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Seasons: Ten Lessons in Transitions

Greetings from Brooklyn, New York

Greetings from Brooklyn, New York

Summer 2001, ten naval officers create an arch of sabers in the gray granite courtyard of our church. Buoyant and dressed in shades of white we step toward two facing rows of ten officers. Under the silver engraved blades, we bond our marriage to the life of the Navy. In a photo from this moment, mature cherry trees lend a flowery outline to our silhouette against a pastel summer evening sky. Just as the trees, we are rooted in our strength.

I am a Navy wife for the first nine years of our marriage. My life draws strength from deep within my spirit and from the support of the other wives around me. With my pilot-husband away and up in the skies for more weeks a year than he is home, I define my motherhood solo. I parrot actions and words from external parts of my life, while doubting my internal voice daily. Our relationship bears famine of time, and interval bursts of life. Indeed, supervised paperwhites can bloom indoors in winter, but perhaps a grounded spring flowering better suits the curriculum of nature.

After three years of discussing our future, we decide rooting our family in one place is far more natural than moving with the Navy in turns of two to three years. My husband initiates the separation from service in the fall. During our transition year, we spend our days divided: he performing his naval duties while lining up a civilian job in New York City as I’m keeping home and storing our family’s energy for the change about to take place. We root for minutes each day to nurture our children and ourselves that winter, and spend earned time together. That spring, just after the irises bloom in brilliant shades of violet, we fly to New York. Violet is my lucky color.

Spring alights as we house hunt for a week. With our children safe in the hands of our mothers, we begin the search. We find Brooklyn akin to a foreign country: new, civilian lands and conventions, streets congested with noise and traffic, and business exacted in haste. We bound out the door each morning, determined to adjust. April showers wash and anoint our search. We find a perfect space to sanctify home.

On moving day, we arrive with our station wagon packed to the windows. We peer at block after block of brownstones and office buildings. Trees scatter the sidewalk and ornery grasses sprout between concrete joints. Our little family is on the cusp of real change: my husband’s work, our environment, our roles, our pathways. We move into our compact Brooklyn apartment and enjoy the rare gift of a long holiday. We walk the streets and ride the subway, play at the park and visit museums, meet new friends and visit old ones. We adjust to our new life. Just as the scions for grafting must be cut and stored in late winter, we prepared for these weeks. We guard and observe new growth with keen eyes.

My husband starts his new job during one of the hottest weeks of the summer. In a row of many, his desk has one scene: a chair, four computer screens, two phones, and no window view. The children and I get the better of summer heat as explorers. We are critics of scores of neighborhood ice cream shops and bookstores. We learn that Beth, the manager at the cleaners, is from the Philippines and she teaches us new words. Serg, the boys’ barber who hails from Russia, treats the boys to Russian candy every few weeks. Multi-surface playgrounds become our watering holes to drench my sweaty children for hours while I sit in the shade with a good book. Summer is verdant with color and scene, flavor and experience. The newness lingers.

September winds blow and the bells of school ring. Bittersweet, I blot black tears as I rejoice in new silence. For the first time in seven years, the school-day hours are my own. I can write! I can clean! I can nap! The freedom of these choices unhinges me, though. Instead of dancing after drop-off, I am a ball under the sheets watching the clock until pick-up time. I cry for my “baby” in kindergarten, and I cry for my seven-year-old who now reads to himself. This month our container garden’s last tomatoes fire forth. I bite and know it is the beginning of an ending.

A week of October rain falls on Brooklyn. A steely sheen of gray and brown obscures the entire city’s surface. Good advice heeded, we don rubber boots and long raincoats and pull out brand new umbrellas. Groceries must be carted and children must be walked—lives must be carried on out-of-vehicle. There is no rhythmic hum of wiper blades or running across a parking lot to a dry car. My old suburban life seems to flutter in a distant memory. Just as spring’s rains anointed the walks my husband and I made on our house hunt, these fall showers hail our entry into city—civilian—life. Holding my sons’ hands, their arms and mine arch like a post-storm rainbow. I squeeze their little hands as we swing our arms in time with the rhythm of our walk and breathe.

Just after the Christmas holiday, two feet of snow drop overnight. Putting his jacket on, my husband remarks that snow days are a different matter here. As the first one out of our brownstone for work, he shovels a wall of white from the front door and clears a narrow path to the gate. I recall winters past in warmer places: snow like this is brand new. The children and I venture outside after daybreak and find Dad’s office building dusted over by flakes on the day’s blowing winds. We take the subway to Union Square. The sun glitters bright white on every surface: streets, sidewalks, parking meters, trees. The plows are slow coming, and we’re glad for it. The boys marvel at walking in the middle of the street; they laugh at red lights and “don’t walk” signals. We run and throw snow at each other and fill our lungs with sparkly laughter. The world’s rules and mine are quieted for a good spell under the thick silvery-white snow.

The first traces of spring peek. Our family benefits from the deep, rich roots my husband and I cultivate. Temperature rising, we venture back outside: not hunched and hidden in coats, but with our shoulders wide and warmed by the sun. We have this year’s first ice creams, first flowers, and first bike rides. We walk along the East River and marvel at the Brooklyn Bridge. As a robin’s nest budding with life, our new growth bursts forth bright on our horizon, humming with excitement.

Across many seasons, the syncopated heartbeat of our family in transition now births a fresh rhythm.


Christina Marie Speed

Author Bio: CHRISTINA MARIE SPEED lives with her husband and two sons in a sunny fourth-floor walk-up in Brooklyn, New York. Christina has work at Vox Poetica, Moondance, and forthcoming in The View From Here. In her free time, she volunteers in her community, tests obscure recipes, and delights in random urban walks with her family. To learn more, visit her Web site.

8 comments to Seasons: Ten Lessons in Transitions

  • Rheingold

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  • Carol

    What a melodic piece; this is a ‘page in the life of’ the book of a poetess. Reading through is like shadowing that life as it unfolds— transitions, glitches, connects and disconnects written out with a sense of wonderment.

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