Sunday, February 17, 2013


It's snowing. Just over a week ago, we had more than thirty inches fall. After a few days of mild weather, the roads were pretty clear, but the sidewalks were not. In fact, there were many places where there were no sidewalks at all, which necessitated walking in the already pinched road. Now, everything is white again.

Yes, I know it's February and this is Massachusetts. In fact, I was recently heard arguing with my teenage daughter about whether or not she had to wear winter boots and my very words were "This is New England. We have weather." The issue, actually, was not about boots, per se. She was perfectly happy to wear the tall leather fashion boots her aunt gave her for her birthday last year. My concern was that said tall leather fashion boots would not look so very fashionable caked in slush and salt. I insisted she wear her "fuggs" (fake Uggs) and received rolled eyes and loud guttural sound effects of extreme exasperation for my troubles.

This is New England. We have weather. "Oh I could never live in Florida. I'd miss the seasons." Blah blah blah.

But, I am so tired of it. Not just the monotony and the cold and the layers of outerwear and the road salt on everything. I am tired of injuring myself.

As a (sophisticated, if I do say so myself) fifty-year-old woman, I am now walking around with knees that look like they should be on a kindergartener. Two different slips on two different mornings are responsible for my new youthful appearance.

May I digress a moment? For the record, I think I should get lots of cosmic extra credit for my continued dedication to my morning walks, don't you? I do not think I deserve scabs and bumps and bruises. Apparently, somebody up there isn't paying attention.

Regardless, my left knee was skinned when I stepped onto a patch of black ice on the pavement outside Ace Hardware on Atlantic Ave. I am aware of black ice as a driver (I can credit it for my first automobile accident back in 1991 when I spun around several times and went through a fence), but I had never encountered it as a pedestrian. My knee stung but I was happy that my yoga pants hadn't ripped. Only when I returned home and stripped down for my shower did I see the bloody mess underneath the pants. Ouch!

My right knee was the casualty of an icy little spot at the foot of a hill only about a tenth of a mile from our front door. In this case, it was more of a bang than a scrape. My knee is swollen like a softball and a lovely shade of blue. Again, my yoga pants survived unscathed. And again ... ouch!

Since my two falls, I have bravely soldiered on with my life. Working, mothering my teen, preparing for a family vacation, and going to the gym. (Did you ever stop and think about how many yoga postures take place from a kneeling position? I have now.) And, despite my recent brushes with death (or, at least, asphalt), I've continued to walk, which brings me to the theme of this post: purchase.

Purchase. I'm not referring to a new Coach bag (which, I need, if a particular spouse is reading) or jewelry or shoes or even riding breeches for my daughter. I'm referring to a tertiary definition of the noun: (1) a mechanical hold or advantage applied to the raising or moving of heavy bodies (2) an advantage (as a firm hold or position) used in applying one's power. 

As I trek through our frosted town these days, it's difficult to establish a purchase, scaling snow banks at curbs and entrances to parks, testing my footing, trying to find a grip that will hold my weight as I go up and over an icy obstacle. 

My quest is for security (I'm out of knees, folks), not grace.

But I've realized on my solitary, ill-advised tours that gaining a purchase is a metaphor for life as a teenager as well as life as the mother of one. We are in such a new place this year, my daughter and I. We don't quite know the rules or how to move forward safely.

My daughter is negotiating a big new school with a tougher curriculum. Having glided through her elementary and junior high years, she faces almost daily anxiety about studying enough, figuring out what certain teachers want and how to juggle old and new friends. Meanwhile, I'm suddenly unsure of how much freedom is too much, when to push and when to let go. Do I step in or let her fall down sometimes? (And, do we have enough band-aids?) 

I'd like to think that we're climbing these hills together, but more often than not, we're in adversarial positions. My hope is that through the arguments and edicts, slammed doors and shoulder shrugging, she knows in her heart that I am on her side.

So, I guess this stage of our life together is much like my morning walks through the snow. It's time to proceed with caution.

And watch my step.

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