With a forecast for a three-day ice storm, the city of St. Louis shut down today. All of the area schools closed a full 15 hours before the school day would begin based on the meteorological predictions alone. We awoke Friday morning to gray skies saturated with heavy cold moisture and anticipation.
And I felt a similar weight and anticipation as I mulled over the job opportunity casually pitched to me via text message the day before. A Reading Specialist position at Avery, Everett’s school. A maternity leave post for 12 weeks. An opportunity to dust off my graduate degree and amp up my practical experience. A chance to establish a presence in the district. A room with an inside view of Everett’s school. Three months to test-drive the Reading Specialist gig and see if it is a viable option for the ever-murky “life-after-stay-at-home-mom-phase.”
Ever since learning of the job opening, I can’t stop thinking about it. “It’s a sign,” I think. I envision drawing out my teacher self through a small trap door. Pulling and pulling at a single thread as a solid ball of knowledge, skills, confidence and work ethic begins to form, shrinking ever so slightly from the light of this new universe that it has not yet played in.
I feel a slight panic about the opportunity slipping away and know I have to do something. I pop on PBS for my three-year old, the one that will miss me the most if I decide to take on 12 weeks of full-time work. I snuggle under the blanket, close to his fleece footie pajamas and flip open my laptop. I draft an e-mail to the Avery principal and only proofread it once before pressing send. I feel like I have to release this nagging desire quickly before I suppress it, before I lose my nerve, before I talk myself out of the pursuit of a train that jumps so far off my delineated track.
The e-mail is sent. Interest expressed. Door open. Then, I wait. I wait for the frozen drizzle to begin slicking surfaces. And I wait for a reply to my e-mail. In between pancake flipping and blowing out candles on Play-doh birthday cakes, I check and check and check. Look out the window. Look at my e-mail. Check the weather app. Refresh e-mail. I repeat this pattern as the morning drags on. I realize I am making myself miserable with anticipation, but I cannot remove myself from the obsession of waiting for something to happen, something to break the routine.
Perhaps this is really what this sudden and unexpected quest is all about. I get the “itch” about once a year or so, the urge to pursue, to rediscover those dormant parts of my being that I switched off upon giving birth. At the end of this day of anticipation, I write to process this process.
I do finally receive responses to my e-mail in the mid-afternoon, inviting me to complete and submit an application. The replies indicate that there are several applicants awaiting screening and interviews. This realization makes me feel less special, as if this random job opportunity was not just delivered from the heavens just for me. I had already envisioned my sacrifice. Giving hours of my day otherwise spent with my children to deliver the school with my unparalleled knowledge and skill. I would have to take the job. I was needed. I am embarrassed by my ego, but realize this craving is real. I want to be useful in ways that extend beyond guiding Lego construction and organizing playdates. Yet I realize that 12 weeks is a fourth of a year, a sizable chunk of the year and a half I have left before all of my children spend the bulk of their time without me in full-time school. Is this what I’m willing to give to scratch an itch?
Icicles dangle from every elevated surface, but the roads still seem passable. The path may not be entirely clear, but the path still remains. Do I wait to see what will unfold or forge gingerly ahead, taking slow and steady steps until I am sure-footed? Or even forgo such caution and stomp boldly with the bravado of thick rubber tread?
As I let go of this day of anticipation, I don’t yet know the answers to these questions. Part of me is frustrated with myself for losing a whole day to these mental gymnastics. An entire day in close proximity to my boys and I did not live it in the present. Mom guilt strikes again. Yet I gave a day to recognizing the unresolved questions that percolate beneath my lid. They are mostly a gentle simmer, but at times boil over and make me come unhinged. Tomorrow will bring more ice, they say. Tomorrow will bring what it brings, I say.