As You Like It: The Circle GameBy Joan Florek Schottenfeld
This summer has been all about change, and I have to be honest: I don’t like it.
It’s one thing if you’ve initiated change, but when it’s been thrust upon you it’s not usually something that you wished for. From something as small as having your supermarket rearranged so that you now spend all your time aimlessly wandering the aisles and muttering, or having a favorite store close (I’m still in mourning for Jordan Marsh and Filene’s), to the more serious loss of a job or a loved one. I understand that change is growth, but it’s also painful.
The biggest change for me came about in June when I learned that the Department of Education (DESE) had not refunded my adult education school, the Blackstone, for the coming year. This meant that I had to close it down, lay off my staff and find spaces, somehow, somewhere, for my students. After hearing the news I walked around in a fog of denial. Surely, this had to be a mistake — they couldn’t just shut down a school that was the last opportunity for so many adults, the last place for them to get another chance at success.
But of course they could. Every five years all the adult literacy programs in Massachusetts have to reapply for the money that enables their existence, and money is getting tighter by the minute. I’m not quite sure where DESE wants my students to go when we close our doors. But I suppose it’s not my job anymore to worry about Randy and Matias and Laura and Deanna and the rest of the adults that I have come to know and care so much about. I’ll have to adapt to the change just as they will.
They left us one site at the Perkins Community Center in Dorchester. My long suffering boss, Mike, installed me there as the site counselor, coupled with teaching and administration duties. What worries me is that this school holds classes in the evening from 6-9 p.m. and my energy levels aren’t what they used to be. I’m keeping my finger crossed that at 7 each evening I won’t fall asleep on my desk.
Fortunately, Lisa and Matt’s summer wedding proved a lovely distraction, as did having a house filled with daughters, their friends and loved ones. So for once change was wonderful. But the knowledge that Matt and Lisa would soon be moving to San Francisco was hidden in every corner of my mind waiting to slither out — and it did last weekend when they moved some of their furniture and various other boxes filled with their lives into our attic. They were really leaving.
Shatz and I find it both wonderful and funny that they will be moving to their new home slowly over the next few weeks — driving cross country, discovering new places. Funny because we did the same thing the year before we were married 37 years ago. In fact, Lisa and Matt will be seeing some of the same places that we passed through all those years ago. It was about that time that Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game” was popular, and now the song haunts me:
And the seasons they go ‘round and ‘round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
Last week Shatz and I took the day off to explore the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard. It was a beautiful day, just the two of us on the road again, heading toward lovely summer vistas. We wandered in and out of the galleries dedicated to the various groups that had lived in the area: Native Americans, the Shakers, and Louisa May Alcott and her family of Transcendentalists who had set up an agrarian commune on the spot. Afterwards we had lunch outside in the museum restaurant, gazing at the expanse of hills and mountains as we ate.
We talked about the kids’ upcoming trip and how similar their experience is to ours. Suddenly Shatz asked me, “Could you do that? Just decide that you want to move somewhere else for an adventure?” Then he stopped short with a funny look on his face and said, “Oh I guess you did,” remembering my travels to Israel and then back to the States. But Lisa and Matt’s decision seems different, healthier. I was running away when I left for Israel and later when I returned to the States. In the beginning I desperately wanted independence, and later I needed to escape the grief of being a widow. Lisa and Matt are heading off for the sheer joy and adventure of it.
Then it was my turn to question my 36-year partner even though I already knew his answer. “Do you have any regrets at all about your life?”
“No, never,” he answered. “Regrets only hold you back. I always look to the future.”
And that’s why I love him so very much. He keeps me from keeling over with regret, keeps me from battling change fruitlessly, keeps me filled with hope that it’s not so terrible out there after all. Especially with a partner like him to hold my heart.
There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through.
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