I closed the door last night to the last classroom I’ll probably ever teach in at this university.
I’ve taught a class a semester here for four years. As I turned off the lights and pulled the door closed in an empty building (I collected essays until 9:15 last night, so I think I was the last instructor there), I reflected on what these past four years have meant to me. When I came to this town, I had only been studying literature for three years, and had only taught for one. I knew I wanted a transatlantic focus, and that postcolonial studies spoke to me, but I was intimidated – completely baffled, really – at the thought of making my own narrow way through such broad spaces. Everything felt new, on the brink. J and I were committed, but not yet engaged. We’d yet to grieve Charleston. To find this little cottage. To find our footing as partners. To meet our wonderful wonderful friends. To sit in silence – in a room full of our loved ones – promising to always uphold each other. To honeymoon in Boston. To be nearly run off a mountain for being gay in rural Ohio. To get pregnant. To lose E. To get pregnant again. To bring our son into the world. J didn’t have an MA or a passion for doula work. We didn’t know I had Graves’ Disease or Factor V Leiden. I’d yet to hear Jack Halberstam speak and feel the puzzle pieces of my scholarship click into place. We had no idea what terrible gardeners we’d become. I’d only just started learning to cook. We couldn’t fathom how deeply we’d love parenting.
When we first got the offer here, we weren’t sure we’d come. I also got a funded offer from SUNY Stony Brook, which houses a higher-ranked program. My mentors in Charleston felt strongly that SUNY’s was the offer to accept. But J and I had a hunch, an instinct, that this was the place for us. So I called the man who would become my dissertation director (though we didn’t know it at the time). Then we packed up everything we owned in a u-haul, put the cats in a carrier on the seat between us, and drove across the country towards a small city we’d never been to before.
Now here we are. I closed that door last night and began to face the prospects of a whole year with no teaching. The last year of a long road of formal education. I found out last week that in addition to the internal dissertation fellowship, I will also receive an AAUW (American Association of University Women) fellowship starting in June. For me, this is a big deal. This is a dream. The AAUW has been funding women in higher education since 1888. They’ve funded some pretty amazing women doing some pretty remarkable things. I’m blown away to be in that kind of company. Truly: aside from my ongoing struggles with medical anxieties and an autoimmune disorder – both of which I’m trying to cure – my life is pretty much perfect. I’ve been striving for so much for so long, and now I’m surrounded by the things I’ve wanted. And you know what? Now that those things are here, they’re even better than I’d imagined.
As I type this – green tea at my side and rain falling steadily from a gray sky outside – Bram is upstairs taking one of his very.few.ever crib naps. (I know I should be doing the laundry, babe. I’m sorry.) We got to spend lots of time this week with our dear C (Kippie), and having her here makes all three of us happier. She even brought us some of this year’s first crop of asparagus, and you know how I feel about that. My mom’s coming on Friday, and we’re planning a trip (B’s first time on the road!) to visit lots of J’s family this summer. It isn’t that things are easy. Really, they’re hard. My writing schedule for the next year is intense. I just finalized the plan last night, and I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. We need to find in-home childcare we can trust for about eight hours a week, and that’s daunting. Being back at work is hard on J, and though I love doing it, being home alone with B for forty hours a week is tough. We’re both exhausted. But it’s an exhaustion born not of grief, nor of longing, but of doing what we’ve desperately wanted to do. It’s an exhaustion of life coming together.
Now a few photos of that life.
First, Bram and Ramona at three months. He’s not one of those constantly-smiling babies, but he’ll give you one if you earn it, and gods they’re worth the world:
B and his dearest friend. He loves that boy madly:
Bram in Aunt Kippie’s arms:
Sitting up for peace:
B now joins us for family dinners:
I hope this spring is treating all of you kindly. I’m as grateful as ever for this community.