The leaves keep falling off the trees. The wind twirls them round and round. There are piles of them everywhere I look- they are orange, bright red, olive green, yellow and brown. The trees look naked now- simple wood stumps whose scraggly branches poke you in the head if you don’t watch where you are walking. Fall has officially arrived in St. Louis.
Team Jackson has been here for almost 4 months. It feels longer than that and we feel just like the trees – we’re changing and we are not sure of who or what we’re becoming. Some days it feels like we are suffocating under this gray, cold sky. Losing our sunshine and vibrancy. Other days, we think- yes, we can do this. We can build new friendships, take risks we never thought we would, live outside our comfort zone and be okay.
I’m beginning to meet my people. Many of them are St. Louis transplants. We are a merry band of misfits in this town where outsiders aren’t necessarily welcomed with open arms. I plan to grow this lovely group to create the boldest, most kick-ass women you are ever going to meet in St. Louis.
L and I explore and eat out at a new breakfast place every week. Together, we are working with the middle school to see how we can create a more welcoming environment for new families. L pushes me constantly to go beyond what I know and feel comfortable with. “Let’s go bike-riding to the other side of the city! Let’s go here and here! We have extra tickets to Six Flaggs- here you go!” Oh, L- “don’t you know that I just want to sit inside my warm home and watch TIVO or read a book? But, L won’t have it.
Key and I have a weekly walking date. We share our life story and how we arrived here and our daily struggle on how we might be able to get by in this town as outsider women of color. Key pushes me too- she forces me to attend elementary PTO meetings- “They expect us to not show up and because of that we must show up.” I like Key’s boldness- “I am completely comfortable with who I am and I don’t need to pretend to be someone I’m not. I really don’t.” Key is like my reality check in this environment. Hold fast and strong to who you are and don’t you dare doubt yourself for one moment.
Kris is my only St. Louis native friend. She has opened her heart and home to me and our family and for that I am so grateful. She shows me around town and shares with me her stories of St. Louis and all the things she loves about it. She is also not blind to its issues and sometimes we have conversations that may be uncomfortable but also much needed and very very real. Kris represents hope- proof that there are good people everywhere and that sometimes, you find them where you least expect to.
The journey continues. Where it leads to, I’m still not sure but does anyone, really at the end of the day? The children are doing okay. They have their bad days and good days. And some days, when it’s really cold- they ask “How can people live like this? It’s just so so cold.” I laugh internally and wonder how this California family will survive the winter that will be here soon.
Baby girl wrapped up her first soccer season. We also just signed her up for her second gymnastics session. She is obsessed with trying to master handstands, one-handed cartwheels, doing the splits, moving her body into bridge position and basically shocking anyone who visits us with her acrobatic moves. This girl will be fierce, this much I know. She’s also joined the local girl scout troop, beginning her own scouting journey as a Daisy Scout. I have committed to volunteering one hour in her classroom once a week and I am grateful to be able to do this volunteer work and live the life of a Kinder mom for the third and final time. Savor. Every. Single. Moment.
C is getting into somewhat of a groove. He wrapped up the lacrosse season, improving on his fundamental skills- dare say he killed it by the end of the season, dominating the field up and down as a midi. We just signed him up for Winter Basketball- that should be another interesting adventure. He’s also a second-year Webelo Scout now and we recently bought him his new Boy Scout uniform that he will use once he bridges in early Spring of next year. Guess who is his den leader? Yup- yours truly. I keep telling myself it is not a big deal and will take minimal time and planning but you know how that goes. I also remind myself this is the last time I will be a Cub Scout Mom because it’s true and it will be gone before I know it. I plan to enjoy these boys as much as I can and laugh hysterically when it doesn’t go according to plan which will be um like all the time.
M has turned into a full-grown teenager with big, stinky feet and socks he leaves all over the house. We watch him constantly on the computer because although he claims to be doing homework, we see him perusing all the Nike shoe pages he can find. I honestly had no idea that a boy could spend that much time looking at shoes. He texts friends – new ones and old ones from home. We glance at the texts and they are like a foreign language- huh? We know there is a lot of stuff happening at school but he does not share not one thing. I’m convinced there is a code they all sign that what happens at middle school stays there. He wrapped up his lacrosse season as well and we saw him increase his speed and stick skills considerably by end of season. It was an awesome clinic with some of the best coaches in the state. M has also been camping up a storm with the Boy Scouts- last weekend he completed the Wilderness Merit Badge by creating a survival shelter out of leaves and sticks and then having to sleep there the entire night. Temperatures were in the 20’s. I’m just so glad I wasn’t there. I probably would have gone and placed extra blankets over him. That night, M conquered both his fear of sleeping out in the woods on his own with exposure to the elements and a fear of coyotes. So priceless.
I’ve left my sweet hubby for the end. You know he’s a bit shy and all. Suffice to say that he is enjoying his work. In his spare time, he spends a lot of time with the boys and volunteering with Boy Scouts and even bought half of the Assistant Scout Master uniform. If he had bought the entire thing, that would have been too much for him. Our T likes to slowly test the waters and get in. So, for now, he’s got the pants and socks and he’s good with that.
Most mornings when T and I wake from our slumber- around 5:50 am, a bit chilly and foggy, before the rest of the house awakens, we look at each other, wonder what the hell we are doing in St. Louis, Missouri and whisper stories about how awkward it all is and we laugh and laugh. Sometimes the tears come. Fears and doubts surface. Then we hear one of the kids wake up and pull it all together. We have to – for them- always for them. One step in front of the other. Just like in a marathon. Except this is is no marathon, this is our life and I couldn’t have dreamed up a more outrageous life journey! You can plan and plan all you want but you just never know what is around the corner.