line about “wondering if Texas would ever end?” I feel that way every time I visit there. Made me smile.

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Kirsetin Morello April 18, 2012 at 11:28 am

Yes, yes, I get this! I was moving so fast recently that I had to take a few days to just stop!, to recenter, to prioritize. I like getting a lot done and I like being active but I think it’s critical to recognize what the “big things” are and to fit them in first. Sometimes, in the midst of all that motion, I forget to do exactly that.

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Kristen April 18, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Like.

:)

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slamdunk April 18, 2012 at 11:53 am

Hey Kristen, great read; though I think I need to lie down after all that activity you describe. Yet I don’t feel as overwhelmed now…

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Tiffany April 18, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Your writing inspires me.

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Elizabeth Grant Thomas April 18, 2012 at 2:39 pm

You had a Radio Shack computer? Seriously, I love this piece, love the full-circle-ed-ness of it. I feel like I’ve been in perpetual motion since the day I was born, too.

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Perfecting Motherhood April 18, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Haha, Ace of Bass, how funny!

I moved a good amount as a kid and it was tough, especially to make new friends every time, when other kids have known each other since preschool. I moved even more when I came to the US. I managed to live in 9 places in 13 years. I’ve already moved my kids from one house to the next, but at least in the same town. I really love where we live now and I hope not to have to move them again.

As for commuting, I spend half my days in the car, but it means more time with my kids and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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Kristen April 18, 2012 at 3:58 pm

As a young adult, I moved about as often as you did (eight times in nine years), but, as a kid, I lived in the same house from the day I came home from the hospital until the day I left for college. So far my kids have lived in the same place their whole lives. We’ll see how that continues as they grow older.

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Privilege of Parenting April 18, 2012 at 3:13 pm

I feel this all so keenly, Kristen. Of course I love it, and it makes me tearful too as I’m soon to be parent pulling away from the dorm. Yes it moves so fast and yet in the blurred stillness perhaps we all find each other and a love grown so huge from loving and being loved that we pool our spirit and find happy freedom, yet again, in the flux. XO

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Farrah April 18, 2012 at 3:27 pm

I love this post. It’s so relatable in so many ways. I feel conflicted by this constant need to move and change- while the boys around me are moving and changing. I refuse to give up my roots of ‘being on the move’ quite literally- even though I want to PUT DOWN roots somewhere for them. We are facing a possible overseas move this year and although I am excited- I am also afraid and wish that the need to ‘keep moving’ would die down a bit.

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Christie April 18, 2012 at 3:43 pm

This isn’t a blog post, it’s art! Your talent is great. Thanks for this.

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GRAMPS April 18, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Beautifully written. Simple and moving
Thanks

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Kristen April 19, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I’m grateful for your kind words, GRAMPS.

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Kate April 18, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Gorgeous!

I also lived in one house until college, but not after… When I was little, my parents called me the energy crisis, I was always in motion. And I loved motion (with chosen pauses). I still do. When I’m still, my hands long for activity. With kids, it seems I have to accept the pauses when they come. No amount of planning keeps the chaos out. Their constant movement added to mine is tremendous.

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Kristen April 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm

“With kids, it seems I have to accept the pauses when they come.”

This has been a huge struggle for me, Kate. I am such a planner that I even like to plan downtime and, as you know so well, that’s not so easy to do with three kids whose needs and schedules come to dictate one’s own.

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Jack@TheJackB April 18, 2012 at 6:27 pm

I spend copious amounts of time reminding myself to enjoy the journey and not pay attention to the destination. I like these snapshots you shared with us- I am a huge fan of creating moments in time.

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Wolf Pascoe April 18, 2012 at 9:52 pm

I love that you married the boy you went to Paris with. So romantic!

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Justine April 19, 2012 at 2:12 am

Loved these snapshots of your life, except that would imply stillness and this post is about anything but that.

