“I have the kids tonight, Elizabeth is in the ER”

The semester is over. It’s been over for quite some time – a couple of months now – and I have a couple of months before classes start up again. I had hoped that this chapter of my blog would be a quirky but poignant chronicle of my time in seminary, filled with revelations and tidbits I’d want to remember. I made fewer than ten posts and none of them exactly revelatory.

I joked on facebook that if I had to title my first year of seminary it would be, “I have the kids for the night, Elizabeth is in the ER.” Elizabeth, my housemate, was diagnosed with breast cancer last May and I continued to live with them and help out with the kids over the course of the year in exchange for a room. Not that anybody has a particularly good experience with cancer and I suppose her outcome, that is “not being dead,” means that in many ways she had a better outcome than most but she ended up in the hospital a lot with scary high fevers and things that just didn’t feel right. Many nights I ended up unexpectedly watching the kids while Elizabeth hung out at Mass General.

I attended Dorian’s preschool graduation, let the kids watch a little too much TV while I worked on assignments, taught them the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament, tried to hide my exhausted crying from them, and gave them lots of hugs. Choosing to live with somebody going through fairly aggressive cancer treatment (including chemo, radiation, and more than one surgery) was not the most logical decision but, hey, the price was right and I love the kids. Housemate is in remission, I’m still living here, and I feel like things are very much at a standstill right now.

In a lot of ways I’m scared to leave. I have a routine here; it’s the only place I’ve called home in any real way in a ten years. Sunday mornings are the epitome of that for me. The other thing I did during seminary was attend church every Sunday. I only missed twice when I was in town, once because I was super sick and once because I decided that drinking coffee with some queer friends was what my spirit needed. There were a couple of Sundays when I was out of town with my now-ex and it always felt weird to not be in church. Church is my routine, my rock, and I love that stability.

The kids love that stability, too. They’ve been coming to church with me almost every Sunday that I attend for a couple of years now. We don’t actually attend church all that close to where we live; First Parish Cambridge is clear across town though, realistically, it’s only a 30 minute train ride. Even that train is part of our routine. We walk to the station, in snow and sun and wind. We comment on the trees and the flowers, we talk about what we did with our week.

I’ve watched them grow up on these walks. When I first started taking them to church V was still in her stroller, not talking much, and D was a very shy 4 year old who didn’t want to leave my side. There’s a small wall at the corner of our block that D would walk on, holding the handle of V’s stroller. Slowly we phased out the stroller, instead of clinging to my side D started leading the way and running ahead. V scraped her knees every other week in an effort to keep up with her older brother, and slowly started to balance on that small wall herself holding my hand. Then slowly she no longer needed to hold my hand, not even for the “super hero jump” at the end.

We get off the train at Harvard, after crossing the river and inspecting it carefully for any signs of boats. D doesn’t often sit on his knees to look out the windows any longer; he’s too busy reading comics. We hold hands to cross the street and go in the side door of the building.

When I’m the worship associate the kids help me set up the sanctuary since childcare doesn’t start until 45 minutes after I have to be there. We set out new candles, make sure the pulpit is set up and arrange hymnals in the right places. I lift up V to hang the hymn numbers and let D light the starter candles. They both scamper around the sanctuary like they own the place. I usually let V test to make sure the mics are working. And the kid who wouldn’t leave my side got up this year, with three of his classmates, and spoke into a microphone in front of the whole congregation.

One year ago I agreed to stay for an extra year. It’s been a year and I know I need to move on. But I can’t imagine my life without walking those two to church on Sunday mornings and watching them grow from the “big kids” they are now into even bigger kids. And I can’t imagine not having them to distract me from school when school is too much.

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2 Responses to ““I have the kids tonight, Elizabeth is in the ER””

  1. Thanks for posting this. Hope you have a hard copy/file of it for the kids when they are older.

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