I felt like I had a handle on motherhood until Thumper came along and she was the game changer. With her I suddenly felt compelled to play a bigger role in raising her (as opposed to daycare) – must be the last baby, last chance thing – and ever since I decided to ditch the full-time work, I’ve been busier than I’ve ever been, constantly in motion, often barely catching up. I find that rather ironic.

Oh and I adore that you provided a quick story of your romance with your husband. I’m such a sucker for real life love stories!

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Galit Breen April 19, 2012 at 7:27 am

I love this.

So very relatable. (ohmygoodness Ace of Bass! We so grew up at the same time!)

That motion, got us here, which I am thankful for. But the slow? I strive for the slow.

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Kristen April 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm

I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes…Oh-oh-oh! :)

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Liz at Sturm und Mom April 19, 2012 at 12:47 pm

How true! Thanks for making me smile yet again.

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Belinda April 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Beautiful!
This is pretty much how it goes for many of us, isn’t it? The details of our lives are personalized and specific to our experiences, but the constant motion, the changes thrust upon us, the transition from chapter to chapter are all relatable and universal. Reminds me of Maya Angelou’s words: we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.

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rebecca @ altared spaces April 19, 2012 at 2:48 pm

There are stories in our movement. I once wrote about all the cars we’d owned. It was a bonding experience for my children: http://altaredspaces.com/2010/04/traveling-through-life-in-a-series-of-cars/

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Sarah April 20, 2012 at 9:00 am

What strikes me about this is how a lifetime written out like this–a seamless succession of events–does indeed seem breathless and full of motion. But in another post, wherein you might choose just one of these things to write about, it would have the effect of slowing everything down and, in essence, stopping time and bringing the reader in to a single moment or feeling. This is why writing is priceless, isn’t it? And why there’s nothing I love more than to read.

You know, of course, where I hope all this motion brings you? :)

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Kristen April 20, 2012 at 9:44 am

And you know that I hope that too. And soon. :)

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Jane April 20, 2012 at 10:47 am

It seems like it never slows down, does it? Literally, figuratively. Moms are always in motion. (And thanks for the blast from the past reminder of the plastic Halloween masks. :)

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BigLittleWolf April 22, 2012 at 11:57 am

Such lovely juxtapositions of ever increasing movement as our lives are filled (and burdened) with responsibilities, and those we love.

As for the constant moving, I’d say we keep it up for a good 15+ years (depending on your children and your support systems to deal with them). When here’s finally an ability to stop and breathe – we may well have lost the hang of it!

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Liz April 24, 2012 at 9:48 am

The motion never stops. Our lives, after kids, is one giant never ending commute…sometimes in traffic.

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ayala April 25, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Love this! :)

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Jo@Mylestones April 26, 2012 at 8:46 am

Oh, Kristen. I just caught up here, and wow, I LOVE this piece.
You should commute your way up to the Cleve sometime to join me for Writer’s Center stage. In the past two months, was privileged to hear Anne Lamott & Abraham Verghese. Next year’s lineup is looking grand as well.

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Kristen May 3, 2012 at 11:14 am

I would love to join you! Let me know what’s next on tap. (But how could it top Anne Lamott and Abraham Verghese? Those are some heavy hitters!)

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Cathy April 26, 2012 at 2:00 pm

I am late to this being involved in the five for five but this post is devine! Roller skating in the basement (did that), Strawberry Shortcake (yep, had one), Big Wheels (had two!), colonial house in Connecticut (check!), road trips with the family to the midwest (we went to Chicago), thinking Texas would never end (sigh), moving across country with my new husband (yah did that too). And how you tied these altogether with commutes – wonderful piece of writing.

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pamela April 30, 2012 at 1:57 pm

I don’t know how I missed this the first time around. You are such a beautiful writer. I love the details (I could live on Wawa soft pretzels) and the underlying meaning there. For a post about moving so fast, it made me feel so still. Thank you for that!

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Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities April 30, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Beautiful. And goodness do I relate. xox

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